Power Review for FFG Base Aliens
Here are thoughts on what I think of the mix, the changes, the newbies, and whatever else occurs to me. I didn't bother writing down exactly what every alien does in great detail- but you can look these guys up with The Amazing Power Thingy.
Amoeba [*] (Eon) - No changes to Amoeba, which has been around since the beginnings of CE. This is a pretty good alien to have, but one that involves some gambling. You can get more ships into the encounter if you think that will tip the balance (but it's before cards are revealed). It's often used to escape from losing battles, which is also nice.
Anti-Matter [*] (Eon) - This is one of my favorites, and part of the balancing mechanism for the Virus. No changes for this alien either. The mix of cards in the deck make it a challenge to beat AM, but not impossible. Reinforcements can be played on either side, so you can add to HIS total when you need the points.
Barbarian [*] (New) - This is certainly a good power to have... win an encounter, demoralize your opponent by taking his cards. It's like compensation for not losing. Barbarian is Hacker for winners. He's powerful, but it's offset by his use only as offense. Combine Barbarian with Machine and look out.
Calculator [*] (Eon) - This is the original version (not the double the lower card version that Mayfair used). Calculator is another one of the "can you outsmart your opponent" aliens that I like. How high of a card should I play? Although sometimes Calc ends up outsmarting himself.
Chosen [*] (Mayfair) - Chosen was originally a good idea for a power, but in my experience it almost never helped him win a challenge. This was a great candidate for tweaking, which is exactly what happened. The new Chosen has teeth. He flips over 3 cards, and he can replace his played card with any of them, or combine attacks together. This is now an alien that will be useful more often than not (a complete turnaround).
Citadel [*] (New) - This is an alien that you start to discover its value the more you play with it. Initially, it's just a way to beef up your defenses at home. Later in the game, it's insurance against being attacked on any of your external bases. The great thing about Citadel is dumping less useful Attack cards from your hand- it's like a Philanthropist for yourself. You can also influence where the leaders make their attacks late in the game, increasing your chances of staying in the race. This will be a lot more fun combined with other aliens like Dictator, and Terrorist (well, in my set anyway).
Clone [*] (Eon) - This classic alien is as clean and elegant as they come- no changes needed. He keeps his own card... nuff said.
Cudgel [*] (New) - Of course I like Cudgel... The first homemade alien I ever created was just like it. It's great for intimidation. Cudgel is a reverse Vacuum (which makes for a brutal combination, by the way)- when you lose to him, you lose big. Only Zombie is unafraid of him. Having Healer in a game with Cudgel lessens the blow (pun intended), but it's no guarantee you won't get smacked hard (pun again).
Dictator [*] (Eon) - Dictator is an alien that was easy to abuse, and that is why I like the change that was made. It's more strategic to play with now as well. Instead of just sending everyone to attack the same player every single encounter (which you could do before), the Dictator now controls the Destiny deck. Dictator must now plan ahead and think about who he wants to attack whom.
Fido [*] (New) - This is an old school homebrew that's probably in everyone's set that includes homebrew powers. Very simple concept- grab a discarded card and offer it to someone. If they don't want it, it's yours. If they do, you get a reward for giving it to them. Fido wins either way. Like Barbarian, you can end up with several low value cards, but if you have Flares in your hand you like, having some buffer to prevent a new hand draw is a good thing. Fido and Citadel make a fun combo.
Filch [*] (Eon) - The yang of Clone's yin. The double flare treatment for Filch is comical, but that's part of Eon's colorful history.
Fodder [*] (New) - This is one of my aliens, and I'm happy it was included. I like Fodder because it helps you cycle through your hand faster (the opposite strategy for something like Fido or Barbarian), but it also stands a chance against Virus. The trick is the spread between Attack values... the extra cards you play must fall between yours and your opponent's. If Virus tries to go for a really high total with a high Attack card, he sets himself up for many lower cards adding to your total. If he plays lower, he might fall prey to your really high card you were saving for him.
Gambler [*] (Eon) - I always liked the bluffing aspect with Gambler. He waits for his opponent to reveal his card before "declaring" what he played. It gets even more tense when players know he has a good card. Ergo, Gambler and Clone made an awesome combo.
Grudge [*] (Eon) - This alien has been tweaked ever so slightly, making for a pretty nasty mamma jamma. It's now in the other player's best interest to help Grudge win if they get invited. In the other versions of Grudge, players were penalized heavily if Grudge won without them. However, if Grudge invited a lot of people who decline, it wasn't likely Gudge would get to use his power. That's why Mayfair gave him a little more grudginess. But now, he punishes you for not helping a little if he wins, and a LOT if he loses. He's much meaner now.
Hacker [*] (New) - This is Violin from Gerald Katz, and it's a simple alien: collect compensation from anyone, and take the cards you want. It becomes Hacker's strategy to Negotiate early and often- either piling up a great hand for later in the game, or getting some deal situations early for bases. Combined with Fodder, a formidable combo. I like the name change... something more intimidating about a Hacker messing with you than a cosmic violin soaring through space.
Hate [*] (New) - Hate is potentially very nasty- tempered only by the fact that he may only get to use his power once per game, usually twice at the most. When Hate comes in later, he has more of a chance of knocking out some bases, as most players won't have as many cards. Aliens like Fodder and Citadel need to make sure they aren't running low on attacks. Hate can sacrifice a good card like a Flare, knowing there's only about 10 in the deck, and either most players won't have them, or at the very least they won't anymore. When Hate comes up early in the game, he levels the playing field a little his first time through, and increases the chance of getting another turn later in the game (meaning high chance of dire consequences). I like Hate for its different feel to the game- something I value highly in CE.
Healer [*] (Eon) - Healer is the same old healer. He's good to have when you want to build up your hand (to hold onto a flare for instance). Healer doesn't like having Zombie and Observer in the game, and Void doesn't like having Healer in the game.
Human [*] (New) - Human is simple and fun. +4 every encounter is nothing to scoff at. The real insidious part of Human is the immunity to Cosmic Zap- though it goes one higher. Human not only can't really be zapped, but wins automatically if he is. This may unbalance him a little. I would have either simply made Human immune to being zapped, or I would have required him to be zapped by another player in order to take advantage of his auto-win. The latter would be a rare occurrence when his side wouldn't play the zap (but certainly not an absolute given), and maddening when Human himself has the zap but can't use it.
Kamikaze [*] (New) - This is different from the homebrew versions of Kamikaze that are already out there. It's a great alien for getting some more cards in your hand. It will be tougher to use him if he's researching a big Tech. Kamikaze also won't enjoy playing with Mite. My guess is that Healer can heal Kamikaze.
Loser [*] (Eon) - This is the highest rated alien of all time (from a couple different polls of CE nerds around the cosmos, myself included). The Mayfair version is being used, so no Upsets unless Loser is a main player... the elegant nature of changing the goal of your encounter- helps him take on Virus and Anti-Matter in equal measures.
Machine [*] (Eon) - With 8 card hands, Machine is potentially one encounter more powerful than ever. He hasn't been changed from the Eon version (Mayfair's restricted him to two Moon challenges per turn- and if Moons get implemented in FFG, it will be interesting to see how Machine is handled). I like this alien, though I've had mixed success with him. If you lose your first encounter, it's often hard to win with what's left in your hand... but at the same time your opponents are getting their hands whittled down as well.
Macron [*] (Eon) - This is the alien that has been revised the most, so it's no surprise that is was revised by FFG. The issues for Macron were single ship external bases, and not collecting more than 1 reward or compensation in an encounter. With Shadow and Hate in the game, Macron is at risk. He's now more powerful than ever before, collecting 2 cards per ship- thus on defense he can clean up when he loses 4 ships in a Negotiate.
Masochist [*] (New) - This is one of the alternate win aliens included in this set. I've long had alternate win scenarios for CE, but building one into an alien is a nice variation. In that vein, I wouldn't be surprised to see alternate system aliens down the road. Masochist can win the game the normal way (though he has no advantage in doing so since he's essentially powerless the whole game), but can win if all of his ships go to the Warp. This lets Masochist play with reckless abandon (something many players long to do). Ally with 4 ships every time... you'll either get close to winning, or you'll get close to winning the normal way (or stockpile cards all the time). Other players need to start paying attention to Masochist halfway through the game (no handy markers let you know he's on the verge of winning). You must stop asking him to ally, or you have to let him win sometimes. Combine Masochist with Parasite for a speedy game.
Mind [*] (Eon) - Another classic alien that is unchanged. Mind looks at a main player's hand every encounter. It's pretty easy to deduce which aliens he combines well with.
Mirror [*] (Mayfair) - This is a nice alien to include, and Kevin was smart to make the "single" digit Attack cards into double digits by putting a "0" in front, making Mirror conversions a snap. Mirror is flexible enough to take on Anti-Matter as well as Virus. Mirror's reversal should not affect Fodder's additional attack cards.
Miser [*] (Eon) - Beefed up slightly due to 8 card hands. Miser's horde is immune to the Mutant, Barbarian, and Mite (as far as I can tell), and having more cards is always nice.
Mite [*] (CEO) - I'm glad the flavor was changed to "power to bluster" as opposed to "power to cut down to size", which I find clunky. This is a pretty good alien, as he either gets what he wants, or levels the playing field. Mite is a good foil for Barbarian and Hacker, since they will usually have more than 3 cards. If they have things they like a lot, Mite might get a free colony. Having retained Flares in the game also makes Mite more sinister.
Mutant [*] (Eon) - This is the same at the classic Eon version and Mayfair version, but I think it differs slight from the online one. It's a little better though, in that hands are 8 cards now in FFG, rather than 7. Drawing from any players, and from the deck is a nice ability, especially when you know people are holding flares.
Observer [*] (New) - Observer is a mini Zombie when he allies, so he can go all in- and when he's the main player, he'll get a full commitment from anyone he invites, since their no risk to them. Using only the second part of his power was probably not strong enough on its own- but I would probably have preferred not having another alien's power mixed into a new one. Of course on that note, Fodder has some Deuce-like qualities as he's a Deuce that keeps on Deucing (but Fodder is optional, and has some restrictions).
Oracle [*] (Eon) - The epitome of CE, the Oracle is the same as he ever was. He's Fodder's nemesis, since Oracle can play a card that just barely gives him the win (it's a risk with Reinforcements in the game, however).
Pacifist [*] (Eon) - There was debate over whether to include this alien or Empath, since both have similar mechanisms. While I think Empath is a pretty good alien, it's enough like Pacifist that not having both in the same release is wise move. And Pacifist is arguably a little stronger since he doesn't have to give anything away (by making a deal).
Parasite [*] (Eon) - This is a simple and great alien to include, and one of the reasons I like CE with a lot of players. Parasite is one of the reasons players need to consider attacking someone in their own system... he can sneak into a lot of encounters, even if it's only one ship.
Philanthropist [*] (Eon) - One of the most underrated aliens- Philanthropist can weed out the cards he doesn't want very quickly. He can also give a card to an ally to ensure a win. No changes here either.
Reincarnator [*] (Eon) - This is a fun alien to play, simply because you get to tinker with a lot of other aliens (of course, only if you keep getting defeated). No need to change this one.
Remora [*] (New) - Another simple concept for CE- when someone else gets something, so does Remora. He'll never have resource issues, since players will always be retrieving ships and drawing cards. It's nice that most of the new aliens are simple to use- usually new ones get more and more complex (look up Witch and Force to get an idea). Remora also combines well with Fodder, Philanthropist, and Reserve below.
Reserve [*] (Mayfair) - With the inclusion of Reinforcements in this edition, Reserve is a natural alien to include. Here's another alien that makes great use of low Attack cards. He can cycle through his hand faster, and is less prone to Mite's power.
Shadow [*] (Eon) - This is the old Assassin alien, with a gentler moniker. Everyone hates to have their ships whacked, but I love having Shadow in the game because it forces players to think more about how they spread around their ships. You know your system will be coming up frequently, so you have to commit to attacks with more gusto. In most games, allies try to get away with bringing only one or two ships, but they can't afford to be that way with Shadow. Because he adjusts the dynamic of a "normal" game, I am glad he's included.
Sorcerer [*] (Eon) - One of the most fun aliens to play. I like the ones where you have to analyze what you think your opponent might play (low card or high)... will he switch or not?
Spiff [*] (Mayfair) - This is a goofy alien, which is not a criticism. It's fun to try and work out a way to lose the encounter, by a small margin- and Reinforcements help.
Tick-Tock [*] (New) - Like Masochist, Tick-Tock has his own way to win. He has no power to take advantage of during an encounter, but he forces other players to pay attention to what's going on in the game. When Tick-Tock allies with the offense, he's in a win-win situation. I'd be curious to see him combined with Masochist, just for laughs.
Trader [*] (Eon) - An oldie but a goodie. No change- Trader takes his opponent's hand, unloading his own lame cards at the same time. Trader is a great combo with Fodder and Sorcerer.
Tripler [*] (CEO) - This is the other alien from Cosmic Online, and it's another alien that can get high encounter totals to take on Virus. I like how CEO's version does the math for you... tripling is easy, but "thirding" some cards requires higher math. I've made myself a cheat sheet so I don't have to use any more of my brain than necessary. In my home set, there's more numbers floating around, including negatives.
Vacuum [*] (Eon) - No change to vacuum. This alien becomes even more impactful in games with Tech, since players are now spreading their resources even thinner.
Virus [*] (Eon) - No changes to the alien most people think of as being too powerful. It's a great alien, no doubt, but there's enough going on in CE that balances this old boy out- plus as the game goes on, he tends to get weaker, as opposed to Warrior, who just gets stronger.
Void [*] (Eon) - Void has been taken down a notch simply by virtue of the fact that he can't take a player out of the game... when they get down to 5 ships (or less in a smaller game), a player essentially becomes immune to him. This very rarely happens with Void, so it won't be a big deal, but it's also an argument for not changing it anyway. Healer does a nice job of lessening Void's impact, but so does playing more aggressively against him. Some players save their better cards for attacking, and are willing to give up a home planet- but Void makes you think twice about that strategy. In the end, it's probably best that Void was made a little weaker- you're more likely to start hating CE if you get kicked out completely, especially if it happens in one of your first games (but that shouldn't happen if you use the color coded recommendations).
Vulch [*] (Eon) - This alien hasn't changed... there are half as many artifacts in this set than in the Mayfair base set (though three more than Eon's base set). So I suppose this set almost breaks even. Vulch won't get a lot of artifacts in a game, but every little bit helps.
Warpish [*] (Eon) - Good old Warpish is the same as ever. With Warrior, Tripler, Mirror, Anti-Matter, and to a lesser degree Fodder and Macron, Virus has some good offet aliens.
Warrior [*] (Eon) - No changes to Warrior, except that now you have tokens you can count rather than jotting his experience down on paper. Warrior gets stronger the longer the game goes on (he really learns from mistakes too), but I doubt you'll run out of the tokens. In most games I've played with Warrior, he's gotten as high as the mid 20's, but that's about it.
Will [*] (Eon) - Will still gets to attach whoever he likes, even people that have an external base in some other player's system.
Zombie <*> (Eon) - No change to the Zombie- he even still have the ability to free ships from the Warp as part of a deal (something I removed from my version of Zombie- although I suppose you can argue it gives him a reason to deal rather than letting people just lose 3 ships- not that he inherently gets anything more out of a deal situation).
Ultimately I think this is a fantastic mix of aliens for a base set, and it should help create new fans of the game. A lot of the classics are in there, as well as some from other editions (which I am thrilled were allowed to be included). It's also absolutely vital that new aliens were included- and it seems like they are really capturing the imagination of the old CE circles. I can understand the reluctance to change aliens, but I think when game balance and "fun" is taken into account, the changes make a lot of sense.
[*] = Beginner
[*] = Intermediate
[*] = Expert
This is the recommended skill level of the player using a particular alien.