Rainy Day Game's Board Game Review of Cosmic Encounter:
Cosmic Encounter in Summary
The Cosmic Encounter board game has decades of history. Some of you reading this may have owned the original Eon edition of Cosmic Encounter twenty years ago. Well, Avalon Hill has released a new version of this classic. Purists may have trouble making the switch to a simplified version which doesn't have the many expansion of the original (yet!) but we're certain there's a whole new generation of gamers out there who will recognise Cosmic Encounter as one of the best games ever published.
And something we'd like to say about the new Avalon Hill edition of Cosmic Encounter: in almost every way it is the most visually appealing of the many different versions over the years. Avalon Hill games always have top-noch materials and artwork and Cosmic Encounter is no exception.
The Cosmic Encounter board game has a great theme which really motivates the players. The ancient race of Elders, the caretakers of the galaxy are on their way out; about to evolve past this state of existance. The lesser races are in competition to see who will replace them. And each player gets to play one of these alien races, with special powers and a back story (check the rulebook in the AH edition). Some gaming groups even role-play thier alien races, turning Cosmic Encounter into a truly intense game of player interaction.
Cosmic Encounter Gameplay
The Cosmic Encounter board game has a simple principle, but there are a lot of details. To learn how to play the game, please refer to the rules. We'd like to give you a taste so you can make an informed decision.
You start Cosmic Encounter by randomly choosing one of 20 Alien races. Each race has a special power that allows you to bend or break one rule in the game. Each player also begins with a solar system board with 5 planets. Each planet in your system gets 4 ships. For every planet you have a ship on, you have a colony there.
The goal of Cosmic Encounter is to establish 5 colonies on planets outside of your home system. Each turn you select a random player colour disk which tells you which system you can have an encounter in this turn. Load up some ships into your mother ship and attempt to establish a colony there. You opponent will muster his ships and mount a defence of the planet.
Now, here comes a very cool part of the Cosmic Encounter rules: You can ask other players to form an alliance in the attack or defence of a colony. These alliances definitly give you an edge in the battle, but they will also benefit the players that ally with you. Only invite alliances when you really need them or you'll help out your opponents too much!
When you attempt to establish a colony in someone else's system, you total up the number of ships you are attacking with (or defending with) and play a card. You can play an attack card or a negotiate card. If both players in an encounter play attack cards, the player with the highest value attack card plus number of ships will win. If one plays attack and the other negotiate, the attacker automatically wins. And if both play negotiate, they have 60 seconds to come to a mutually acceptable resoluton. This is a great opportunity for player interation and everything's on the table. Our RDG negotiations often involve bumming an extra smoke or getting a drink from the kitchen.
And so Cosmic Encounter goes until one or more players finish their turns with 5 external colonies. Now, given the little overview I've written here, you have to remember than every alien race can break one of the rules. There are also artifact cards in the game that will change rules or temporarily cancel the aliens' special powers. So there's lots of exceptions and changes in every game. A key to doing well at Cosmic Encounter is staying sharp and recognising the moments when your power or card has the most impact.
Who should buy Cosmic Encounter?
The Cosmic Encounter board game is a great family game because of the science fiction theme that younger players really enjoy. But Cosmic Encounter really fits well into an experienced gaming group. The strategies and player interacion make for a fantastic opportunity to try your peace-making and strategic skills. Again, the theme is an important consideration and anyone who doesn't enjoy science fiction may want to find another game. (ed. like Diplomacy?) And remember, Cosmic Encounter has been in print for over two decades now; what better measure of the greatness of a game?
The Manufacturer's Board Game Review of Cosmic Encounter:
Your race is in peril. To survive, your alien life form must spread five colonies to other star systems. Fleets of spaceships, willpower, guile, and a bit of tricky card play are the tools at your command. Those, and your special alien power! Using your power lets you bend, mutilate, or break one rule of the game in a specific way. But beware -- all of the other aliens in the game have their own special powers, too. With 20 different alien powers to choose from, every game is sure to be different and exciting.
Unlike most games, it is possible -- in fact, likely -- that a game of Cosmic Encounter will end with two or more players all reaching their victory condition at the same time. The limitless combinations of alliances, negotiations, alien powers, and unpredictable attack orders make Cosmic Encounter a tremendously fun, lively, social game.
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