The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Core Worlds & Strategic Deckbuilding

While I was suffering through Miskatonic, my latest deckbuilder was en route. Core World arrived just after my prior game day (of course), but I’ve played a few games since. Core Worlds adds complexity on top of the system, but also stands out among deckbuilders. Some unique ideas appear:

  1. The game lasts 10 turns, and only lets you shuffle a few times.  (Players start with 2.5 turns of cards, unlike most deckbuilders where you start with exactly 2).
  2. Turns happen semi-simultaneously, instead of sequentially.
  3. You play some of your deck into a tableau, and then spend (discard) those cards to conquer worlds.

Some rules appear in other deckbuilders:

  1. Each turn you may discard some cards for energy, the main currency.
  2. Each player starts with one unique card, and there’s a draft for two more starting cards (which we skipped in our first game, but it’s easy enough).
  3. Trashing cards is a game action that occurs in small doses.
  4. Cards come out randomly, but not wily-nily (there are 5 decks of cards that show up in order; not all cards from each deck will show).

In my mind, Core Worlds avoid common pitfalls other deckbuilders plow into.

  • The limited trashing and few shuffles prevent degenerate strategies don’t show up.  Also, the draft introduces differences in decks each game.  So, no Halifax Hammer.
  • The staged order and interweaved turns prevent one player from getting a great few cards leaving nothing for the next players. The first player still has dibs, but since conquering a world requires cards in the tableau the first player may not be positioned to conquer a new world.
  • Arguably there are multiple currencies (ground and fleet strength) to conquer worlds. However, you can put these cards into your tableau and build up across turns (which prevents bad distributions from destroying your position). Also, the target worlds take a variety of distributions. In my opinion, these mean energy is still the main currency.
  • Core Worlds, like Phoenicia, sees players balancing multiple limitations. Each player has energy (spent to play cards) but also an action limit (each card play costs an action). Few cards grant additional actions. Honestly, I’m not sure if this is a clever mechanism, or a cheap way to prevent runaway leaders.

Core Worlds tries to bridge the gap between deckbuilding and a longer “engine building” game. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s the best effort so far. I’d avoid playing with 5 (and maybe 4) as it’s a fixed fun game. Our 2 player game took ~50 minutes. 20-25 minutes/player seems right, a bit more for the first game.

There may be a killer strategy, but so far I’m not sure why people win or lose. Randomness no doubt players a part, but I’m intrigued.

Rating — Suggest, but who knows how much of that is novelty?



Written by taogaming

April 2, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Posted in Reviews

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  1. My copy has been staring at me through shrink wrap for a few months now.


    April 3, 2012 at 5:34 am

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