Chaos in the Old World
|Chaos in the Old World|
|Board Game published by
Fantasy Flight Games
|No. of Players||3 - 4 (5 with expansion)|
|Session Time||1 - 2 hours|
|Essential Books||Rule Book|
Not only must the players contend with one another, but they must deal with random events that the world itself throws up at them, such as the rise of human armies, or Elven Wizards, Norse Invasions and others, each of which can radically change the way the game develops. This coupled with randomly positioned objectives and constantly shifting goals means that no two games will play alike.
Thankfully despite all of the activity happening within a single game, it is not as difficult to pick up and play as some other of the FFG board games, and can be completed in less than a couple of hours. GW have now stopped licensing to FFG.
After generating the random event that will take place that game turn, players take it in strict god sequence to spend power points to summon daemons and/or cast spells onto the map.
Once all players are out of power points then the game uses a strict region sequence to determine the order that battles and spells are resolved in, beginning at the top of the map and working its way down.
After all of the gets resolved, if the faction has enough daemons and magic remaining in that location to beat the local mortal forces (always a fixed value - with a few exceptions) then they dominate that region and score points.
Finally, players with any remaining Cultist units get to place corruption in the location which can contribute to the ruin of that kingdom and the eventual destruction of the world - also gaining lots of points, but rendering that region useless for the rest of the game.
The game is asymmetrically balanced. Each god plays exactly as they should, Khorne is obviously the superior combatant, Tzeentch is the master of magic with better spells than everyone else, Nurgle is the spreader of corruption and is best at ruining regions, whilst Slaanesh excels at turning the players against each other and stealing points.
Players also get to level-up their god, and each god has different means of doing this.
- Khorne kills people - easy
- Tzeentch places two or more corruption tokens wherever there are two or more warpstone tokens and/or magical "vortex" symbols (found on certain magic spell cards belonging to all players)
- Nurgle places two or more corruption tokens down in a "populated" area (marked on the map)
- Slaanesh places two or more corruption tokens down wherever a nobleman objective or mortal hero is currently located.
Levelling up brings obvious benefits to the player, such as improved daemonic abilities / more power points to use each turn / more spells in your hand or even simple things like an immediate score boost.
The players must always keep in mind their factions strengths and weaknesses, so whilst newbies might feel that Khorne is overpowered, anyone with a good head for tactics can win so long as they keep their goals in mind. Just make sure that one of those goals is "point Khorne at someone who ain't me."
An entire game can pass without a single battle taking place (much easier with no Khorne player) and it would still be an enjoyable session.
The game ends when:
- Someone levels up to max - they just win, if two players max level in the same turn, the player with the highest indicated power level wins
- Someone accumulates fifty points - total up everyone's scores then the highest score wins
- the world is ruined - End Times happens, the player with the highest score wins. This is a fun one from a lore perspective, because it sorta implies the Chaos Gods cause the End Times all the time and just keep resetting the world the way the players reset the game.
- or you run out of random event cards - everyone loses, the person who had no chance of winning and played spoiler laughs
Because of the turn sequence and the limits on available power, it is easy enough to figure out roughly what a player is going to do in a given turn. For example: when a model goes down everyone else can see what the point of it was, whether to dominate the region or claim an objective, so then everyone else has the choice whether to either fight it or leave it. Similarly, when a magic card goes down, everyone can see what it will do later in the turn and can make moves to attempt to counter or mitigate it.
If players commit themselves too early and spend all their power it gives their opponents the opportunity to work around them, so the real trick is hiding your plan until the last possible moment. Greater Daemons are a prime example of this problem: as soon as they drop on the table it becomes almost a declaration of intent since they are usually so difficult to shift and most players will then move to avoid them or neuter them once they arrive. Since they are so expensive to summon it also gives the player less moves to work with for the rest of the turn. Sometimes its more effective to just waste a move by throwing something cheap down and achieving nothing so long as you have the power points spare to do what you want to do later.
When in doubt, throw down a Cultist in a region you don't really care about, because it increases your domination total you might score some free points if no-one else challenges you, and by adding corruption can always net more points if the region gets ruined later. Also remember that unless you are playing the Horned Rat expansion there are only two spaces for spells, so even throwing down a useless spell will deny that slot for someone else's use.
You are going to win by advancing the threat dial and leveling up, plain and simple. You will always play a reactionary game, chasing players around the board trying to kill them. That is why the "god sequence" exists, so that players can see what you do first before making their own moves so you cannot ambush every move they make.
Your job is essentially to spread yourself thinly and try to catch out units in as many locations as possible, as it does not matter how many units you kill, or even if your units survive the battle, just so long as you kill things in different regions to level up quicker.
Because of this you are unlikely to score many points trying to dominate mortal regions, so you will mostly be behind on the score tracker for most of the game, but once you start getting more and more daemons on the board and it becomes cluttered with more and more ruined kingdoms, you will find that you absolutely dominate locations where you get a huge build up of forces.
Do not ever forget your cultists though, an early level-upgrade makes them into fighting units giving you a small horde to play with. But also if you're clever, a well placed corruption token can tip a region over the edge and ruin it, scoring you big points even after someone else has done all the work.
You ARE the master of magic, unlike everyone else you get a whole fresh hand of spells every turn, and many of them have a zero value, so you can place them with impunity.
Many of your spells also give you unparalleled mobility, allowing you to teleport your daemons anywhere on the map ignoring the normal restrictions on movement. But you can also cast the same spell on your opponents units, moving them to remote locations where they get no benefit from being. You ALSO get to siphon off magic from other players with certain spells not only prolonging your freedom of options, but potentially spoiling enemy strategies, particularly if you leave it later in the turn sequence when players are usually trying to pull their grand design together.
You are also the player that everyone else can predict the least, but will require an enormous amount of Just as Planned to pull off, precisely as anyone playing Tzeentch should: Your objectives of Warpstone and/OR magic symbols means that you can create your own level-up objectives anywhere on the board at pretty much any time. Good use of zero cost or siphon spell cards can conceal your intentions until the very last moment, where your opponents have started running out of power points you can have plenty left over to position your daemons in freshly prepared level-up conditions as well as locations abandoned by other players which you can dominate easily.
The best upgrades for you are obviously the ones that improve your hand-size, though the cultist one comes in a close second by allowing you to pull warpstone around the map. The pink horror upgrade is also useful if you know how to use it, by hoarding spell slots on the map all to yourself and casting into the opposite slot, but you get so few horrors that it's not really worth it until late in the game when people are competing for space unless you are trying to anticipate and deny you opponents tactics. The lord of change upgrade is never worth it, YES counting him as two warpstone tokens is lovely but you can already create opportunities anywhere else; so you end up doing is creating an expensive target for your opponents to charge at, which is something you should never do as Tzeentch.
Spreading corruption is what you do and you do it well. You are the most predictable player, your objectives are fixed on the board and so everyone can see where you need to go to level up.
Those locations are also the most valuable in terms of points too so you can choose to play the level up game or the points game, but its easier to score points for you than level up since your moves will be so transparent that many players will see what you're doing, and kill off your cultists just to spite you.
At the same time your spells are heavily focused around corruption, even using corruption tokens to dominate regions. You can dominate regions quite easily once you start corrupting them so shoring up your already cheap forces in one region at a time is definitely an option that leaves you less open to being shifted from, and steadily builds up your score over the course of the game and pulling off a surprise victory that people didn't expect based on your slow pace of play.
Depending on what style you choose, one of the better upgrades is the Great Unclean Ones ability to place two corruption down wherever he lands, gaining you instant XP on top of what your cultists generate. But this becomes expensive in terms of power points as summoning him over and over will drain you fast.
A better upgrade would be the one that allows you to take free cultists wherever you do not already have units, spreading corruption all over the board and aiming for loads of points by ruining regions. Unfortunately this leaves you easy prey to players like Khorne or Slaanesh who would happily abuse your units for their own benefit, so sitting in one location and gaining steady points is always a safe option.
Be a douchebag, that's your job in this game, you really want to annoy players with underhanded tactics to get the best use of your units and spells.
Like Tzeentch, your objectives start randomly positioned on the board. However, unlike Tzeentch, you only need to corrupt one hero or noble to give you the level-up. Unfortunately this means you'll only have a couple of places on the board where you can really focus on if you want to level up, and if another player decides he wants it you're in for a tough time.
Thankfully your spells can move those tokens around the board, letting you hoard nobles in favourable locations or inflicting mortal heroes on your opponents.
You also LOVE your opponents models, one of your most useful spells allow you to take over your enemies units for a turn. Giving you ALL the benefits, such as domination totals and corruption gains. Your Keeper of Secrets can also be upgraded to do this too, so rather than using it as a combat beast (which it's not anyway) use it to steal points from players.
Another cheeky spell, which you might think worthless at first, allows you to immediately place a corruption token in a region. You might wonder "why" this is helpful, but once regions start falling to ruin you can score easy points for contributing in places where you have never been.
Once you start leveling up, you'll have a difficult time deciding which upgrades to take. Your cultist and daemonette upgrades massively increase your defenses, and having tough cultists means you need less to sit on a location to guarantee corruption, which also prolongs the use of that location thereby granting more XP and points, but the upgrades for additional power points can grant you more moves than the other players, giving you a lot more freedom with units and spells.
So really the choice of victory to aim for can be quite fluid, so always keep your options open.
Horned Rat Expansion
FFG also released an expansion to the board game, introducing a fifth player: the Horned Rat, which has a completely unique play style unlike the other players.
- They DO NOT place corruption on the table, instead their own units count as corruption tokens whenever a location gets ruined, and is significant when awarding points to the players who contributed most to the ruination of that particular region.
- They level up by dominating mortal regions wherever there exists a skaven warren token. That gives those tokens a second purpose, since to every other player they simply weakened the region they were attempting to dominate.
The Horned Rat is the master of hordes and mobility, once they level up they can move men around with impunity, even abusing the god & region order to hop rats from location to location scoring points and steam-rolling your opponents later in the game.
The expansion also introduces a new set of spells for each other god, as well as a new set of level-up upgrades. These are really for advanced players as they require a complete change in tactics and planning. For example: in this "advanced" set, Khorne becomes less of a combat focused faction and more geared towards mortal domination, essentially bullying enemy players out of regions and scoring points rather than attempting to level up.