How do I get just Drupal 8 core using drupal-composer?
This would be very useful for core development and starting a new project without any assumption.
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Sounds like you want drupal-console. This tool can quickly create working Drupal 8 sites interactively or via command line. More info here.
Another quick alternative is to use DrupalVM and Varnish to spin up a fully working D8 site. The DrupalVM defaults are to create a D8 sandbox site.
I believe that DrupalVM now has Docker support so you might be able to have a single VM and just spin up a new D8 box.