My first experience of being truly hooked by a game was Cosmic Encounter. Oh my days! The speed at which I fell in love with that game… I couldn’t believe how quickly I went from a caring and considerate bloke to a vindictive and manipulative megalomaniac! Never had I ever watched my friends, colleagues and people I care about gasp with such intensity at the betrayals and the callous acts of cruelty I was engaging in. And it felt good.
In case you haven’t had the chance to taste Cosmic, let me give you a speedy run down of the play.
- It’s a game of diplomacy, negotiating and controlling areas across each players’ home system
- Each player is designated a random race of aliens to play as with 5 planets in their home system and 4 ships per planet (at the start)
- Each alien is unique and has an ability that affects the how the game is played or how players interact.
- Each turn a player is given a target to attack to attempt to colonise.
- The attacking and defending player can choose to ask for allies, who can decline or add up to 4 of their own ships. Main players then choose a card from their hand that acts as their attack power on top of the ships that were played in their forces.
- Attack wins: defending players’ ships are sent to the warp (where lost ships go) and they gain a colony.
- Defence wins: attacking players’ ships are sent to the warp and the defending ally is given reward (cards)
- Alternatively, players can choose to negotiate and play negotiate cards.. however that doesn’t always benefit everyone!!
- Your objective is to have 5 foreign colonies to win, unless your alien’s power dictates otherwise.
Cosmic was my first real experience of negotiating and smiling with people I intended to beat. My earliest memory, once I’d got to terms with the ins and outs of the rules, was also my first major loss. If memory serves, I was the Gambler. My power was to bet with other players about my card. I could bet my card was higher or lower without revealing, meaning I could bluff and trick others into thinking my useless 3 was a 25. I was adamant I was going to win. So adamant that I immediately revealed my alien’s identity and began bluffing, gambling, lying and fighting with everyone around the table. As you can imagine, my also very competitive compatriots quickly turned on me; refusing to ally or even acknowledge me. Despite this I did manage to gain 3 colonies and negotiate once or twice with others, but to be honest I think it was too little too late. I’d lost three of my home planets, my ability to use my power, and that sense of naïve confidence. They had already decided my fate. Maybe I learned my cruel intentions from them? Who knows.
My first memorable win was when I played as the loser, ironically. If I ever lost while I was the main player, I won. Completely optional so I could pick and choose. That time I didn’t reveal until near the end of the game. However that wasn’t my great victory. Two of my friends, A and J, had an awkward obsession with always allying with one another. Not helpful for anyone else.. Through sheer spite, I made it my aim to make them be unable to stand one another. I got one of them as an ally whilst attacking the other, said I’d negotiate, and played an attack card. I have no clue how the table wasn’t flipped, as it was not only 6 ships they lost, nor just the planet, but their trust in each other and me. I forced a joint win between myself and J, whilst systematically upsetting A. Of course off the table we’re all great friends, but the rules of the table are different.
- It’s different nearly every time
- It’s hard to predict what will happen when you start playing
- Discussion can aid the play of cards
- Not tremendously difficult to learnYou don’t need the gift of the gab to negotiate well, how you’ve played shows your abilities during play
- Lots of expansions available, extending play styles and introducing new mechanics
- You get a particular play style behind you and you become very predictable
- A lack of balance.. Some aliens are way more powerful than others
- It’s not an easy game to sell to newcomers; the word negotiate can put those less confident off
- Cards don’t always aid aliens; having an alien that increase attack power doesn’t help when you have a hand full of negotiate cards
- You’ll become spiteful and vindictive towards all you love.