Total Chaos is the latest addition to the Chaos Campaign family. It takes the form of a compilation of sorts. It is a comprehensive tome collecting the entire Chaos Campaign from Dawn of the Jihad to the last of the Jihad sourcebooks including several plucked form the Jihad Turning Points PDF series.
No ‘Mechs. No explosions. No battlefield. Just business. The opening fiction is a short piece typical of any sourcebook sized offering from Catalyst. Every battle has a beginning, some more deeply rooted than others.
The short fiction is only part of the story which is available in full via BattleCorps.
Rules of Engagement
Retooled and ready for action, the Rules of Engagement section reprints and updates the Chaos Campaign rules with major additions and modifications based on play testing, player feedback and the author’s prerogative. I concur with all of the modifications I could spot. Here are some of the major changes from the original:
- New Terrain Tables expand the available battlefields
- More detailed and expensive repair rules
- Ability to hire advanced experience personnel
- Drastically increased support point cost for skill improvement
Not a lot ot complain about. All of the changes appear reasonable if not downright needed. The expanded Support Point Activity Cost Table have filled in all the gaps of the old rules. Well done. For new players and old alike there will be fewer questions during the campaign especially for those commands who take an unorthodox force composition.
Even with the increased skill improvement costs I still prefer the Total War style experience system. Why mess with a good thing?
Enter Stage Right
Enter stage right details three mercenary commands that were typical targets for IE contracts. The commands range from well meaning to downright shady. In the end I felt like this section was a template of sorts that showed how players could form their own mercenary forces to fit almost any background or alignment.
Each command provides details on overall composition, paint scheme, and origin. The leader and XO for each force has their own portrait and individual special abilities that integrate with A Time of War. Overall force special abilities add to the flavor.
The origins of each command is where this section really shines. Each force has a cleverly constructed background and is wildly different from each other while sharing the common bond of being mercenaries. It shows how versatile the Jihad Chaos Campaign can be.
I was impressed to see a healthy mix of combined arms forces. Also, each force was under a company strength which meshes well with the suggested force size in the campaign rules.
It is through the eyes of these mercenary forces that the aftermath and situations for the Jihad tracks are built off of. They are irreversibly intertwined through the Jihad story arc while providing ample room for players to blaze their own trail. In an interesting twist the opening fiction is connected to one of the unit’s bios.
For players intimidated by the prospect of creating their own force from scratch (and also the lazy), these three force bios are nearly ready to go blue prints that get you into the cockpit sooner. They are exemplary examples of how you can build a story around your unit and hopefully continue that story through the campaign.
Missions are small, less detailed boiler plate combat scenarios the likes of which were originally seen in the Starter Book series and later used in the Operational Turning Points PDFs. There are 13 total to choose from and cover a wide array of standard missions from assault to recon to retreat.
They all follow a similar format and provide the bread and butter to the Chaos Campaign main course to follow. The objectives and optional bonuses are predictable which can’t be helped given the generic nature of the missions.
In a very interesting and applause worthy modification to previous publications, missions have completely variable opposing forces. Previous iterations of these missions listed a stock experience level and a variable force composition. The Total Chaos campaign missions include 5 variables that determine Op For; tech level, force size, force composition, RAT, and experience.
Will you be fighting an up armored but inexperienced militia force? How about a veteran house unit packing a mix of low tech heavy and medium units? Maybe you’ll be head to head with advanced technology elite mercenary command wielding lots of fast light units. The random nature of the Op For is a bright spot in the missions section and are sure to enhance re-playability.
Missions can also act as respites from the at times harsh main campaign. To be honest, some of the tracks in the Jihad are just brutal. Having the opportunity to duck out and fight a few Supply and Recon missions after taking a beating can allow battered forces time to rebuild and not be forced so early into Warchest Debt.
Covering 14 years the Total Chaos Campaign includes a massive 142 tracks. Most of these have been published before in earlier volumes but 49 (by my count) are brand new. In essence Total Chaos is an anthology for the Jihad era Chaos Campaign. However, that is not the full story. There is a lot of new material to be had within these pages.
The layout and formatting of all of the tracks have been updated to the most recent standard. Since Jihad Hot Spots 3076 Chaos Campaign tracks have taken on a unified look and feel and have been ‘Mech force centric. The old tracks prior to this change have had a significant amount of work put into them to bring them up to par with the series.
While the meat of each track has been relatively unchanged, the Situation and Aftermath have been rewritten to incorporate the stories of the three mercenary commands detailed in the Enter Stage Right section. I did notice that some options and objectives were tweaked. Some point values were adjusted and some got removed or split into multiple objectives. Most likely these changes were the result of play testing.
Additional information on the progress of the Jihad and it’s most pivotal battle fields is included in side bars containing information on specific worlds like Terra, Dieron, Tharkad and the like. Each of these also includes a mini-campaign for players to complete. Mini campaigns are a collection of tracks and missions that together make up a small segment of the Jihad centered around the subject world. Additional information is provided on forces involved and a detailed account of the importance of the world in the Jihad. There is a lot of fiction and fluff material crammed into this book.
New to this book are 49 never before seen tracks spread more of less evenly between the reprinted tracks.
On average Jihad Turning Points PDFs cover 8-9 tracks. This means that Total Chaos is the equivalent of around 10 Jihad Turning Points PDFs when looking at new tracks alone.
The new tracks bring a lot of variety including space missions, solaris maps, and other pleasant combinations of objectives and options all in keeping with the standard set in the original campaign. The Jihad Chaos Campaign is a hell of a story and the best way to experience it is to play it.
All the Rest
A campaign tracking sheet is included, unchanged from it’s original poorly organized predecessor. You can find an upgraded campaign tracking sheet in the Downloads section. My original thoughts on the matter are still relevant.
Random assignment tables are provided for mercenaries, Word of Blake, and WoB Shadow Divisions. These RATs are better than your usual fare. They are quite extensive even going so far as accounting for technology ratings. Aerospace, vehicles, and battle armor join the ‘Mechs for combined arms variety.
The final tables are huge, and include up to 19 choices per wight class for ‘Mechs, Vehicles, Battle Armor, and Aerospace. Technology ratings will affect the final result of a 2D6 roll. The higher up the chart you are the better the technology level allowing for increased variety.
Finishing up the PDF are two very interesting custom units. An Awesome piloted by a Mr. Cameron and an Atlas II piloted by Delvin Stone. Icing on the cake as far as I’m concerned and a fine end to an epic sourcebook.
The Final Word
I’ve heard the criticism.
Isn’t this all reprinted stuff from old books? Why should I buy it twice?
That’s true except for the 49 new tracks, new and updated missions, the updated track fiction, the new mercenary bios, the new terrain tables, the new (and huge) RATs, and the extra planet and battle specific Jihad details. You get the idea. There is a lot to like in this book and most of it is going to be as fresh as any new sourcebook you planned to buy.
For Chaos Campaign enthusiasts, this is a cap stone must have product. For those who may have been hesitant to join in the fun, Total Chaos provides a one stop product to get started in the Jihad. Instead of purchasing the huge volume of products associated with the original campaign, all of it (and much more) is included here in one place.
Some players may scoff at the prospect of purchasing a compilation but there is plenty within these pages that make up for any sense of repetition.Posted under Review