Core Space was a successful Kickstarter for Battle Systems, who are well known for their detailed and versatile scenery. Core Space is a semi-cooperative sci-fi miniatures game based around traders searching for items under the constant threat of a cybernetic force of enemies known as the Purge.
Off The Shelf / On The Tabletop articles come in two halves. In Off The Shelf we will look at what’s in the product along with covering how the game plays. This is followed by On The Tabletop where we talk about our first playthrough games and finish with feedback from the On The Tabletop team.
The On The Tabletop playthrough articles catalog our initial experiences with a game; as a result, mistakes will be made. On The Tabletop should also not be taken as a full review. These articles are simply our first impressions of a game.
Off The Shelf
The Core Space starter set has a huge amount of content in the box and is designed around 2 players getting into the game. This can be expanded by adding additional sets, which we’ll talk about later in the article.
The starter set contains:
- 8 Trader Miniatures (The Crew of the Black Maria and The Crew of the Ion Hope)
- 9 Purge Miniatures
- 3 Civilian Miniatures
- 8 Plastic Crew Dashboards
- Character, Class, Ship and Purge Boards
- 1 Plastic Hostility Tracker
- 7 Dice
- 20 Event Cards
- 104-Page Rulebook
- 42 Counters & 189 Plastic Pegs
- Token Pouch with over 100 Equipment Tokens
- A 2’/60cm square gaming mat
- The Cyberpunk Scenery Set with over130 terrain pieces
The scenery set contained in Core Space is the same set as Battle System’s Cyberpunk Scenery set. It contains a whole host of walls that connect with small clips that slide into pre-cut grooves. The clips come in a variety of types, allowing you a lot of flexibility in creating your battlefield. Also provided are crates that are used to store items tokens and are searched in-game, and also a scatter terrain to block line of sight and add detail to the terrain. Battle Systems have a whole host of scenery available, and this set is compatible with all of it.
Battle Systems have put as much effort into the box design as they have always put into their scenery and it really shows. Even once constructed, the scenery goes back into the box with the help from their packing widget and with space for extras should you want to expand the game later. It’s details like this that make Core Space stand out and it’s pleasing to see that Battle Systems are thinking of the player beyond the sale.
To play Core Space, each player needs a crew. There are 2 included in the starter set, and other available in their own packs. There is also a crew builder, where you can put together your own Core Space trader characters, and produce the components required for the game. It is advisable to play your first few games with those in the starter box, just to get used to the rules.
Each trader in your crew has a card playboard with their stats and possible advancement stats. They also get a role, which details skills that they can get access to when upgraded. Each crew also has access to gear, which comes in the form of weapons and armor tokens. Players can either point build their crews or start with limited equipment from some zero-cost items.
All of the card components fit neatly into a plastic character board, so you can easily see what your crew are armed with. Plastic pegs are then inserted in slots at the bottom of the board to track health, skill points and ammo.
Once the scenery has been set up on the board, according to the mission, equipment tokens are shuffled and a number of them placed randomly in the cargo crate scenery items. It’s a nice touch that the same tokens that display weapons and equipment on the player boards, physically go into the crates that players search.
Once set up, Core Space is an alternative action game where players take turns activating members of their crew. Combat is handled with custom dice, showing blasts, blanks or critical failure symbols. The number of dice rolled is dictated by the skill or power of the weapons being used and any blast symbols rolled are hits, which can be negated by cover and armor from your targets. If 2 critical failure symbols are rolled, then something bad has happened to your weapon.
The combat system is simple, and fast and can be very deadly, so not leaving your traders out in the open with enemies around is advisable. Traders have access to skills, which add depth to games. The skills each trader has access to are either printed on their character card or gained with experience via their career. Lars, for example, starts with the Hack skill, where they can shut down Purge characters and lock and unlock doors.
During the game, the threat level increases every turn, and also the first time a non-silent firearm is used. The threat level has a direct effect on event cards, which is drawn every turn, and also on the amount of the Purge that enters the board. At the higher levels of threat, the Purge deployments can be quite oppressive, so players need to ensure they have an exit strategy.
Games don’t end when the objective is achieved, as crews need to escape with their gains. Sometimes just escaping is considered a victory. Any crew members left behind may not be available for future missions and their fate needs to be rolled for as they may be collected by the Purge, or picked up by the Galactic Enforcers.
On The Tabletop
For our game of Core Space, we added in the 2 additional crew that are currently available, the crews of the Yamato and the Cygnus. In order to use the extra crews, we also needed extra plastic player boards that can be purchased separately so that 3 or more players can play.
I chose the crew of the Yamato, Kyla the crew of the Cygnus, Ewan the crew of the Black Maria and Kit the crew of the Ion Hope.
We decided to go with Salvage Run as our mission, as it’s down as the first mission to get you into the game. We each choose 3 traders out of our available 4 and split the 0 cost items between us. We would be going in under armed, with the intention of grabbing a little and then getting out.
On the very first event card, 2 Devastators spawned near Ewan’s deployment zone and we all knew we were off to a bad start. Alecia has a great movement value without armor, so I sent her off towards the middle of the board, where the bulk of the crates and an objective token were located. All the other traders from all crews moved cautiously towards the center as well.
Ewan’s crew, unable to get to cover, were immediately lit up by the Devastators, who took out Beck and the civilian Gan’eek.
The following turns saw Ewan’s crew of the Black Maria dodging fire from the Devastators, who stayed in place and lay down heavy fire each turn. As the Black Maria crew and Kit’s crew of the Ion Hope burst into the central room, they opened fire on my crew of the Yamato who had been gathering gear from the crates. Kyla’s crew of the Cygnus, seeing an opportunity, also joined in and caught between a 3-way crossfire, Alecia and Weis stood no chance and were taken out. The Yamato were down to 1 crew member.
Kaori decided to join Kits crew, and in the next round searched a crate, gathering lots of gear. I accidentally neglected to tell Kit that they could turn back and repaying the treacherous nature of Kit’s crew (no salt here), he turned and tried to make off with the gear. So Roykirk gunned him down.
A Harvester appeared near my deployment zone, and spotting Jace trying to circle round, Ellen decided to try and kill 2 birds with 1 stone. Running into a side room where Jace was hiding, she ran past them, circled back and then used a knockback action, rather than an attack to push them into the doorway. This made them the closest target to the harvester, who then moved and engaged.
Kit ad Kyla managed to gather several items of gear and made covering withdrawals back to their ships. Jace broke away from combat with the Harvester, taking an attack of opportunity and moved away, making Ellen the closest target for its next attack. The Harvester moved and engaged, taking out the last member of my crew.
Ewan withdrew under fire from the Devastators, just as one of the civilians revealed themselves to be a Live One. Ewan almost made it, but Jace was gunned down at the door to their ship.
Kit took the win with a huge amount of gear, followed closely by Kyla. Ewan only had 1 member of his crew make it away with only their starting gear and my entire crew were left to contemplate the dishonor of other crews on the floor of the battlefield.
Adam: Core Space is an incredible product. From the box design to the versatility of the game itself. Playing just the core game, using the rules from the starter set is an incredible experience, but being able to expand into your own mission, enemies and crew designs, as well as the optional rules contained in the Deluxe Rulebook, gives this a huge amount of longevity.
The core rules are simple and straight-forward. But there is a lot to take in and some things will be missed or forgotten in the early games, but after those, everything will flow very well. We completely forgot about the skills in our first game, but as you learn these, you’ll get to know your individual crew members and the skills they have. The Purge and NPC actions are incredibly simple and this allows you to really focus on the game itself.
Setting up your first mission will take a while. We scratched our heads for a little bit, trying to work out which wall was which on the first mission map, but as soon as we had it worked out, putting the walls together was rapid and an enjoyable and rewarding experience just putting them together.
Keeping your equipment sorted into different piles between games is also essential to a quick set up. Keeping the small, large, 0-cost and rare items separate will allow you to shuffle and set up easily.
The box design makes me incredibly happy. I was able to fit everything from the core set back inside after putting the scenery together, along with also fitting the entire contents of 2 further crew boxes and 8 additional plastic boards and there’s still room to spare in the miniatures storage box.
Core Space is one of my favorite games of the year so far. The scope of play out of the core box is fantastic and the scenery is extremely versatile for creating internal battlefields. Playing individual games is fun and challenging, but the real reward for Core Space is in campaign play, and seeing your crew grow, fail and endure.
Core Space has taught me 3 things. 1, incredible box design makes me very happy. 2, rushing into the center is not a great idea or a viable tactic. 3, if your friends hear semi-cooperative, it means they will betray you. Every time.
Kit: Firstly a big shout out to my mate and local boy Stewart Herbert, his name and painted models were in the book. I had a little fanboy moment when I realized it was the game he painted the models for.
I want to start with that I utterly loved every part of this game. Putting together the terrain although tricky for the first 2 minutes was a fun little mini-game in itself. Seeing the battlefield form in front of us as we built was amazing, then adding all the little flavor touches.
There was definitely a campaign and roleplay feel to the game. I’d love to go through the full crew creation and then a campaign. It says “co-operative” on the box, however that’s not the way we played. As one of our group was harassed by bad guys, I convinced the rest to attack the “bigger” threat then swooped in to claim the loot. Yaaaaar, I was a mighty space pirate worthy of Robert Urich (old man reference).
The system itself was slick and I loved the pegs to track pretty much everything, the layout of the character boards also made things so easy to track. All in all, I really felt this was a well thought out game that makes use of some amazing terrain. If you like campaign play, sci-fi, pirates, co-op then turn on your friends, you will absolutely love this.
Kit is the owner of ABZ Games, Aberdeen’s gaming community hub. He has been playing board/card/war/role-playing games for near on 25 years. Currently, his favorite game is Wild West Exodus by Warcradle.
Kyla: I walked into the shop and Adam and Kit had already set up the game’s terrain on the table – wow! The details that are in these pieces really grab your attention. The terrain might not be 3D sculpted plastic or resin pieces, and is instead simply slotted together, but the care that’s gone into designing it to allow for structures such tables and crates, advertisements and signs that hang from the walls, and turbines and pumps that rise up from the floor, really create such a cool environment to place your miniatures in.
The beautifully illustrated crew cards and object tiles slot into the plastic dashboards you are issued for each of your characters. This allows you to easily keep a hold of everything your character has without fumbling with character sheets, or cards to represent your inventory. The pegs you push into the dashboards to keep track of skills and ammo also add a nice tactile element to the game.
The actual gameplay was really fun, with us soon abandoning the notion of playing co-operatively against the enemies that spawned on the board in favor of shooting each other and looting the dead crew for equipment.
Near the end of the game Kit and I jokingly (very seriously) plotted to focus on just getting all our crew off the ship as soon as possible and leaving Ewan to the monsters still on board. This made for an exciting but very close call ending, as one of my crew narrowly dashed passed an enemy before it turned its attention on Ewan.
Kyla is a 3D Artist and VFX Compositor. She is also known around the UK convention scene for her costume and prop making work. She’s been a regular DM and player of Dungeons & Dragons for the last 3 years, and when she’s not busy writing her own homebrew campaigns she can be found playing Zombicide with friends. You can find her on Instagram at @HallowStudios, and on her website.
Ewan – I love this game! I don’t normally gush about this kind of thing but this was probably the most fun I’ve had with a board game this year.
The scenery really makes this game come alive, and I loved the loot mechanic (especially trying to take Adams loot). I did have a rather unique struggle though, as cool as everything looked I could barely read some of the cards and things. The use of the symbols made things a lot easier but they could do with being a little bigger. I did struggle to tell the difference between some of the doors and windows as well but it’s not game-breaking.
I got super unlucky at the start and two bad-ass dudes spawned next to me! Such a thing normally gets me salty pretty quick but I still managed to get stuck in. The Black Maria’s may be down but they will rise again!
Ewan is severely visually impaired, which makes playing some games difficult, especially when there is a lot of small text on the board. Having his input is very important to us as it can be something that is overlooked in gaming. He’s been gaming for a while and enjoys Talisman and Camelot. He has also played a few CCGs and is currently loving Warhammer Age of Sigmar Champions. He tries to get some wargames in when he can.
This copy of Core Space used in this article was provided by Battle Systems.
What do you think of Battle Systems terrain? Did you back Core Space? Have you played it? Let us know in the comments below.