Card Game Review: Galactic Orders—Just That Much More Awesome
I’m a big fan of Core Worlds. I even nominated it among my top five games of the year. So I was eagerly looking forward to the first expansion, Galactic Orders. I’m quite pleased to say that I was not disappointed. Galactic Orders adds many new elements without disturbing the best parts of the base game.
The Basics. Galactic Orders adds several new elements. The most prominent is the Galactic Orders themselves. In the base game, many of the cards had a small icon that the Core Worlds rulebook promised would be used in a later expansion. This is that expansion. The game includes the six Orders (from Mystic Brotherhood to Galactic Senate) as large cards laid beside the playing area. It also gives each player a set of tokens. Any time a card with a symbol is deployed, the player gets to put a token on that order card.
The tokens serve two purposes. At the end of the game, tokens are scored for points. But, more importantly, during the game the tokens can be removed to gain a benefit. Some reduce the deploy or purchase costs, others let you draw cards or even increase your battle strength.
Additionally, the game now has Events. Events come out randomly and are interspersed with the various decks. Only one Event is active at a time. Because the Events are assigned to decks I through V, they are tailored to the players’ needs. In the beginning, most of the Events are helpful for the players. Later on, most of the Events are negative for the players. The Core Worlds now have some additional defenses and attacks that players must contend with.
Every player is also given a new home world and a capital city. The new homeworlds all have an additional power: the player may draw an extra card if he has more worlds than units in his warzone. The capital city allows a player to remove a card from his deck each turn if that player controls three or more worlds.
Finally, there are a ton of new cards for each level.
The Feel. Galactic Orders dramatically alters the feel of the base game, but does so without sacrificing the best aspects of Core Worlds. For one, the Orders dramatically impact play. Often, players will want to focus on two or three of the Orders in order to gain the most benefit from them (the occasional ability and end game points). But to do that means that you have to concentrate on acquiring units that have those symbols. So the need to buy ever more infantry simply to score points with the Core World is mitigated. Now alternate avenues for points are available, and the player may need to vary up their strategy in order to maximize interest. A welcome addition.
Also, the game does a fantastic job of encouraging players to conquer worlds. You want to have more worlds than units so that you can benefit from the additional card draw. You also want to get to three worlds as fast as possible so you can start taking some of the lame starting cards out of your deck. In fact, in many games the players’ decks have been totally devoid of snubs and grunts since they were all sent back to the capital city.
This leads to an interesting change in Core Worlds. Because more worlds are conquered, players tend to have a lot more energy than they did previously. At first I was worried that this would make the management of energy less interesting. Not so. By the end game, you’ve removed all the puny cards from your deck. This means that the only cards left are the cards that cost incredible amounts of energy to deploy. It’s still an energy management game; you are just working with much larger numbers, and that is fun. You feel like you are creating an armada of power in the end, rather than still relying on those grunts and snubs.
The other major change is the Events. Generally, I do not like event expansions. They feel tacked on and lazy, and they don’t provide much variety. But I may have to change my mind after Galactic Orders. The Events here have two things going for them. First, they are separated out into the various decks. This means that you don’t have a punishing power come out early and mess everything up. The powers are tailored to where the players should be given the game’s progress. Second, all of the Events are highly relevant to the game. With an exception here or there, the Events either boost the players or require them to adapt to different tactics. It’s a great addition that gets players just a little bit out of their Core Worlds comfort zones.
Components: 4.5 of 5. Galactic Orders is fantastic on the components end. All the cards are the same great thickness and quality, and the backs of the new cards match the old ones. Galactic Orders also provides tokens for every starting deck as well as the six thick orders cards. Plus, the new art continues the fantastic Core Worlds style. There are absolutely no complaints here. The only negative here is that the box is just way too big for what is in it. It all fits easily in the base game box, and there was no need for an even bigger box just for the expansion.
Strategy/Luck Balance: 4 of 5. Strategy remains king in Galactic Orders, and even becomes more important as players draft cards not only based on their ultimate Core World strategy, but also on which Orders they intend to gain influence with. That said, with the additional cards added there is a little bit of a random element. You may be hoping for Mystic Brotherhood cards and, simply because of the draw, few show up. While that might be annoying, it isn’t the worst thing ever. If you grab them, you may be the only one with Mystic Brotherhood tokens, and you could be in for a nice point payoff at the end.
Mechanics 5 of 5. I absolutely love the additions to Core Worlds. The Galactic Orders provide interesting tactical and strategic decisions. Plus, the way the game encourages players to get worlds early and often, and provides the ability to remove starting cards, is a wonderful change. Galactic Orders feels a little like the “big kid” version of Core Worlds.
Replayability: 4.5 of 5. Galactic Orders increases the replayability of Core Worlds in two distinct ways: using the Orders themselves provides different avenues and tactics for success, and the addition of new cards in each deck allows for a more varied experience.
Spite: 0.5 of 5. Galactic Orders adds no additional spite cards to the game. However, the sole spite card from the base game, Smugglers, now becomes more powerful. Every time it is used (and it will be used every time it is drawn) you also get to put a token on the corresponding order. That card is hotly contested and drafted by the first player of the round every time.
Overall: 5 of 5. I thought the base game would be a hard act to follow. I thought an expansion would clutter the brilliance of the first piece. I’m happy to admit that I was very wrong. Galactic Orders is a fantastic, fantastic addition to the base game. It provides new tactics, new depth, and new methods of play. It allows the players to really create the vast armadas promised by the base game. If you are at all a fan of Core Worlds, I heavily recommend adding some Galactic Orders to it.
(A special thanks to Stronghold Games for providing a review copy of Galactic Orders.)