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Subject: Core Worlds - A Detailed Review rss

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This review continues my series of detailed reviews that attempt to be part review, part resource for anyone not totally familiar with the game. For this reason I expect readers to skip to the sections that are of most interest.

If you liked the review please thumb the top of the article so others have a better chance of seeing it and I know you stopped by. Thanks for reading.

Summary

Game Type – Deck-Building Game
Play Time: 60-90 minutes
Number of Players: 2-5 (Best 3)
Mechanics – Card Drafting, Deck Building, Hand Management, Action Point System
Difficulty – Pick-up & Play (Can be learned in 30 minutes)
Components – Good
Release – 2011

Designer – Andrew Parks - (Assault of the Giants, Canterbury, Dungeon Alliance, Dungeons & Dragons: Attack Wing, Ideology: The War of Ideas, Justice League Strategy Game, Parthenon: Rise of the Aegean, Star Trek: Attack Wing, Star Trek: Frontiers)

Overview and Theme

Every now and again a game can escape my clutches but I eventually get back to them. Core Worlds is one such game. I picked this up in the year of its release, some 6-7 years ago and after one play that took almost 3 hours I was done with it. The game seemed too fiddly, the rules I found tricky to navigate and it just went to long for what it was. The easier to grasp Ascension had been released the year before and that was enough for me.

Take a cosmic space jump to 2017 and I am back to try this baby again. I understand deck-builders a lot better now than I did then and...well...let's see what we have here...

The galaxy is at unease. The Core Worlds have ruled with an iron fist over all systems and planets within its reach. The outer rim planets were the worst treated to be sure, considered nothing more than resource pits to sustain the life of the inner realm. The rim's people were nothing more than a resource to be used up and discarded.

But something has changed, there is a faltering within the Core Worlds and the rim has felt the loosening of the reins for some time. Now is the time to strike. They call us barbarians but we are a hardy people and we have learned to adapt. Now it is our turn to take the fight to the Core Worlds and take control of what is rightfully ours! angry

Such is the theme of Core Worlds. The players are in control of an outer rim faction and a single planet. The aim is to travel to the Core Worlds, building your fleets and ground forces for the final assault and claiming any planets along the way that are ripe for invasion. A Deck Builder fits the theme nicely as the mechanics are largely supporting the theme of the story.

Andrew Parks is probably best known amongst Euro fans for Canterbury and perhaps more widely known for his work on the D&D and Star Trek Attack Wing games. Beyond that though his designing career is quite varied

Let's see what he has for us here.

Close the gang ramp will you and strap yourself in, we blast off in 5 minutes.

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The Components

Being a deck-building game, cards are pretty much what dominate the components. So I'll take a look at the different kinds of cards and then a few of the extra bits.

d10-1 Player Mats – Ok I lied. Core Worlds makes use of player mats or boards that are pretty important to the play. They allow the players to track how many actions they have at any given time and the amount of Energy they have in their Empire.

The top of the mats also outlines each of the Core Worlds and their associated scoring benefits. This is not critical to know but it is useful as it allows players to plan ahead for when they reach Sector 5 (the end-game).

Down the left side are listed the possible actions that can be taken in the main phase of the game.

The only downer here is that the mats are a little thinner than they could have been and are prone to a little bit of warping over time.


Image Courtesy of vantageGT


d10-2 Worlds – These cards are always green in colour and feature a planet of one type or another as the central artwork. Four key numbers feature in each of the corners and sometimes a World may have a power that is featured in text below the artwork. In the top left is a number in a yellow circle...this denotes how much Energy the World can produce when conquered and added to a player's Empire. In the top right is a number in a red circle. This reflects how many Empire Points (victory points) the World is worth.

The two numbers at the bottom reflect the defensive Fleet and defensive Ground Force strength of the planet. These numbers must be equalled or bettered in order to conquer the planet. These values are printed on a ship and infantry icon to make it clear as to what they represent.


Image Courtesy of radiofyr309


d10-3 Unit Cards – All units that feature in the game are coloured yellow. Units can represent infantry, starfighters, tanks, heroes, robots, cruisers and capital ships to name but a few.

These cards feature two numbers in yellow. The one in the middle of the card (on the right) represents the cost to draft the card from the Central Zone (market). The number in the top left then reflects the cost to Deploy the card from a player's hand to their War Zone, where it can then be used in an Invasion. In this way units require 2 economic actions in order to use them.

If the unit is worth any Empire Points it will feature a red number in the top right (most do not).

Unit Cards then feature a Fleet and Ground Strength value at the bottom. This numbers reflect its value when used in an Invasion. Units can also have an ability, which will be printed centrally below the artwork.

The one extra feature on these cards are possible faction or additional icon symbols (left-center). These have no bearing in the base game but come into being with the addition of expansions.


Image Courtesy of radiofyr309


d10-4 Tactics Cards – These cards are coloured blue and they follow much the same format as the cards I have already covered. The exception is that these cards won't feature Fleet and Ground Strength values as they thematically represent the tactics of an Empire rather than a direct attack.


Image Courtesy of radiofyr309


d10-5 Prestige Cards & Core Worlds – These cards are red in colour and only feature in the Sector 5 deck (as do the powerful Core Worlds). These cards offer a number of Empire Points (not as many as the Core Worlds) but the benefit of these is that they do not need to be conquered. Instead they can be purchased through the use of Energy.


Image Courtesy of radiofyr309


d10-6 Artwork and Card Summary – Artwork is a pretty important aspect of a deck-builder as it is largely responsible for bringing the game to life on the tabletop.

Core World's artwork is good without being great. It does the job well enough without totally blowing your mind. In truth it is fairly safe and representative of classic sci-fi notions.

The card design or layout is very good and helps to quickly identify what each card is offering. The use of a matte\linen finish is excellent. The only improvement I would have made to the card design would be to better differentiate the two yellow values as they look quite similar. A little 'df' on the central value to denote this is the Draft Cost and not the Deploy cost would have been wise.

The artwork below from left to right is an example of the great, the average and the mediocre. In general the ship design in the game is pretty excellent but that does not extend to anything remotely humanoid.


Image Courtesy of Alice87


d10-7 Tokens and Rules – The game offers up a variety of Tokens to represent the Round Marker, Energy Tokens, Start Player Token and Action Point Tokens. They all do the job well enough without living long in the memory.

I remember trying to learn Core Worlds years ago when I first got it and being totally confused. This time around I had no trouble at all. The rules are pretty well put together, following a logical order and starting out by outlining the various components and keyword terminology.

The game can easily be learned within 30 minutes from the rule book alone as they follow a logical sequence that follows the 5 Phases. The only criticism I can have of the rules is that the text is sometimes presented in large slabs and a few more illustrated examples could have been provided.


Image Courtesy of jsper


Overall the production of Core Worlds gets the thumbs up from me even if the artwork is consistently excellent.


Image Courtesy of Alice87


Set-Up

Core Worlds takes a little more setting up than most deck-building games but it is fairly painless.

The players must first select, at random, one of the Starting Worlds from the 5 on offer. This will determine which Empire Deck they will use (based on the icon at the bottom of the card). Each player takes the corresponding deck and shuffles it up. Their Homeworld is placed to the side of their playing area (referred to as the War Zone). Above this area they place a Player Mat and they take an Action and Energy Token.

The Action Token should be placed on 4 on the Action Point Track and the Energy Marker on the 3 as this is the Energy Production of their Homeworld (in theory the Energy level should not be marked until the first Energy Phase).

The Sector Decks then need to be shuffled and set beside each of the Sector Cards. The Round Marker is placed at 1. The player with the lowest numbered Homeworld takes the Start Player Token.

These cards are all identified with a Roman Numeral value (I-V) at the bottom of each card. To help with set-up baggy each of these decks when packing the game away, so cards from the same Sector are kept together.

Optional Pre-Game Draft - At this point the game is ready to begin unless the players want to take part in a Pre-game Draft.

The player's Empire Decks are 99% identical at the start of the game. The only difference is the Hero that each Empire starts with and their associated power. However some players may like to mix this up a little bit and Core Worlds is happy to oblige.

The game comes with a set of cards with a '0' value. These can be shuffled up and a number revealed (based on the number of players). Each player must discard a Snub Fighter and a Galactic Grunts from their Empire Deck and then they get to draft (in turn order) two new cards from the selection on offer.

In this way the players have a little bit of variability and this may help give more of a direction for future planning and card drafting. I really like this inclusion in the game and after a couple of plays I now always take part in the Pre-Game Draft as it only takes a few extra seconds but the benefit is really nice. thumbsup


Image Courtesy of Alice87


The Play

Core Worlds is a game played over 10 rounds, each of these rounds represents travel through 5 Sectors of space (2 turns per Sector). Each round allows for 5 Phases to take place with the players each getting to take part in a phase (in turn order) before the next phase can begin.

Before I outline the play of the game it is important to note a couple of things.

d10-1 The Central Zone and War Zones – The Central Zone is the name given to what most deck-builders call the 'marketplace. It is the area from which new cards can be drafted into a player's deck.

The minimum number of cards that must be drawn and placed in the Central Zone is dependent on the number of players, which is a form of scaling I guess.

# Players | 2 3 4 5


# Cards | 6 8 10 12


A second term that is important to understand is the War Zone. This refers to the cards that a player has in play. Worlds that have been conquered are always located in a player's War Zone and they are important for Energy generation. Additional Cards that can be played into a player's War Zone include Units (fleet and ground forces). These are required to invade new Worlds and add them to your empire.

d10-2 Lexicon –

Image Courtesy of evilone
The game makes use of no less than 7 different unit types covering both fleet and ground forces and the game also includes Tactics cards. Tactics are always paid for and played from a player's hand (usually to support an invasion) whilst units must be Drafted into an Empire and then paid for again to Draft them into your War Zone before they can take part in an invasion.

The use of 7 different Unit classifications allows the game to create abilities and benefits that refer to certain types of cards specifically.

A single round of Core Worlds plays out through the following 5 Phases :-

d10-3 Phase #1: Draw Cards – The players draw cards so that they have 6 in their hand. This is somewhat different from the regular deck-building approach of only having a 5 card hand but it makes sense here as starting decks are also slightly larger, containing 16 cards at the start of the game.

In the final Sector of the game (last two rounds) players have a hand size of 7 cards. This is listed on the Sector Card to remind the players.

d10-4 Phase #2: Energy Generation – Each player collects the Energy that their Worlds produce and move their Energy Marker on their player mat to represent this. Energy is the income resource used by Core Worlds.

Player decks also include cards that can boost Energy production and some Tactics Cards may boost Energy as well.

Each player's Home World also has an in-built ability. It allows a player to discard two cards from their hand to gain +1 Energy. It is important to note that this decision must be made before the next phase, which will seed the marketplace (called the Central Zone in Core Worlds) with new cards.

d10-5 Phase #3: Galactic Phase – This is the phase where the Central Zone is updated, essentially offering players new options as they travel through the galaxy.

A number of cards must be drawn from the current Sector deck (based on the round that the game is in). The number of cards drawn will depend on how many cards are needed in the Central Zone (based on the number of players).

But the game has one additional caveat. The Central Zone must always include at least 2 Worlds and at least 2 non-world cards. This can result in the required number of cards being laid out but one of these requirements not being met. If this is the case, cards continue to be drawn until these stipulations are met and that may result in a larger Central Zone than usual. It makes for a nice bit of variety. meeple

d10-6 Phase #4: Action Phase – As the word 'action' would suggest, this is where it all happens. Up to now the previous phases account for very little time. The Action Phase represents the meat of the game.

The players, in turn order, can take one of the following actions. They can take the same action multiple times over the course of the round (when the play comes back around to them).

The only restrictions they have is the number of action points they have remaining and their Energy reserves.

mb Draft a Card –

Image Courtesy of Andrew Parks
This is how a player can acquire a card from the Central Zone and add it to their deck. Only Units and Tactics cards can be Drafted. Each of these will have a Draft Cost listed in the middle of the card (note this is not the value in the top left corner - which looks rather similar). If a player has the Energy Reserves to pay for a card they can do so adjusting their Energy Token on their player mat accordingly and using one Action Point. E.G. The Nemesis on the right would cost 6 Energy to Draft.

The card is then taken from the Central Zone and placed in the player's discard pile, ready to be shuffled into service once the draw deck runs out.

A player can draft multiple cards into their deck during a round but they have to wait until the play returns to them to go again. In this way the players must carefully weigh up what they most need because they are unlikely to get more than their first choice on most occasions.

mb Deploy Units – This action allows a player to pay for Units in their hand, allowing them to be added to their War Zone, where they will be ready to take part in the Invasion of a World. Each Unit has a cost to deploy in energy. This cost is listed in the top left of a Unit Card and again this energy must be deducted from a player's Energy Reserves as listed on their player mat. E.G. The Nemesis on the right would cost 8 Energy to Draft.

Unlike the Draft Phase above, a player can draft any number of units at once (thus speeding the game up somewhat) provided that they have enough Energy. However...an Action Point must be paid for each Unit that is Drafted. surprise

mb Invade a World – Invasion is the pay-off for all that Drafting and Deployment. It takes an Action Point and 1 Energy to launch an Invasion and this allows a player to conquer a World located in the Central Zone.

A player must select the World they wish to conquer and state its Fleet and Ground Defence totals. They must then select the units they will use from their War Zone to take part in the Invasion. Tactics Cards can also be played from a player's hand to enhance the attack. In total, an invading player must be able to generate at least as much Fleet and Ground Unit strength as posed by the defense of the World they wish to conquer. It's also worth noting that some Units may have abilities that can be utilised during an Invasion to boost the overall attack.

If successful, the player takes the World they have usurped and place it directly into their War Zone. It will begin adding its Energy production during the next round. The Units that were used in the Invasion are then placed in the player's discard pile, ready to be cycled through on the next deck re-shuffle.

One point worth noting is that a player has the option to 'Colonize' a newly conquered World, if a Snub Fighter or Galactic Grunt was used in the Invasion. Colonizing allows a player to take one of those Units and place it face-down under the World, effectively taking it out of a player's deck. This is of course referred to as 'trashing' or 'scrapping' in other deck-builders. Core Worlds has very few opportunities to do this so it is often a no-brainer to Colonize a World at every opportunity.

mb Use an 'As an Action' Card – Some Tactics Cards have pretty deadly benefits and as such they often have the text, 'Use as an Action' at the start of their text. Only one of these cards can be played for their benefit before play moves on to the next player and it costs an Action Point to use it.

mb Pass – If a player cannot do anything else or chooses not to, they can Pass. Passing ends your entire turn for the round and any remaining Energy is lost (Energy cannot be held from one round to the next).

d10-7 Discard Phase – Players can often have cards remaining in hand in Core Worlds (as opposed to regular deck-builders), due to a lack of Energy or Action Points. A player must discard all remaining cards in their hand between rounds, but they are allowed to keep 1 card if they wish.

Any units in War Zones do remain in play however, thus a player can build up an Invasion force between rounds, and in fact, it is often crucial to do so in Core Worlds.

d10-8 End Phase – This is a bit of a clean up step in truth. Any cards that were not taken from the Central Zone have an Energy Token placed on them. These tokens can be earned and gain a player 1 Energy if they Draft a card with such a token on it.

Any cards that are left in the Central Zone and already have an Energy Token on them...are discarded. In this way a card cannot be a part of the Central Zone for no more than two rounds.

The Round Marker is moved one step forward on the Sector Cards (which really acts as a Round Track). If this takes the game into a new Sector, then cards will be drawn from the new Sector Deck in the new round's Galactic Phase.

The above outline sums up the play of Core Worlds pretty well. But there are still a few elements to touch on.

d10-9 Sector 5 – The Sector 5 Deck represents the cards that can be added to the Central Zone in the last two rounds of the game.

This deck though is quite different as it only includes two types of cards...Core Worlds and Prestige Cards.

Core Worlds offer really big Empire Points, often with bonuses for having certain card types in your deck. For example a Core World might offer 3 points plus 1 point for every robot or vehicle in your deck.

The Prestige Cards offer less Empire Points but they only require Drafting via the use of energy.

Because there are no Units to draft in Sector 5, the players are simply trying to invade as many World's as possible and draft as much Prestige as they can.

d10-1d10-0 Endgame and Scoring – When all players have passed in Round 10 it is game over and time to score.

Cards are only scored if they have a number in a red circle in the top right-hand corner. It is best to start with any cards that offer '+ bonuses' for having certain types of cards.

These should be added up and recorded on the player mats using an Energy Token.

Then the points on offer for other Worlds and any special cards (heroes and the like) are tallied up and added to that initial score. The highest score takes the win.

In the event of a tie, the winner is the player who generates the most Energy through their World's. If that is tied the player with the most Worlds wins. Otherwise the win is shared.

Is Core World's A Compelling Deck-Builder and if so Why?

Image Courtesy of diddle74


I must confess that I had a pretty negative experience with Core Worlds when I first played it 5 years ago. It went too long for what it was and the flow of play didn't seem to work. This time around I am loving Core Worlds and find it quite an intriguing little game. What is the reason for this? I guess I better understood the rules this time and I have much more experience as a gamer in general.

For me, Core Worlds is compelling because -:

mb It's Unique – Core Worlds is perhaps the most unique deck-building game I have played (to this point) in relation to core mechanisms (having played Arctic Scavengers, Ascension, Star Realms, EPIC, Clank, Legendary Marvel and Dominion).

The need to initially Draft and then Deploy units into your War Zone is really interesting. Core Worlds also uses a dual combat system in the form of Fleet and Ground Strength and conquering Worlds is the main way to increase your engine (energy) in order to Draft and Deploy new Units.

Having a 16 card deck also has major implications for cycling through your deck, as does the option to keep 1 card from one round to the next. That card may be powerful but hold onto cards too often and your deck cycling may grind to a halt. Thankfully the game does allow for a form of card trashing, called Colonization) but trashing in Core Worlds is otherwise pretty difficult. So any cards that allow you to draw cards, access your discard pile or access your draw deck are mighty valuable.

This is a really nice change up from more regular deck-building games.

mb Tough Decisions – Because the players alternate turns in a given round and all of those cards in the Central Zone are available to all players...Core Worlds really makes a player sweat on what they should do first, because chances are that 'Option B' is likely to be gone by the time you get to act again.

The Central Zone may have a couple of amazing Units or Tactics Cards on offer but Drafting one of them as your first action may see another player invade 'that' planet you were after. Of course a player cannot invade unless they have the forces to do so and this takes time, Action Points and Energy to deploy Units to your War Zone.

Core Worlds feels like it offers more possible actions and decisions than your standard deck-builder, where it is usually a case of 'buy things...fight bad things'. It is the Phase structure and player turn order combined with limited Action Points that creates this tension and it works really well.

mb Acquisitions that Matter – In something of an extension of the last point, Core Worlds really forces its players to Draft cards from the Central Zone with care. This is because the only cards that can be trashed are the starting Snub Fighters and Galactic Grunts, so start acquiring cards that really have no place in your deck (or don't work well with other cards) and you could be in trouble.

mb Theme Makes Sense – Some deck builders offer a theme but it is more present for an art direction than anything else. Here though it works really well. It isn't the best integration of theme and mechanisms that I have seen (Arctic Scavengers still holds this mantle) but it is pretty good. You do feel like a warlord en-route to the Core Worlds, conquering planets and drawing units and forces to your cause along the way.

The science fiction setting is a really nice change of pace from the overused fantasy trope and the artwork is good, sometimes great, despite a few average illustrations here or there.

Oh another bit of great theme integration comes in the form of certain unit bonuses. Often there are Energy Reductions on offer for Drafting certain units (let's say some form of Gravity Tank) if you play another unit type first (let's say Cruise Ship). This is really neat because from the artwork it is clear that the Cruise Ship is a form of large vehicle carrier. It just makes sense and that's cool for fans that like to embrace the themes in their games. meeple

I also really like the idea that planets have two forms of defense, the fleets that can defend a planet and then the boots on the ground, ready to fight for every city and production center. It's super cool .

mb Creates a Pacing – This is a really neat aspect of Core Worlds. As the players enter each new Sector of space and approach the Core Worlds, the game's pace picks up and it creates a climax and tension that is quite nice. The deeper the game gets, the more Action Points the players earn, the more Energy they have at their disposal and the bigger the hand they are allowed to draw. As heroes and large Cruiser and Capital Ships enter your empire, you can't wait to deploy them and watch the galaxy quake in fear! devil

My only negative comment on this aspect is that the final Sector does feel a little anti-climactic due to only offering Core Worlds and Prestige Cards. I recognize that there is no need for Units beyond this Sector but often there are only a few key actions a player can take in the final two rounds of the game (due to the big defences that need to be overcome and the high Energy Costs of those Prestige Cards).

mb Variability –

Image Courtesy of otrex
When a game uses nothing more than cards it is important to have a good variety of them so the game can create decent variability in its play. This is not always easy to achieve though and even one of my favourite deck-builders in Star Realms, still follows much the same flow each game and you do get to know all the cards after a while.

Core Worlds stands apart here by having those 5 Sector Decks and only allowing a certain number of cards to be drawn in each of the two rounds that each deck is active for. This is even heightened further by the fact that only so many cards are drawn based on the number of players and if some cards were left in the Central Zone from the previous round...the players may only be seeing a fraction of the cards that comprise a given Sector Deck.

I really like this as it makes each game feel quite different and the players really need to adapt to what is on offer.

The Pregame Draft Variant can even add more variability to the play of Core Worlds. The game comes with an extra set of cards, which allow the players to discard 2 cards from their Empire Deck and replace those with 2 cards from this set. It means that all players will start with a slightly different Empire from the get-go and it may help drive players down certain strategic paths as the game unfolds. This is all win! meeple

mb It's A Tight Design and Engaging – Some deck-builders can become more about bloat than depth. This does not apply to Core Worlds. Whilst it offers plenty of things to see and do, only a fraction of all cards in the game will be seen with each play.

Then there is the timing of those 10 rounds and 5 sectors. The game moves along at a really good clip and there always seems to be more options than there is time and resources to make the most of them all.

The engaging part comes from the fact that the rotation of play through each of the phases means that player downtime is really low. Unlike some deck-builders that can feel a bit like multi-player solitaire, Core Worlds is as engaging when taking your actions as it is watching someone else go about theirs.

mbmbmb So...any negatives? mbmbmb

mb Time Frame – The game does take longer to play than some of the more modern designs like Star Realms. We are getting through 2-player games in an hour but with 3-5 the game can blow out to 90+ minutes.

This will be a problem for some as no matter how good deck-building is, it just won't be worth more than 60 minutes.

I have no problem with the time frame however as the play is engaging enough to make it interesting. I wouldn't recommend the game with 5 and perhaps even 4 is pushing it for me. But with 2 or 3 players I am more than happy to play this.

mb Fans of Faction Bonuses – If you are a fan of deck-builders that rely heavily on the benefits of gaining cards of a given faction to access bonuses for playing them in the same turn, then Core Worlds may not be for you.

It is present in the form of those unit types I mentioned earlier but it is very subtle here compared to Star Realms and Ascension.

The Final Word

I could be forgiven for cutting Core Worlds some slack if it didn't live up to the more modern titles in the deck-building genre. But this game needs no such accommodations. Core Worlds is a unique deck-builder that is both thematically interesting and mechanically sound. I like a fast dirty knife-fight in a phone booth, like Star Realms, as much as the next gamer but Core Worlds is a thinking man's design, an experience that allows you to ponder and plot your course as you enjoy the hyperspace flight to the Core Worlds.

The game has distinct passages of play, from the early drafting and World conquering to the mid-game Cruise and Capital Ship production and the final, inevitable onslaught. Cycling through your deck is a little trickier than more recent deck-building releases and takes considered thought.

But this causes me a dilemma! I wasn't meant to like this one...I have given it away in a generosity thread!!! shake

I may just need to re-acquire this one as I think there is enough game here to warrant picking up the expansions too. I need to see what lies beyond the Core Worlds and how future flights may be altered via the expansions.

Oh, in the interest of completeness, I have also come across a fan-made solo variant. I haven't had a chance to try it yet but if you are interested, you can find it here –

mbmbmb Fan-made Solo Rules mbmbmb

Congratulations must go to Stronghold Games for creating a deck-builder that has stood up to the passage of time. I will be back at some point to explore how far they managed to take this title.

'Til next we meet, take no prisoners and offer no quarter. The Core Worlds will be yours! sauron


Image Courtesy of binraix


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Thanks for the deep review, Neil! I'm happy to hear that Core Worlds was finally able to win you over! meeple
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Mike Spartz
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For a long time Core Worlds was by number 1 favorite game for all the positives you mentioned above. I used to play it at 5 players every Friday for months. We had to implement some hard and fast “no take backs” rules to bring ourselves up a notch for competitiveness.

Alas, the expansions add greatly to the fiddly nature of the game and it just became too complicated for the sake of being complicated. I gave my copy to a friend. I’d probably still own it if the second expansion hadn’t been such a convoluted mess.
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I've played the base game and first expansion a couple of times and I found it a pleasant experience both times. Getting your engine going is very important for victory!
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Great review, Neil. Any thoughts are attempting the expansions? If so, a few of my reactions:

I think the expansions add a lot to this game. The first expansion does reinforce the factions in the game (addressing your "Fans of Faction Bonuses" negative), creating an interesting dilemma of specializing in card types for core worlds or in faction types for synergy. The first expansion also adds events, which actually do create a number of complication to strategy when you enter Sector 5, addressing another of your critiques:

Neil Thomson wrote:
My only negative comment on this aspect is that the final Sector does feel a little anti-climactic due to only offering Core Worlds and Prestige Cards. I recognize that there is no need for Units beyond this Sector but often there are only a few key actions a player can take in the final two rounds of the game (due to the big defences that need to be overcome and the high Energy Costs of those Prestige Cards).

The events in the back half of this game are literally the game fighting back against you, and it does get legitimately hard sometimes, especially in those final two rounds.

I'm still deciding about the second expansion. I've only played four or five games with it, not enough to make a fair judgement. Advancements are cool, but do add a whole wrinkle in complexity that ups the play time. Heroic Tactic are odd, and honestly what I'm on the fence about the most. Ultimately, they're good, but they also take you one step further from accessibility.

Once again, great review, Neil. I always enjoy this series of in-depth and detailed reviews.
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Derek Long
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The first expansion is a huge boost to the game, in my view. The second expansion I enjoy and will always use, but it is less fundamental.

I consider Core Worlds to be one of the finest "first generation" deck builders. I think of the "second generation" as those that integrate the mechanic with board interactions - eg Mythotopia (and its predecessor, A Few Acres of Snow), A Study in Emerald, and, maybe more interestingly, Clank! and Paths of Light and Shadow. I have very high hopes that Dungeon Alliance (another Andrew Parks design) will do something exciting in the deck-builder-meets-board-actions genre. Mage Knights is also something in this space, and I know it influenced Dungeon Alliance, but I think that the deck control in MK is not as central as it is in more recent Deck Builders - it feels more like "Deck Accumulation" than Deck Building.
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Paul Shabatowski
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This is my favourite deckbuilding game due to theme and complexity. It blew away all other deckbuilders for me but I have never tried Ascension.
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Derek Long
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Paul Shabatowski wrote:
This is my favourite deckbuilding game due to theme and complexity. It blew away all other deckbuilders for me but I have never tried Ascension.


I have tried Ascension and I see it as a fairly standard deck builder - two currencies, one for new cards and one to buy in VPs. A few wrinkles, but not much. Apex Theropod added a nice twist with the market deck being "hatched" from eggs, so players control their own market appearance rate. Arctic Scavengers had a few twists that made it more interesting than Ascension, even though it was the first of the genre.

I really love Mistfall and Hearts of the Mist as a different form of the deck builder. Deck management is really interesting (card cycling is tough, purchases come to hand).

The other big Deck Builder for me is Aeon's End (and its successor). Although it is basically a two currency system, the wrinkles are far more interesting than in Ascension or Scavengers - some really good stuff if you haven't tried it.
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Paul Shabatowski
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Derek Long wrote:
Paul Shabatowski wrote:
This is my favourite deckbuilding game due to theme and complexity. It blew away all other deckbuilders for me but I have never tried Ascension.


I have tried Ascension and I see it as a fairly standard deck builder - two currencies, one for new cards and one to buy in VPs. A few wrinkles, but not much. Apex Theropod added a nice twist with the market deck being "hatched" from eggs, so players control their own market appearance rate. Arctic Scavengers had a few twists that made it more interesting than Ascension, even though it was the first of the genre.

I really love Mistfall and Hearts of the Mist as a different form of the deck builder. Deck management is really interesting (card cycling is tough, purchases come to hand).

The other big Deck Builder for me is Aeon's End (and its successor). Although it is basically a two currency system, the wrinkles are far more interesting than in Ascension or Scavengers - some really good stuff if you haven't tried it.


Thanks! I will check it out.
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Vince Leamons
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Thanks for the review. This is currently my second favorite game, and my favorite deckbuilder, mostly because it actually has a lot more hard decisions than others. I don't know about "more modern" deck-builders, but I don't think the comparison to Star Realms, a game which I like, is even worthwhile. Star Realms is basically a two-player game, Core Worlds is really for 4-5. SR is about playing fast and reducing your opponent's authority, CW is more thoughtful and strategic, mostly about building your engine. It's also about stuff like energy management, and action count, to the point that I don't think of it as a "deck builder" at all - more like an "empire builder".

Another point which really should be mentioned is that the game is sharply constrained. You're only going to get ten turns, with perhaps 2-3 actions per turn, which is in general a much different proposition from normal "deck builders".

Don't know why this game has such a low ranking. There are many games in the top 100 that are inferior to it. BTW, when talking about "space deck builders", the game you appear to be describing is probably Eminent Domain, which is much more of a classic deck builder. If you haven't reviewed it yet, I'd suggest that one.
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Sean Franco
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SJAirshark wrote:
Thanks for the review. This is currently my second favorite game, and my favorite deckbuilder, mostly because it actually has a lot more hard decisions than others. I don't know about "more modern" deck-builders, but I don't think the comparison to Star Realms, a game which I like, is even worthwhile. Star Realms is basically a two-player game, Core Worlds is really for 4-5. SR is about playing fast and reducing your opponent's authority, CW is more thoughtful and strategic, mostly about building your engine. It's also about stuff like energy management, and action count, to the point that I don't think of it as a "deck builder" at all - more like an "empire builder".

The comparison that I heard years ago (I think from someone on F:AT) was that most deck-builders follow a direct purchase strategy, where your hands will probably play themselves until the Buy phase (which itself can be solved as soon as the random stacks for that game are revealed). The game play of Core Worlds is based more on action strategy, where the things you choose to do and the order you do them matter most and are informed least by unknown information. Like I said, most deck-builders from Dominion down are purchase style games. Very few are action style games, and Core Worlds is certainly one of the best.
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Thanks for all the comments.

Yes I agree, Core Worlds does feel constrained compared to other deck builders I have played (which is less than some of you for sure).

I have a copy of Aeon's End coming in January so I look forward to trying that one. I think I am likely now to get this game back and try the expansions with it.

I think the reason why this one is rated lower than it deserves to be is exactly that point of being tight and constrained. Players used to lighter forms of the genre probably find this to be 'difficult' and 'less fulfilling' than slapping down cards buying something big and waiting for it to come back around.
 
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logopolys wrote:
Once again, great review, Neil. I always enjoy this series of in-depth and detailed reviews.


Cheers Sean

And thanks to everyone for the detailed comments - I've learned quite a bit in regards to the history of deck builders in regards to different generations of release.
 
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MAURICIO FLORES
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A great review for one the most unique deck builders out there, that sadly has no coverage at all.
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William Crispin
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An excellent and tight game, but it can drag with 5 unless everyone is quite familiar with it. It has never really fallen from my personal top ten since it was released.
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Paul Shabatowski
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wwscrispin wrote:
An excellent and tight game, but it can drag with 5 unless everyone is quite familiar with it. It has never really fallen from my personal top ten since it was released.


Ditto!
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