The Meeple’s Eye View is an in depth review of one of the many games in our board game library.
As the leader of a powerful alien race, you now look beyond your home system, dreaming of cosmic domination. But as you prepare your ships to enter the hyperspace gate, you worry that other alien races might share your dreams of galactic conquest…
Theme: Sci-Fi, Aliens, Negotiation
Number of Players: 3-5 (Up to 8 with expansions)
Game Time: 60-120 minutes
Age Appropriateness: 12 and up
Game Type: Galactic Conquest
Game Play: A game of Cosmic Encounter begins with each player choosing a color to represent their alien race. They then take the five planets and twenty ships of their chosen color. Each player places their ships on top of each of their planets in stacks of four, this forms the players home colonies. Players also add their color cards to the Destiny Deck and shuffle it. The Warp and Hyperspace Gate are placed so that all players can reach them. Two Flare Cards are dealt to each player and the player takes the alien sheets corresponding to the Flares dealt and secretly chooses one. The ten Flare Cards are then shuffled into the Cosmic Deck and players are dealt a hand of eight cards. A player is randomly select to go first, and the game begins. The goal of Cosmic Encounter is to establish five colonies outside your home system through warfare, negotiation, and subterfuge.
In Cosmic Encounter, a player’s turn is broken into several phases. During a player’s turn they will become the offensive player and will have to encounter one of their opponents who in turn becomes the defensive player. Over the course of the game, players will lose ships for various reasons, and must place them in the Warp. During the Regroup Phase, the player will retrieve one ship from the Warp and place it on any of his colonies. Afterwards, the player begins the Destiny Phase where he draws a Destiny Card to determine which other player he must have an encounter with. Then the player begins the Launch Phase by taking the Hyperspace Gate and pointing it at one planet – belonging to the player indicated by the Destiny Deck – and places one to four ships on it. The offensive and defensive players are then free to invite any of the other players to join them during the Alliance Phase. These players may then choose to join either the offense or defense, by adding one to four ships on it, or to abstain.
After allying players have made their decisions, the Planning Phase begins. The offensive player and defensive player each choose an Encounter Card from their hand to play and place it face down in front of them. Next, during the Reveal Phase, the Encounter Cards are revealed, and their effects are resolved. The outcome of the encounter depends upon the Encounter Cards chosen. There are three types of Encounter Cards: Attack, Negotiate, and Morph. If both players played an Attack Card, then the highest total of ships and card(s) is victorious. If both players played Negotiate Cards, then they have one minute to talk out a deal, usually involving the exchange of colonies, and/or cards. If one player played an Attack and one player played a Negotiate Card, the negotiating player loses, but is able to claim compensation by taking cards from his opponent. Then, all played cards are discarded. If any player plays a Morph Card it becomes a copy of whatever his opponent played.
Finally, players then move to the Resolution Phase where the outcome of the encounter is resolved. If the offense is victorious, the offensive player and his allies establish a colony. If the defensive player wins the encounter, his defensive allies gain their choice of rewards – either ships back from the warp or cards from the deck. All ships from the losing side go to the Warp. If the players successfully make a deal, they execute its terms. If the offensive player had a successful encounter, he may choose to have a second encounter if he wishes.
This is the basic flow of the game, but each player’s alien power allows him to break certain game rules. For instance, the Zombies’ ships never go to the Warp, the Clone gets to keep his encounter cards rather than discarding them, and the Oracle is able to see the card his opponent plays before choosing his own. With 50 Alien Powers in the base game alone, Cosmic Encounter offers nearly limitless possibility. Players also have access to powerful Flares and Artifacts. Artifacts offer powerful one time use effects, such as denying compensation, blocking alliances, or even negating a player’s alien power for a turn! Flares, on the other hand, may be played once per turn and then return to the player’s hand, ready for use next turn!
Component Quality: The components of Cosmic Encounter are the same high quality we have come to expect from Fantasy Flight Games. The artwork enhances the heavy science fiction theme of the game. Each Alien race has its own power card with its own unique artwork and flavor text. The other cards are high quality, but are rather plain, lacking flavor text and art on the card faces. This is my only gripe with the component quality. I suppose the intent was to keep the game concise by trimming unnecessary text. All of the cardboard components are of high quality and feature fantastic artwork. The ship tokens are also of fantastic quality and are made from injected-molded plastic in a variety of colors.
My Take: It is no secret that Cosmic Encounter is one of my all-time favorite games. It meets and exceeds all of the criterion by which I judge a game. The theme is strong with this one, exuding a robust yet fun Sci-Fi theme. The game offers ample opportunities for negotiation, subterfuge, betrayal, and surprises. The game also offers infinite replay value. With all of the expansions to date, there are over 160 Alien Powers. The possible combinations and interactions are nearly limitless. No other game offers the variety that Cosmic Encounter does. Period. My only minor gripe is that some of the interactions between alien powers and cards can be a little confusing, but a quick flip through the rules or FAQ usually clears up any confusion. There is actually a Wiki article on Board Game Geek dedicated to answering these questions.
Expansions and Replay-ability: As I mentioned above, Cosmic Encounter offers immense replay value. You will never play the same game twice. The game currently has five expansions: Cosmic Conflict, Cosmic Incursion, Cosmic Alliance, Cosmic Storm, and Cosmic Dominion. The expansions add more players, Alien Power Cards, Cosmic Cards, and more!
The base game includes Technology Cards that allow you to dedicate your ships to developing technology that might give you an edge as you conquer the galaxy. The Cosmic Conflict expansion adds Hazards Cards which cause unusual conditions to occur during encounters. Cosmic Incursion adds a Reward Deck containing powerful cards for defensive allies. Cosmic Storm adds Space Stations which provide powerful bonuses for the planet they are attached to. Cosmic Alliance adds Cosmic Cards for large groups of players. Finally, Cosmic Dominion expands upon the previously mentioned expansions as well as the base game. I recommend picking up the base game and all of its expansions for the ultimate Cosmic Encounters experience!
Karington Hess is a lifelong gamer whose passions for hospitality and all things game-related led him to Ravenwood Castle, where he served as an Innkeeper before joining The Malted Meeple. When not pouring beers, crafting milkshakes, or teaching boardgames, Karington can be found behind the DM’s screen, weaving intricate stories for his fellow gamers.