City of Chaos tamed?
Ares Games is planning to bring back City of Chaos sometime in 2021. This is a 1-6 player narrative adventure game from 1996, featuring bizarre miniatures and a 'weird fiction' storyline. The designers have recently come together to prepare a second edition with 10 new characters and artwork by Francesco Corli (image below).
Your goal in the original game is to restore order in the city of Byronitar and save it from the forces of anarchy. There are 4 major plot lines to follow, each with 5 clues you have to uncover. The characters you can play as are the Mesmerist, the Pneumologist, the Somatologist, the Pyrotechnic, the Pugilist, the Thief and the Duellist (pewter minis). As you travel across the map, your character will stop at various locations and have random encounters with NPCs, buy items and spells, and get the chance to join secret societies.
Whenever you have an encounter with an NPC, you search for the equivalent paragraph in the Tome of Chaos and read what happens. You may either greet, help or threaten them. If, for example, you decide to greet the Shaman, you roll a custom die and read the paragraph associated with the symbol you rolled. Combat is resolved by choosing a card with an Attack and Defense value from your deck, and having the enemy draw a card from theirs. Fights may thus take a while to resolve.
City of Chaos may have a unique plot and characters but it also comes with severe flaws in its system. According to Daniel Davis (the Dungeon Dive YouTube channel), this is 'a remarkable work of interactive fiction but it's not a good game'. Despite the great world building and the quality of the writing, the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. A session runs too long (it may last up to 5 hours), and the rules need revision. Roll for movement is annoying. If you die 3 times, you are out of the game, which is a huge bummer if you've spent 5 hours on it. Combat should be shorter too.
Daniel didn't complain about the overall randomness but it's evident that, unless the player enjoys e.g. Tales of the Arabian Nights, the lack of mitigation and player agency may not be as appealing today as it (presumably) was in the late 90s-early 00s. Then again, the power of nostalgia combined with new lovely artwork and minis may be enough to guarantee the success of the second edition. Let's see what Ares and the designers are going to do with it, and whether they are willing to bring order to its chaos.