How to Play the Cosmic Encounter Board Game
Playing Cosmic Encounter
Those who learn how to play Cosmic Encounter will find themselves in an epic clash to determine the new masters of the universe. A versatile product, Cosmic Encounter can be played by anywhere from two to ten players, and more than 50 alien races are available, each with a unique power that allows them the break the rules of the game. Players, meanwhile, are encouraged to form alliances and engage in plenty of back-stabbing.
First published by Eon Games in 1977, Cosmic Encounter was reprinted in 1991 and won the Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Boardgame. It has been the subject of several revisions and reprints since that time, and the enduring popularity of the game is a testament to its variety and challenging nature. An online version was made available in 2003, and the designer of Magic: The Gathering has even cited Cosmic Encounter as the main influence for his popular strategy card game.
If you want to learn how to play Cosmic Encounter, youíve come to the right place. Weíll provide an overview of how the game works, as well as offering some Cosmic Encounter strategy to get help you along your way.
Cosmic Encounter Instructions
The basic Cosmic Encounter instructions allow for three to five players, and the average game should take one to two hours. Each player will take on the role of a specific alien race, with your goal being to become the first player to get five colonies outside of your home planet system.
Players begin with five planets in their home system, plus a handful of playing cards. There is also a deck of cards to draw from during play (which includes encounters and artifacts), as well as a deck of destiny cards. To complete setup, players receive four starships for each of their five starting worlds.
While not addressed in the basic Cosmic Encounter instructions, the game has a number of variants that can add a new dimension to gameplay. These can be found in various editions, but youíll need to buy them all to have full access. These include moon bases, temporary new powers, money, advanced technology, and reward cards. While the game is usually played with three to six players, variants also exist that allow for anywhere from two to ten participants. Players have also been known to come up with their own house rules, and these can range from the ingenious to the downright bizarre.
Cosmic Encounter Rules
The 50 alien races included in the basic Cosmic Encounter rules are as follows: Amoeba, Anti-Matter, Barbarian, Calculator, Chosen, Citadel, Clone, Cudgel, Dictator, Fido, Filch, Fodder, Gambler, Grudge, Hacker, Hate, Healer, Human, Kamikaze, Loser, Machine, Macron, Masochist, Mind, Mirror, Miser, Mite, Mutant, Observer, Oracle, Pacifist, Parasite, Philanthropist, Reincarnator, Remora, Reserve, Shadow, Sorcerer, Spiff, Tick-Tock, Trader, Tripler, Vacuum, Virus, Void, Vulch, Warpish, Warrior, Will, and Zombie.
Alien races are chosen at random before gameplay begins. If a player is ever reduced to less than three colonies in their home system, their special racial power will become inactive until that number can be restored. It should be noted that some aliens are harder to play than others, and each card will rank a species on the level of experience needed to properly use them.
Encounters are broken up into seven phases, and this is where alien races meet to negotiate or wage war with one another. Alliances can be made, and drawing from the Destiny Deck will determine both your opponent for a conflict and where the showdown will take place.
A player who wins an encounter may occupy a planet, while the loser will find his ships lost inside the Warp. Donít worry if this happens, as you may be able to retrieve these lost ships at a later time.
Cosmic Encounter Strategy
If youíre looking for a little Cosmic Encounter strategy to help your winning percentage, try out these tactics the next time you decide to try and conquer the universe.
No Offensive Alliances - If you want to make offensive alliances with your opponents, you might as well go ahead and hand them the game on a silver player. Do not, I repeat, do not make offensive alliances with your opponents.
Powers Are Overrated - While powers do play a major part in Cosmic Encounter, thereís more to the game than whatís printed on the card in front of you. Above all else, Cosmic Encounter is a card game, and the political aspect of gameplay shouldnít be dismissed, either. Before you get tunnel vision regarding your special power, keep this in mind.
Weigh Alliances Carefully - Donít rush into alliances just because another player makes you an offer. Consider alliances carefully before you make them, or you might just end up as someoneís junior partner.
The Biggest Return - If you have an encounter, try to gauge your chances of coming out on top. If you feel you may lose, then donít bother committing as many ships. In fact, you might want to commit no ships at all and just concede the contest. Or, you can always try to negotiate and walk away with at least something. If you feel your chances are strong, play the card that should give you the most return on your investment (even if itís not your most powerful attack).
Fighting the Zombie - The race known as the Zombie can give players fits, so you should consider ganging up on him from the beginning. I also suggest using the Cosmic Zap whenever possible, and the Negotiate card is useful if youíre being attacked by the Zombie.
Fighting the Warrior - If you find yourself up against someone with the Warrior race, I suggest all players gang up on them as soon as the game begins. This may sound like common sense, but you would be amazed at how many new players overlook this simple strategy.
Fighting the Oracle - The Oracle is another pain to play against, but the following races can give them fits by either limiting their hand or changing cards after they play: Trader, Will, Sorcerer, Chosen, Fodder, and Reserves.
Learning how to play Cosmic Encounter should be a priority for fans of science fiction. Itís a galaxy-spanning adventure that gives players a wide range of tactics and powers to experiment with. Iíve played the game dozens of times, and itís still as fresh as the first time I opened the box.
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