By Lex "Gaz the Dungeonmaster" Ansems on November 18, 2014
SPACE… it’s big, it’s cold, it’s empty (well apart from planets and stars and meteors) and, according to popular belief, we’re alone in the universe… or are we? If we believe movies there ARE aliens around and better yet, they come in different shapes and sizes. From the lovable dried out potato ET, to Klingons and Vulcans, to the bug aliens from MIB (if there is life out there PLEASE DONT LET IT BE BUG ALIENS). However, what would happen if aliens are real and they would try to conquer the universe… Let’s find out in Cosmic Encounter!
The Basic rules of the game are simple; you pick an alien who has a special power and you draw 7 cards as a starting hand. These cards are: simple encounter cards that boost your power, artifacts with special effects and flare cards that have a dual purpose depending on the alien that uses it. After everyone has drawn their cards you decide who gets attacked by drawing a card from the destiny deck (yes this game uses a lot of cards) The first player to have 5 points (1 point for each foreign colony under his or her control) wins.
So it’s time to prepare for battle! The attacker sends a couple of ships into the fray to try and take over the world (NARF). You both call in allies and pick your card in secret, then the all out brawl begins, you add your ships, allies and cards. Together these assets determine the total attack power. The defending party does the same and the highest number wins the fight, simple as that!
And now for the tricky part; every alien has a power that changes the rules a bit. The Virus alien multiplies the power of your ships with the power of your card, instead of just adding these values, the Cute Loser alien race can declare that he is upset, making the lowest total power the winner of the fight. Other alien powers are used outside of combat and provide other possible win conditions than the 5 colonies usually needed, for instance: The masochist wins by losing all his ships, the alien race tick tock wins after surviving for a certain time in the game. One of my favorite aliens is THE CLAW (and yes, you can yell: “I’LL GET YOU NEXT TIME GADGET… NEXT TIME!”) who can steal planets from other players.
The one problem with all these alien powers is that the basic rule set needs to make a boat load of exceptions. Sometimes can be a bit unclear in which order to move or if the move is even legal. Since I am a player that focuses on rules a lot this can be really frustrating at times. However, for a casual gamer this might just be a minor inconvenience.
The difficulty and length of a game of Cosmic Encounter depends on the players and aliens they select. Aliens who's power have a severe impact on the game can make for powerplay and fast games, others can draw out the game to the point where it might get somewhat annoying and boring.
The design of the game is pretty basic; cards are of good quality, and the alien character sheets are adorned with fantastic artwork. The box is well designed, but has no individual spacers or places for the cards, which would make it a bit more practical. But do not despair! you can find simple and cheap boxes online for just this purpose.
Cosmic encounter is a basic game with a lot of exceptions, the HUGE amount of aliens included just in the base set makes the game different every time you play. And with the expansions adding more and more aliens it can only get better. By creating your own house rules like hidden alien powers or double alien powers, you enhance this game even more. The ever-present exceptions to the rules make it hard to teach Cosmic Encounter to beginning board gamers. However, with a good teacher it shouldn't be a problem. It’s design is great but a bit to basic in my humble opinion (but that’s just me nitpicking again). All in all a great game with a huge amount of replay value.
Fantasy Flight Games
Designer: Bill Eberle
Players: 3 - 5 players, ages 12 & up
Playtime: approx. 60 - 120 minutes