Space maybe the final frontier, but the frontier of space itself seems unending. With nearly infinite amount of space in the universe, trillions of planets and stars to wonder about, it’s no shock that space is a common and popular theme for board games.
Drawing upon these diverse and infinite multitudes, Cosmic Encounter finds itself expanding even larger in the second expansion, Cosmic Conflict, which adds a set of 20 new races to the already substantial mix, races that tend to skew thematically towards the title of the expansion – that is, heavy on the conflict. What mysteries lie beyond the great vale?
How It Plays
Cosmic Conflict is an expansion to one of my favorite games of all time, and while it adds a few new elements, the core game remains the same. If you’re unfamiliar with Cosmic Encounter, please check out our full review to get a rules breakdown and overview of what the game is like (and why I love it so much).
Basic overview: you’re trying to get 5 colonies on planets outside your home system, and you represent 1 alien race which has the power to break a rule in some wild and crazy way.
Cosmic Conflict adds an additional 20 new alien powers to the mix, each with their own game-changing effects. In addition, a 7th player token set has been added. Finally, a new deck of cards called the Hazard Deck has been added.
During the Destiny phase, certain destiny cards have a special icon indicating a Hazard should be drawn. When a card with this icon is revealed, a Hazard card is immediately revealed, and it takes effect right away. Hazard effects do a variety of things, from adding extra destruction, to changing the way battles are fought, to changing play order.
Bold New Worlds or Galactic Flop?
If you’re looking for a slew of new aliens to throw into the mix, Cosmic Conflict is a great addition to the base game. The new powers pack a lot of punch, and you’ll have a ton of new interactions to discover. As if the game wasn’t varied enough, Cosmic Conflict unleashes the throttle with aliens like Saboteur, who has a number of mines and decoy mines to use to attempt to sabotage landing ships (and a bluffing aspect to his power), the Lunatic who can ally with both sides of a conflict, and the Trickster who can reduce an encounter to a 50-50 shot in the form of “guess which hand the token is in.”
The powers included are some of my favorites overall, and they are clever and fun and thematic. The Empath can force negotiations. The Glutton always takes a little extra. No one can coexist on the same planet as the Filth. The Claw can steal planets.
Perhaps my favorite power of all is the Changeling. Not because the power is particularly powerful, but for what it adds to the game. Changeling’s power is simple; as a main player (on offense or defense) you can switch powers with the opposing main player. Not just emulate their power. The powers are switched, permanently. Of course, that means a new player is the Changeling and soon they will switch powers with someone else. As powers rotate around the table, no one can rely on having the “strong” power, if there is one, for very long. It’s the kind of clever chaos that I love from the game, and Changeling gives everyone a shot at stealing a power.
As for the other items in the box; While it’s nice to have another player color to choose from – especially with alien powers that use unused player pieces – and the black tokens are very nice looking, playing the game with 7 players is a daunting task. My preferred number is 4 or 5 – just the right amount of chaos and control. 6 players pushes it, 7 is pretty crazy. With 7 you have a long time to wait before you get a turn of your own, and while alliances and defensive encounters keep you in the action, it’s still nice to be on the offense, especially if you want to clinch a solo victory. With 7, someone could win before each player even had a chance to take their own turn even more so than with 6, and alliances must be carefully tendered while dense cannot be ignored. This in turn extends the length of the game – both with the number of players involved, and the need to defend a lot more to prevent someone from gaining too many colonies too soon. Basically, as chaotic as Cosmic Encounter is and how much I enjoy the crazy nature of the game, 7 is perhaps too many players to play with.
Speaking of Chaos, the Hazard deck is an interesting addition. It definitely adds a little more chaos, as you never know when a new Hazard will pop up, and what it will do. Most of the Hazards are creative and add something interesting in the game; one lets Allies retrieve ships from the warp, another requires the total value of attack cards played between both players to be less than 25 or dire consequences will result. One even forces all players in the game to negotiate a deal between everyone.
There’s certainly enough chaos in the game so that you don’t NEED the Hazards, and you may want to leave them out of the game with newer players. It might be too much to handle. Also, there is at least 1 Hazard that’s a dud – the Hazard that reverses player order. Imagine being that 7th player (or 5th, for that matter) and it is about to be your turn when… the player before you draws this Hazard. Player order is reversed and now you have to wait another 6 turns to get a chance. The mantra of the game, and the game’s designer, is that “fair isn’t fun” and while to some degree that works in a game like Cosmic Encounter, it’s possible to go too far; unfair can be pretty unfun, especially for that player that is waiting for their own turn. Especially if your alien power is “offense only.”
The expansion is absolutely worth it for the new alien powers, though. They are fantastic. The Hazard deck is fun but adds more chaos, and you can always remove the dud Hazards – I’ll never play with the reverse player order card. After all, using what you want and removing what you don’t is part of the nature of the game. Of course, while Cosmic Incursion added a few elements that made the game more palatable for some non-fans (see @Farmerlenny’s part of our review), Cosmic Conflict does not. If anything it adds more to the chaos. If you like Cosmic Encounter, a set of 20 more aliens will please you. If you don’t enjoy Cosmic Encounter, this expansion won’t change your views.