19 December 2018
An update for a classic that remains out of this world
It’s 42 years since Cosmic Encounter was first released, and Fantasy Flight has released a special anniversary edition. While as special editions go it’s not really that special, we’ll jump at any excuse to revisit the game that inspired Magic: The Gathering.
Quick summary: you win by establishing five colonies on other players’ planets, which you do by invasion or negotiation. The game tells you which player you must attack, both sides call for allies, there’s negotiation and bluff, and the conflict is resolved.
What that makes Cosmic Encounter special is that everyone’s an alien, and every alien has a power that breaks the rules. Want to flip the result of any battle so the winner loses and the loser wins? Be the Loser! Want to possess other players’ hands? Be the Demon! Or any of 51 different species and powers, all of them game-changing.
This one idea, simple gameplay skewed by special abilities, is old hat these days, but that hat dates from 1977 when the first edition of Cosmic Encounter made it look good. These days it may be a bit battered and a little out of fashion, but it’s still a damn fine hat.
The 42nd Anniversary Edition is the 2008 edition with new cover art, one new alien, plastic ships that are translucent instead of opaque and minor rules tweaks. It’s hard to imagine that anyone except the fanniest of fans will feel the need to upgrade. On the other hand this is no deluxe veterans-only box; it’s newcomer-friendly, including a rules explanation in comic-book form.
If you only play one game this year… then you’re probably reading the wrong website. But if you’ve never played Cosmic Encounter you should, and this is a great place to start.
Designer: Bill Eberle, Jack Kittredge, Peter Olotka, Bill Norton
Time: 1-2 hours
This review originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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