Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Cosmic Encounter: Intergalactic Excellence

Some games are great because they have interesting and airtight mechanics. Some games are great because their components and artwork is top notch. But the best games are the ones which can provide a great social experience. These are the games which are remembered by the longest, the ones which provide the most fun, produce the most chatter, create the most energy.
Cosmic Encounter is one of those games which focuses on its social aspect and as such has claimed its place in the pantheon of excellent games. Cosmic Encounter involves some of the crucial aspects of interactive gaming such as alliances and negotiation, but it also throws in a certain chaotic element which can really change the game up. That’s why every game is memorable. Its great to see eyes widen and hear voices raised when some card is played which throws a wrench into someones carefully laid plans.
Cosmic Encounter is a science fiction game which has been around as long as Star Wars and has gathered quite a following. It has seen various reprints and undergone a few changes, but it remains one of the best games in the business because its able to do one simple thing: provide a great time. Whether its the alliance forming, the variable alien race powers, or the unpredictable card battles, Cosmic Encounters is tailored around a great gaming experience.

Gameplay

Cosmic Encounter has a core idea behind its mechanics which is spiced up with many different extras throughout the game. The purpose is to fight, ally, and negotiate your way to get 5 spaceship colonies onto the planets of other players (each player controls 5 planets). You may either attack other planets, ally with other planets who are attacking, or negotiate a truce with planets who, you plan to attack.
A destiny card deck issued to choose the player who will be attacked for each turn. This seems odd; why wouldn’t you be able to choose who you want to attack? But what this actually does is prevent massive gang ups against one or two people which can not only drain the fun from the game but can cause a stalemate which brings no one close to winning.
Once the attack is declared, the other players may choose to ally with the attacker, the defense, or no one at all. This allows everyone to be involved with the game at all times, providing none of that annoying down time between your turns. Just another way in which Cosmic Encounter focuses on the enjoyment of the experience above all else.
Once the battle is set, the two main players involved choose a card from their hand which usually has a number on them. They choose the card then reveal them at the same time. Whoever has the higher number of cards plus ships involved int he battle (their own and their allies) wins. But that’s only the start. So many other things can be thrown into the mix, through other special artifact cards, flair cards, and of course the special abilities of each player’s alien race. These can wildly and dramatically change the outcome of any given battle. Some may not appreciate this level of chaos, but it truly makes the game experience unique and unpredictable.

Components

As I mentioned earlier, this game has been around for over three decades, and as such has had a number of different versions and editions released. The game I am reviewing is the latest edition from Fantasy Flight which was released in 2008. And I must declare that the components in this latest edition are great.
What each player gets are five circular planets, very cool and very thematic, and 20 spaceships. The ships are reminiscent of old 50’s invasion movies with the flying saucer design, which I think is really old school and cool. They look great and they also stack really, really well, which is good because they are stacked many times throughout the game.
The game also includes the hyperspace gate (which is basically an arrow which points to the planet being attacked) and the warp (where defeated ships end up), both of which look really cool and sci-fi-ish. The cards are of good durable quality and are very succinct and informative. They tell you when the card or power can be used in the turn order, what difficulty level it has, everything you need to know. Excellent card design I must say. The art is also really great, especially the alien races, teetering between realism and cartoon.

Conclusion

I will say it now: Cosmic Encounters is one of the best board games there is. It has been around since the seventies and has proven itself to be tried and true. It cares about one thing: that everyone has a great time and that each experience is different.
Can it be hectic and unpredictable? Yes, and I know this bothers some people. The alien powers, flares and artifacts can really mess up well-laid plans. But the core actions of the game are pretty solid and provide a great base for these eccentricities to build upon. The fact that you are never quite sure what will happen despite your best plans is where much of the excitement and adrenalin comes from.
Cosmic Encounters manages to include every player at almost all points in the game. It provides great strategy in evoking social interaction by providing a framework for alliance forming and negotiation. And by throwing in the variable alien powers, it gives each player their own identity within the game and also ensures that each game experience will be unique. Yes, its chaotic. Yes, its noisy. Yes, its rambunctious. And yes, its one of the greatest board games of all time.

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