First Impressions – Warhammer: Chaos in the Old World

CitOWBox.jpgWhen I had first heard about Warhammer: Chaos in the Old World, I was knee deep in the Warhammer Fantasy thanks to Warhammer Online.  Logan and I were agents of Chaos in this venerable franchise’s first foray into MMO’s and it felt good to be evil.  Imagine my glee when I heard that Fantasy Flight Games announced Chaos in the Old World, where you play one of the four gods of Chaos vying for control of some of the very lands my character was roaming in Warhammer Online.  While the previews that Fantasy Flight had on their blog were able to satiate my desire a little to play this game, the month of September felt too far away to get my hands on it.  Luckily, the game was being demoed and sold early at Gencon ‘09 and I was able to score a copy.  Shortly afterwards Dave, Logan, and I sat down to take up the mantles of Tzeentch, Khorne, and Nurgle.  Impressions after the jump.

Before I jump right in I just wanted to state that while this game is for 3-4 players, I was warned by one of the people demoing the game that it should always ideally be played with four.  The repercussions of only playing with three players was apparent almost right off of the bat.  It was explained that each of the four gods of chaos were built to be weak to one and strong against another.  Playing with just three of the gods might make it easier for one player and incredibly tough for another.  That is also why this is just a first impressions instead of a full blown review.  It wouldn’t be fair to grade this game until we’ve had a complete experience with it.  With that out of the way, let’s get down to what makes this game tick.

While not as full of pieces as Arkham Horror, Chaos in the Old World holds it's own.When you open this box for the first time, a lot of the game pieces need to be punched out of roughly four sheets of thick quality cardboard stock.  They have a nice feel to them, appear sturdy, and are textured much like Fantasy Flight’s other high quality games.   I did find that the power point trackers for the god character sheets were a bit tiny and seemed like they would be very easy to lose which led me to be careful with them during the set up and tear down process.  The board itself is, in the words of fellow author Peter Irace, very metal with the game map painted on what appears to be stretched out skin with hooks and patches in it.  The board also consists of four victory dials, a victory point track, ruination card deck spot, and an Old World deck spot & card track.

Set up of the game was surprisingly a breeze with each of us choosing a god to play, grabbing ruination tokens, shuffling our respective chaos card deck, and grabbing our conveniently color coded figures.  Since we were playing a three player game, eight cards were drawn from the shuffled Old World deck and placed in it’s marked spot on the board.  Nine Old World tokens are then shuffled and placed randomly on the boards nine regions.  There are basically two ways for a player to win.  One would either need to advance your victory dial to the end by fulfilling a certain goal each turn listed on your character sheet, or score 50 victory points through the domination and ruination of the 9 regions of the Old World.  Of course it isn’t going to be easy, as while we are fighting each other and attempting to achieve our win conditions, the game is also playing against us via the Old World cards.  If nobody has won the game by the time the Old World deck is exhausted, we all lose and the game wins.  With set up out of the way, Logan (Khorne), Dave (Tzeentch), and I (Nurgle) set out to ruin the world and bring the other gods to their knees.

Victory dials... Khorne is a big fat cheater. A game round consisted of six phases: Old World, draw, summoning, battle, corruption, and end phase.  Running through each of the phases was quick, painless, and extremely fun due to the rulebook being well written and informative.  There was only one time where we had to make a judgment call on the wording on a card and interpretation of the rules.  Coincidentally, the issue we had was answered in the online errata/FAQ.  After a few full rounds, I found that we rarely had to look at the rulebook as the game was pretty easy to pick up.  The subtleties of each of our different gods play styles gradually became apparent to us.  Dave and I found that we had to either band together to destroy Logan’s figures or avoid him all together due to Khorne’s easily achieved victory dial advancement condition of killing enemy figures.  Throughout the course of the game, each of us found that we were making unofficial pacts with other players to either slow down someone’s progress, wipe out a victory dial advancement condition, or just plain spite them. 

Even though the game did feel a little tough with only three players, I can say that it was still a blast.  As a matter of fact, the day after we gave this game a go I found myself day dreaming of playing it again.  The rules felt complete, understandable, and almost easy.  The game itself looked gorgeous, played smoothly, and had an incredible amount of underlying strategic depth.  It almost felt like, with the exception of Khorne, there was an air of secrecy with your actions.  More importantly, this game was fun and over in about 2 hours.  If it wasn’t already midnight by the time we were done, we might have played another game.

Family portraitNot everything is perfect with this game however, as it does have some minor flaws.  A few of the regions are very small and can quickly become cluttered with figures, corruption tokens, chaos cards, and old world tokens.  At times it can seem like some of the clutter belongs to a region that it actually doesn’t.  Also, while Chaos in the Old World doesn’t have as many pieces as PNG staff favorite Arkham Horror, there is are still quite a bit.  Where this begins to be a problem is when your tearing the game down.  I found that the box didn’t have adequate space or supplied bags to store the pieces.  This led to me having to fiddle with the pieces until the box could shut properly and also caused one of the little chaos stars to fall off of a cultist figure.

In the end, those minor issues were not enough to make me think ill of Warhmmer: Chaos in the Old World.  Even without someone taking on the role of Slaanesh in the fourth chair, there was a lot to love about this game.  I’m looking forward to playing it more and trying out the other three gods.  If you’re looking for a new strategy board game for 3-4 players, I can’t recommend Chaos in the Old World enough.  If you’re not… you should still buy this game.

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