Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chaos & Alchemy - An Experimental Review

Hi everybody!

Today I would like to talk about Chaos and Alchemy by Michael Iachini. The first I heard of this game was on Reddit a thread by the designer. It was enough to get me interested and back his kickstarter that was being handled by Game Salute. Now, after some delays, the game is in my hands so let's see how it goes.
The Magical Box
Chaos and Alchemy plays 2-5 players with only taking 10 minutes per player. The rules can also be read and learned in around 5 minutes. Overall it is a very fast paced game with a quick setup. To setup the game, each player takes an Outcome card, that shows success and failure, and 3 Experiment Dice. When the first player is determined they receive the green Success cube and 2 cards while the other players receive more cards. There is also a golden Fortune die that is set with its 4 face showing. Now the active player rolls their Experiment dice trying to equal or surpass the number on the Fortune die. Every higher roll is a success while each lower number is a failure, 1s are always automatic failures.
The Laboratory Setup
The player must then discard 1 card for every failed die roll. After this the player may spend their successful rolls. Their successes can be spent on either drawing cards from the deck or playing cards from their hands. If doubles are rolled it is called Chaos, with this the player can either reroll the Fortune Cube immediately or at the end of their turn. The green Success cube counts as an automatic success for the player to use. There are Reaction cards that don't cost a success to spend and can be played out of turn order if the conditions on the card are met. Each card has an action printed on it which triggers when it is added to a players laboratory. The goal of the game is be the first person to reach 10 points. Players will play Innovation cards which are worth a certain number of points, usually 1 to 3. The player that obtains 10 points first is the alchemist that discovers how to transmute lead into gold and the game is over.

There really isn't much to say about the rules of the game. They are incredibly light, easy to read, and easy to teach within a 5 minute period. The 10 minute per player estimate is pretty accurate as well.
The Chaos and Alchemy box has a wonderful look to it. The cover art is wonderful and really depicts what the core of the game is, the theme and what you will be undertaking as the player. However, the contents of the box are very small, not enough to warrant the size of the box. The insert is also Game Salute's generic folded cardboard, it really is almost like not having anything inside. That being said, Chaos and Alchemy comes with 2 great card boxes that hold the base game and both mini expansions, but the dice float freely in the empty box space.
The Alchemical Contents

That brings me to my next downside of the game, the dice. The dice are wonderful to look at, they are colorful and the starburst pips are a nice touch. However, the Experiment dice are very small. On the smaller dice with the translucent swirl pattern, the yellow pips find themselves fading into the background, especially on the sides where some of the bursts are bigger than others. It would have been nice to see the Experiment dice as the same size as the Fortune die. A little bit chunkier and easier to read would have been really great. Another thing would be to have 4 more success cubes, maybe of various colors. Sometimes players will forget to pass over the success cube when their turn ends, this is a minor problem with an easy fix (just go buy more of the generic clear cubes), but for the price and lack of box contents 4 more success cubes would have been nice.

Now on to the good news. The art is wonderful. I love the card art and find it intriguing to look at.
The Card Types
They have a nice look and contain some flavor text. The text is interesting and gives you that sense of doing lab work and discovering some arcane and technical wonders along your scientific journey.

I also want to briefly talk about the expansions: Substances and Apprentices.

Substances adds Substance cards which can be played for free (without success cubes), but cost a success to mix together. When 2 or more Substance cards are mixed they produce new abilities and Innovations for the player. The abilities and Innovations are great. It is a new way to score points and gain advantages in the lab. The expansion isn't hard to grasp and blends seamlessly with the base game. Substances basically adds more of the goodness and variety to extend the game life.

The Expansions
The Apprentices expansion adds special, asymmetrical ability cards. Players, in a standard game, can obtain these cards when they roll Chaos. When this happens they take the top card of the Apprentices deck and immediately add it to their lab so it's ability takes affect.

The Apprentices expansion is also easy to learn and add in, however, it doesn't add anything to the game play. It basically gives you abilities that the innovations, substances, and other cards already give you. The Apprentices seems more like an afterthought than an actual expansion. That being said both expansions keep the game's time limit the same, they do not extend past the base game's limit in timing or scoring.

All and all the game is very basic, but holds a wealth of variety and fun. It is a great gateway game and can be used with players of all skill levels and ages. If the option is available, I say that Substances should be picked up as it adds to the base game while The Apprentices can be skipped as it doesn't really add much more to the gameplay value.

I really recommend this game as a quick filler and gateway game, however, if you are looking for something with more substance and game to it then this is not what you are looking for. Its fun and I say check it out.

Thank you all again for reading Daemonic Teutonic. As always, I hope you enjoy the review.

Cheers,
Phil

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