Every year for the past few years, a game has been released that fans say is “like Scythe, but better.” As a big fan Spit, I am always equally skeptical and intrigued. Circadians: Chaos Order pits highly asymmetric factions against each other as they vie for control of powerful relics using the earth’s resources as well as brute force.
Circadians: order out of chaos plays with 2 to 5 players and takes 2 to 4 hours, depending on the number of players.
In Circadians Chaos Order, several asymmetric factions compete to be the first to fulfill one of two victory conditions. A single win condition refers to controlling multiple specific areas (those containing relics) at the same time, the number of which decreases with each round. Another possible win condition is specific to each individual faction.
In each round, each player will “rate” an action, setting the cost of doing that action to the other players and making it free for them. After all players have determined the cost of an action, the action phases begin. Starting with the player who rated the action, each player will decide whether or not to perform the available action or pass. Action phases include discovery, construction, harvesting, recruitment, and movement. During these stages, players will improve their action efficiency, build bases and buildings on the board, acquire resources, recruit units and leaders, move units, and perform some support activities.
After completing all stages of actions, the battle begins. Players then earn income based on territories controlled and spaces unlocked on their players’ boards. Finally, control is evaluated by the remainder of the current round. If all relics are under control, the player in control wins the game. If not, the current round’s relic is given to the player who controls the area containing it.
The game also ends when one player fulfills a certain win condition for their faction, which is tracked on the main board.
This is an aggressive, fighting game. If you liked the “knife fight in a phone booth” feel of Kemet, you’ll dig it. After the first round, if you’re not in a battle (or two or three) every round, you’re probably playing poorly. I like the combat system here. You only fight one player at a time, but there are a lot of options and little things with the battle wheel and tactics cards. You balance between power (which wins battles), wounds (kills units), and shields (blocks wounds). You know the starting stats of both sides going into battle, based on troop size, leader presence, and any structures in the regions.
You don’t know what your opponent will set his wheel to and what card he might add, and your opponent doesn’t know your selection. Lots of double entenders to go around. There is also a strategic retreat here, as one of the combat wheel options is retreat. Even this creates more dynamism in the battle phase, as you can retreat units from one battle you’re in right into another.
One of my favorite parts of the game is the action selection mechanism. Action pricing feels fresh for this type of game, giving Circadians Chaos Order a bit more of an economic engine than others in the genre. It’s great that you can not only choose what’s free for you, but also choose between the potential price of others for certain actions or the desire to gain energy from them, since players have to pay you to perform actions at the price you choose. If you time everything right, you can afford to take all the necessary actions and still have energy for the next round.
Making an action more effective is really easy with a detect action, but it’s always a tough decision. In most cases, you make the action cost less, provide more, or both. Choosing an extra recruitment point, movement point, or construction point can determine whether you have a great round or a tragic one.
Game systems do not interfere with the implementation of your strategies. For example, when you move from one area to another, you can take as many units as you like per movement point. When you build, any building or base you have is only worth one construction point. Sometimes they’ll also cost a gem, but they’re pretty easy to get. Resources in this game are far from scarce. You have a fairly steady stream of income at different stages of the game. The challenge is not to get resources, but to find the best way to spend them. I prefer this gameplay.
You build an engine in many different ways. Your presence on the board as well as the buildings you have built determine your income each round. How much research you do determines what benefits you can get for each major action, and we’re not talking small steps. Take, for example, recruitment. At the start of the game, you will only receive two set points per round. If you research the entire recruitment path, you will instead receive nine recruitment points per round. Finally, you have attribute cards and several leaders, each of which can be upgraded. There’s a lot to get lost in here.
Let’s move on to asymmetry. There are six factions in the game. You can do some stupid, destructive things with each faction. Circadians have a dropship that allows them to transport units around the board and parachute them into regions, as well as providing combat power and harvesting capabilities wherever it lands. Jaro can pay the pot instead of his opponents for valuable actions. Oxatai can take two leaders into battle (limit one for other factions). The AI has 30 combat units in the game (10 more than the next highest) and can set traps. I’m barely scratching the surface, but I hope you get the idea. They obviously put a lot of thought into making each faction special.
After all this gushing, I have a negative. The game is a bit long for me. It doesn’t seem slow and idle time isn’t much of an issue, but after three rounds you can look up and see that 2 hours have passed and there may be another two hours to go. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ride, but it’s a commitment. I haven’t even tried a 5 player game, and I’m not sure I’ll ever have the time or players to take part in it. I know a lot of die-hard gamers will roll their eyes at this criticism, but it’s important to me.
Going back to my introduction, I don’t think so Circadians: order in chaos is a Scythe replacement. However, I think this game could be mine Root. Each faction deserves several games to learn and then master, and they will need different strategies depending on the number of players and other factions involved in the game. It’s a little long to play with a lot of regularity, but I can see it coming out several weeks in a row, allowing me to dive deep into a particular faction over the course of several games. I look forward to delving into it even more.
Final score: 4.5 stars. A highly asymmetric and aggressive zone control game with a solid engine design and a great action selection mechanism.
• Each faction has mind-blowing abilities that are fun to explore
• Fights occur early and often, but are quickly resolved
• The action selection mechanism has a clear economic component
• Powerful engine with tons of in-game customization options
• The game takes a long time