Chaos Overlords (1996)

by Christopher
5 minutes read


Chaos Overlords offers a deep, challenging experience as players navigate the strategic complexities of controlling a dystopian city. With its unique setting and gameplay, it remains a beloved classic.


Dive into the chaotic world of Chaos Overlords, a cult classic turn-based strategy game from 1996 by New World Computing. Explore a dystopian future where gang leaders battle for control of a city in chaos.


The game is set in a dystopian cyberpunk future. By 2046, private industries started to purchase bankrupt national governments. By 2050, all governments had merged under one corporation, the World United Solidarity (WUS). WUS became a corrupt monopoly, and attempted to control the population by instituting censorship and banning ownership of weapons, drugs, and pornography.

Former crime lords and corporate heads arose to exploit the people by creating “chaos”: selling drugs, guns, and pornography, running the numbers, and engaging in extortion and blackmail. These criminals, known as Chaos Overlords, bribed WUS to avoid crackdowns. As gangs joined them and they grew in power, cities became battlegrounds for their struggles to destroy each other in pursuit of money and power.

The player takes the role of a Chaos Overlord attempting to control a city. Gameplay involves hiring mercenary gangs and deploying them on an 8-by-8 grid of city sectors to generate income, occupy sectors, and take over the city. The player can choose from 10 different victory conditions. The four timed scenarios involve attaining the most cash, sectors, support, or all three. The six objective scenarios have no time limit and require the player to fulfill a specific goal, ranging from killing all other Chaos Overlords to controlling specific sectors of importance.

The game is structured like a card game, with different cards representing your gang members, buildings, and weapons you can equip. The turn-based gameplay is fun, with many commands you can issue per turn (research, control, hide, etc.) and you have to watch your back for police as well as other gangs. Research plays an important part in the game, as a weak gang equipped with powerful weapons can easily beat a stronger one that is armed with only a level 1 laser.

One of the most fun aspects of the game is recruiting new vigilantes to your gang: each turn, random gangs show up at your doorstep, waiting to be hired if the price is right. Aside from amusing names (and often equally amusing mugs), each team has its own expertise, weaknesses, and maintenance costs. Choosing who to hire is as important as when to hire them– since if you don’t earn enough from your controlled turfs to pay their upkeep, the gangsters will desert you in a hurry.

Another very fun part of the game is the variety of buildings you can control: each building has its own advantages – casinos yield money each turn, hospitals can heal your wounded gangsters, and so on– and again, timing when to take control is crucial. You can also set both the goal (money, power, etc.) and the length of the game to suit your gaming preferences.


Players can choose from several Overlords, each with unique abilities and units, including cyber-enhanced soldiers, hackers, and heavy weaponry.


The game features a blend of strategic planning, resource management, and tactical combat. Players must conquer territories, engage in battles with rivals, and navigate complex alliances.


Chaos Overlords stands as a testament to the depth and complexity that turn-based strategy games can offer, securing its place as a cult classic despite its flaws.

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