Game Buzz: Cosmic Encounter Duel

I’ve talked about this before, but it’s been a long time and I wanted to repeat it for this post. Way back in the before times (like, 2002 or 2003), I was hunting around on the internet for online implementations of board games. Specifically, and possibly shamefully, I was looking for Monopoly, but any old board game would do. I came upon this website called Cosmic Encounter Online (which has since been taken offline). The game was amazingly fun – you got to be an alien race and try to gain control of the galaxy. There were six basic races you could use, and for a premium fee, you could have access to about 50. When I found out this implementation was ACTUALLY based on a board game, I started trying to find it. I never did, possibly because I just didn’t know where to look, or it might have been OOP at the time. At any rate, I let it go, and it wasn’t until 2007 that Catan became my actual entry into the hobby. But I like to refer to Cosmic Encounter as my ALMOST-gateway game.

I do now have my own copy of CE, and having played the Avalon Hill version that would have been what I got back then, I’m very glad to have the FFG version. And now there’s a two-player version called

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Cosmic Encounter Duel is a game by original Cosmic designers Bill Eberle and Peter Olotka, as well as Frank Brooks and Olotka’s son Greg. The basic plot of the game is that two alien races are battling to join the Cosmic Citizenship Council by seeing who can be the first to control five planets. Part of the appeal of the original game was trying to manipulate your way into victory, either through working with others or trying to outmaneuver them, so I’ve been curious to see how they worked out a two-player game.

Each player chooses an alien (Swarm and Prime are suggested for the first game), and takes 20 ships (5 of which go to The Warp), 5 tactics tokens, a dial, and a plan deck in their chosen color. You’ll draw the top card of your plan deck and compare numbers to determine the Leader and the Straggler – high number is the Leader, or the oldest player if there’s a tie. You then keep drawing cards until you get a hand of six. You’ll also have the planet deck, the reinforcement deck, and the three destiny decks all shuffled up.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

As mentioned, there are three destiny decks in the game – discovery, event, and refresh. At the start of the game, you’ll draw the top card of the discovery deck. Whenever you draw a destiny card, you’ll resolve it and move on to the next round, where you’ll draw from the destiny deck as indicated at the bottom of the one you drew for this round. The three decks all have you doing different things:

REFRESH: These basically help you recover some ships from the warp, or draw cards, or gain reinforcements, or a whole slew of other things that help you get ready for your next duel.

EVENTS: These are different challenges for you to complete. There’s a bunch of different ones, and it’s hard to predict what’s coming next.

DISCOVERY: These always instruct you to discover a planet (draw the top one from the planet deck) and have a duel there. The first step of this is to choose a number from 1-4, and set the dial to that number. Once the numbers are revealed, you’ll take that many ships from your supply and place them on the planet.

After revealing a face down envoy if you can (or want), each player chooses one card from their hand and plays it face down as a plan. You’ll also choose one of your readied tactic tokens, which will allow you to destroy ships, prevent ships from being destroyed, or recover spent tactics. The tactic you use is now spent (unless it allowed you to recover, in which case it stays readied). If there are no ships left, you start over at the dials. If only one player’s ship remains, they win the planet. Otherwise, you reveal your plans, and add reinforcements. The player with the highest total wins, with the Straggler winning in case of a tie.

The game is one if, before drawing a destiny card, one player has five planets. It’s possible for both players to win this way. If one player runs out of ships, they lose. And there are some alternate victory conditions depending on the alien you have.

image by BGG user Jcdnl

One of my favorite parts about Cosmic Encounter is the Destiny Deck. This makes who you attack nothing personal, it’s just destiny. Obviously, with only one opponent, you know who you’re going to be attacking, but I like how this one bring it over by just randomly running the game. It’s a very interesting mechanism. And it’s also different how you’re battling over empty planets, rather than defending your own (though you may have to defend your own as the game proceeds). The game looks very cool, and I do want to give it a shot someday.

That’s all for today – thanks for reading!

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