I bought Chaos for 50p. I probably bought it because it was 50p. I mean, how could you go wrong for that? Not very, as it turned out. On the Spectrum I probably played Chaos only slightly less than Elite, and I'm still playing it today.
On the surface Chaos is deceptively simple, and seems almost throwaway. The graphics are modest even by Spectrum standards, the sound effects rudimentary, and the overall presentation of the game is very basic. None of that matters though, because bubbling under that surface is a strategy masterpiece that still outclasses its brethren in the genre.
Up to 8 wizards do battle in an arena with a variety of spells that their disposal. Creatures can be summoned, enhancements cast on the wizards themselves, fires started, magical woods created, lightning bolts fired... there's a large range of magics available to each player, each with its own chance of success. For example - keep casting chaotic spells and the chaos-alignment increases, making subsequent chaos spells easier to cast. Each turn the players get to choose and attempt to cast a spell, then move themselves and whatever allies they have. Directly attacking an enemy is simply a case of trying to move into its spot, either by land or air. Distance attacks and offensive spells have to be executed within range. Victory goes to the last wizard standing.
This simple premise soon blooms into a very tactical game. After a few rounds the boards is teeming with creatures and obstacles, all out for one thing: the destruction of their enemies. Players can hide inside citadels or forests for a few turns, they can mount their own ridable creatures or arm up and go into direct combat themselves. Different creatures affect each other in different ways.
Something I always liked about Chaos is the fact that it never lets on how well your wizard and creatures are doing... whether they're fit as a fiddle or at deaths door. Every attack on your wizard is a painfully tense moment. Will they survive or be wiped out? The death of a wizard is always a fun moment, as he explodes in 8 directions, taking all his creations with him.
With such a range of options, numbers of players and spell choices no two games of Chaos are ever remotely the same, which is why over 20 years on it's still my strategy game of choice.