The Cardboard Hoard: Initial Thoughts on Corinth
Apologies in advance to anyone reading this that hasn't played Yspahan, as I find myself genuinely unable to express my thoughts on Corinth without comparisons to its predecessor.
I absolutely love Sébastien Pauchon's classic dice-drafting/area-control game Yspahan. I don't, however, generally love roll-and-write games, although I do like a few of them well enough, e.g. Rolling America and Ganz schön clever. So which of these contrasting emotions wins out when I play a roll-and-write version of Yspahan? Unfortunately, more the latter than the former. But I'm getting ahead of myself, let's start at the beginning.
Corinth is a roll-and-write game designed by Sébastien Pauchon and published by Days of Wonder. It was originally envisioned as Yspahan: The Dice Game, but somewhere along the way that changed, possibly because it isn't being published by the same company that published Yspahan? I'm not sure, that's just speculation on my part. Regardless, it was renamed Corinth and re-themed with a vague and generic "trading in the Mediterranean" theme -- but at least they got rid of the "Dice Game" subtitle, as the original Yspahan already is a dice game.
The game is nine white dice, three yellow dice, a harbor board, scoring sheets, and a four-page rules leaflet. Standard roll-and-write fare. So not much to report here, other than that the little artwork the game does have is bright, cute, and inviting.
The dice drafting remains identical to the original Yspahan, although they've substituted goats for the original game's camels. Unlike Yspahan, everyone has their own goods areas to mark on their scoresheet, and not a communal board to fight to control. This reduces the player interactivity from the game -- although there are point bonuses available for the first to complete three of the goods areas, which is a watered-down substitute for the area control of the original. There is also the market area, where players can move a steward around to get small bonuses, and while the idea of the steward sounded interesting from the description, in practice, we rarely found it to be the most enticing move. There are also buildings available to purchase, which give players bonuses, very similar to Yspahan.
The overall game flow is roll dice, and either take dice groups for goods, delivering them by crossing out areas on your score sheet, or take gold or goats and marking their addition to your score sheet, and optionally buying buildings with them. This continues for four to six rounds, depending on player count, and then scores are tallied.
Corinth is a fine roll-and-write in the standard conventions of the genre, but it lacked any moments that made me feel particularly clever, or where I felt like I was torn between multiple good choices. The decisions usually felt breezy in that one choice usually just clearly scored more points than another, or, nearing the end of the game where some areas were completely crossed out, only certain dice remained useful at all.
Corinth plays a bit quicker than Yspahan, playing in 30 minutes instead of 45 minutes at three players, has less bits to set up, and takes up less table space -- but those are the only advantages I can see for it. The game loses the beautiful and colorful artwork of Yspahan's board in favor of the individual roll-and-write sheets, loses a lot of tension in its reduced player interaction, and loses some of its interesting decisions in its smaller footprint.
Now I will be the first to admit that my lackluster initial impression here may be off, as it is a knee-jerk take after my first play. While I wouldn't say no to playing it again, I also wouldn't suggest it -- especially as I already own Yspahan. Overall, playing Corinth makes me want to strongly recommend Yspahan to anyone that enjoys Corinth, or anyone that felt Corinth was almost interesting, but could be dialed up further without the limitations of roll-and-write framework.