(Stronghold Games – 2012)
Designer Andrew Parks and Stronghold Games introduced Core Worlds in 2011, blending a variety of mechanics (most notably deck-building and card drafting), a strong sense of theme, and stunning individualized artwork found on each of the 200+ cards in the game. And while it didn’t get a lot of attention before its release, after almost two years, it sits along with some of the highest ranked board games in the community. It was to no surprise then, that in late 2012, Andrew Parks and Stronghold Games released its first planned expansion, entitled Core World: Galactic Orders, which introduces new card types, a new Core World, faction tokens, the Galactic Orders themselves, as well as a slew of new Unit, Tactic, and World cards.
I’ve previously covered a rules overview and review for Core Worlds, so I’ll be taking the opportunity here to cover the components and mechanics introduced with the Galactic Orders expansion. If you are new to Core Worlds, I’d suggest you take a look at my previous review for the base game, which can be found here.
– Galactic Order cards
– Factions Tokens (21 for each of the 6 Factions)
– New 6th Faction Starting Deck
– Raven Core World
– Raven Core World player board tokens
– Additional World, Unit, and Tactic Cards
– Advancement Cards
– Event Cards
Galactic Orders & Faction Tokens:
The main addition to Core Worlds comes in the way of the Galactic Order Cards and Faction tokens. Those familiar with Core Worlds will recognize the icons on the Unit and Tactic Cards that went unused in the base game. These icons match up to each of the different Galactic Order Cards: The Galactic Senate, Merchant Alliance, Mining Coalition, Science Guild, Mystic Brotherhood, and the Order of Knighthood. Each of these Galactic Orders will potentially provide a player a certain special ability during the game. A player can discard one of his Faction tokens off of a particular Galactic Order card in order to gain its special ability.
When a player adds a card to his Warzone that contains a Galactic Order icon on it, he will place on of his Faction tokens onto the matching Galactic Order card. So for instance, if Player A adds the Promethean Cyborg unit to his Warzone, he would place 1 of his Faction tokens onto the Galactic Senate Galactic Order card, since the icon for the Galactic Senate is printed on the Promethean Cyborg card. Discarding this token from the Galactic Senate card would gain the player 1 extra Action to be used before the end of the current Round.
Let’s take a look at the special ability for each of the 6 Galactic Orders:
The Galactic Senate
The Merchant Alliance
– For each Faction token discarded, a player can subtract 3 from the cost to deploy 1 Unit into their Warzone. A discarded Faction token can only apply to 1 Unit’s cost, therefore no leftover points can be applied to another Unit’s deploy cost. Though, multiple Faction tokens can be discarded to reduce the cumulative cost of 1 Unit.
The Mining Coalition
– For each Faction token discarded, a player gains +2 Energy.
The Science Guild
The Mystic Brotherhood
– For each Faction token discarded, a player may draw 3 Cards from their Draw Pile.
The Order of Knighthood
– For each Faction token discarded, a player may add +2 Fleet strength or +2 Ground strength during an Invasion. Though a player must choose which strength to add to per Faction token, he may discard multiple tokens in order to add Fleet AND Ground strength to an Invasion.
Although it may be tempting to spend all of your Faction tokens placed on the different Galactic Order cards during the game, there are additional endgame bonus points that can be scored by having kept Faction tokens on the Order cards at the end of the game. Each Galactic Order card is scored individually in the same way. The player with the most Faction Tokens on a Galactic Order card will score 1 Victory Point for each of his own Faction tokens, while the player with the 2nd more Faction tokens on that card will score Victory Points equal to half the number of his Faction tokens, rounded up. All other players with Faction tokens on this Card will score NO bonus Victory Points, no matter how many Faction tokens they have on the Galactic Order card (in a 2-player game, the only bonus points scored are for the 1st place player, the 2nd place player scores 0 bonus points).
New Faction Deck
While Core Worlds Galactic Orders still only supports up to 5 players (as was with the base game), a 6th Faction has been added to the game, in order to give players a bit more variety to choose from. As with the other 5 Faction Decks, all the starting cards are the same except for the Hero. The Hero in this new starting deck (Empress Elona) provides the ability of discarding her from your Warzone and drawing 2 additional Cards from your Draw Pile.
Raven Core World
In addition to the Galactic Order cards and a new Faction, a new Core World has also been introduced to the game; the Core World of Raven.
Stronghold Games has provided a new token for each player mat that helps reference this new world during the game. The planet Raven is worth 4 Victory Points to the controlling Faction at the end of the game, plus 1 additional Victory Point for each Faction token on any 1 Galactic Order card at the end of the game (another reason to keep Faction tokens on Galactic Order cards as opposed to discarding them). In order to successfully conquer Raven, a player must invade with a Fleet Strength of 8 and a Ground Strength of 8.
There are two new Card types introduced with the Galactic Orders expansion. The first of these are the Advancement Cards. It seems like different types of Advancement Cards will be introduced in further expansions, but the only one included here is the Capital City Advancement Card. Each player gets a Capital City and attaches it to their starting Home World. During the Energy Phase, if a player has at least 3 Worlds in their Empire, the Capital City allows them to place a Unit or Tactic Card from their hand underneath the Capital City Card.
This will allow players to filter certain cards from their deck as their strategies change throughout the course of the game, or to simply get rid of some of the weaker starting cards. Once placed under the Capital City, these cards can never be retrieved by the player, but will still count as cards in the player’s Empire for endgame scoring purposes.
The second Card type introduced in Galactic Orders are the Event Cards. The expansion comes complete with a variety of Event Cards that are added in with the Unit, Tactic, and World cards into each of the Sector Draw Piles. Event Cards will be drawn along with the Unit, Tactic, and World cards during the Galactic Phase (where cards are drawn from the Sector Draw Piles and placed in the center area for drafting and invasion purposes), however, Event Cards do not count toward the total number of cards drawn during the Galactic Phase. Event Cards provide special rules when triggered, some instant and some continuous.
For instance, the game always begins with the First Blood Event Card. Until the next Event card triggers, the First Blood Event card provides the special rule that Invasion cost 0 Actions and 0 Energy to perform. During the Galactic Phase, any Event cards that come out are placed on top of the previous Event card. Whenever the Galactic Phase has been completed, and all card drawn, the topmost Event card will trigger. This means that if 3 different Event cards are drawn during the Galactic Phase, only the last one drawn will trigger.
Although Galactic Orders introduces new types of cards, the Galactic Order cards, and Faction tokens, the expansion also adds more regular Unit, Tactic and World cards to the game. Many of these provide bonuses in relation to the Galactic Order cards, while others are either more powerful or provide more variety in how they’re played. A couple of cards along with all the starting World cards have been updated to provide more decisions in how they are used, and the changes to these cards help the flow of the expanding the base game. Cards have been provided in the expansion as replacements to those updated from the base game.
A large part of why the base game saw so much success in its original form was the merging of theme, storytelling, and mechanics, and Galactic Orders has nudged itself nicely into place. Theme-wise, as you are mounting your Empire towards conquering the Core Worlds and taking control of the galaxy, it makes sense that the remaining Orders from the previous Empire would vie for allegiances among the different factions. The more a player focuses on an allegiance with a particular Galactic Order, the more bonuses and potential endgame Victory Points are available to him and his Empire.
What players will notice most about Galactic Orders is the wide amount of options that are available to each player and how it can really open up the game. If your gaming group had issues with AP in the base game, these additions surely won’t help any, but for the most part the widening of strategy and decision-making options found here are welcomed. Galactic Orders was obviously planned from the beginning of Core Worlds’ design process (hence the various Order icons found on cards from the base game). After playing the expansion, Core Worlds with Galactic Orders feels like a full, complete game, as opposed to a base game with an expansion. And while new types of cards have been added along with a whole new mechanic (Galactic Order cards and placement of Faction tokens), these added pieces flow well within the already established rule set and don’t seem to add too much time to the 1-2 hours found with the base game.
For those that have enjoyed Core Worlds and are curious about its expansion, I can confidently say that Galactic Orders is a more complete experience. Galactic Orders feels more like an advanced version of Core Worlds than an add-on expansion (the box is even large enough to house both the base game and expansion together) and does so while mixing in even more theme to an already strongly thematic game.