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TOPIC: Cosmic Encounter

Cosmic Encounter 14 Jun 2017 19:37 #249899

I keep seeing this game show up on the top 5's for ameritrash games and I'm confused. I watched a review or overview from Tom Vasel a while back and came away thinking this game doesn't look as fun as he claims it is. Tom and I don't agree often enough for me to take his word on it, especially after I feel like he tricked me into buying and playing that boring ass Ticket to Ride. (It's not that it's bad, it just wasn't fun and at no point did I give two shits who won or lost). So now I'm super skeptical when I see a game on everyone's list but it looks boring to me.

With that in mind, someone PLEASE point me to a good review / game-play / something, preferably YouTube where the person really captures the game well to show me the error of my ways or that I should pass and be OK with it. I don't want to slog through random channels for a game I already don't want yet.

Thanks, or come-on please? Depending on what you plan to do.
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Cosmic Encounter 14 Jun 2017 20:06 #249901

If you're going to rely on Youtube videos to tell you whether a game is good or not, then I can't help you. Even Vasel, who's a solid reviewer, can't easily give you the flavor of a game that is literally one of the foundations of modern boardgame design. CE was the game that basically introduced the concept of different players interacting with the same rule set in different ways. It's also the best beer-and-pretzels game ever invented because crazy, random shit happens constantly and you have to learn to adapt to the parameters at hand (i.e. what the other players and flares can do.) If you don't like that or don't like games that absolutely require interaction across the table or don't like the thought of trying to make what looks like an impossible alien power actually function well enough to win (i.e. not figure out how best to exploit the rules or design, but how best to turn a poor situation into a winning one), then you won't like CE. If any of that interests you, then you should really enjoy it.
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Cosmic Encounter 14 Jun 2017 20:15 #249903

Cosmic is the best game ever designed. Period. There is no better gameplay concept (each player has a unique rule-breaking power) and it is one that informs virtually everything after. It takes the notion of mutual dependency and alliances of conveniences that was in Diplomacy, where each player has a very different starting position, and that serves as a fulcrum for the way players interact in the game. You can't win without help, which means usually that you have to choose who moves up with you. But the Cosmic Edict mechanic prohibits long-term collusion and forces you to alter your partnerships virtually every turn.

But there's more to it. The combat mechanics not only require players to bring others onboard and offer kickbacks, they also allow for strategic loss and the classic douchebag maneuver of luring folks to your side and throwing the fight. Playing the number cards is hugely compelling- I actually like getting a terrible hand because it forces you to be resourceful. Of course, what a terrible hand is varies depending on your alien.

It is a wildly volatile game, and this is a spot where it abraids against modern gaming sensibilities. It will not provide you with a stable experience, and there is absolutely no "fixed" way to succeed. You might play a game where player personalities, powers, and cards just don't line up quite right and it won't be the best example of the game. But the next session might be extraordinary, hilarious, dramatic, ridiculous, complex, or all of the above.

It is also absolutely a game best played with friends- not convention randos. I've been playing with my group for 8-9 years, and there is such a complex legacy of events that it really puts so-called legacy games to shame. I am, for example, forbidden from playing Filch. This comes from an incident where I filched almost the entire encounter card deck. We don't need to write on the game to remember.

It is obviously a highly social, highly interactive game which there again rewards familiarity not just with the gameplay and options but also with other players. All the good stuff is here- bluffing, stonewalling, patronage, backstabbing, reneged deals, and plain old lying. If you want to play a heads down tableau examination game, this is not it.

Finally, there is a purity of execution that is remarkable. There really isn't much to it. We've had too many players before and drew planets on a piece of paper (all named for Chinese restaraunts once, another time the cities of Dutchland- long story) and used crackers for ships.

This is the one true game, and the one I would save if I had to get rid of everything but one.
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Cosmic Encounter 14 Jun 2017 22:14 #249906

I have the Fantasy Flight edition and the first three expansions. I think it's just okay. Not great, not good. It's basically a party game with a lot of extraneous mechanics. Party game, because it's mostly an excuse to hang out with people, and thus the amount of fun you have is 100% unreliable and falls flat way more often than more structured games.

Of course in a perfect world you would only play games with a group that is all your BFFs and is 100% on all the time. In that case, CE is perfect. In the real world, CE is a crapshoot that has failed for me too many times.

You can buy mine if you want. No box inserts but it's all sleeved.
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Cosmic Encounter 14 Jun 2017 22:51 #249910

It's the only game I need, I can tell you that.

Here's what people who don't like Cosmic Encounter will tell you: that it's a chaotic mess, that it's all random with no thought. The truth is that it really rewards lots of different kinds of play. Mechanical nuance, long range planning, sneaky diplomatic tricks, ridiculous chaotic card play, the good Cosmic Encounter player needs to be able to do all of those things.

But like Michael says, it doesn't reward any of those things in the same measure from game to game. You can never be good enough at something to win every time, because the circumstances change constantly. Roll with it, or you get left behind.

Here's the thing I've noticed: people don't like leaving a game experience to something as flaky as humans. It's one reason board gamers keep trying to pull RPGs away from their volatile human origins, and it's one reason some people just can't handle Cosmic Encounter. But more than any other board game, Cosmic Encounter makes humanity its central mechanic. The amazing thing about that is that it totally works.
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Cosmic Encounter 15 Jun 2017 01:16 #249916

If you're desperate for a play-though video, this is probably the best one out there:
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Cosmic Encounter 15 Jun 2017 04:38 #249922

san il defanso wrote:
Here's what people who don't like Cosmic Encounter will tell you: that it's a chaotic mess, that it's all random with no thought. The truth is that it really rewards lots of different kinds of play. Mechanical nuance, long range planning, sneaky diplomatic tricks, ridiculous chaotic card play, the good Cosmic Encounter player needs to be able to do all of those things.

I'm not going to argue with this, but I do think that's not the key reason why people don't like Cosmic Encounter. The real reason is that it's an oddly-structured, confusing game which - even 40 years after release - plays like almost nothing else out there. It takes a number of games to get a handle on what's going on and, thanks to those variable powers, there's a not insignificant chance some of those plays won't work well.

So it's very easy to give up on. I almost did. It was only the endless enthusiasm shown by fans of the game and the relative ease of getting it to the table that kept me going. Now, I love it. And a big part of that is, I think, the colour-coding on the alien powers in the FFG version. It works a whole lot better with new folk if you just stick to the green aliens. In fact, I can't remember the last time I used the yellow and red ones. And it's still great, even with that reduced selection.
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Cosmic Encounter 15 Jun 2017 08:12 #249927

Yeah, you stated what I meant in a clearer way. It really transcends the accepted genres of board games because it predates most of them. That also means that it really grinds against a lot of expectations modern gamers have.

I've actually had a lot of success introducing the game to either younger or casual gamers. That might be because they are less tied to convention and genre in board games.
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Cosmic Encounter 15 Jun 2017 09:40 #249933

I'm with Dysjunct. It's OK, and can be really fun with the right group.

I traded mine away with an expansion or two for Spartacus and Sekigahara and got WAY more mileage out of those titles.
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Cosmic Encounter 15 Jun 2017 09:56 #249934

I've tried it a few times and never found it fun, or even interesting, even though it was usually with a True Believer yelling about how great a time we were having. I was in a group where a dude got banned for not showing sufficient Cosmic Encounter enthusiasm.

Is there something there? Probably. People who have decent opinions love it. But I am okay with just taking their word for it and letting it pass me by. I already have games I like that I don't need to play 40 times before it will click with me. It's not huge in my main group and I don't feel I'm missing anything.
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Cosmic Encounter 15 Jun 2017 10:17 #249937

Cosmic Encounter is the Velvet Underground of boardgames. It's a good game that influenced many designers and still offers a unique experience. However, the game needs good players to bring it to fully interactive life, and some games still fall a bit flat from time to time. Most of my experience with the game is with the FFG edition and expansions. I am very glad that FFG has avoided using Lucre and Moons, two fiddly and annoying features of the first edition.
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Cosmic Encounter 15 Jun 2017 11:24 #249951

MattDP wrote:
san il defanso wrote:
Here's what people who don't like Cosmic Encounter will tell you: that it's a chaotic mess, that it's all random with no thought. The truth is that it really rewards lots of different kinds of play. Mechanical nuance, long range planning, sneaky diplomatic tricks, ridiculous chaotic card play, the good Cosmic Encounter player needs to be able to do all of those things.

I'm not going to argue with this, but I do think that's not the key reason why people don't like Cosmic Encounter. The real reason is that it's an oddly-structured, confusing game which - even 40 years after release - plays like almost nothing else out there. It takes a number of games to get a handle on what's going on and, thanks to those variable powers, there's a not insignificant chance some of those plays won't work well.
Totally agreed here. I stone cold SMOKE people that haven't played CE before. Like 5-2-1-1-1. I think a lot of folks here would. The game is ending long before new players recognize it. It's not a timed affair where we tally points at the end of Round 7. It's over when I was able to Ally with you on your second turn and had six cards. Obviously, more experienced players should be winning games, but there's a Dunning-Kruger effect in CE where the new players don't even know what they don't know. That can be off-putting, because despite understanding the (pretty simple) rules, they don't get the game at all the first couple of times they play.
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Cosmic Encounter 15 Jun 2017 13:22 #249964

I think what some players find off-putting is how you can play for an hour and then everyone is sitting at 4 planets and then three of the players form an alliance and share a group hug win. It doesn't bother me at all but I could see how it might.

Although I own all but two of the Eon expansions (and I think I have three base set copies still) my favourite edition of the game was the West End version. It had a good mix of powers which all could compete in any given game. I haven't really delved into the FF era editions, but they seem to have done a good job on it.

Cosmic Encounter is a gem. It has some of my favourite late high school / college era memories in gaming. So many all night 3 player games.. i actually think 3 players may be the sweet spot.

~mb
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Cosmic Encounter 15 Jun 2017 13:53 #249966

I have played dozens of games of Cosmic Encounter, and none of them have been with three players. I was under the impression it wasn't very good, but now I'm interested to try.

In the interest of balancing out my rapturous first post, here are some potential reasons you might NOT like Cosmic Encounter:

- Many times the game comes down to a well-placed knife that will only be anticipated by an experienced player. For example, an experienced played will know to keep an eye on the Attack 40, and to track where it is. Otherwise it can appear at inopportune times in the late game.

- As stated previously in this thread, the game often comes to a point where everyone has four colonies, and one thing will slide into place giving one or more players the win. This comes from groups that invite pretty much whoever to ally all the time. A lot of people really don't like this, but I don't mind.

- For those who like strategy, four or five people is about the only player count that will work there. Four players can be VERY intense, and with four evenly-matched people it's one of the most nuanced games out there. Once you start adding expansions, the game becomes really goofy really quickly. Not so bad that you don't have to play well, but the swings become progressively more extreme as you add players.

- Players can share wins. I think this is a necessary element of the design, to allow people with bad hands to still finangle their way to victory. But I know a lot of people who don't like it. One friend of mine said a shared win was like "kissing your sister."

- This is more a problem for people who buy tons of expansions, but the actual volume of really GOOD alien powers can shift wildly between expansions. Now that we are well over 200 of them, there is a lot of redundancy in the aliens available, some of which results in lousy aliens.

- It requires a patient teacher who can sell it as you go. It requires someone to both break down the structure of the game, promote the more free-wheeling atmosphere the game deserves, but to still play seriously. This is a tough thing to do.

There are other reasons that others have stated here. I'm just trying to balance out my earlier gushing (which was absolutely not hyperbole in my mind).
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Cosmic Encounter 15 Jun 2017 14:16 #249968

My first play through fell flat, and I was definitely with the right group of people to enjoy it. However, I was not the right person at the time. It took awhile to see its brilliance and that had to do with me. You definitely need the right group of people, of course, like any game. But until you're ready to accept it on its own terms for what it offers, then it's just okay at best.
I am envious of those who have regular groups to play ce, because I think it's one of the best games made.
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