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Subject: A real review for a shilled game rss

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Michel T. Georges
United States
Berkeley
California
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I am always interested in abstracts, in particular rare abstracts. Naturally I was interested when I noticed a new first review for a recently added abstract game. As I dug a bit deeper, however, I discovered that the high ratings for the game, as well as the "review", were both shilled, which dampened my enthusiasm. Being somehow ready for a good deed, I decided to produce a true review of this game. I got in touch with the designer, David Voegele, on Marketplace, and ordered a copy of Corx for the very reasonable price of $15 including shipping. The copy arrived VERY fast.

This game of skills and tactics has interesting aspects and simple rules, yet tries to do too much. There is a primary version with dice, a second “master” version without, and a scoring mechanism which adds victory points from multiple sources to determine who wins.

Corx is a hybrid game of conquest and piece taking. The goal of the game is to win more victory points than your opponent. You win victory points by (a) taking your opponent’s pawns, (b) conquering your opponent’s “base”, which is a location guarded by his pawns, (c) conquering the center point of the board, and (d) keeping as many pawns as possible on the board (i.e. where they have not been taken). The game stops when a base has been conquered by a player (or when a player has lost all of its pawns), at which time we count the victory points and find out who won.

The board is divided into a central playing area and 4 territories which belong the the 2-4 players, each of which includes a base. Each player, in turns, moves its pawns. It is possible to take your opponent’s pawn by landing on it, at which time both the taking and the taken pawns are removed from the board and accumulated by the taker (except if the taker also controls the center point of the game, in which case only the taken pawn is removed from the board). A pawn may not be taken if it belongs to a “block”, i.e. a group of two adjacent pawns, except if they are on the central point or on the their initial position. In the version that I played, each player, in turn, moves one or two pawns, so that, I move a pawn 5 spaces, you do the same, I move 2 pawns 3 spaces, you do the same, I move a pawn 1 space, you do the same, then it starts again. Pawns may not jump over other pawns. Once a pawn has moved out of its territory, in cannot enter it again, and, once it is moved into an opponent’s territory, it cannot exit again either.

1) Components: 8/10. The game comes with components that surprised me with their good quality. The pawns are really pieces of cork painted on one side. The board feels high quality, and is made of an 8x8 pressed wood shingle that is well painted/ printed. The game comes with 2 12mm d6 dice, a trifold 81/2x11 set of rules in thick paper, and a ziplock bag to keep the bits in. The box is made a good thick cardboard, and is VERY portable, an additional advantage.

2) Rules: 6/10. The rule “book” is basically a two-pager. It is simple and leaves little room for ambiguity, although it somewhat mixes rules and tips. I could think of a way to make them somewhat simpler and easier to learn.

3) Play mechanics: 5/10. They are simple, yet feel like a somewhat weird mixture of this and that. The rules described above are the “master” rules, where no dice are needed. Losing your cork when you take an opponent’s pawn is an unusual and interesting mechanic. The (5, 3+3, 1) movement rules feel a bit weird, although the rest of the movement rules are truly simple. The victory points for this game also seems slightly weird, where you combine the corks you took and the corks you still have, with the possession of a base and control of the center point. Somehow it seems that a victory should be more straightforward. I prefer more elegant rules. The regular play rules let you roll dice for each one of your moves, where you play one pawn per die, and seem more natural than the “master” version – but who wants a dice fest?. Altogether the whole thing feels like a bit of a hodge podge.

4) Players: 2-4. The 2 player game is straightforward. We played the 4-player game in teams, and that was straightforward too. We did not play 3-player versions, but, based on the topology, it would be slightly more awkward.

5) Strategy and tactics: 6/10. The game, as played in the “master” version, is truly a game of skills. It appears that there are several possible strategies, some of them being outlined in the manual. The master version requires you to continuously calculate specific sequences of moves forward. It is not easy to simultaneously attack and defend, and I can clearly see the possibility of analysis-paralysis. I have tried to “burn” the game by trying extreme strategies but have not found them yet. They may or may not exist.

6) Fun: 5/10. There is definitely some interesting analysis in the game, not as deep as chess, but probably slightly more interesting than American checkers. Yet the weird use of victory points and mixed rules has not really “grabbed” anyone among us.

Altogether, there are interesting elements in the game but the weird mix of rules results in somewhat awkward play. I was interested, in particular, in the mechanics of losing your pawn in a capture but still counting the capture, and the concept of taking a base. The center point concept and the block protection seem a bit artificial, as did the victory points. I cannot help thinking that there is a better game underneath the present version that remains to be discovered. Hopefully David Voegele will evolve this game and turn it into one that can truly capture and keep the interest of its players!
 
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david voegele
United States
Massachusetts
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designer
I appreciated seeing this review. The comments are most welcome, as would be any specific suggestions to further improve the game. I really appreciate it when someone goes to the effort to really understand CORX, as this reviewer did. I also appreciated the reviewer's enthusiasm for the game materials. Obviously, I would have preferred it if he had really enjoyed playing the game as well. I'm sorry that he did not, but it is useful to hear from people who do not like CORX. Having put the game on this site a couple weeks ago I was concerned because the only comments/reviews posted so far were from CORX enthusiasts whom I know. In that there are a few thousand CORX games out there (both the original 1993 version and the 2003 "new an improved" version), I'm hoping to hear from other folks whom I don't know or with whom I'm lost contact.
Again, I am grateful for this reviewer’s candid opinion.- David Voegele
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Michel T. Georges
United States
Berkeley
California
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David: I actually enjoyed several things about your game- in particular some of the play mechanics were really interesting. My personal taste in abstracts runs to simple, elegant rules. I am wondering if there might not be a way to simplify even further the play rules that would make the whole game, in my opinion, more compelling.
I encourage other abstract lovers to try Corx and figure out for themselves how they like the game!
 
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david voegele
United States
Massachusetts
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michel:

simplification and presentation of the rules has always been the challenge. i will give further thought to it, and perhaps there will be some suggestions from others who it about how to achieve this without compromising the core play components. thanks for the additional comments!- David
 
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kd wood

New Hampshire
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It was good to read a review which explained Corx much better than I could. However, as one of the original reviewers, I must reiterate that the more my boys and I play Corx the more challenging it becomes. I find the rules no more difficult than those of monopoly or chess (although I must confess to being chess challenged).
 
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