August Spotlight - Cosmic Encounter
Every month at For The Win Board Game Cafe we'll be spotlighting a game of our choice. We'll give an in-depth look at either a new release or a game we feel very passionate about.
This month, we take a look at my #1 favourite game of all-time - Cosmic Encounter. We'll be taking a deep dive into what makes this game a very special one, that has maintained its status for years.
In Cosmic Encounter, players represent a unique Alien species granted with their own special ability. Players are assigned 20 stackable ships which they will use to defends their 5 home planets, while attempting to colonize 5 foreign colonies on the opposing planets, in order to claim victory. You do not choose your target, instead the Destiny deck will determine who you will Encounter every turn.
Alliances are built and betrayed, as the players outside of the Encounter may be invited to assist either the offence or defence. And even the two combatants can negotiate to find a beneficial common ground. Cosmic Encounter is one of few games that encourages players to win together, and therefore makes winning alone feel like a major accomplishment. Diplomacy plays a big factor in finding a road to victory.
Cosmic Encounter is an engine that has multiple components that can be swapped in and out to best suit the desired experience for its players. The level of variability is what keeps the game fresh and exciting at every turn. From different Alien species, various Technology and game-changing Flare cards, each aspect of the game contributes to a memorable experience.
There is a certain "wow-factor" when setting up the game for the first time. Each component of the game is carefully thought-out. The stackable ships which sit on double-sided coloured planets. The foreign colony tracker along the outside of the Warp. The funky looking cone-shaped, Hyperspace Gate. Everything feels very specifically Cosmic Encounter, to the point of creating its own adjective.
The shining stars of the game are undoubtedly the oversized Alien cards. The designs are memorable and really support the character of each race. Playing with new Aliens for the first time always draws "ooh's" and "ahh's" around the table. The base game comes with 50 unique Aliens, and with the many expansions out now (and in the near future), that total eventually climbs to 195 distinct and fresh Alien designs. Each Alien is designated with a colour (green, yellow & red) representing its difficulty to use. This helps ease the process of finding the appropriate game set-up for each game group.
Since acquiring the Cosmic Encounter IP, Fantasy Flight Games has produced nothing but quality. Contrasting the original 1977 Eon version with the updated FFG version is a real eye-opener. Sure, there's a certain 70's charm to the original art, but the updated designs won't leave anyone disappointed.
I love Cosmic Encounter. It's the only game I've played over a hundred times. Any time someone asks me what my favourite game is, the answer is always the same. It's managed to stay at the top of many people's lists, even dating back to the original 1977 version. If you've ever watched or followed The Dice Tower, you probably already know that it's been #1 on Tom Vasel's list for a long time.
You can purchase just the base-game and get years of play, without ever playing the same game twice. When you add in all of the expansions, which add new modular mechanics, new and refreshed Aliens, and even more planets and ships to increase the player count, you have a game that can easily last decades.
Biases aside, Cosmic Encounter is an experience that I would recommend every gamer to at least try once. It may not be for everyone, especially not for those incapable of handling betrayal. But for what it does deliver, it's one of the best options on the market.