In Core Worlds each player represents a rival space empire striving to become the dominant force in the new order. There’s no board; instead everyone begins the game with their own deck of cards, and play proceeds via card drafting: dealing yourself a hand from your deck, and utilising the cards to gain more, better, cards. The cards consist of military units (yellow) tactics (blue) planets (green) and prestige (red).
Everyone begins with one homeworld card face-up on the table (your war zone) and an individual player board to track your available action points and energy. The game proceeds through several phases: at the start of each round, cards are added to the central area. These are available to the players (at a cost) and the cards become more and more powerful as the game nears its end. Players then generate energy from their planets, before spending their available action points (everyone has the same) and energy to play units from their hand to their war zone, use said units to invade a world in the central area, or purchase a tactics or unit card from the central area and put it into their discards – when your draw deck runs out, your discards are shuffled and become the new draw deck, so you are looking to improve your units and tactics cards whilst not neglecting to invade worlds in order to boost the precious energy – without energy, there’s very little you can achieve!
At the games’ finale the precious Core World cards become available, at which point you hope to be in a strong military position to take advantage. Every card in the deck has a point value (although many are zero) and after the tenth and final round, these are totalled to discover the winner.
I honestly didn’t really expect to enjoy Core Worlds – with the exceptions of Clank! and El Dorado I don’t really seek out card-drafting games, as I find them a bit of a grind. I’m also not a fan of text-on-cards defining what a game is. But – perhaps because I played with my son, who loved the theme – it was fun. I boosted my energy early and enjoyed a lot of freedom in the early rounds, whereas he slowly built a deck of cards that scored more points than mine. In the end it came down to a sort of face-off in the climactic round, where we were both praying that our best cards would come out to claim the Core Worlds… if you like a sci-fi theme, it has a lot going for it.
Pretty minimal - despite the theme of conquest and battle, the interaction here is limited to who gets which card first - not as feisty as you might imagine, but it can be agonising all the same.
There can be lulls, as opponents work out their best option.
Because the cards combine in different ways, your challenge is to seek out the best combinations and utilise them - there's no direct conflict between players; you are instead seeking to out-perform each other.
The gameplay is pretty straightforward but because of the huge amount of cards there is quite a bit of variation.