I was first introduced to Chaos during my Games Workshop infested days, via a Your Sinclair covertape in 1991. It was like playing a board game on a screen - to anyone who's ever sampled it's surreal charms, you probably won't need any convincing. We in the know are aware of what a gem it is!
The premise of the game is simple. Up to 8 wizards, any or all of whom can be controlled by human or computer players, have to kill until they're the last one standing.
To this end, each wizard is granted a selection of spells - many of these will be creature creation spells, whereby a magical ally (be it giant bat, skeleton, giant, rat, elf or dragon - there's plenty to choose from), if successfully cast, will be summoned into a square adjacent to your wizard.
Other than creating minions, you also have a selection of spells that can be used to alter events - some of these are ballistic, such as fireballs, but others can create magic woods that give you more spells, turn the mind of enemy wizards' minions, or raise the dead.
The main tactic of the game is keeping your wizard safe, but close enough to cause damage. Also essential to success is exploiting the strengths of your various creatures - undeads for example (such as ghosts, skeletons, wraiths and vampires) can only be killed by other undead or magical creatures. Some winged beasts (dragons, griffins, giant bats) can be used to carry your wizard around, which is handy for zipping him around the map.
Other creations have their own special abilities - some, like the elves, have long ranged weapons. Others can make multiple attacks. Use these skills to get at the enemy minions - once you kill a wizard, all of his monsters will die with him.
As you can see from the screenshots, the graphics are very basic indeed. This actually helps to keep the game watchable - as the screen fills up with dead bodies, magic trees, castles and minions, the simplicity is a blessing. The sound effects are minimal.
The game controls are simple, although unless you've got a Chatboard, they're a bit of a pain. The cursor is controlled in 8 directions with the following keys:
S selects a character to move, or the square into which a spell is to be cast. The spell menus (which appear between turns) are operated as displayed.
In addition to the ZX Spectrum version, a Public Domain clone was created for the Atari ST, which runs very well in CaSTaway (although the controls are kept the same, so it's either chatboard or a lot of jogging round a virtual keyboard). It's incredibly hard to find the gamefile, but if anyone wants to play it, I don't think I'd be contravening forum policy by offering up a Public Domain ROM. So email me and I'll send it to you. It's visually similar to the Spectrum version (albeit with a splash more colour), but plays just just as well.
Finally, the last thing that makes Chaos so interesting is the history of the game. It was made by the same person (whis name escapes me) who created Rebelstar for the Spectrum, before going on to make Laser Squad and Lords Of Chaos (essentially a sequal to Chaos).
The game was first devised as a boardgame and presented to Games Workshop for possible publication. It was turned down. Their loss!