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Chaos is one of those games hailed as a classic by some, while others haven't played it at all. For many it went 'under the radar' - originally released by Games Workshop, it was re-released by Firebird soon afterwards, at a budget price.
Spoiler alert - I'm one of those who hail it as a classic. In fact, it's my favourite Spectrum game.
...Well, if you look beyond the small graphics and single-screen display, there's some deep and balanced gameplay, designed by master strategist Julian Gollop, a name associated with other classic strategy games such as Rebelstar, Laser Squad and X-Com.
Aside from the array of spell types, there's one element that - in my opinion - makes this game great:
- At the start of each game, each wizard's spell list is randomized. This means NO GAME IS THE SAME.
For anyone unfamiliar with it, Chaos is a turn-based strategy game involving wizards, who are trying to defeat each other by summoning creatures to fight on their behalf, and using other magic. Between 2 and 8 wizards can play against each other, any of which can be computer or human opponents. Each wizard can cast one spell each turn.
Although computer opponent AI is predictable, the randomness grants the game endless re-playability. Chaos is one of the few computer games I've consistently played throughout the years since its release, and still play today.
There's a variety of magic available, but the main offensive spells a wizard has is summoning creatures. Each spell has a % casting chance. More powerful spells/creatures tend to have a lower casting % chance. But with creatures, wizards can choose to cast a 100% success ILLUSIONARY creature.
Wizards also have a DISBELIEVE spell - the only spell that is always permanently available to everyone - which will destroy an illusory creature if cast on it. But if the creature's about to attack you - and it turns out to be REAL - then choosing between DISBELIEVE and a spell that could protect your wizard is a calculated risk.
Summoned creatures in Chaos are varied. Each has their own physical/magical attack and defence. Some, such as eagles and harpies, can fly, covering large distances on the 'board'.
Other creatures have missile attacks as well as melee attacks, or act as mounts for a wizard to ride and increase their movement range and protection - a wizard's mount is always destroyed before harm is dealt to the mounted wizard.
UNDEAD creatures such as ghosts, vampires and wraiths, can't be harmed by non-undead creatures. A weak undead creature such as a zombie can often hold a much stronger non-undead creature at bay.
One of the things I like about Chaos is that it's possible to snatch an unlikely victory from what seems like certain defeat. Some spells that can help:
There are other spells which can have an effect on the board as the game goes on.
Each spell is either CHAOTIC (e.g. wraith) or LAWFUL (e.g. pegasus). Casting a spell of a particular alignment gradually increases the balance in one or other direction. After reaching a certain point either way, spells of that type start becoming easier to cast.
Just to confuse you, there are additional spells, actually named CHAOS and LAW, which don't really do much except slightly shift the balance in either direction.
The computer opponents tend to cast CHAOS and LAW spells at the end of the game. The player can try to use these spells earlier to marginally boost the chance of casting a particular spell, but on the whole it's hard to influence things too much.
There are plenty of small, additional elements to this game that can give a player marginal advantages... However, some aren't essential to learn to begin with, for newcomers to the game.
So there you have it. As it's a turn-based strategy game I can understand that Chaos isn't for everyone. If you enjoy strategy games then you should find this one nicely balanced, with a nice balance of tactics and randomness.
Being my favourite game I don't have many criticisms of it. One thing I'd say is that an 'easy mode' might have been nice for new players - you can set the level of the computer wizards, but level 1 just puts them equal to yours, with higher numbers making them tougher! Playing against just one other wizard to begin with is a great way to go until you learn the ropes enough to tackle 7 opponents.