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Subject: A roboros review of Core Worlds rss

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Core Worlds is one of the still relatively new* breed of deck-building games to come out in the wake of the major success of the pioneering game of this kind, Dominion. While Dominion opened up a new design space for tabletop gaming in 2008 with it’s fascinating mechanism of on-the-fly deck-building by way of playing a game, I found that it ultimately failed to draw me into it. That is to say that when I play it I feel like I am going through motions with little purpose other than ‘to win’ by getting victory points. Awesome for many but not for me – I like something more engaging to go along with the basic mechanism. Whether designers were responding to this sentiment in the game-playing market, or simply brainstorming other ways to use this awesome mechanism in their own games, several games published since have expanded on this basic premise of adding cards to your base deck, shuffling, drawing, and playing them by incorporating an interesting purpose into the victory point exercise.

From designer Andrew Parks and publisher Stronghold Games, I give you Core Worlds as one example of integrating ‘deck-building’ with an engaging purpose. In Core Worlds, each player plays a barbarian empire which are collectively migrating inwards through space towards the eponymous core worlds at the heart of a fallen galactic empire. Each player starts with a small deck of basic cards containing small starfighters, basic infantry, simple tactics, and a unique faction leader. With these decks each player will start to build a conquering force by drafting different and more powerful cards from a Central Zone and deploying these forces to ultimately invade new planets, thereby adding more resources to their growing empire with which to get better stuff, and so on as, any good ‘deck-building’ game does.

In addition to the basic drafting / deck-building element there is a meaningful amount of resource management and planning for your brain to work with. Actions and energy are the currencies for the following activities: drafting cards into your deck (1 action + variable energy cost), deploying your invasion forces (1 action per unit + enery cost of units), and conquering worlds (1 action and 1 energy to invade). Deploying forces places them on the table in your warzone and has the double effect of giving the potential to invade a planet on a future turn as well as thinning cards out your deck, the latter which places another nice layer of decisions on the game. None of these are overwhelming either; it is really a matter of play style as it informs your strategy towards the ultimate goal of winning.

The game plays over 10 rounds with each pair of rounds representing a new sector of space encountered on the inward journey. When a new sector is entered, a different deck of cards replaces the current one being used to fill the common area, giving an enjoyable narrative progression to the game as more powerful abilities and planets are metered out through these decks. Star Cruisers, Robots, Heroes, Vehicles, and even Capital Ships will be encountered along the way as your invasion force meets and assimilates these continually improving technologies and troops into your glorious cause.

Throughout the game the units that you acquire as well as the planets that you conquer can contribute to your victory point total (called Empire Points). The greatest amount of points, though, will be gained from the Core Worlds themselves, which will enter play once you have reached sector 5 (rounds 9 & 10). One of the rules that is important to remember is that *all* the Core Worlds must enter play by round 10 so each scoring opportunity the present is available in the game. All but one of the core worlds have variable points that increase based on other factors – the number of starfighters in your empire at the end of the game is one example. Each of the core worlds’ scoring conditions are conveniently printed on the play mats so there is no need to remember and you can build your deck accordingly to influence your end of game scoring potentials.

I can recommend Core Worlds to anyone who, like me, wants both more story and decisions in their game. The turn structure is quick as long as no players are taking too long with their decisions, although later in the game when tallying up points to conquer planets things can slow down a bit. I found that it plays very well with any number of players and will take 20-30 min per player so you are sensitive to time you’ll want to avoid 5 player games.

Notes: * Indeed, I do think that 5 years still qualifies as “relatively new”

Review on roboros.wordpress.com
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Andrew Parks
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Quixotic Games: www.quixoticgames.com
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Thanks for taking the time to compose this thoughtful review, roboros. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed the storyline behind Core Worlds, as this is something we focused on throughout the development process. I hope you get a chance to try the game with the expansion sometime soon!

Andrew
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roboros
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My pleasure. That was, I'm sure, still in my head from having talked with you over a game of Core Worlds in the vendor hall at GenCon. It was great to meet you and I hope we'll chat again this August.
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Stephen Buonocore
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Very nicely done review! Greatly appreciated!


Thanks,
Stephen M. Buonocore
Stronghold Games LLC
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