After 22 years, groundbreaking story-driven board game City of Chaos is back

31 May 2018
pic2439-22931.jpg City of Chaos
Second edition of obscure fantasy adventure game out next year

One of tabletop gaming’s holy grails is about to become much, much easier to find.

City of Chaos was originally published in 1996, the first and only design by creators Martyn Oliver and Colin Thornton.

Although just 1,000 copies were reportedly made, the game marked a landmark moment in storytelling on the tabletop, combining aspects of games such as Tales of the Arabian Nights, Talisman and Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective into a sprawling fantasy adventure with a randomly-generated storyline and world.

In the game, players explore the titular location of Byronitar in search of the sources of chaos causing the city and its inhabitants to fall apart. Randomly-drawn tiles created a unique environment to traverse, with random events and roleplaying elements adding to the feeling of a dynamic and immersive setting.

At the heart of the game was the Tome of Chaos, a book crammed with thousands of words detailing the events and interactions players could experience during playthroughs that would often stretch for more than five hours.

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Players could take on the role of characters belonging to various guilds, including the pacifist Somatologists and the Pneumologists, with the ability to use their breath as a physical force to overcome their enemies.

The game’s innovative – if arguably flawed – gameplay and hard-to-find nature, given that the first edition was never reprinted, turned it into a sought-after cult hit. However, its creators continued to work on and refine the game over the years.

"I keep getting tentative emails from publishers expressing an interest in reprinting but it never leads to anything concrete,” Oliver replied in response to a BoardGameGeek user who asked if the game might see a 20th Anniversary Edition in 2016. “If I could get a publisher who's really serious and determined then it could happen. The redesign is well underway, but to be perfectly honest I lack the motivation to really push this.”

It seems that Oliver and Thornton eventually managed to catch the attention of War of the Ring studio Ares Games, which announced this week that it would be releasing a “improved and updated” edition of the game in the second half of 2019.

The project has only just begun development, leaving it unclear exactly what the improvements will include. But, after 22 years, it seems that City of Chaos might finally find a wider appreciation.

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