Corinth feels and looks familiar. There’s a pool of six-sided dice. There’s trading of goods. It’s set in a historical port. It’s a roll-and-write. Deliver the elevator pitch and you’ll be asleep by the second floor. But drift off in the lift and you’ll miss out on a delightful little game that makes up for its lack of originality with pure pleasure.
There’s another key reason Corinth might seem so familiar. It began life as Yspahan: The Dice Game, a spin-off from Sébastien Pauchon’s Spiel des Jahres-nominated dice-drafting debut from 2006.
Yspahan’s way of divvying up a pool of dice between six different actions sits at the centre of Corinth’s gameplay, as players take it in turns to take a group of matching cubes from the harbour board and cash them in for goods, gold or the ability to navigate their steward around a grid of icons for various extra bonuses and points.
Dice stack up from the bottom of the main board in ascending value, meaning that not every action is guaranteed as a choice each round (gold, goats and moving the steward are always a given), and the number of cubes determines the strength of each action. It’s a simple but superb way of offering up constantly shifting decisions and risk-reward moments; do you fill out the more numerous and easily-gotten lower-value boxes on your sheet, or go for the less common but potentially more prosperous high-value results?
Grabbing goods gradually fills up shops and completes districts – the main way of scoring – while gold can be spent on extra yellow dice to boost only your roll or combined with goats to construct buildings for an array of helpful effects to boost your score. Meanwhile, any roll’s value can be used to send the steward sauntering around the market that number of spaces, with the Snake-like challenge of never crossing your own path; taking your time and landing on the corners of the grid can reap a significant amount of points, but could waste dice better spent on filling out shops.
Though the ‘pick dice, do something’ core is almost laughably easy to grasp, there’s plenty of things to keep in mind and consider as you maximise your score – the result is a very comfortable position between strategy and simplicity.
Yspahan’s transition to a faster, sleeker roll-and-write game is frictionless, the alternating dice-drafting and race to collect one-off bonuses only available to the first player to fill out all each district’s shops giving a refreshing level of interaction and strategy to a genre that often falls prey to the isolated competition of ‘multiplayer solitaire’. The passive-aggressive dice-picking of players comes to the fore even more in the two-player mode, where one person gets two turns each round. At around half the length of its predecessor (it’s a perfect lunch game), Corinth moves quickly but never feels passing.
Publisher Days of Wonder’s consistent excellence when it comes to presentation and production only helps seal an easy deal, with the box’s sparse set of components exuding quality. In a game where the dice are the thing, they shine here, looking, sounding and feeling pleasing to chuck across the table or into the box lid. The player sheets are similarly a delight, neatly keeping everything easy to track without sacrificing some splashes of colour and visual flair.
Yspahan fans will find plenty that’s familiar here, wrapped up in a smaller, shorter, better-looking package. Those after a new roll-and-write after last year’s deluge of newcomers shouldn’t pass up a more interactive and thoroughly entertaining entry in the genre. Everyone else deserves 20 minutes of fun and easy (but still satisfyingly thinky) dice-rolling and pen-scribbling. Something old(ish) in the form of something new(ish), it’s a pleasure through and through, even if it’s not breaking any untouched ground.
When your biggest complaints are that the box doesn’t include any pencils and 150 sheets feels like too few for the number of times you’ll want to play, you know Corinth is a game that’s doing something very right.
PLAY IT? – YES
It’s nothing particularly new – that doesn’t matter one bit when Corinth is such fun to play. It looks great, teaches fast, plays quick and has just enough depth to make it interesting to return to time after time.
Designer: Sébastien Pauchon
Artist: Julio Cesar, Cyrille Daujean
Time: 20-30 minutes
This review originally appeared in the May 2019 issue 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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