6. Cosmic Encounter
Cosmic Encounter has the most abstracted combat of all the games on this list. There’s no positioning, no tactics. You send a few ships against an opponent’s planet, you both choose a card secretly, you reveal, the highest total wins. Or maybe you negotiate a deal. Whatever.
But it’s so much more than that. Alliances let you gang up on a player who is too strong, and reward everyone involved. Or they just make you feel better about losing. You can bluff to get your opponent to play a low card when they might have won, or to weasel out a high-powered card early. You can trick them into playing a negotiate so you can win a battle with a -03, or you can actually just negotiate a deal. There are so many possibilities – you might say infinite possibilities. This is before you even add the wonky alien powers which let you ruin everything with your neat ability. You never know what might happen.
There’s a reason why Cosmic Encounter is a favorite of many, and the #1 game on two of the most popular game reviewer’s top games of all time lists. Because it’s goofy, exciting, and fun. You bluff, you negotiate, you coerce, you win, you lose. It’s what a board game should be, and the combat is right at the center of that.