Space is not a safe place to be. It can be dangerous to go alone.
Fortunately, in this galaxy there are many alien races. In fact, it seems as if the heavens are packed to the brim with multitudes of strange creatures just itching to get the chance for galactic domination.
Fortunate, because some of them might just be willing to help you out.
Cosmic Alliance, the 3rd expansion pack for Cosmic Encounter, offers new races, new cards, and a few new variants to play around with.
How It Plays
Like previous expansion, Cosmic Alliance doesn’t add a ton of new rules or game-changing components. It adds a slew of new races to toy around with, yet another set of player tokens (bringing the total up to 8 possible players with all 3 expansions), a new set of cards to mix in the deck for large-player games, and rules for “Team Cosmic.”
If you are unfamiliar with the base game, please check out our review here. It’s one of my favorite games, and if you enjoy thematic games and crazy, unpredictable powers, you might just enjoy Cosmic Encounter.
I won’t go over the rules in detail here, except for what the expansion adds. There are 20 new alien races, many of which orbit the central theme of the expansion – the “Alliance” mentioned in the title.
In addition, a small set of cards has been added to bolster the size of the main deck when playing with large groups of 7-8 players. No new concepts have been added with these cards; they are simply there to keep the deck from thinning out too easily with a full compliment of players.
The final addition inside the box is a set of rules for Team Cosmic – that is, playing Cosmic Encounter in teams of 2, rather than each-his-own. The rules for Team Cosmic are pretty straightforward; teammates are always invited as allies to each other automatically; they can ally against each other but cannot face each other as main players. Both players must reach 5 colonies (or their alternate win conditions; basically both players must meet victory conditions) in order for the team to win. To facilitate this, players can award any colony they earn to their teammate instead.
Steady Alignment or Dastardly Betrayal?
8 players is a heck of a lot of players to play Cosmic Encounter with. As mentioned in other CE-related reviews, the game is ideal with 4-5, pushing it with 6, and pretty ridiculous (also known as not recommended) with 7. You’d think 8 would be right out.
Except that the Team Cosmic rules save everything.
Team Cosmic is pretty much the only way I’d play with 7 or 8 players, and my preferred method of playing with 6.
Cosmic Encounter has always been about chaos; powers aren’t really balanced, but in a sense they self-balance within the game by Alliances and a few special cards like the Cosmic Zap. Yes there is chaos, and that does not appeal to some, but the game gives you tools with which to have a fighting chance, even against the toughest races. It creates fun, funny, and memorable moments more than anything, and it keeps players involved most of the time with alliances.
With a higher player count, the chaos increases and the control over your fate decreases. But with Team Cosmic, the control is returned. You are completely invested in your teammate’s actions, and so even in large groups you will essentially be a main, offensive player every 2-3 turns.
It was always interesting and fun to see how alien powers interacted against each other; now, more than ever, you get to see interesting ways that powers interact alongside each other, and it gives you a lot more control over what happens, or at least a sense of it. A good team can utilize their powers together to stop others and overcome swings of bad luck. Working together and trying to figure out ways to help each other adds that feel of a fighting chance back into a game with lots of players.
It’s interesting, because even though players are not allowed to discuss which alien powers they choose, and many alien powers seem quite contradictory to each other, it is possible for almost any combination to work. If powers combine well together, teammates will be sure to ally with each other to conquer colonies quickly, and they will likely find themselves left out of other alliances to balance their effectiveness out. Players with differing or even contradicting powers may be able to spread out, be involved in more encounters separately, or even ally against each other so that whatever happens the team will reap some benefit.
I think Team Cosmic does reward more experienced players who are used to the game system and can think outside the box regarding how to make 2 alien powers work together. But really, you shouldn’t be introducing brand new CE players to a huge game of CE in the first place. The chaos in the game is easier to grasp and learn to manage with fewer opponents and fewer powers in play.
But for those who are experienced, who enjoy Cosmic Encounter, Team Cosmic can add a whole new level of discovery to the game. And it may even make the thing more palatable to certain players who look with less favor on the game.
Oh, and there are a whole new set of aliens to play with, most of which are a lot of fun. Pygmy gets twice as many planets (by using an unused player color) but each planet is only worth 1/2 a colony – and limits the number of ships that can land there, which is a great defense. The Skeptic can “doubt” whether the opposing player will win, giving him a chance to bluff his way to victory but doubling the penalties (ships lost) if the opposing player “double doubts.” Poison can remove other players from shared colonies fairly easily and win encounters with close Attack cards. Animal loves to party, and thus rewards those who ally with him (and penalizes those who don’t). Butler lives to serve, and performs all the busy work (drawing and dealing cards, delivering ships to their destination) but only for a good tip. Horde can cultivate massive fleets of ships over time. Oh and the Schizoid secretly chooses an alternate victory condition for all players. Yes, SECRETLY.
Yes, there’s certainly a lot of variety to be had here. Not every power is as exciting as others, but I haven’t encountered any duds so far, and while there are so many aliens, it’s still fun to see new interactions, new games with new combinations of aliens.
Unlike Cosmic Conflict, which adds more chaos to the game. Cosmic Alliance adds a little more control back in. Like the Rewards Deck in Cosmic Incursion, the Team Cosmic variant and the alliance-friendly powers give players something more to work with to accomplish their goals without losing out to complete insanity (unless, of course, you’re playing the Lunatic). 7 and 8 player games are fully feasible now, and even you don’t play with large groups you have the nice new ghostly-white player tokens and 20 new aliens to play with.