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Recently played a few 4P games of Cosmic Encounter. I think it's a really fun game and it's so easy to learn. This is a short review with some comments on the rules, mechanics and overall gameplay.

Components:
Simple to use and easy to understand. There are no complicated tokens except for the technologies. Each player has simple UFOs that represent your ships. I like the fact that they don't break easily as compared to other plastic figurines that may snap. Easy to compact and the UFOs stack easily on top of one another in the game, which is great for gameplay. Just like poker chips. Rest of the pieces are normal hard cardboard and the different card decks (Encounter, Flair, Artifacts, Tech).

Objective:
First to lay 5 colonies outside your own planets wins, or special victory.

Round Mechanics:
It's so easy to learn. There's very little calculation involved and kids can pick this up easily. Every round players draw a Destiny card to see who Encounter. You only draw eight cards at the start of the round and no more. You only get more cards under certain conditions 1) Compensation
2) No Encounter Cards in hand
3) A card says so
4) Abilities

Encounters:
Encounters are your battles. In an encounter, the attacker sends out up to 4 ships into the Warp Gate to colonize the defenders planet. The defender uses his ships to defend. Both sides call for allies and their allies send up to 4 ships as aid. Then both sides play an Encounter card face down and resolve them. Losing side loses all their ships into the warp. So you have to be careful who you side with. Attacker wins, all attackers get to place any number of ships they sent onto the planet and DO NOT retreat the rest. He may then draw a new Destiny card, draw a tech card or stop. Defender wins, all allies draw cards equal to number of ships sent to help and defender keeps his planet (draws no cards). It's quite bad for the defender but I think this help to speed up the game more.

Encounter cards can either Attack or Negotiate. Attack cards have numeric values that players add up to count their strength. Attack is very simple with the player with the higher score winning the battle. Defender wins ties. Negotiate auto loses but here's the kicker, the one who Negotiates gets to draw cards equal to the number of ships he had involved in the Encounter, from the winner. If both sides Negotiate, they have one minute to deal (meaning trade cards or colonies), or they both lose 3 ships.

Races and their Abilities:
There are many races so there is no worry about replayability. Players can learn the abilities of each race quite easily and they are easy to understand. However, I feel that some races are overpowered, but I feel that players can sort of gang up against the stronger ones so there isn't a steam roll or instant win.

Each race is unique and has its own special ability. These special abilities can be augmented with a special Flair card. Flair cards are named based on the race have a Wild and Race side. The Wild side allows any player to use a similar (not same) racial ability as one of the races, the Race side is only for the player who is currently using that race. It makes their racial ability even MORE powerful than it currently is. Some are really overpowered here, such as the Dictator, which allows the player to control the Destiny deck, in essence controlling who gets attacked i.e. never himself. The good thing is that Flair cards are shuffled into the draw pile so you only have a chance of getting it. If someone else gets it, you can try to get it from their hand by negotiating or making him dump his hand.

Racial abilities don't work if you don't have ships on a minimum of 3/5 home planets, except for certain races like the Masochists. This is an interesting race, I would recommend players to try it. I will not spoil the surprise for you.

Technologies (Variant):
Players research tech to improve themselves. Each tech card has a tech cost that players spend by allocating ships to the card. You place one ship per Regroup phase per player. Once it reaches the tech cost, players can retake the ships they allocated to the tech card and activate it. Some are one time and others are permanent. Needless to say, the one times are really good and teching is a way to protect your ships.

Overall, this game was really fun and although there were glaring overpowered cards, no one cared as the game was ridiculous. I would say it's not that aggressive a game as the Destiny deck chooses who you attack, rather than making it your choice (unless you have the Dictator in the game). This game is really fun for all ages and has all the elements of poker, with bluffing, simple strategy, mind reading and no need to kingmake as players can win together.

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Reverend Redd
United States
Bremerton
Washington
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Cosmic Encounter's imbalance is intentional and one of its finer qualities, as you may have discovered. It makes weaker players gang up on stronger ones, and even then, weak cards can be very strong in the right hands. Like, for example, nobody wants a Zero Attack card... until someone at the table is playing Loser or Anti-Matter; then it's better than the 40. Or, you play Philanthropist, give the zero to your opponent and watch them figure out what to do with it. Like you said, it's all in the spirit of rewarding negotiation and interaction above reckless aggression. Although SOME aliens reward reckless aggression as well...

Scanning these fora, one can easily find countless examples of just such a thing. If Cosmic Encounter was balanced and nothing was "glaring overpowered", the game would lose its appeal, as you've likely realized without a doubt. To quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, you'll have "taken your first step into a larger world." One thing is for sure - you'll never get bored of it.
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Just a Bill
United States
Norfolk
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Just a few corrections for those who might be reading the reviews but not yet be familiar with the gameplay ...

nikezz wrote:
You only draw seven cards at the start of the round and no more.

You actually draw eight, and not necessarily at the start of your turn. In a nutshell, each player starts with eight cards at the beginning of the game, and draws a new hand when they are a "main player" (offense or defense) and are out of encounter cards.

nikezz wrote:
Attacker wins, all attackers get to place any number of ships they sent onto the planet and retreat the rest.

There's no retreat; the offensive winners place all of the ships they had in the encounter onto the planet.

nikezz wrote:
Encounter cards can either Attack or Negotiate. Attack cards have numeric values that players add up to count their strength. Attack is very simple with the player with the higher score winning the battle.

By "higher score" he means the total of your attack card plus all the ships on your side.

nikezz wrote:
the one who Negotiates gets to draw cards equal to the number of ships he had involved in the Encounter.

These cards are not drawn from the deck, but instead are taken at random from the opponent's hand. This is a crucial element of the game and it's how you get good cards away from other players.

nikezz wrote:
Some are really overpowered here, such as the Dictator, which allows the player to control the Destiny deck, in essence controlling who gets attacked i.e. never himself.

Actually, the Super Dictator cannot guarantee that he will never be attacked, although he can reduce the odds in his favor by using up one of his own destiny cards on each of his encounters (however, this costs him the opportunity to decide who to encounter). If you were allowing him to burn through all three of his own destiny cards at once, then you were letting him play the same flare three times in the same encounter, which is against the rules.
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K K
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Bill Martinson wrote:
Just a few corrections for those who might be reading the reviews but not yet be familiar with the gameplay ...

nikezz wrote:
You only draw seven cards at the start of the round and no more.

You actually draw eight, and not necessarily at the start of your turn. In a nutshell, each player starts with eight cards at the beginning of the game, and draws a new hand when they are a "main player" (offense or defense) and are out of encounter cards.

nikezz wrote:
Attacker wins, all attackers get to place any number of ships they sent onto the planet and retreat the rest.

There's no retreat; the offensive winners place all of the ships they had in the encounter onto the planet.

nikezz wrote:
Encounter cards can either Attack or Negotiate. Attack cards have numeric values that players add up to count their strength. Attack is very simple with the player with the higher score winning the battle.

By "higher score" he means the total of your attack card plus all the ships on your side.

nikezz wrote:
the one who Negotiates gets to draw cards equal to the number of ships he had involved in the Encounter.

These cards are not drawn from the deck, but instead are taken at random from the opponent's hand. This is a crucial element of the game and it's how you get good cards away from other players.

nikezz wrote:
Some are really overpowered here, such as the Dictator, which allows the player to control the Destiny deck, in essence controlling who gets attacked i.e. never himself.

Actually, the Super Dictator cannot guarantee that he will never be attacked, although he can reduce the odds in his favor by using up one of his own destiny cards on each of his encounters (however, this costs him the opportunity to decide who to encounter). If you were allowing him to burn through all three of his own destiny cards at once, then you were letting him play the same flare three times in the same encounter, which is against the rules.


Thanks for correcting me. I never realized I had so many typos and errors.
 
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Nate Owens
United States
Garland
Texas
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Well-done review.

I submit that Cosmic Encounter isn't fun DESPITE it's imbalance, it's fun entirely BECAUSE of the imbalance.
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Peter Olotka
United States
Centerville
Massachusetts
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Thanks for your kind review. But contrary to there being no balance, Cosmic Encounter is exquisitely balanced over time. The fact that an alien can dominate in certain circumstances but be a wimp in the next game is surprising and funny.

The way to decide if an alien is 'over powered' as you put it, is to play it a lot and see if it wins more than it's share. In my 40 years of playing Cosmic no alien is ever best. All Cosmic games are relative. If an alien is very strong in a given combination - good for it. Rest assured, however, that it will be pulled back into mediocrity by literally thousands of unanticipated circumstances which the game spawns.

Some aliens which seem totally benign and are rarely zapped (like the Philanthropist) are actually subtly strong. Others like the Void which are feared are often zapped but are just not overwhelmingly strong.





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Jin TS
Malaysia
Petaling Jaya
Selangor
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Cosmic Encounter is one of my top favorite game of all time, mainly because it offers a nice theme, with countless replayability in which even players may play the same flare cards or aliens, but the interaction and reaction of players are always different! And this interactivity really makes the game so unique and so unbelievably interesting to play with! thumbsup thumbsup

This game gives players a sense of choas when it is played and that's what our group love it so much...where it always test our reaction and decision on what to do in every given situation, which is again, always different...

Great experience in playing this game...brilliantly created game that succeeded against the test of time...laugh
 
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