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Subject: Core Worlds: Intergalactic Deck Building! rss

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Kelly North Adams
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This review originally posted on BOP! Visit www.boardofplaying.com for more reviews like this one! Happy Gaming!


Details
Players: 2-5 (probably best with 3)
Actual Length: 60 to 90 minutes
Age: 10+

We’ve recently had the chance to play Core Worlds here on BOP and we’re now ready to give you the low down on this deck-building game of intergalactic conquest!

Like most deck building games, you can expect cards with a small amount of text you’ll need to read and become familiar with. And of course based off your choices throughout the course of the game, developing a deck of cards that outwits your opponents is way to win; very much like Dominion, Ascension, Race for the Galaxy, Magic: The Gathering and so on.



You start with a personal game matte that keeps track of your actions and energy level. Over the course of ten rounds your action level increases as well as your energy (hopefully!) which allows for bigger and better things to do. Each player starts as a faction with a base deck of mostly identical cards, as well as a few slightly different starting cards with varied special abilities. Some factions special starting cards are arguably more powerful than others but I don’t necessarily think it’s to the point of a balance issue.

The symbols on the cards are easy enough to decipher and are important to pay attention to throughout the game.



A central part of the game is card drafting from the “Central Zone” of cards that come out over the progression of the game. The cards that you draft are composed of units, worlds, and tactics. Units being your military and are the basis for “invading” i.e. drafting additional cards. Worlds generate your energy allotment at the beginning of each round which can be thought of as ‘currency’ and is absolutely imperative for deploying units, playing tactics, and drafting awesome cards. Tactics are action cards that ironically don’t necessarily always cost an action to play, but give bonuses during invasions amongst other things.

A simple explanation of how Core Worlds plays is at the beginning of each round you draw cards, mark your appropriate number of actions based on the round, and calculate your current energy generation from your worlds (also adding any bonuses from cards and such). You take turns playing actions which include :
- Drafting a new unit card or tactic card from the central pool paying the appropriate energy cost and placing your newly recruited card into your discard pile for use later on.
- Deploying as many units as you want from you current hand into your Warzone around your player matte, paying the appropriate energy cost and # of actions for each unit.
- Using those deployed units and/or any tactics cards from your hand to invade Worlds (also paying any appropriate energy costs on your tactics cards). All units and tactics used in invasion are discarded (unless you have a card that allows you to retain any of these units).
- “As an action” cards are cards you can play and then immediately must discard but allow for some cool things. (i.e. ‘Advanced Drones’ allows you to draft 1 card from the central zone at a cost of -4 energy)
In most deck building games, a good idea is to try and thin out your deck by eliminating weaker cards allowing for high reuse of your stronger cards. This can be done after conquering a world, allowing you to tuck one of your played cards, such as a weak starting military unit, underneath it.

During the first nine rounds there is a nice plethora of cards that come out. As the game progresses worlds get harder to conquer and tactics and units get more difficult to draft. Of course the benefits of those cards also get greater. In the last round Prestige cards appear and their only function is to add victory points to your final tally.

Things I liked:
- I thought the difficulty of acquiring cards throughout the progression of the game was challenging enough but not impossible.
- The abilities on the cards were pretty cool.
- Re-playability will be very high if expansions are added, which in Core Worlds case, will be very easy to add expansions to. Even in the base set there is quite a bit of re-playability, especially if your playing with only 2-3 people, which means a great deal of the cards you won’t even see.
- Theme fits

Thing I didn’t like:
- The game seems to end relatively abruptly with little chances to use your really cool cards that you acquired towards the end of the game. Some may see this as positive because it can make decisions at end game harder, but for me, I really want to play with my new cool card at least a few times!

Final Thoughts
How does it compare to other deck building games? Race for the Galaxy for me was a bit abstract for my taste and after many plays I just couldn’t get into it. Additionally I felt the iconography was much too complex which really turned me off after playing it 3 or 4 times and still finding myself struggling over what the different symbols were (although Bopper Scott Linde thought differently, read his review!) Thunderstone is another deck building game that I felt “meh” about, although I really can’t tell you why. Eminent Domain, while kind of fun for awhile, turned out to be sort of light and forgettable (read review). Dominion is a gateway game that many hardcore gamers are “sooo over,” but I still play on a regular basis. It’s an easy game to teach newer gamers and I continue to enjoy it quite regularly with all levels of gamers.

So where does Core Worlds fall? Somewhere in between Dominion and Eminent Domain for me. I don’t like it nearly as much as Dominion but I don’t think it’s forgettable like Eminent Domain.

I’m not sure if we’ll be adding Core Worlds to the permanent BOP collection, but I wouldn’t mind playing it with other gamers who own it whenever the opportunity arises.
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Thomas King
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Good review!

KingKel wrote:

Thing I didn’t like:
- The game seems to end relatively abruptly with little chances to use your really cool cards that you acquired towards the end of the game. Some may see this as positive because it can make decisions at end game harder, but for me, I really want to play with my new cool card at least a few times!

Just thought I'd say, you can play it to have a thin deck towards the end by making sure you've deployed enough units before hand, thus letting you use your new cards before the end. You'll want things deployed before those last 2 turns anyway or you risk spending your time deploying and not getting your core world of choice. But it can largely depend on whether you go first when the core worlds come out and how man other players there are.

I think that's one of the things players enjoy about CW over other deckbuilders. It has a defined end, and you can see it coming and plan ahead for it very early in the game. There's a lot less luck to it than most deckbuilders, making it more of a strategy game than a tactical one.

For me, it's easily one of the top deckbuilders, and offers a lot more strategy than Dominion or Thunderstone. Also, there is an expansion coming: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgameexpansion/125099/core-...
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Sam Carroll
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Thanks for posting this review. I've got a few nitpicks and comments for you, as follows:

KingKel wrote:
Some factions special starting cards are arguably more powerful than others but I don’t necessarily think it’s to the point of a balance issue.


I agree. I dislike Baron Viktor and don't care much for Simon the Fox (Simon tends to work better with a fat deck, which is a weaker strategy overall), but the difference in probable final VPs between the best and worst heroes is minimal.

Quote:
Units being your military and are the basis for “invading” i.e. drafting additional cards.


Invading is not actually drafting, as the worlds you invade are not added to your deck. Instead, they form a tableau of their own. Units and tactics are drafted into your deck using the energy generated by worlds (and some tactics).

Quote:
Tactics are action cards that ironically don’t necessarily always cost an action to play, but give bonuses during invasions amongst other things.


I can't see the irony myself, since they're not actually called "action cards", but hey.

Quote:
In the last round Prestige cards appear and their only function is to add victory points to your final tally.


Prestige cards appear in the last two rounds and are indeed a way to turn excess energy into a few VPs. More important are the Core Worlds, which appear at the same time and are worth many more VP. They must be invaded, requiring considerable military (at least 14 strength minimum).

Quote:
Things I liked:
- I thought the difficulty of acquiring cards throughout the progression of the game was challenging enough but not impossible.
- The abilities on the cards were pretty cool.
- Re-playability will be very high if expansions are added, which in Core Worlds case, will be very easy to add expansions to. Even in the base set there is quite a bit of re-playability, especially if your playing with only 2-3 people, which means a great deal of the cards you won’t even see.
- Theme fits

Thing I didn’t like:
- The game seems to end relatively abruptly with little chances to use your really cool cards that you acquired towards the end of the game. Some may see this as positive because it can make decisions at end game harder, but for me, I really want to play with my new cool card at least a few times!


I agree with all your likes, although I'm not sure just how replayable it will be, without expansions. Fortunately, they've already announced the first expansion, Core Worlds: Galactic Orders.

While understand where you're coming from with the comment about ending quickly, I don't know how it could be otherwise within this game system and still provide interesting decisions. Unless maybe you could start attacking each other, which I recall might come into a future expansion. Hmmm.

You should be able to get your best units, from sector 4, out once to conquer a Core World, as long as you've get a reasonably thin deck (from deployment and colonization). Seeing them twice is unlikely unless you're running ultra-thin, but I have seen it happen.

I agree with you that while the game focus is on conquering core worlds, the big units are much sexier. Be honest: do you really want a world that looks like any other world but is worth 8 VPs, or do you want a huge starship called The War Byrd?

Quote:
Dominion is a gateway game that many hardcore gamers are “sooo over,” but I still play on a regular basis. It’s an easy game to teach newer gamers and I continue to enjoy it quite regularly with all levels of gamers.

So where does Core Worlds fall? Somewhere in between Dominion and Eminent Domain for me. I don’t like it nearly as much as Dominion but I don’t think it’s forgettable like Eminent Domain.


I'd be interested if you could articulate what you like better about Dominion than Core Worlds. Bear in mind, there's a possibility that I'm a Philistine who wouldn't recognize a good game if it were presented to me on a silver platter with watercress around it . . . however: Dominion feels dull to me, because you just build a deck and you're done. The theme is applied with Elmer's glue, and I feel like the only really interesting choices are in the drafting; other than that, each hand plays itself. It is a quick-playing game, which is a major concern for many gamers. Core Worlds is longer, but it doesn't overstay its welcome with me.

Core Worlds lets you build a deck and simultaneously conquer stuff with it, which I enjoy much more. It has a well-integrated theme, and it also presents agonizing decisions during your turns. This is largely because you go around the table, taking one action at a time. There are usually several things you want to do, but you're afraid someone else will beat you to them, so you're trying to figure out how much other people might be willing to pay for a card, and which worlds they might conquer, and so on.
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Thanks for the in-depth review, KingKel! I'm glad to hear your group has been enjoying the game. As others have noted, there are some advanced strategies to keeping your deck thin and allowing you to keep more control over your deck during the final rounds. And the upcoming expansion provides a host of new options for deck control as well!

Andrew
 
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Kelly North Adams
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Montag451 wrote:
Good review!

KingKel wrote:

Thing I didn’t like:
- The game seems to end relatively abruptly with little chances to use your really cool cards that you acquired towards the end of the game. Some may see this as positive because it can make decisions at end game harder, but for me, I really want to play with my new cool card at least a few times!

Just thought I'd say, you can play it to have a thin deck towards the end by making sure you've deployed enough units before hand, thus letting you use your new cards before the end. You'll want things deployed before those last 2 turns anyway or you risk spending your time deploying and not getting your core world of choice. But it can largely depend on whether you go first when the core worlds come out and how man other players there are.

I think that's one of the things players enjoy about CW over other deckbuilders. It has a defined end, and you can see it coming and plan ahead for it very early in the game. There's a lot less luck to it than most deckbuilders, making it more of a strategy game than a tactical one.

For me, it's easily one of the top deckbuilders, and offers a lot more strategy than Dominion or Thunderstone. Also, there is an expansion coming: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgameexpansion/125099/core-...
laugh


Agreed, although, the really cool cards come out toward the end, and no matter how thinned my deck is, you only get to play them once or twice, which is a bummer :-/
 
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spartax wrote:
Thanks for posting this review. I've got a few nitpicks and comments for you, as follows:

KingKel wrote:
Some factions special starting cards are arguably more powerful than others but I don’t necessarily think it’s to the point of a balance issue.


I agree. I dislike Baron Viktor and don't care much for Simon the Fox (Simon tends to work better with a fat deck, which is a weaker strategy overall), but the difference in probable final VPs between the best and worst heroes is minimal.

Quote:
Units being your military and are the basis for “invading” i.e. drafting additional cards.


Invading is not actually drafting, as the worlds you invade are not added to your deck. Instead, they form a tableau of their own. Units and tactics are drafted into your deck using the energy generated by worlds (and some tactics).

Quote:
Tactics are action cards that ironically don’t necessarily always cost an action to play, but give bonuses during invasions amongst other things.


I can't see the irony myself, since they're not actually called "action cards", but hey.

Quote:
In the last round Prestige cards appear and their only function is to add victory points to your final tally.


Prestige cards appear in the last two rounds and are indeed a way to turn excess energy into a few VPs. More important are the Core Worlds, which appear at the same time and are worth many more VP. They must be invaded, requiring considerable military (at least 14 strength minimum).

Quote:
Things I liked:
- I thought the difficulty of acquiring cards throughout the progression of the game was challenging enough but not impossible.
- The abilities on the cards were pretty cool.
- Re-playability will be very high if expansions are added, which in Core Worlds case, will be very easy to add expansions to. Even in the base set there is quite a bit of re-playability, especially if your playing with only 2-3 people, which means a great deal of the cards you won’t even see.
- Theme fits

Thing I didn’t like:
- The game seems to end relatively abruptly with little chances to use your really cool cards that you acquired towards the end of the game. Some may see this as positive because it can make decisions at end game harder, but for me, I really want to play with my new cool card at least a few times!


I agree with all your likes, although I'm not sure just how replayable it will be, without expansions. Fortunately, they've already announced the first expansion, Core Worlds: Galactic Orders.

While understand where you're coming from with the comment about ending quickly, I don't know how it could be otherwise within this game system and still provide interesting decisions. Unless maybe you could start attacking each other, which I recall might come into a future expansion. Hmmm.

You should be able to get your best units, from sector 4, out once to conquer a Core World, as long as you've get a reasonably thin deck (from deployment and colonization). Seeing them twice is unlikely unless you're running ultra-thin, but I have seen it happen.

I agree with you that while the game focus is on conquering core worlds, the big units are much sexier. Be honest: do you really want a world that looks like any other world but is worth 8 VPs, or do you want a huge starship called The War Byrd?

Quote:
Dominion is a gateway game that many hardcore gamers are “sooo over,” but I still play on a regular basis. It’s an easy game to teach newer gamers and I continue to enjoy it quite regularly with all levels of gamers.

So where does Core Worlds fall? Somewhere in between Dominion and Eminent Domain for me. I don’t like it nearly as much as Dominion but I don’t think it’s forgettable like Eminent Domain.


I'd be interested if you could articulate what you like better about Dominion than Core Worlds. Bear in mind, there's a possibility that I'm a Philistine who wouldn't recognize a good game if it were presented to me on a silver platter with watercress around it . . . however: Dominion feels dull to me, because you just build a deck and you're done. The theme is applied with Elmer's glue, and I feel like the only really interesting choices are in the drafting; other than that, each hand plays itself. It is a quick-playing game, which is a major concern for many gamers. Core Worlds is longer, but it doesn't overstay its welcome with me.

Core Worlds lets you build a deck and simultaneously conquer stuff with it, which I enjoy much more. It has a well-integrated theme, and it also presents agonizing decisions during your turns. This is largely because you go around the table, taking one action at a time. There are usually several things you want to do, but you're afraid someone else will beat you to them, so you're trying to figure out how much other people might be willing to pay for a card, and which worlds they might conquer, and so on.


A few... nitpicks, ehem. :o)

Okay, lets break these down....

Quote:
I agree. I dislike Baron Viktor and don't care much for Simon the Fox (Simon tends to work better with a fat deck, which is a weaker strategy overall), but the difference in probable final VPs between the best and worst heroes is minimal.


Agreed.

Quote:
Invading is not actually drafting, as the worlds you invade are not added to your deck. Instead, they form a tableau of their own. Units and tactics are drafted into your deck using the energy generated by worlds (and some tactics).


Yeah, wrong word choice on my part. But you know what I mean, sheesh!

Quote:
I can't see the irony myself, since they're not actually called "action cards", but hey.


Okay, okay... tactics really "enhance" actions, but I play them and they do something, therefore seem 'actiony' to me - Gosh! your nitpicky!

Quote:
Prestige cards appear in the last two rounds and are indeed a way to turn excess energy into a few VPs. More important are the Core Worlds, which appear at the same time and are worth many more VP. They must be invaded, requiring considerable military (at least 14 strength minimum).


Word.

Quote:
I agree with you that while the game focus is on conquering core worlds, the big units are much sexier. Be honest: do you really want a world that looks like any other world but is worth 8 VPs, or do you want a huge starship called The War Byrd?


Definitely want the War Byrd.

Quote:
I'd be interested if you could articulate what you like better about Dominion than Core Worlds. Bear in mind, there's a possibility that I'm a Philistine who wouldn't recognize a good game if it were presented to me on a silver platter with watercress around it . . . however: Dominion feels dull to me, because you just build a deck and you're done. The theme is applied with Elmer's glue, and I feel like the only really interesting choices are in the drafting; other than that, each hand plays itself. It is a quick-playing game, which is a major concern for many gamers. Core Worlds is longer, but it doesn't overstay its welcome with me.

Core Worlds lets you build a deck and simultaneously conquer stuff with it, which I enjoy much more. It has a well-integrated theme, it also presents agonizing decisions during your turns. This is largely because you go around the table, taking one action at a time. There are usually several things you want to do, but you're afraid someone else will beat you to them, so you're trying to figure out how much other people might be willing to pay for a card, and which worlds they might conquer, and so on.


Oh gosh, I could say a lot about Dominion. Now, its not a perfect game, and its not a favorite of my necessarily but I do really like it and here is a condensed list of why.
- I like introducing games to new gamers and Dominion seems to be an easy one that everyone enjoys and is very easy to teach.
- I really like the variety of the cards. One of my favorite things is when the pool of ten cards come out and I begin formulating my strategy for the game and then see how well it works.
- When you buy a card it matters, you are going to be using it over and over and over, in Core Worlds you might use a card just a few times.
- I like how you don't have to know all the cards, you only have to concentrate on those ten. So it really makes it accessible, especially for new players.

Plus just looking up the ratings of Dominion versus Core Worlds, Dominion is close to an 8 and Core Worlds is much less, so most geekers much have an overall similar opinion of really liking Dominion.


 
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Andrew Parks wrote:
Thanks for the in-depth review, KingKel! I'm glad to hear your group has been enjoying the game. As others have noted, there are some advanced strategies to keeping your deck thin and allowing you to keep more control over your deck during the final rounds. And the upcoming expansion provides a host of new options for deck control as well!

Andrew


I will look forward to them
 
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KingKel wrote:

Agreed, although, the really cool cards come out toward the end, and no matter how thinned my deck is, you only get to play them once or twice, which is a bummer :-/

I know how you feel laugh
Some of those cards are so awesome, but it does feel really good to get those fatties out when you do. Maybe if there was some sort of epic variant that continued afterward, some sort of head-on brawl between players using their legions of troops and ships to duke it out for total control?
 
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spartax wrote:
KingKel wrote:
Some factions special starting cards are arguably more powerful than others but I don’t necessarily think it’s to the point of a balance issue.


I agree. I dislike Baron Viktor and don't care much for Simon the Fox (Simon tends to work better with a fat deck, which is a weaker strategy overall), but the difference in probable final VPs between the best and worst heroes is minimal.

Simon does work well with fat decks, but he also works well with any tableau which encourages deck cycling: Patrol Cruiser, Eden, Idunn, and every home planet. Strategically discarding Tactics during your Draw/Energy step can effective add a range of flexibility to your turn if you control Simon.

Simon: Good with fat decks. Good with fast decks.
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KingKel wrote:

How does it compare to other deck building games? Race for the Galaxy for me was a bit abstract for my taste and after many plays I just couldn’t get into it...


I'm a bit late to this - but I'm surprised no-one has commented on this part. Whatever one's opinion of RftG, it's not remotely a deck-building game - it's a tableau building game where your draws come from a common deck. You do not have your own deck, and have no choice over what you draw (beyond the small one of choosing which cards to keep from an Explore action), so it seems out of place in this discussion. Of course, as a space-themed card game, it's naturally going to come up in comparison with CW, but it's definitely not a deck-builing game.

(For what it's worth, since my wife and I own all the games you mention here, Dominion is still my absolute favourite game - it's true that the main decision is at the beginning where you decide what to go for based on the cards available, but this is rarely an easy decision. And nor does every hand completely "play itself", at least if you're using any expansions - the base set alone will indeed probably get dull fairly quickly. I also love RftG, although not to quite the same extent - and despite being terrible at it. Eminent Domain I was very disappointed with at first, but have grown to like more with subsequent plays - it's one of many games that I feel I don't get to play enough of right now. CW, I'm sorry to say Andrew, was a big disappointment for me, and is easily my least favourite of the games under discussion - I wanted to love it so much, but every play, about 4 so far, has felt kind of flat and "meh". I hope I begin to see more in future plays though, like I did with ED - and I still like the game, I just don't love it like I expected to )
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