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Subject: 4 Different Cosmics rss

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Jack Reda
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I wanted to give a review of the 4 different US releases of Cosmic Encounter, to help people new to the game understand the differences between the sets. It's my opinion that the different versions of CE make for wildly different gaming experiences, and as such, the versions should really have their own pages here on BGG. The different versions are NOT the same gaming experience. If Monopoly can have 50 different entries for each version, Cosmic should have the same treatment.



Eon

The original release of Cosmic consisted of a Basic set, and 9 expansions. I am going to review the WHOLE enchilada here. With any game that has expansions, you can pick and choose what you use.

Components

The Eon set has 6 players support (not counting the Shark and Zilch, which are "added-player concepts", and Warpish, which in this version places his home bases around the Warp- if you happen to have extra tokens- which I did).

Units are round tokens with color on one side. Hexes are cardboard, black and white. The cards are black and white. Alien Power cards had vivid artwork in full color. For 70's and 80's, this was pretty standard fare, but even today it works fine.

Game Play

The full Eon set has 75 Aliens, which makes for an astronomical number of combinations- and that's with one Alien per player. We always played with at least 2, making the game even more dynamic. Most of the Aliens are excellent (the Lucre Aliens being the least interesting). This concept of having one (or more) abilities to bend or break the rules is what made Cosmic Encounter a winner. Some of the powers help to compensate for card draws, and others assist in the diplomatic aspect of CE. The wide variety of powers is a huge plus.

The addition of Flares to the Challenge Deck makes the game take on a much more strategic element when it comes to cards. People are now more likely to Compromise in order to steal cards than they would in games without Flares.

Some of the Flares are a little too powerful for their own good (many have a Wild heading- used by every other player- that is way more useful than the Super heading- the one used by the power named on the card). Some combination of Flares can make the game too unbalanced- players with this combo of card are virtually impossible to defeat.

Kickers are a Challenge deck addition that bring a little welcome variation to the challenges. They somewhat rare in the deck (though the deck itself is not terribly large).

Moons bring a little chaos, a little strategy, a little goofiness to the game. Since CE is very much a social game, the silliness is generally well received. Sometimes though, it would be nice to play a game without the silly moons- making for a more strategic use of moons. Because the moons have only a number on the back (meaning you have to look up its effects in a booklet), the game play with moons can become a little tedious if you don't have most of the effects memorized. It also makes it harder to weed out the moons you don't want every game.

Lucre (the cosmic economy) is an interesting and innovative concept. The execution is only so-so. Most games with Lucre end up with each player hording it for defense, rather than spending it. The Lucre powers are not great either. However, home rules, and home-made powers have made Lucre a much better component.

Reverse Hexes are a major factor for adding kick to the game. A couple of the Hexes are complex, and because of this, they are not often used.

Bottom Line

The game lends itself well to adding in other game components, variants (even power selection variants), and other styles of play that add to an already dynamically diverse game experience. This is what appeals to me most about the game. I also enjoy social games a lot, and this is a game of ever-changing alliances. The full Eon set, while not perfect, does offer a great and unique experience. I rate this version very high.



West End

This re-issue of CE consisted of the components you would get in a basic set of the Eon version. Only the tokens are different.

Components

The plastic tokens in this version are not as useful as the cardboard ones in Eon. They are same color both sides, and don't stack well. However, since none of the Alien powers or cards call for using the backs of the tokens, or stacking them, it doesn't really matter.

Game Play

The basic CE is not terribly compelling. There are a fair number of combinations you can get with the aliens, but the deck has no extras, and with only 4 player support, the game is ultimately too limiting.

Bottom Line

Without expansions, this version of CE doesn't rate very well.



Mayfair

Mayfair wanted to release a fully loaded edition of CE (in two parts). They wanted to address balance issues in the game, and to provide a way to settle timing and rules conflicts. Additionally, they sought ways to improve the execution of several components, all while introducing some new and original content. They were mostly successful.

Components

Very akin to the state and style of the original components, the major contribution was the addition of color. Hexes had the colors right on them (and Reverse Hex on the back), supporting 6 players. The color was a bit of a downfall though, since there were two Blues and no Green- and except for the Purple, the other colors all looked too much like each other (so the Destiny Cards were not easy to interpret). The other downside was the Alien art. It was pret-ty lame.

Game Play

Most of the game play was as good as the Eon version, so let me talk about the differences.

Moons - One of Mayfair's greatest contributions was putting the text on the moons, so you didn't have to look them up. Another was dividing the moons into 4 categories (depending affects on the game, and silliness), making it easy to weed out what you don't want to use. This made moons a much more welcome addition to the game.

Lucre - Mayfair wanted to make Lucre more useful, and more likely to be spent. Some say they de-valued it, but in my opinion they did a good job re-working it. It was no longer horded, and now had a few more uses. The Lucre powers were only slightly better than Eon's. To this day, home-brew Lucre powers are still the best.

Flares - Here is Mayfair's biggest misstep. In trying to bring balance to Flares, Mayfair effectively turned them into Edicts (a staple card of every version), watering down the Flare's most unique quality. That is, Flares are originally retained card (play them, but don't discard). Mayfair's solution for the overly powerful cards was to make them play and discard. Most previous fans of the game were not pleased. I think they would have been better served by simply modifying the overly powerful Flares. I came up with my own solution for my home-made set that also incorporates an innovation by Gerald Katz (see my 3-heading Flare descriptions elsewhere on BGG).

Aliens - The Mayfair version has quite a few more aliens than the Eon version, capitalizing on the main thing that makes CE cool. A little more than half of the New aliens are good. The others are so-so. There are a lot of other home-brew aliens that are way better than most of the additional aliens Mayfair brought in, but overall the alien implementation is good. Way more combos, even double alien combos.

New stuff - Mayfair also introduced Comets and Special Challenge cards to the Destiny deck, which don't have to be used, but are a nice addition. The Destiny Deck itself is a deck, rather than just large discs. This is an improvement (and made special destiny cards possible).

Mayfair also added in Reinforcement cards to the challenge deck- another nice add-on. It gives allies a little something more they can do, and also adds nice tension to challenge results.

Timing icons are, on the whole, a good addition. They are more useful to newer players than to established fans... a few quirky timing decisions aside, they have helped to settle a few issues, and reduce the rules lawyering quite a bit (a fair complaint in the Eon version for some players).

The Reverse Hexes in Mayfair are slightly better than the Eon ones. The Reverse Warp though is a bust. Pretty much no one liked "the Fan".

Bottom Line

Aside from the unpopular artwork, this edition is an excellent edition, and the one I used to introduce new players to the game. Ultimately, the Flare usage pushed me into making my own set from scratch. Despite that, I rate this slightly higher than the Eon one.

Note: Mayfair released a 4 player no-frills version called Simply Cosmic. It's slightly better than the West End version in terms of components, but has fewer aliens, so it ultimately not as good.



Avalon Hill

Most fans of CE were very hopeful the AH version would revitalize interest in the game, and help settle the shortcomings of the Mayfair edition. The result was not what we expected.

Components

The best thing about the Avalon Hill version of CE is the components (but also one of the worst). The plastic ships are very attractive, but can be hard to maneuver in challenges. They do stack, but don't flip- however, as in the West End version, since this edition doesn't have any game effects that flip over units, it isn't an issue.

The systems (no longer hex shaped) are very cool. I always loved the unique planet art for each system (and incorporated them into my home-made version. It does only support 4 players though.

Alien art is a far cry better than the Mayfair edition- though the style left some players cold. Personally, I am fine with it- it makes the aliens look more alien. The Eon art more closely resembled the concepts behind the aliens than the AH version, but it is uniform in style, and much more space-themed.

Game Play

Essentially, the game play here is almost exactly like that of the West End version. It's quite basic. No Flares, Moons, Lucre, or anything found in one of the expansions. It's pretty limiting, and doesn't make for a very exciting experience. Also, much of the nomenclature was changed for this edition, which was not fun for the established fans of the game. But, since the online version has adopted the new terms, it doesn't look like we'll ever go back to "Compromise", "Edict", "Tokens", etc. Referring to my cards as "Pods", though, must be stopped.

Bottom Line

While attractive, this version was a major disappointment. I played it once, and that was enough. I feel the overall ratings for CE on BGG are negatively affected by this version. Low rating from me too.

The Bottom Bottom Line

I have my home-made version of CE, which if I may say so, kicks serious butt. I do, however, eagerly await the proposed Fantasy Flight Games edition. They have a good reputation, and I am optimistic. The initial release will have to serious outdo a normal Basic Set of CE, and provide a large number of aliens, otherwise it will suffer the same fate as the Avalon Hill version. New nomenclature notwithstanding, I believe I will probably end up using the FFG version a lot to get new people to play (before springing my home-made version on them).

Until then, people wanting to try out CE should probably seek out the basic Mayfair version. Even without the "More Cosmic" expansion, it plays very well- certainly better than an Eon version with no expansions.
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I've only ever played the basic four player Avalon Hill Cosmic Encounter (actually I've played previous versions as well but it was so long ago and so infrequent that I don't remember anything about the experience). I did not think it was that bad of a game if played with four players.

But many Cosmic fans, you included, say the base game is not of much interest. So my question is, do you feel the base game is truly a bad game and I'm in the minority for liking it? Or is it just that the expansions make it so much better that you can never go back once you've played them?

Either way, good overview. The FFG Eon releases are some of my most looked forward to releases and I hope to try "real" Cosmic Encounter eventually.
 
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Bill H
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Excellent overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each version!

So, how about giving the Games Workshop version the same treatment? Please?
 
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Jack Reda
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rayito2702 wrote:
So my question is, do you feel the base game is truly a bad game and I'm in the minority for liking it? Or is it just that the expansions make it so much better that you can never go back once you've played them?.


I wouldn't consider the basic game bad. Even the AH version isn't a bad version. But on a 10 scale, I would only give it a 5... maybe a 6 at best. Realizing, that for me, Cosmic Encounter rates a 10, but that is largely based on my own version, which incorporates SO much external (fan made) material, much of it my own.

I think the different versions, given their own entry pages would have a pretty diverse set of ratings.

For me:

Eon: 8.5
WE: 5
Mayfair: 9
AH: 5.5

And yes, Bill... I will do an international review next week.
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Excellent summary Jack.

I think you pretty much described my feelings on the various differences as well. We only differ on Mayfair's decision to change the way Flares work - which I think improved the game, but I'm probably in the minority. It's an easy fix though - use the Mayfair components and the Eon rules.

rayito2702 wrote:
I've only ever played the basic four player Avalon Hill Cosmic Encounter (actually I've played previous versions as well but it was so long ago and so infrequent that I don't remember anything about the experience). I did not think it was that bad of a game if played with four players.

But many Cosmic fans, you included, say the base game is not of much interest. So my question is, do you feel the base game is truly a bad game and I'm in the minority for liking it? Or is it just that the expansions make it so much better that you can never go back once you've played them?

Either way, good overview. The FFG Eon releases are some of my most looked forward to releases and I hope to try "real" Cosmic Encounter eventually.


AH/Hasbro's base set is pretty much lame in my opinion. While they tried to make it more accesible to new players they neutered the game in so many ways. The artwork was very nice and the components great - until you actually used them and then you saw how fiddly they were overall.

With few powers, a 4 player maximum and diluted rules, the AH/Hasbro version is really a spiffed up version of Mayfair's Simply Cosmic which was meant to introduce new players as well. Do what I plan on doing: Buy two sets of the AH/Hasbro version and make a 6-8 set version using the AH/Hasbro board and the Mayfair powers and rules.

Depending on what FFG does with the upcoming version, you might not even have to do that!

Check out this Geeklist regarding the new version too:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/24043
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Richard Clyne
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Shijuro wrote:


So, how about giving the Games Workshop version the same treatment? Please?


The Games Workshop version is a relabelled West End Games version
 
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Jack Reda
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Actually it's quite a bit different from the West End version:

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Peter Olotka
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Nice summary, Jack. The new Fantasy Flight Cosmic will surpass all the Cosmics. We are shooting for 100 aliens. (I would like even more.) Two big boxes - with Flares and 5 players and some NEW ALIENS - at least new to published versions, culled from the Fan Aliens and the Online Aliens. in Box 1. We are introducing TEAM COSMIC as well
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I just got the AH version in a math trade. Never played any Cosmic Encounter so I figure it is a good place to start. If I enjoy it maybe I'll upgrade to the FFG version when released.
 
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Jack Reda
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pgocosmic wrote:
Nice summary, Jack. The new Fantasy Flight Cosmic will surpass all the Cosmics. We are shooting for 100 aliens. (I would like even more.) Two big boxes - with Flares and 5 players and some NEW ALIENS - at least new to published versions, culled from the Fan Aliens and the Online Aliens. in Box 1. We are introducing TEAM COSMIC as well


Needless to say, this is quite fabulous. I think a bunch of aliens and flares are just the thing to really kick things into gear. I can't wait to write a gushing love letter of a review.
 
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The Warp wrote:
pgocosmic wrote:
Nice summary, Jack. The new Fantasy Flight Cosmic will surpass all the Cosmics. We are shooting for 100 aliens. (I would like even more.) Two big boxes - with Flares and 5 players and some NEW ALIENS - at least new to published versions, culled from the Fan Aliens and the Online Aliens. in Box 1. We are introducing TEAM COSMIC as well
Needless to say, this is quite fabulous. I think a bunch of aliens and flares are just the thing to really kick things into gear. I can't wait to write a gushing love letter of a review.
Is it gonna have at least a dozen "alternate" hexes? I love those.
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I think an important thing to note about Simply Cosmic is that the four colors it included for the players were different than the six colors in the Mayfair base set. This means, in theory, that you could play with 10 people.
 
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Quote:
Nice summary, Jack. The new Fantasy Flight Cosmic will surpass all the Cosmics. We are shooting for 100 aliens. (I would like even more.) Two big boxes - with Flares and 5 players and some NEW ALIENS - at least new to published versions, culled from the Fan Aliens and the Online Aliens. in Box 1. We are introducing TEAM COSMIC as well


Nice! I own the AH version - and have toyed off and on about purchasing a Mayfair version on eBay - but so far have never pulled the trigger.

Glad I waited.
 
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    Thank you very much for taking the time to write this up. I played the Mayfair edition yesterday and something pretty disheartening occurred midway through the game. I was aware there were multiple versions and that the game had some pretty solid bonafides from hardcore gamers, and wanted to find out if the Mayfair edition was the one everyone was complaining about.

    The thumbnail sketch -- there's a flare called Schizoid that allowed another player to simply take all my planets in exchange for his. We effectively changed colors on the board. This proved completely disenfranchising to me and from that point on any interest I had in the game evaporated. Since you give the Mayfair edition more than a bit of respect it appears this is not the game for me.

    This post proved a valuable resource.

             Sag.
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Dan Owsen
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Nice review of the different versions. I wish I still had my original, unfortunately it is lost in the mists of time and space, and now I only have the AH version and Simply Cosmic. I haven't yet opened them (got them cheap and haven't found an opportunity to play) but am thinking about busting them out soon.

Question, could the pieces from Simply Cosmic be added to the AH version to allow for more players?

 
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