The Joy of Mechs
When you first open up Core Connection, you’re struck by two things. First, that it’s all made of surprisingly good quality. Nice box, glossy cards, decently made dice, well printed instructions, beautiful artwork and even an anime comic to enjoy. And secondly, that’s a lot of cards. 168 cards to be precise, and they make up most of the real estate (and weight) of the box itself. The instructions unironically advise you to make sure that you have all of the pieces before beginning the game, and I’ll immediately confess I did not count them first.
This is a Japanime Game, a group dedicated to bringing Japanese games into the European market. It’s clearly been done with care, as shown by the aforementioned quality, but also the quite nice touch of including an anime comic to explain some of the backstory. This, as nicely further explained in the rulebook, is that Atlantis has risen from its icy depths where it was banished, and is presumably a bit cross about it, now seeking to claim the world. They have great mechanical monsters, but you’ll play as Resonants, building your mecha from prototype to fighter to fight them and protect the world.
It’s a detailed and interesting backstory that lets you better understand the purposes of the game itself, so a clear positive for the game. Whilst it’s described as a deck builder, a mecha builder is probably a more accurate description, as each round is about you upgrading your mecha and fighting the monsters, collecting energy and trying to reach 20 energy before your opponent to win the game. There are monster decks to fight, different accessories to add, tactics, and more. The cards have interesting conditions, and you ‘purchase’ additional cards from the HQ to improve your stats.
So, in theory, this game should receive a positive review outcome, and I’d really like to provide it that. It’s a beautifully built game, it’s got a rich story, and the gameplay is fun and engaging.
However, here’s where it falls short: the instructions. Much like every game, I sat down and checked out all of the components, pulled the instructions and read them from cover to cover. All of the words made sense. You’re upgrading your mecha and revealing your true pilot and you want to defeat the bad guys. After handing over the correct cards for players hands, and laying out the additional cards as instructed, it seemed pretty clear and we were ready to go. Then you look at the box. There’s dice in there. And suddenly, you know instantly you’ve missed something.
There is no mention of the dice at all within the rulebook, which is the first of the holes in its rules, this means either you need to be someone who plays these types of games regularly to make a logical inference, or rely on google. The answer, it turned out, was that these are placed on the board in order to track the stats. This isn’t the end though, as when you begin to play, you find you have more questions than the instructions give answers for, so you end up filling in the blanks with house rules, making assumptions of its intentions. These can be small, but undermines the game a little bit, and makes you wonder whether you’re playing the game in the way as was intended. There’s great potential for this game, and I’ll continue to play and enjoy it in the condition it’s in – but just needs some additional clarity to boost it from a good game to a great one.
Play it? Maybe
If you’re familiar with card-based games already, you’ll enjoy the mechanics it offers – and there’s always the fun of building big robots
Try this if you liked… Dominion
If you’re building a deck, this is where you’re going to start. While Core Connection might not be a classic like Dominion, it does have large mechs to make up for it.
Publisher: Japanime Games & Keepdry
Time: 60 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 12 20-sided Dice
- 1 Comic book
- 168 Cards
- 4 Life track markers
- 4 Player boards
This review originally appeared in Issue 46 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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