Welcome to the ragged edge of civilised space Traders! Things were tough out here even before the Purge arrived and the First Born were discovered, so you and your crew are going to need to be smart to survive. If you know where to look, there are opportunities out here for a resourceful crew with a battered old ship. Maybe they’ll do some good at the same time.
There are many dangers out there for an inexperienced crew though, so we’ve put together this guide to give you the edge you need to survive.
Rule One: Stay Alive!
In any game of Core Space, whatever the mission says, your primary objective is to get out with your whole crew in one piece. The mission rewards and all those crates full of goodies are tempting, but anything beyond survival is a bonus. This is especially true early in a campaign, as you’ll have few Health pegs, little armour, poor weapons, and only a handful of skills to get you out of trouble. Such is the life of a crew down on their luck.
You need to remember that Traders are not superheroes. They are a little more resourceful than everyday people, have a ramshackle ship to get around, and aren’t afraid to take risks – but they are up against forces that are scouring whole planets clean. If you go in all guns blazing, start major battles with other Trader crews, and spread out to grab every bit of loot – then you’re going to find that gun you got from a vending machine isn’t up to much. In the early game, a single lucky hit from a Harvester can knock a Trader down to one Health peg. Unless they bought a knife, they are going to have no way to fight back, so they are likely to get taken out by the next attack. That’s why it’s best to avoid having to rely on such poor equipment to get you out of trouble in the first place.
What would I do?
A good way to think about it is: what would I do if I was there? I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to start drawing the attention of killer robots if I can help it. I’m going to try to sneak around, stick to cover, work with other Trader crews, avoid places the enemy is likely to appear, and quietly pick up some weapons and armour that might keep me alive a little longer. I’m definitely not going to shoot a noisy gun if it can be avoided, and your Traders would be wise to do the same. Adding that extra Ammo peg into the Hostility Tracker might not seem like much, but one shot a turn is going to roughly halve the time before the really nasty stuff, like Assassins and Iconoclasts, starts turning up.
Don’t split the party
Try not to split the party, it’s a horror movie and D&D trope for a reason. Your crew are a team and if they are spread thin, they can’t support each other. If a Trader misses a critical enemy with all their attacks, you can try again if you have another Trader close enough. If that fails then having someone nearby with medical aid can get a defeated Trader back into action, or at least be there to drag them to safety. If you are spread out, you can’t do any of those things.
Know when you’ve overstayed your welcome
Knowing when it’s worth the risk to pick up a little more loot and when it’s best to run is also vital. This is usually two turns earlier than you think it is! If you think you can make it out easily then you will probably get out, but it’ll be hard. If you think getting out is risky but possible, then it’s probably actually deadly serious. This is a big deal because losing even one Trader is a real problem. If you’re lucky enough to have the credits to hire a new Trader, that’s still money that could have been spent on getting better gear. If you only have enough credits to hire a temporary crewmember, then you’re going to have a steady drain on your resources. Keeping your crew alive is a virtuous circle that means they can afford more gear, and that makes it easier for them to survive.
After surviving your first mission, it’s worth investing your new cash into getting armour, as a Trader is more likely to survive the next mission with this than the slightly better gun you’d buy otherwise.
Core Space: First Born
All of the above is true if you are playing First Born too, but even more so. The rewards of plundering the ancient catacombs of a hostile and advanced species are great, but the risks reflect that.
First Born are tougher than Purge
First Born are a more dangerous enemy for a start. Purge Harvesters are only dangerous when they catch you, but First Born Drones can shoot you from where they are. Nobody likes being blasted by a Purge Devastator, but First Born Lieges are less predictable because they roll the Knowledge Die with their first attack. For example, being shot by a Devastator hurts, but a Liege’s Knowledge Die roll can do extra damage by smashing you into a wall and also throwing you out of position – usually into a more dangerous place. For this reason, it’s vital to make the most of the Patrol hostility level to pick up gear and get yourself into position. Think carefully about the placement of your Traders and sneak around to keep those Drones from spotting you early.
Level up in Core Space before tackling First Born
If you own Core Space and Core Space: First Born you probably know that they are compatible with each other. This can work in your favour, as taking your crew through a few missions in Core Space can give them gear and experience that will give them an edge in First Born. Don’t forget, you won’t find human equipment in First Born catacombs, so having a bit of extra money from Core Space missions means you can stock up on the ammo reloads that you’re going to need. This is totally optional, if you only have First Born the Crew you have in that set can definitely handle what gets thrown at them, but this can give you a bit of a boost.
This can work in reverse too, the fancy equipment you’ve looted from the First Born can help you complete tough missions in Core Space.
Using the right skill at the right time can make the difference between failure and success. There are lots of useful skills in Core Space and they give a wide range of ways to play, but there are a few that I try to take on every mission.
For example, even at level 1, Kata lets you add two extra dice to a close assault attack turning even a basic knife into a deadly weapon. It gets even better as you level it up too, eventually adding four extra dice and the ability to split the damage between enemies in base contact once it gets to level three.
Weapons Expert is the equivalent for ranged attacks, as at level one it adds two extra dice to your attack and gives you the passive ability to reload as an Effortless Action. Trading a Skill peg for an extra ranged attack from Marksman at level one can also be a game changer.
In games of Core Space where Purge are your main enemy, taking a Trader with tech skills is almost essential. Disrupt forces two Purge to miss their next turn for the cost of just one Skill peg and it just gets more potent as you level it up. Regulate allows you to control where Purge can spawn giving you much more control of the game. Hack lets you remove any Harvester or Devastator from the board instantly for the cost of a single Skill peg, which can save your life at critical moments. At level three you can even take control of an Assassin for the rest of the game! While these tech skills are fantastic against the Purge, they are a lot less effective against the organic First Born, so that’s worth keeping in mind.
There are also some ‘hidden gem’ skills that you might have overlooked. Reflexes lets you ignore all the hits scored by a close assault attack at level one, at level two you add the ability to hit back with an extra die. When you’re cornered by an Assassin or an Iconoclast this can be a lifesaver. Combat Expert gives you mobility by letting you ignore one hit scored from opportunity attacks as a passive ability, which is useful for fragile Traders. Restoring a Health peg for the cost of a Skill peg makes Walk it Off incredibly useful and it just gets better as you level it up – until you can essentially return from the dead. The ticking clock of the Hostility Tracker makes Stubborn more valuable than you might realise, the extra movement lets you get in, achieve your goals and get out again before things get too spicy. Finally, Camouflage is very useful for more fragile Traders because it lets you hide them long enough to get them where you need them.
All the gear no idea?
When you start the game you’ll have little more than a t-shirt and a pop gun from a vending machine, but as you play you’ll get the chance to acquire lots of new equipment. Even a simple machine pistol is a big improvement, but some gear is especially worth finding and hanging onto.
As we mentioned before, armour is a must and better armour is always worth getting. Think carefully before buying shields, they often give you more protection, but if they get overloaded the Trader will have to spend the rest of the game unprotected. Keep a look out for the rare Impact Suit, this gives you a shield that can protect your from up to two hits and if it get’s overloaded you still get one point of Physical armour even without the shield.
Pistols tend to be more valuable than you might realise. They take up less of your precious dashboard space than other weapons, but they still pack a punch at short and medium range, where most combat happens in the tight confines of a Core Space board. The Antique Revolver is amazing for simple damage output, but don’t overlook weapons with the Silent icon on them – they might do less damage, but you can shoot them without adding a peg to the Hostility Tracker. This means that you can buy yourself time by quietly disposing of troublesome enemies without pushing the hostility level up.
For the same reason, getting decent close-combat weapons is a good idea. Not only are they crucial if you get stuck next to the enemy but they also let you take them out without increasing the Hostility level. A knife or sword that uses a small token is a great insurance policy, so I recommend buying or holding on to Short Swords and Thump Knives. Crew members that have the ability to fight in close combat without equipment are even better!
Then there’s the late game and rare equipment to look out for. The Incinerator Gun Chemical is Rare and short-range, but incredible for crowd clearance and taking out stubborn enemies. You might think that the Mother’s Venom is the best gun in the game and with a five-dice attack at short and medium range that’s a reasonable argument. But it’s really dangerous to acquire it, can’t be reloaded on a mission, and takes up a lot of room in your dashboard. I’d argue that the best weapon is the Bracer found in First Born catacombs. It doesn’t hit as hard (two dice at short range and three at medium is still decent though) but it’s silent, never runs out of ammo, and can be shot using an Effortless Action – effectively giving you three shots per turn if needed.
It’s also worth looking out for anything with a Reliable icon on it – it’s better to have a less powerful gun than a powerful one that is broken at a critical moment.
First Born equipment
If you have First Born you can access Accelerant Ammo which adds an extra die to shooting attacks. If you can afford this, buy it! It’s less reliable but worth the risk. If you see a gun with an orange Super-Reliable icon on it hang onto it as it means it can’t break even if you’re using that more unstable Accelerant Ammo.
Also, look out for the First Born Phase Loops – a weapon with a three or four dice thrown attack that adds no pegs to the tracker, can be used every turn without ammo as long as you get one hit, and can’t break is incredible. Dyson equipment is also amazing – letting you absorb attacks from the enemy, make attacks that hit automatically and ignore armour, or use enemy hits on you to charge up powerful ranged attacks.
Finally, the Utility Dashboards expansion is a great mid-campaign boost. The extra storage options, like the backpack, mean that you can carry much more loot home to sell, which is a huge boost to your crew as you’ll be able to buy better gear more quickly. Likewise, the extra firepower from the canons can be very useful as they give you solid damage output and an extra attack. The Mining Rig is great too as means you can harvest the minerals that you need to craft the best equipment from First Born without sacrificing space in your dashboard for a Mining Drubber.
What to buy next
You’ll get many hours of fun out of the core sets for Core Space and Core Space: First Born, but if you want to expand your games there are lots of options. What you pick is going to depend on your interests and you can’t really go wrong, but some recommendations are:
First Born if you have Core Space (or vice versa).
They are fully compatible with each other and your Traders can hop from missions in one to missions in the other with ease.
(If you’re unsure which one to start with, we’ve created a guide to help you to choose the best one for you.)
If you want more challenges and scenarios get the Dangerous Days mission book. This increases the difficulty of your campaigns, lets you interact with a wider range of terrain, and to play through an epic new narrative. There are also free missions published on our website.
Expansions for Core Space
You’re going to have fun with whatever you choose here, but the order that you get them in is likely to reflect your own interests. Shootout at Zed’s is great if you fancy adding some bar terrain to your collection and want to take on, or play as, low-life criminals. Go for Purge Outbreak if you want to face even more terrifying Purge enemies, like the formidable Annihilator. If you want to visit the more civilised part of the galaxy, add more civilians in your games, and take on a shady MegaCorp then go for Black Star Rising. Add the Galactic Corps expansion if you want to add the challenge of completing your missions without falling foul of the law.
Expansions for Core Space: First Born
If you want more First Born, then try the Gates of Ry’sa expansion to add a mysterious dimensional portal to the game along with powerful new First Born threats – the Talos and the Cerberosa, or get Fury of the Insane God to tackle the Insane God, flanked by its two hulking Guardians! Or pick up my personal pick, Trading Post 5, for its great campaign, lovely terrain, and my favourite characters Daric and Qiog.
Maladum: Dungeons of Enveron
Also look out for Maladum, Core Space’s fantasy sibling, for something a little different. Swap your Traders and their energy weapons, for Adventurers armed with swords and magic as they seek their fortune deep in modular dungeons as detailed and exciting as you’ve come to expect from us.
Quality of life tips
- If you’re playing First Born don’t forget that the FAQs say that Drones “have two actions, but they will only use both if they Move and then make a Ranged Assault. They will not Move or Shoot twice”.
- There is an amazing fan-made web app listing all the equipment so you can quickly check what all the icons on your new gear mean.
- You’ll see lots of beautifully painted models, but not everyone is a painter. The models are colour coded by type so you can play with them straight out of the box without painting.
- It’s your game – feel free to adjust things if they suit you and your friends better. (The rules say that once a Trader returns to their airlock they are out of the game, but I always let mine drop stuff off – don’t tell Colin.)
- There are a lot of skills in Core Space. You can buy some really useful reference cards that list them all by Class, with a description of what they do.
- If you find that you are running out of baddies to spawn, you can buy sets of Purge and First Born reinforcements.
- The downloads section of our website has a number of useful tools, such as a rules PDF and this diagram showing where specific gear is available to buy.
Bonus section: Colin’s dream team
Colin designed Core Space so who better to ask for advice on creating a crew? Here are his top picks:
Weis from the Yamoto crew expansion, Cassie from First Born, or Daric from Trading Post 5 can all make a great choice of Captain for your crew and they work well with the Soldier, Marine, or Hunter classes.
A Machine Trader
Take a machine, so that even if they are defeated they can wait until the immediate danger has passed then use the Reroute Power skill to get back into action again. Either Mac from the Skylark expansion or XL from Trading Post 5 are good choices.
Take a Trader that can soak up some hits while your other Traders get on with their job, for example Chit from the Cygnus crew, as he comes with a shield.
You can only take one Captain on your crew, but Thoman isn’t your average Trader and has stats that are similar to a Captain, so he’s the next best thing. You can find Thoman in the Poseidon crew expansion.
Most missions allow you to take a maximum of four Traders but you are allowed to an Auxiliary in addition to this. Auxiliaries are a more recent addition to Core Space and, although they are not as powerful as a Trader, it’s useful to have an extra pair of hands (or paws).
Examples of Auxiliaries include gun drones for more firepower, cargo crawlers so you can carry more loot, assault hounds to keep your enemies busy, and Mixer – the best dog / monkey in the game. If you’re looking for Auxiliaries the Wanted Dead or Alive expansion has five to choose from, so it’s a good place to start.