are not theme and mechanics and complexity. They’re what happens when these three things combine with the right people and set fire to the gaming table. When someone tells you how much they love a board game, they’re really telling you about what happened when these elements ignited.
We savor the times we have perfect people/game alchemy, and foremost among these was Fantasy Flight’s Chaos in the Old World
(CitOW). Great design catalyzes with good friendships and fierce rivalries to create nights of laughter, curses and operatic finishes.
The prized rivals who abetted our epic CitOW throw downs are now in the Northwest and gone are the days where, on any given Saturday, we would unleash a dizzying volley of plays and counter-plays on the game board. (Jay Schwan and Becca Halbig, this one’s for you.)
After four years of play, we each intimately knew the ins and outs of the four demon-god protagonists of CitOW. These nasty dudes are waging all-out warfare in the land of humans, dispatching foul armies and devious schemes in an effort to lord over whatever’s left of humanity when the dust settles.
CitOW is an asymmetrical game: Each of the demon princes — Khorne, Nurgle, Tzeentch and Slaanesh — brings a wildly different set of abilities, demanding personalized strategy in turn. To make things even more interesting, there are two scoring tracks — one for victory points and another called the threat dial. As the game develops, each god will have to figure out the best way for hitting the top score in either one.
It’s driven by a round-robin point allowance system — you each start a turn with points to spend on summoning creatures to the board or playing cards that grant you advantage in certain regions. They can also severely screw your opponents at the crucial time. Because you spend points a bit at a time, you go around and around, your tactics changing to respond to what everybody else is playing.
The gameplay is riveting as you watch your opponents react to your schemes and enact strategies of their own. Khorne, craving slaughter, tries to engineer as many blood-soaked battles as possible. Nurgle, lord of decay, oozes corruption across the board. Tzeentch, the changer of ways, showers the board with devious, low-cost cards that make everything you’re trying to do that much harder. Slaanesh, prince of pleasure, tamps down combat opportunities while subtly populating the board with his hard-to-kill minions.
This game is not incredibly easy to learn. There are a lot of steps to each turn, and more than one argument will be started about the effects of cards. (Don’t worry, you’ve got BoardGameGeek.com
for that.) That being said, it’s a magnificent study in plans and chaos, strategy and luck. Get to know these awful protagonists and you will find yourself embroiled in one white-knuckle finish after another.
This is what gaming is all about, and for four years, Chaos in the Old World was our jam. Thanks for the good times, and may Nurgle bless you all with the pestilence and decay you deserve.
Nate Warren is a Colorado Springs-based copywriter who offers both the veteran gamer and the uninitiated a local window into the burgeoning and wildly creative world of hobby and designer board games enjoyed by fanatics and connoisseurs — around the corner and and across the globe.