Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tastes great, less filling (Cosmic Encounter x2, Steam)

Shemp, Luch and I played this week to the heat of Shemp's brand new furnace.

Although I've read many times that Cosmic Encounter is not at it's best with 3, I was really itching to play it so we tried it anyway. We played with yellow aliens and added in the technology deck, and then only played to 4 planets. I drew Kamikaze, Luch drew Tick-Tock, and Shemp drew the Calculator.

Due to Tick-Tock's ability to win the game when any 8 battles end with a defender win (or on any successful negotiation) both Shemp and I zeroed in pretty quickly on Luch. He lost his alien power pretty quick. Meanwhile, it took a couple of tries before Shemp found any success with his race's ability (call odd or even, if correct, deduct the higher attack power from the lower). I managed a couple of high powered attacks using the kamikaze's ability to sacrifice ships for bonuses but predictably I became low on ships pretty quick. In the end, Shemp was able to string two successful attacks and get to four colonies in short order (the game took only about 40 minutes).

I was torn about my next choice because I had End of the Triumvirate and China in the bag as well, but we play rarely play Cosmic so we played a second session.

In our second game, I drew "Fodder", Luch was "Ameoba" and Shemp was "The Hate". The Hate is brutal. At the start of his turn, Shemp could discard any type of card (attack, negotiate, artifact, etc) and we needed to follow suit or lose 3 ships! Suddenly, Tick-Tock's power seemed very reasonable. We hated the hate. At one point, Luch activated a reincarnator flare and forced Shemp to draw a new race; The Hate became Human. I tried in vain to capitalize on my cool fodder power which allowed me to add to my attack strength any number of cards that were higher the mine but lower than the opponent's. Unfortunately, I kept tying the opponent, which makes it quite impossible.

Shemp came out of nowhere for the win once again.

I really enjoy Cosmic encounter, and I was surprised that three player wasn't as bad as I had heard. Still, it's much better with more, and much better when played to 5 planets. With four, players can theoretically win on their second turn and in essence go from halfway to the finish line in the blink of an eye. It's somewhat unsatisfying. Regardless, Cosmic is an experience game more than anything, and seeing things interact in unexpected ways is quite fun and funny.


We finished off the evening with what is turning out to be a real favorite of mine: Steam. Since we were three players, we played the USA map and seeded the city growth spaces with two cubes instead of three (as the rules require) and we were off. I kind of expected the game to feel loose with this many players, but I was WRONG. Removing a third of the goods cubes from the City Growth spaces had a dramatic impact on the game. 3-4 rounds from the end we were already looking desperately for potential future deliveries. We were crowding around each other and stealing cubes for opportunistic shipments (taking 2 and giving 2 is much better than allowing your opponent to get 4). It was a tough game which, ironically, lasted much longer than our typical 4 player games have lasted.

Although I think I will eventually give the auction variant (the "Standard" game) a try, I really feel no rush. The tile powers already have a cost (in dollars and future turn order) that values them pretty accurately. If the powers were to be auctioned, I don't think they would end up costing what they should because a number of them are pretty equally decent if you take away the turn order consideration. The one aspect of the "Standard" game that I like that I feel is somewhat missing from the "basic" game is the engine cost (in the "Standard" rules, each player has to pay equal to their engine level at the end of every turn). I like it because it opens up the possibility of being a contender with a lower engine level if you can keep your expenses down, and it forces players to think about "when" they should make the commitment and increase their engine... as it is there is pretty much no reason not to if the opportunity arise.

Anyways, great game. I look forward to trying out my new "Disco Inferno/ Soul Train" map!

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