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Archive for the ‘Board Games’ Category

Close Encounters of the Cosmic Kind

In Board Games on January 5, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Last week for New Year’s Eve, I had quite a crazy time.  Being in New York, you can only imagine.  Yeah, I can’t lie.  Things got pretty intense.  Maybe you’re imagining a excessive debaucherous, bacchanalian experience or some kind of intense riot in the streets.  If that is your idea of a crazy time, you’re not being creative enough.  Such worldly excess might be a party for you, but I find that I need the party to get fucking cosmic before it ranks in my book.  Cosmic, as in Cosmic Encounters, the life-altering board game I played for hours over the New Year’s weekend.

Anyone still there?

Alright, alright.  I know a board game might seem like a weak way to bring in the new year but you are forgetting a few things.  1) I pretty much hate large, loud parties where you know few people, those few people are wasted and puking, and you start counting the minutes when you can go home the minute you get there.  2) I hate going out on nights when EVERYONE goes out, leading to crowded subways filled with wasted, belligerent douch-b’s.  On the otherhand, I really like small get-togethers where you can hang out, have conversations with people you like, and drink an appropriate amount of good alcohol for a fair price.  With that scenario, board games actually work very well.

I haven't had this much fun with the contents of one box since I saw the end of Se7en.

And what a game!  I swear, I’ve always like board games alright.  I settled Catan more than a few times and I consider myself more than a casual fan of Trivial Pursuit. Cosmic Encounters, however, takes it to a whole new level.  It appears, at first glance, to be a standard take over the world (or in this case, galaxy) game along the lines of Risk or Axis and Allies.  Once you start playing, it becomes entirely different.  The point of the game is to spread colonies into other people’s territories by making short-term alliances and battling the defending forces.  Nothing new so far, I agree.  The game has two main points that make it shine, however.

One, the game uses a random deck of cards with each player getting a hand.  The combat mechanic is about trying to figure out what your opponent is going to do, then deciding which one of your cards is the right one for that situation.  Maybe a bad idea to waste the powerful attack when you expect the enemy has a weak hand?  Maybe time to play a well-timed negotiate to strengthen your hand for next round?  These are things to think about.

The other, major point is the use of alien powers.  These are chosen at the beginning of the game and each one is unique to each player.  They give all kinds of crazy special abilities that pretty much rewrite the rules of the game for each player.  If you have the Oracle power, you can see what card the other side is playing before you decide which card you should play.  If you have the Pacifist power, you can beat any attack card by playing a negotiation card.  Not just perks, mind you, but entirely game changing super abilities that require players to drastically change how they play the game.

Here is the power Stephen used to win.

And here is the power I used to force him to share his victory with me, turning him into the drooling, dim-witted thrall you see before you.

What this means, then, is that each game is a radically different experience, with different players with different powers doing different things every round.  Each game is predictable only in that you have no idea what is going to happen each turn.  Also, it means one game is not enough.  Or two.  Or a handful.  I probably got in a baker’s dozen games over the weekend and I left wanting more.  Seriously, I want to play right this minute.

So, I went on a Cosmic Encounter bender this weekend and I’m counting the minutes until I can do it again.