Out of all the images that Star Wars seared into the pop culture consciousness, the one that might be the strongest is the idea of the Mos Eisley Cantina. The contrast is what made it memorable. Even in the whiz-bang fantasy of a galaxy full of space wizards and shiny robots, there’s still such a thing as a local dive bar. One of the most enduring legacies of Star Wars is the banged up future; you can see it in media like Firefly, Alien and even in the shiny world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Core Space, from English company Battle Systems, does an amazing job at embracing this aesthetic. The game comes with several sheets of terrain to install on a grid for a 3-d play space. The walls are filled with doors to dash through and windows to duck under. There are other small bits like counters and tables that can be tipped over to use as cover in a sudden shootout. Even those folks who might decide the game isn’t for them after a few plays will find value in this set up as a miniature backdrop for their Star Wars or Starfinder battles. The website offers several helpful tutorials on how to put together everything.
Core Space offers simultaneously cooperative and competitive play. Each player takes command of a crew of scoundrels who start off on opposite sides of the board hunting for an objective. Sometimes the objective is straight forward, other times the crewmembers have to hack, chat or otherwise interact with their surroundings to find what everyone’s looking for. There’s another incentive for exploring the board rather than dashing for the objective with better gear and weapons randomly stashed everywhere. (As a neat tactile touch, players randomly load tiny crates with equipment tokens during set up and then get to crack open the boxes in game).
If the crews start causing too much trouble, the game’s AI enemy shows up. In this case, it’s a gang of killer robots called the Purge who show up to shut down all the smuggling shenanigans. It’s a game timer that also plays into the tropes of the genre where the rival crews are forced to team up against a bigger threat. The Purge add an excellent bit of tension in trying to figure out when to team up and when to make a run for it to the escape hatch to win the game. Don’t worry if your crew doesn’t come out on top this time. The light RPG style campaign mode means you can try to outfox your rivals on the next run.
The Purge also automatically adds a solo mode to the game, making it a good choice gamers who want a big game feel but are still being socially distant for the time being.
Battle Systems creates detailed terrain for several genres of gaming, including fantasy and cyberpunk. Their other sci-fi terrain can be added into the mix to expand the scenarios available to play. They also have additional crews that can expand the game for more players or options to customize crews. There’s also a recently Kickstarted expansion that takes the game in a bit more of a bug hunt direction.
If you’re looking for dingy sci-fi terrain with a fun game underneath, Core Space is the best choice within 12 parsecs.