Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Review: Chaos in the Old World

Warhammer Fantasy has always been part of my gaming hobby time. Ever since I was a wide eyed 5 year boy, and my father stood over me as I ruined a dwarf he let me paint, trying his hardest not to tut at me, and failing. Yes that's right, since I was around five years old I was surrounded by little lead men, dwarfs and elves, not to mention miniatures painted by my father!!! Did I mention I was a comedian? Yeah, OK I'll go get my coat. Although I'm sure health and safety would probably lock him up and throw away the key now, he always used to let me paint the odd miniature with his supervision. He taught me that miniatures weren't toys to be played with in the classical sense most toys are, but that they were individual works of art to be lovingly painted, and have attention lavished upon them. So I guess its pretty darn fair to say he taught me a hell of a lot, and he taught me to love Warhammer Fantasy. So when recently I started to drift away from the Warhammer world because of dumb ass decisions taken with new releases, like the Chaos Daemons, Dark Elves and eventually 8th Edition, I have to say I was a little sad. Luckily, I guess, there is another company out there making product based in the Old World, Fantasy Flight Games, and it is they that are keeping my love of the background and setting alive right now.

Product description

There are a few cards, some plastic pieces, a really nice board (requires some assembly) and lots of card tokens... oh yeah and the important bit, a full colour rulebook. The tokens are punched out of some card spru's and represent various game tokens of the four Chaos Gods and other bits and bobs such as hero's and peasants of the Old World, as well as events and stuff. The artwork is all very nice and clear and makes it obvious which foul deity they belong to, or what the function is that they perform. As always with Fantasy Flight Product, it's high quality stuff and nice, thick and sturdy. The game board is the real center piece though, being made of a lovely thick card with a really atmospheric rendition of the Old World map on it, seemingly branded into the skin of some poor unfortunate soul long since lost to some dark ritual. The board does require some assembly though as it has some spinning, tracking thingies called threat dials, these are used to measure each Gods threat level as the game progresses, and they need to be attached using some plastic spindle things. Its not hard to do and once in place they should stay put... so be very careful not to put the Tzeentch spinner on the Khorne location and anger both Gods at the same time!!! The plastic pieces are nice enough and come in the lurid colours of the four Gods. You also get some chunky red dice to add to the dark mood!

There's also a rulebook I forgot to put in this picture

Game Play 8 out of 10

This might look like a lot of game tokens, but you could use a few more

I might possibly admit here that I don't believe for one single solitary second that I have played this game anywhere near enough to fully understand its subtleties and depth of tactics. I do however posses a pretty darn good understanding of its mechanics, how it plays out and how each God works. Oh yeah and I've played it enough to know that it's all sorts of fun! I have played the game through as all four Gods myself to get the mechanics of each down first off, and I could see how the Gods (sorry players) could form unlikely alliances to shaft each other, and how it could all switch and change around, but without actually playing with other people the full scope for such skulduggery, underhandedness and fragile alliances wasn't truly known.

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I then stepped up the game testing phase with another person, this time Mr Chaos Space Marine to get a grip on how the dynamic played out with a human. Although again the biggest drawback was that we still weren't at the required minimum of 3 gamers. We did however have long chats about how a game might ebb and flow and quite frankly how ruthless and scheming you could be if given half the chance. In short we'd decided that the game would actually get you playing it like the four Chaos Gods themselves supposedly behave in the fluff and Warhammer background, which is really, really quite clever if you ask me. So OK, it's not the most in-depth strategy game I've ever played but the subtle manipulation you're required to perform of your friends while playing is entertaining, speaking of which...

When I finally got to sit down with 3 and then 4 players (myself included) the game really did come into its own, as you'd expect, as it is after all bloody well designed to be played with 3 to 4 players. All the scheming and conniving that went on was absolutely fantastic, Tzeetch and Slaanesh looking at each other across the Old World and sharing a knowing glance as Tzeentch teleported a Bloodthirster to a remote part of the map at the end of a phase and Slaanesh then lured a Hero to the same spot on the map to kill the Bloodthirster that was about to wreak merry havoc on both Gods plans... no Khorne wasn't happy but who cares I was Slaanesh!!!

However next turn the fragile alliance between Slaanesh amd Tzeentch was well and truly over, as suddenly our objectives seemed to be different. Now I was joined with Nurgle to spread venereal disease amongst the good denizens of Bretonnia... virtuous maidens my arse! I needed to stop Tzeentch moving his threat counter any further and by virtue of the fact that Bretonnia was where some warpstone was and where he'd be gaining much of his early threat I decided teaming up with old stinky breath Nurgle was a good idea and we ruined the hell out of the region. Not a single noble or peasant was left without a good old dose of Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Herpes, Hepatitis or at the very least crabs! So on it went, with the Gods (us players) consumed by our petty squabbles, doing each other over and taking any opportunity to shaft each other...

Eventually it came down to a showdown between Khorne and Slaanesh. Sadly being the whore that Slaanesh is I'd right royally screwed everyone to the point where I don't think anyone felt I should win, I'd dropped both Nurgle and Tzeentch at various times, after of course I'd used and abused them to within an inch of there worthless meaningless existences. And now it seemed it might all come back to haunt me... but I'd been cunning you see, I'd managed to keep both my victory score and threat counter ticking over quite nicely and had manged to convince the others that my real goal was to win by moving my threat counter... it wasn't my actual aim was to win the game by finally loading the Empire with so much corruption I'd ruin it and gain the 11 victory points needed to end the game...

...did I manage it? Well that would be telling now wouldn't it? Of course I did! My misdirection worked wonderfully well, and they brought totally what I was doing and cottoned on too late after wasting their power cards, while I'd stored all my good cards up and saved my power for over loading the Empire in a veritable frenzy of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride, it was a total orgy of Slanneshi sleeze! It was fun. Lots of fun in fact, and I think my opponents enjoyed themselves a lot as well. After we'd sat and dissected the game I think we all came to the conclusion that it was a good solid little game, and that it was neat how it got you almost 'roleplaying' the four Gods.

 This is early on... it can actually get quite hectic!

There have been other games that I have payed with Chaos in the Old World, some 3 player some 4 player, and they were all just as tangled and close as this one was. However, I didn't always win so I don't think anyone would want to hear about those specific games, you know, because! So does it work with 3 players? Yes it does, and it still provides an engaging experience, but with 4 players it really is brilliant. I can't emphasise enough if there are four evenly matched players, who know the Chaos Gods back story, it is a riot. I'd go as far as to say that its possibly the best depiction and use of the Warhammer Chaos Gods I've seen, and it really made us all appreciate the scheming nature of the four deities.

However, that you see is also its downside. You really do need 4 people to play it to get the most out of the game, and getting 3 other willing buddies together at the same time can be a struggle sometimes. But, it doesn't really take too long to set up and play, and depending on the level of experience in the group it's more than possible to get a game played between four people within an hour, and certainly no longer than two. The nature of the game means that it can be taken seriously if you want, but obviously within the confines of the fact that you are constantly trying to screw your mates over! It is though best play in a fun atmosphere, as it's a game designed to have you scheming and lying to your best friends. So I see it more as a fun game that you don't need to take too seriously, and if you want to you could indeed play it while consuming ethanol based drinks and salty snack food stuffs from Bavaria.

Detail 8 out of 10

The game pieces are the best but they are characterful and do the job

The cards themselves are, as always, of a very high standard and if you've ever used any of the Fantasy Flight Game cards you'll know what to expect. The artwork is absolutely lovely and is very fitting for the setting of the Old World, with Nurgles things being green, Slaanesh all pink and purple and so on and so forth. The tokens although being quite small pieces still retain a lot of detail as well, and have bags of character, many being cut in the shape of the various deities symbols. The board is a work of art and looks fantastic, a nice sepia toned map of the Old World with nice bits of artwork. It's all very tastefully done, in a sick, perverted and evil way of course. The little plastic tokens / pieces are also nicely done and are full of their chosen deity's character and they serve their purpose well, and they add more character and atmosphere, even if they're a little too bendy. It's all very professional, and captures the darker aspects of the Warhammer Fantasy universe very nicely.

Quality 8 out of 10

The threat dials. One of the ways you can win the game.

Well really, do I have to mention that once again it is a good quality Fantasy Flight Games product? REALLY! OK then, I shall begin, all the card components are pretty much damn amazing, from the tokens to the board itself. Its all high quality from the printing, artwork and substance they're made out of. None of the cutting is off center either like some products I've recently come into contact with from other manufacturers. Yep it is all pretty much spot on. The playing cards again are all very well manufactured with clear typing on them and plenty of character and artwork. They're not cheaply produced and are as good as any cards you're likely to see from more established and instantly recognisable card games. The rulebook while not bound in leather or on the highest quality glossy paper is nevertheless a good quality full colour product, and it's on a good quality standard paper. None of it will get tatty quickly and if looked after will last you years and years.

Service 9 out of 10

A picture of that rulebook I was telling you about!

Ordered like pretty much all of my board games are now from the ever wonderful OG Games. Came really well packed, free postage, no damage in a reasonable amount of time (3 days from order). I again have to say that online retailers continue to impress me with their service on the whole and I think its more than fair to say that OG Games are becoming one of my favourite shops.

Price 8 out of 10

The game board is really nicely detailed

Well I think as far as prices go for board games £34.99 for this product isn't too bad. Again I've seen it slightly cheaper elsewhere but given how well OG Games have served me in the past I'm reluctant to take my business elsewhere now, especially only for a 50p saving here and there. Recommended retail on this product is £49.99, and even at that price for a game as diverting, fun and entertaining as this is it'd be worth every single penny. So yep I think £34.99 is a damn fine price, and if you love the Chaos Gods back story and fluff in the Warhammer universe then it really is a must buy for you.

Overall 8 out of 10

The first bit of praise I can heap on it as a game is that it runs my current favourite board game Gears of War a run for its money and also squares up nicely to another current popular game round these parts DKH:DR. While as a group game it won't topple Mansions of Madness, mainly because the ladies in our lives don't give two hoots about Khorne and Nurgle, amongst my wargaming friends it is very popular. So yes, it's yet another Games Workshop themed product from Fantasy Flight Games that seems to treat the background with more respect, reverie, care and attention to detail than Games Workshops own products do. It seems bizarre to be saying this but Games Workshop really need to sit down and take a long hard look at what Fantasy Flight Games are able to do with the Games Workshop IP and background. They then really seriously need to ask themselves why the hell it is that they can't achieve the same sorts of results and quality at the moment. Because its causing me some confusion it really is, especially when you consider that Sabertooth Games were also able to out 'Games Workshop' Games Workshop during their all too brief existence from 2001 to 2008, and they need desperately to know why that is the case.

You see, because here sitting before me I have a Warhammer Fantasy themed product for £34.99 that seems to evoke the Old World, and its struggle against the winds of chaos far better than Warhammer Fantasy Battle does at the moment, and certainly does so far better than that God awful pile of trash that is Dreadfleet. It is a cheap and entertaining game that involves you, as the gamer, in the universe of Warhammer in a different, unique and interesting way. It gives you a different perspective on the Old World, and grows your knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the setting. Why the hell can't the people at Lenton Lane do that anymore? Because trust me, they used to do it and it makes me sad they don't anymore. Any way it is a thoroughly entertaining way for you and a few mates to waste an evening pretending to be evil deities, and come recommended. Peace out!


  1. I love this game, excellent combination of smooth euro mechanics, american style bits and bobs and the GW fluff.

    Its one of the best "board games" set in GW's world, and certainly the best one they didn't develop.

    PS. Shameless plug for my blog with my painted copy.


  2. Given all the love for this game I really must get around to playing my own copy of this - thanks for the review and the kick up the behind to get it off the shelf!

  3. @Vomkrieg, I had seen your painted copy. Plus don't worry too much about the link ;)

    @Davey, you own it and you haven't played it? What the hell is wrong with you man!!! lol. Get a few mates round and order some take-away and get a couple of games in on an evening. It's great fun it really, really is.

  4. One thing to note about this game is it's managed to climb to #36 on Boardgamegeek despite that sites fans having a tendency to bury anything involved with GW since the great GW cease and desist incident a few years back.

  5. I'd like to give this one a try sometime. Maybe if we actually managed to schedule that West Midlands gaming meet we keep yattering about...

  6. Absolutely Von. Anytime. Me and Sorrowshard have managed to meet up and rip Dreadfleet a new one, and I've go the horned rat expansion coming for this game as well, which will need a damn fine reviewing!!! So we'll need a +1 for that too, if you're up for it, drop me an email.