Every board game should have an element of randomness so that no two rounds may be alike. The degree of randomness employed by Cosmic Encounter is so amazing that it rivals even Betrayal at House on the Hill.
Put simply, you take the role of an alien race and set off to colonize your opponents’ planets while trying desperately to guard your own as well. The randomness comes in from the fifty different alien species in the game. Each species is quite unique in terms of appearance (complimented with stellar artwork), biography, and skill. This uniqueness plays so strongly that each round is as different as the last.
The best part is how these aliens work off each other. For more advanced aliens, a lot of strategizing comes into play as you try to outwit your opponent. Some aliens can even counteract other aliens’ powers which makes the game that more interesting.
Unlike other board games, such as Settlers of Catan, where you can actively attempt to screw another player over, Cosmic Encounter makes it so you have no choice whatsoever who you can attack. Destiny cards, another element of randomness in the game, are flipped over near the beginning of your turn. These destiny cards will more often than not display a species color. Whoever is playing that color, say blue or green, you have to attack them and them only. This is only excused if you have an alien race that says otherwise.
Once the attacking and defending race have been established, both sides can call upon allies to help them out. This is another fun aspect of the game. Alliances can break and form very easily. What your actions were in the previous round can affect who will join you and who will stop you from conquering the galaxy. Even so, this is definitely a friendly game that will leave no traces of bitterness when it’s through.
After alliances are forged, the attacking and defending characters play their encounter cards which usually have numbers on them. These numbers are then added up with the ships all the players have on each side and the player with the most points wins the game. Negotiate cards also add to the fun as well and create a “Gambler’s Dilemma.” If both players use a negotiate cards then both can work out a reasonable deal. However, if one player plays a number card and the other a negotiate card then the player with the negotiate card loses (which can add some trickery to the game if you decide to lie what cards you have).
In my opinion, the game works best with all five players. Like the Resistance, Cosmic Encounter thrives on human interactions and whereas other board games can start to feel bloated or slow with five players, Cosmic Encounter is full of energy.
Buy it? Buy it if you’re looking for a low instruction, high interactive game. If you’re also looking for a game that has a high degree of playability (i.e. randomness) then this is the way to go.
Leave it? Leave it if you’re looking for a more strategic game. This also takes at least an hour to play so if you’re looking for something shorter then move on.