Rants Archive
The WARP Rants Archive

Rants Archive

From Brian Hoare

Cosmic Essentials

A number of recent events have made me ask the question "What does a Cosmic Encounter set really need and does my set have too much non-essential or even damaging components?". For the record the recent events are:

  • The dawning of a new age as the next generation of players will be getting Eon rules again
  • Meeting up with an old friend (Alex) with whom I played CE several years ago and who found the Mayfair set with all its bits too daunting (but expressed an interest in acquiring the AH set when it arrives), and trying to explain the game to his girlfriend who asked "but is there any strategy in it?"
  • Playing with a GW set, full Mayfair, and Simply Cosmic on successive weeks.

    I would like to put forward the proposition that all Cosmic Encounter really needs is 4 or more players, a deck made of 45 to 60 Challenge cards plus about a dozen Edicts, and a set of at least 20 powers.
    Adding Flares, Kickers, extra Edicts, Reinforcements or most of the other card expansions all add spice to the game in one way or another, but they mostly interfere with the balance of the challenge deck. Adding extra non-challenge cards means you need to add more challenge cards to keep the ratio between the types. You also need to maintain the distribution curve. Eon added new cards during their reign, but Mayfair totally overwhelmed it with the More expansion. Also as the deck deepens the "core" edicts, such as Cosmic Zap and Mobius Tubes, get harder to draw. The shorter the deck the less chance there is of pockets of compromise cards/high attack cards etc (as all good Magic players know).
    I enjoy Mayfair's Lucre, Special Destiny and Comets, but I don't feel that they are essential. Mayfair's lucre gives more power to each player in that the lucre you receive each turn is sufficient to reclaim 2 tokens or buy 2 new cards. What you do with it requires skill but that doesn't alter the fact that losing tokens is not the tragedy it was. Special Destiny worries me less, but is it necessary? Comets and Moons throw in disrupting effects that may be seen as fun challenges to overcome, or as disasters.

    My conclusions on playing these 3 games were:

    1. All the games were fun! I have played all these sets a number of times in the past, it was the playing of them close together that exposed the differences.
    2. Using the full might of Mayfair's Cosmic and More Cosmic made for loads of chaos and suprises but I do feel quite strongly that there is just too much added that buries the original game. The distribution of the attack cards makes token counts less important; clumps of compromise cards appear; the multitude of edicts, reinforcements, and flares along with comets add moments of comedy and tragedy, but players tend to drift into playing for the moment rather than attempting any forward thinking. It does something to the mind because more than with any other set players have won without knowing (lost count of bases) or have won because they were invited to ally by a player who wasn't paying attention. There are also many edicts that are useless most of the time.
    3. The GW set has just powers, challenge cards, a few simple edicts and a basic destiny pile. The shortness of the challenge deck emphasizes the fact that most cards are in the range 6 to 12- this is small enough to make token counts important. It's still true that you will do better if you draw a better hand but now you are more in control of your fate. The deck of cards is short enough and knowable enough for players to have a good idea of what chance there is that they or someone else will draw a particular card, you can watch what other players use to further gauge what they may have left. What you lose in bizarre events you gain in concentration on power use, resource management, and diplomacy.
    4. Simply Cosmic is a kind of inverted GW set, the set of powers is very small so it's the order of the cards in the challenge deck that makes one game different from another. The powers are well chosen and interact well but the non-challenge-card-heavy deck makes it more of a roller coaster ride than a mind game.

    What do you think?

    Jack Reda warp@redamedia.com from Mountain View, CA USA said on 15:53:45 Mar/17/2000:

    I think fundamentally I agree with what Brian is saying. When I first started playing CE it was before Flares, Moons, Lucre, etc. And, it was a spectacularly good game. However, it is in my nature to want to develop add-ons for a game, and I love the fact that CE lends itself to this very easily. While I wouldn't recommend using a ton of new material (especially with new players) I do like throwing in something new in each game.

    Sarah Ryan SarryR@yahoo.com from Melbourne, VIC AUSTRALIA said on 17:48:02 Mar/19/2000:

    Ditto, with most of them anyway, but it does depend. Although I've not exactly what you'd call experienced with the board game, but only the online game, I think that the kickers can be quite fun, and if the virus has insufficient allies and no kickers, and depending on other powers, it can stuff him up. Well, more chance of beating him. But if too many addons are used, it could get too complicated, and perhaps make the game way different to originally in many aspects? As for say my generation and younger(I am 17 going on 18) being 'brought up' on EON rules with the AH version, I am looking forward to the AH one: 1. meaning I get to own my own set eventually when I've got the money! 2. EON = original and I am one who believes 'original is the best'. And furthermore, I will probably buy any expansion sets available (for extra powers). But it's no fun if you bury the game so I am hardly about to go using home brewed stuff and expansions from other sets.

    Marcus Porter marcus@cyberfez.com from Vienna, VA USA said on 13:04:43 Mar/20/2000:

    The reason I like CE is I have an extremely low tolerance for playing the same game twice in a row. When everyone else is raring for that second game of Nuclear war or whatever the short party game dejour is, I am thinking about going home, even if I enjoyed the first one. The fact that a game like CE or flux is different every time helps keep my interest up and is what makes me think of CE as the best game ever. However, after hundreds of games, even CE gets boring to me. So, I say, always introduce new players with the basic game (which for me is two powers, flares and kickers) but don't be afraid to add one or two different elements whenever you play again. Just don't use them all at once (Cosmos Forbid!)

    Swanee swanee@luckynumber.com from Newark, NJ USA said on 12:16:02 Mar/21/2000:

    Basically, I'm in favor of including everything that can not be added by hand. Provided challenge/ destiny deck distrubution is maintained. Yes: Powers, edicts, flares, hazards, moons, lucre, blank cards, system colors, alternate destiny, new ideas,kickers, reinforcements etc. No: Praw, reverse hexes.

    Travis Hood travis.hood@gbhcs.org from Albany, Ga USA said on 15:25:41 Mar/23/2000:

    I agree that the core is sufficient for most play...but you have to admit all the varients available can add so much fun and new play, that after 1000 games...it's still fresh. I want to take this opportunity to express my opinion on another matter... I speak to those who have taken the recent poll, and chose not to buy the new AH untill the expansion sets become available... if the number of persons waiting to buy the AH set only after expansions come is too great... there will be no further expansions put out by AH... you see if too many wait to buy the first installment... sales will be so poor that AH will see no reason to print further material... so for those who will wait I say you better supprt this project from the first, if your hoping to see it prosper to further installments.

    Gerald Katz hadsil@cs.com from Bay Shore, NY USA said on 04:42:33 Mar/29/2000:

    I disagree in what needs to be in a Cosmic set. I'm not plugging my own stuff, but for me, the Challenge Deck needs something more than just Challenge Cards and Edicts. Flares are paramount. I know they were not part of the original game when it was first created, but the game is just not the same without them. I've played a couple of games without Flares, and I was bored. It doesn't matter if it's Eon or Mayfair rules; Flares bring in excitement. Kickers are not as essential as Flares, but they do add some nice spice. Lucre, Moons, and Reinforcements are frills. I would agree they are not essential for a good, fun game. They add nice nuances, though. In any case, I do agree that a game must have at least 4 players. Three players is boring due to alliances having limited effect. I've heard some people say 5 is best, but I know I very much enjoy 6 player games; still, 4 is minimum.

    Gregory George g3org3@yahoo.com from Riverside County, CA USA said on 20:59:22 Apr/03/2000:

    To me the essential game is five (or 6) players, two powers, Flares, Edicts, Kickers and Lucre. The only time I've played without this combo was before Mayfair released More Cosmic and played w/o Lucre or Kickers (we did play a couple games using Illumanti! money as Lucre as a gag... fun) and I've played the Online game several times which has none of my requirements. I do agree w/ Brian in the fact that the Mayfair set's deck is too huge. It's twice the size of a full Eon play deck (counting Flares).

    Back to Rants Archive