Sunday, June 15, 2014

Gaming Materials: Cosmic Encounter

Gaming Materials is a series of reviews/opinions I spout on games I play.  Essays of a gaming sort, although I never get too deep with them.

I love multiplayer games.  Especially those games that have a political bent to them.  I also enjoy any game that is chaotic to a large extent.  Enter a game that satisfies both these itches at the same time: Cosmic Encounter.

Cosmic Wackiness

First published in 1977, Cosmic Encounter has won its own fair share of awards.  It combines a variety of elements: diplomacy, card management, prediction, and even a bit of role-playing too.  Cosmic Encounter is one of the big influential board games.  Sort of an admirable goal to aim for.  And an inspiration to those of use with a creative bent too.

I first learned about Cosmic Encounter through youtube reviews (Click here if for a 'how-to' review of it).  I had not yet heard of a game that could allow everyone the chance to win simultaneously.  Or to have one person take the victory through sheer political machinations.  When I acquired it, my group more or less took it up as one of our main 'go-to' games.  Everyone who spends enough time with us eventually gets roped into a game of it.

Cosmic Encounter, when fully unleashed (at least the 2008 version of Fantasy Flight I own) is a chaotic beast.  Its a grinder of random effects flying all over the place, with abilities up to the gills all interacting and clashing.  Things can get downright absurd with the level of chaotic mess the game generates.  I feed off that kind of chaos.  Its my jam.

The absurdity of the chaos gets better with the art and themes going on in the game.  Players don't get to pick who they have encounters with- thats completely arbitrary.  Sometimes an Alien's power never goes off.  Other times, it feels like players are part of a intergalactic bargain bin campy sit com.  The humor in the absurd mechanics and whimsical art- that makes the chaos even funner to participate in.  Cosmic Encounter is a zany ride and one can't help but enjoy the fun things the game is throwing out.

The replayability is Cosmic Encounter real charm.  No two game sessions are the same.  Never.  Throw in people who get into roleplaying their Alien powers or making silly demands during Alliances. Then the game turns into a hour-long roleplaying session of politics and general mayhem.  The part where I get to act like a insane Alien race and make my fellow players laugh.  That makes it worth it for me.

The Chaos True

Perhaps that is why I love it so much.  Cosmic Encounter is a wacky crazy batch of chaos.  That is actually important for improv and roleplaying in some ways.  Sometimes one needs unplanned events and chaos to throw ideas one didn't consider into the mix.  It feels like a real experience.  Not something so out of control that some can't participate.

And it's Fun.