Friday, January 30, 2009

Separate CE listings (finally!) at BoardgameGeek

The happy part of me just wants to say "w00t!" ... but, I'll admit, the bitter part keeps repeating, "About frickin' time!"

Whatever your reaction might be, it's now a fact that Cosmic Encounter has separate database entries at BGG for all of its major editions. No more "Wait? are we talking about keeper flares or one-shot flares?" discussions ... no more having the Avalon Hill edition drag down what should be a much higher rating for the Eon version ... no more having to ever look at the Mayfair art if you don't want to.

Here's the relevant links that I've found so far:



Mayfair expansion

Avalon Hill

Fantasy Flight Games

I'll be adding the new links to the links sidebar very soon.

CE alien survey #14: FILCH

First appearance: Eon expansion #2.

Plain-English power: May keep encounter card played by opponent.

Loved by: Mutant; Hacker; kleptomaniacs; impulse-buyers; magicians.

Loathed by: Clone.

Three ways to win as Filch:
  1. If someone reveals they have your Flare (quite possibly by being caught stealing), maneuver towards taking Compensation from them.
  2. The power, at its core, implies that you'll be picking only good cards ... and that your foes will be trying to extract Compensation from you to get at those cards. Negotiate frequently to discourage this tactic, and pick up every card you can so that if you do get raided, it's less likely that you'll lose good cards.
  3. Be on the lookout for an ace in the hole against powers like Anti-Matter, Loser, and other aliens who have bizarre encounter resolutions.

Monday, January 26, 2009

CE alien survey #13: HUMAN

First appearance: Fantasy Flight Games.

Plain-English power: You are a living, breathing +4 Reinforcement card.

Loved by: Lovers of the underdog; xenophobes; those who appreciate a fine self-zap.

Loathed by: Those who can't handle plot-twists; players fresh out of Card Zaps.

Three ways to win as Human:
  1. Zaps are as gold to Human. The key moment in the game will come when you (or possibly an ally) will need to zap Human to create an automatic win. Don't let that moment pass.
  2. Remind anyone who will listen (and everyone else, too) how valuable you are as an ally. Be sure to do this on every encounter.
  3. Don't sneer at your power. Human might not be much in the early going, but a permanent +4 boost is nothing to be laughed at during the end-game, when many encounters are won with scores like 13-11. Keep your head up and keep plugging away.

CE alien survey #12: MASOCHIST

First appearance: Fantasy Flight Games.

Plain-English power: If you lose all of your ships, you win.

Loved by: Anyone who enjoys playing with reckless abandon; sadists.

Loathed by: Strong offensive powers like Virus and Anti-Matter.

Three ways to win as Masochist:
  1. Get your hands on (or Card Zap) the two Mobius Tubes cards. Be ready to Plague yourself when the time is right. Also, if you are lucky enough to pull the Omega Missile as your tech, then pile all of your ships onto one planet and blow it up for a possible instant win. [editor's note: LAWL! Death Star! Nice one.]
  2. Ally with anyone who will take you, and always send four ships. Then play your reinforcements to help the opposite side.
  3. Remember that you can still win the normal way if you end up with strong cards late in the game. A sudden reversal in your tactics can catch your opponents unaware.
Three ways to win against Masochist:
  1. The best weapon is the wild Reincarnator flare. If you are lucky enough to get this then wait till he has stripped down to two or fewer planets (just to be on the safe side) and play it, forcing him to draw a new power.
  2. Strategic use of Mobius Tubes is key. If you get one, then wait out Masochist for as long as your own ship situation can handle it. Also, if you have the Delta Scanners tech, use it to pull back a spent Mobius Tubes.
  3. Keep Masochist out of alliances; his presence usually benefits him regardless of outcome. Also, attack where he has the least number of ships, and don’t play Negotiate cards against him. In the event of a deal, it's likely as much to his benefit to lose three ships as it is to gain a planet.
At CE Online? No.

Anything else? Masochist, one of a number of former homebrews to become official in the FFG edition, is credited to Matt Stone.

— Submitted by Jordan Browne

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cosmic Encounter soundtrack available online

One of my favorite parts of the Cosmic Encounter Online experience has always been the unique sounds created by composer Mark Sutton-Smith. In addition to all of the alien noises and in-game sound effects, Sutton-Smith also created the longer passages that are heard when a player joins the lobby. I knew that these were often switched around by the CEO design team, but, until recently, I did not know that those passages were, in fact, meant to form a larger musical story.

Well, now I know ... and so will you when you visit this page and see that Sutton-Smith has made his Cosmic Encounter score available for download in MP3 format.

Too cool. I especially like the chapter titles ... "Contact" ... "Negotiations." Too cool — did I mention that already?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Oh, that darn second encounter!

Sorry about the language there.

The early leader in the clubhouse as far as Cosmic Encounter rules confusion appears to revolve around a player's second encounter, and, more specifically, what happens if the offense runs out of Encounter cards (including from not even having any when the encounter begins)?

The rules actually spell this out (see pages 7 and 13 of the Fantasy Flight Games rulebook), but it is certainly a bit counter-intuitive, especially considering earlier editions of the game handled the situation differently. And there's definitely some confusion out there, so I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a second-encounter example end up in the FAQ, which, according to rumor, is due out fairly soon.

Meanwhile, here's a sampling of some of the discussion:

A forums thread;

Another thread;

And a third thread.

CE alien survey #11: HACKER

First appearance: Fantasy Flight Games

Plain-English power: Mess around with compensation. Choose which cards to take and from whom; choose which cards to give when cards are taken.

Loved by: Computer geeks; those who like having lots of cards; those who enjoy making others’ gaming experience miserable.

Loathed by: All other card-hoarding powers (Clone, Filch, Fido, etc.); aliens with a preference for certain cards (Pacifist, Anti-Matter, Loser, etc.).

Three ways to win as Hacker:
  1. Use your power on the card-hoarders. They’ll have more of the best cards. You get to look through players’ hands; remember what they have left. Don’t forget to take a Negotiate just to ensure you can use your power again!
  2. Give away your garbage when compensation is taken from you. You should have plenty of cards, so you can afford to give them away.
  3. Take away cards other powers like: take Pacifist’s Ns, Anti-Matter’s low Attacks, etc.
Three ways to win against Hacker:
  1. Use your cards before Hacker gets them. He can’t take what you no longer have.
  2. Don’t bother playing a Negotiate against Hacker to get his cards. He’ll just give you garbage. Try to surmise when he’ll play a Negotiate, then play one in return to set up a deal. Even if there’s no deal, he won’t get your cards or see your hand.
  3. If possible, get rid of his third home colony early in the game. While this would be common against all powers, it can be vital againt Hacker. The longer Hacker is in play, the greater chance that he’ll have all the good cards.
At CE Online? No

Anything else: Hacker was created by Gerald Katz (originally called Violin) and debuted as a "Power Of The Day" article at the Comsic Encounter newsgroup. The power originally only affected the opponent, but was expanded during playtesting. Other powers by Gerald Katz are available at The Warp's amazing database.

— Submitted by Gerald Katz

CE alien survey #10: ZOMBIE

First appearance: Eon base set.

Plain-English power: Your ships never go to the Warp.

Loved by: Everyone in the game — Zombie is an almost certain ally.

Loathed by: Those who don’t receive Zombie as an ally; players who join in on suicide runs.

Three ways to win as Zombie:
  1. Always put 4 ships in the Hyperspace Gate (be wary of obvious exceptions such as Anti-Matter or Loser).
  2. Always ally with 4. It's easy to forget, but, barring a zap, these ships will not be lost.
  3. Hoarding cards can help defend your home planets.
Three ways to win against Zombie:
  1. Taking down home colonies is a priority.
  2. Ganging up against Zombie should be considered. There's strength in numbers.
  3. Don’t give away too many easy alliance invitations, offensive or defensive.
At CE Online? Yes.

Anything Else? Like Trader (alien survey #1), Zombie has been in every version of the game.

— Submitted by David Montgomery

Friday, January 16, 2009

Your CE set is not as good as this one

Mine is, of course. My set is awesome.

But your set? No way; sorry, pal. Your set can't touch this jaw-dropping collection of items from The Warp, where the days are apparently 28 hours long, allowing for extra homebrew-creation time.

And it's not just for show, either. These items actually get used in real-life Cosmic Encounter games.

Gaze in wonder, mortals ...

CE alien survey #9: TICK-TOCK

First appearance: Fantasy Flight Games.

Plain-English power: Wins when deals are made or defense wins.

Loved by: People who like their games short; those that want to try an alien that behaves differently from the others.

Loathed by: Pretty much everyone that ever wanted to win a game.

Three ways to win as Tick-Tock:
  1. Ally with the defense as much as you can, and with a strong showing. If you win, then you not only toss a token, you get rewards (cards, in case your Super is still in the deck, or ships to replenish after losses).
  2. Invite everyone to help defend your planets. This one's a hard sell, since people usually want bases more than rewards, and helping you doesn't help them in the long run.
  3. Play a Negotiate when you attack (and attack with only one ship). Chances are you'll lose, which means a token goes away. You may face an opponent who also Negotiates ... and now you have a deal situation where you can make it worth their while to agree. Deals mean tokens go away.
Three ways to win against Tick-Tock:
  1. When you deal with Tick-Tock, ask for more than you think you can get. You'll either get it, or at the very least slow Tick-Tock down.
  2. Don't ally with him when he's defending. If you aren't invited to attack, it may be best to sit one out (but make sure the leaders aren't pulling too far ahead ... no sense giving away the game just to slow Tick-Tock down).
  3. Early in the game, it may be prudent to Negotiate for a loss. You'll get some cards for your trouble, and prevent Tick-Tock from being competitive. It's harder to give up an encounter later in the game, since players may be picking up their fourth or fifth bases.
At CE Online? No.

Anything else? Tick-Tock doesn't have any other ability to affect the game, so he's essentially pretty weak. Keep an eye on the number of tokens he has left, especially with regard to how soon his turn is coming ... he's virtually guaranteed to lose one token on his own turn.

— Submitted by Jack Reda

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

One of the ORIGINAL aliens checks in

I had a nice surprise in my email in-box earlier today, where I received Cosmic Encounter unboxing photos from none other than Bill Eberle, one of the designers of the original Eon edition in the heady days of the mid-1970s. It must be quite a thrill to see your work carried forward all these years and to now be featured in a stunning, glorious, totally top-shelf release from Fantasy Flight Games.

Thanks for the shots, Bill. Watch out for that cat, too ... it looks like its already eyeing your pieces for future batting-around. Good kitty!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

CE alien survey #8: FIDO

First appearance: Fantasy Flight Games.

Plain-English power: Offer a discard to another player; you keep it if they don't want it. Get a card from the deck or a ship from the Warp if they take it.

Loved by: People who don't like to crush their opponents with huge combat powers; people who love giving and getting gifts at the same time; Citadel and Reserve, who love the low Attack cards that Fido should be offering.

Loathed by: Filch, Anti-Matter, Spiff, Pacifist. Filch now has competition for the discard; Anti-Matter will get offered huge Attack cards; Spiff and Pacifist will get offered mid-range Attack cards. Pacifist in particular despises Fido, because a smart Fido will offer Negotiates to other players.

Three ways to win as Fido:
  1. Know the deck, and absolutely know what's been discarded. A 12 becomes that much more potent if you've already seen the 40, 30, and 20s hit the discard pile. You may get to keep it if the other players forget what's been played.
  2. Know what to offer to whom. Take note of the other alien powers. Don't dare offer low cards to Anti-Matter or Loser (plus, offering Anti-Matter huge cards is one of the delights of being Fido). Offering mid-range Attacks to Pacifist is not a bad idea; Pacifist likes to "cycle" his cards, and those cards may keep him from doing so. Offer the Attack 11 to Mirror ... and so on.
  3. Know what you want for a reward. Down to a few cards? You may want to offer good cards, so you can get ships from the Warp and later get a whole new hand. Huge hand with good Flares? Offer low or mid-range Attacks so you can preserve that hand.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

CE alien survey #7: MACRON

First appearance: Eon base set.

Plain-English power: Ships are worth 4, but you can only send one.

Loved by: BIG people; defensive "turtling" players; guys with deep voices.

Loathed by: The meek — that's everyone else, relative to the M-Dog himself.

Three ways to win as Macron:
  1. Your ships are precious. Avoid Anti-Matter, Loser, Spiff, and Vacuum whenever possible. Be ready to Card Zap any Cosmic Zaps headed in your direction.
  2. Yours is a defensive power at heart. Keep your home colonies as evenly defended as possible. You might even want to lose a home colony (or two!) just to further reinforce the others.
  3. Offensive alliance invitations will be plentiful — accept them unless it puts someone else much closer to winning. Pick which defensive ally invitations you accept carefully (see Anything Else).
Three ways to beat Macron:
  1. Invite Mac to ally, then bait and switch (play to lose, or Negotiate).
  2. Plague him constantly. Resist the temptation to play Mobius Tubes if Macron's heavily in the warp, as the benefits are four-fold.
  3. Unless you're one of his feared enemies (see above), avoid attacking Macron where he's heavily invested (or at all, if you can).
At CE Online? Yes (free, too).

Anything else? The Fantasy Flight Games edition is an upgrade for Macron: ships count as 2 (instead of 1) for purposes of defensive rewards and compensation. This gives him more reason to ally on defense and to play Negotiates to drain cards, especially on defense.

— Submitted by Zach Gaskins

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New feature (sort of) at CE Online

For a limited time only! Attack your own planets and establish new home colonies! w00t!

Well, sort of. The story is best told here.

An actual screenshot sent by one of Blogmic's Bothan spies is shown above. I find it sort of intriguing. There's not a lot I haven't done at CE Online, but I can definitely say I've never attacked one of my own planets.

Friday, January 9, 2009

CE designer answers two queries, pre-FAQ

"Cosmic Quake," huh? That's a new one to me ... but I sort of like it.

And that's just one-half of the interesting answers provided by Fantasy Flight Games' Kevin Wilson in this pre-FAQ FAQ at the FFG website.

CE alien survey #6: ANTI-MATTER

First appearance: Eon expansion set #2.

Plain-English power: Your ships are negative; the other guy's aren't; lower total wins.

Loved by: The mathematically-inclined; those who enjoy pounding powerhouses such as Warrior and Macron.

Loathed by: Those who don't "get" integer addition; the aforementioned powerhouses.

Three ways to win as Anti-Matter:
  1. Attack a planet with a ton of ships on it, then send as many ships as you can. The enemy is in a hole already.
  2. Remember that reinforcements add to your total. If you need to play them, play them on the enemy's side.
  3. Try to manipulate alliances such that you'll win whether you get zapped or not.
Three ways to win against Anti-Matter:
  1. Alliances. Without allies, you are guaranteed to be "behind" before cards are played (even with only 1 ship).
  2. Do the math. You don't want to waste a zap if Anti-Matter wins anyway. Powerhouses such as Macron should consider the virtues of self-zapping.
  3. The 00 card is like gold, especially to Virus or Tripler, who can use it pull off a game-changing upset.
At CE Online? Yes. And CEO has -1 and -4 pods, too.

Anything else? Oddly, Anti-Matter's flare has pretty much nothing to do with its power.

— Contributed by Toomai Glittershine

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

CE alien survey #5: SPIFF

First appearance: Mayfair, More Cosmic Encounter (1992)

Plain-English power: Gain a colony if your total is 10 (or more) lower than the defense's total.

Loved by: Calvin & Hobbes readers; test pilots; suicide jockeys; players who like Loser but don't want to declare their intentions.

Loathed by: Those who enjoy red-ass beatdowns.

Three ways to win as Spiff:
  1. Always send one ship. At worst (narrow loss), you lose that ship to the warp; otherwise, you gain a colony without detriment!
  2. Attack with 6s or less; defend with high cards.
  3. Attack the biggest defensive positions. Go after monstrosities such as Macron and Virus, who can't help but bring large totals on defense.
Three ways to win against Spiff:
  1. Save your high cards for offense.
  2. If you're not sure you can barely beat Spiff, pursue another option (such as playing Negotiate to grab cards, or self-quashing a deal).
  3. Since Spiff will be light with his attack ships, Plague him constantly to punish his frugality.
At CE Online? Not at this time.

Anything else? The text on the FFG version requires that the total specifically be lower; the original Mayfair text states that you merely lose by 10 or more. This makes Spiff less powerful against negation/math-flipping powers such as Anti-Matter. Perhaps something to be included in the FFG FAQ?

— Submitted by Zach Gaskins

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tmax, Barrok finish off 2008 in style

The big winners at Cosmic Encounter Online for December were Barrok, who won the monthly points title, and Tmax, who finished as the game's yearly champion for 2008. Congratulations, gentlemen (and you, too, Barrok).

CE Online is now entering its seventh year of operation, and features a dedicated core of players, a few tournaments throughout the year, and a bunch of nice perks ... among those are the chance to talk one-on-one with Peter Olotka, designer of the original Cosmic Encounter boardgame, who hangs around the CE Online lobby and loves to jump into games. It doesn't get much better than beating the game's designer. Whoops; I meant playing ... ahem ... playing the game's designer.

Back to the points for a minute: it's interesting to note that Tmax became the sixth different winner of the yearly championship. Here's a list of the annual champions:

2003: LonelyMoon
2004: Barrok
2005: Mystique**
2006: Knightshadow
2007: AP
2008: Tmax

**Sigh. I was so very, very close ...

CE alien survey #4: WARRIOR

First appearance: Eon expansion set #3

Plain-English power: Gain points for fighting.

Loved by: People who like being juggernauts; fans of giant lizards with Beamswords.

Loathed by: Those who want an actual power right away; people who don't see the value in defeat.

Three ways to win as Warrior:
  1. Lose early (and maybe play an N to stuff your hand while you're at it). Warrior earns twice as much experience for losing than for winning, so get some losses out of the way to become unstoppable later.
  2. Be a loner. By the time people will want to ally with Warrior, he should have so much experience that he shouldn't be asking for help anyway. (Also, don't ally with others with too many ships; you get no experience for putting them at risk).
  3. Don't be afraid of low cards. Once experience starts building up, the actual number on the card becomes less relevant.
Three ways to win against Warrior:
  1. Zaps, especially late in the game. With all that experience built up, chances are he'll have no allies and have played a less-than-stellar card.
  2. Consider letting Warrior win a few early challenges. He might get ahead (so this is arguably best when Warrior's on defense), but he'll have less experience.
  3. Play an anti-Warrior power. Powers that trump high numbers (Anti-Matter, Loser) are an obvious benefit, and Warrior actually gets worse against them as the game goes on. Traditional powerhouses such as Virus are less effective, but can still trump even a strong Warrior.
At CE Online? Yes. Also, Warrior gets double experience (2 for winning; 4 for losing) at CE Online.

Anything else? An alien named "Warrior" ... that gains "experience points" ... and appears at the height of the Dungeons & Dragons craze ... interesting timing, no? Discuss.

— Submitted by Toomai Glittershine

Monday, January 5, 2009

CE alien survey #3: CALCULATOR

First appearance: Eon expansion set #2

Plain-English power: Subtract the lower card from the higher card.

Loved by: Oracle, Math Club nerds.

Loathed by: Virus, Tripler, and players who already have to count on their fingers to figure out their side's total.

Three ways to win as Calculator:
  1. Know the deck. (Easier at CE Online, where there are fewer different attacks).
  2. Know your math. If you have more ships on your side, do some quick math to find the highest card you can win with, even if you equalize and your card is higher.
  3. Know your foes. Watch your opponents carefully. Notice a trend of low cards? Don't calculate! The better you can guess their play, the better you can make yours.
Three ways to win against Calculator:
  1. Gather allies. If the numbers are on your side, you can employ Calculator's own tactics against him, finding a safe card that is good, whether equalized or not.
  2. Save your high (18-plus) cards for him.
  3. Don't outguess yourself. If you play low against Calculator every time, he is going to stop equalizing.
At CE Online? Yes.

Anything else? Rumor has it that Calculator was the 50th and final alien to make the cut for the FFG edition. Or maybe not. That's why they call them "rumors."

— Submitted by Adam-Paul Rouse

CE alien survey #2: PACIFIST

First appearance: Eon expansion set #7

Plain-English power: Win the encounter by playing a Negotiate card.

Loved by: Anyone who has ever seen a hand full of Negotiates (that's "Compromises" for you older players).

Loathed by: Offensive powers (Virus, Anti-Matter, etc.) that should win, but instead have to deal with a peacemaker.

Three ways to win as Pacifist:
  1. Play, hoard, and count N cards. Know how many Ns are in the game (for instance, there's 15 in the FFG version, but only 11 at CE Online).
  2. Bluff. Convince your opponent you're about to play an N, then play an attack.
  3. Gather up as many cards as possible. A large hand is a friend to Pacifist.
Three ways to win against Pacifist:
  1. Zaps!
  2. Play an N card of your own and hope for a deal. If a deal situation arises, either refuse to deal at all, or be sure to make it worth your while.
  3. Keep its hand as small as possible (and remember that the plague artifact will always take away an N).
At CE Online? Yes.

Anything else? Loser and Warpish join Pacifist as the only Expansion #7 aliens to be included in the FFG edition.

— Submitted by David Montgomery

Sunday, January 4, 2009

CE alien survey #1: TRADER

First appearance: Eon base set.

Plain-English power: Trade your entire hand with someone else's entire hand.

Loved by: Players who can't get enough of "take that!" moments; fans of dancing crabs.

Loathed by: Those who dislike chaos; players who become too attached to their pieces.

Three ways to win as Trader:
  1. Subtle is bad. Plow through your good cards and artifacts right away, then start thinking about trading.
  2. Pay attention! The more trades you make, the more you should have a general idea of who has what cards.
  3. Watch those aliens, too. Don't let inattention result in a trade of Ns to Pacifist, low cards to Anti-Matter, or high cards to Virus. Know the other aliens and how their powers work.

The Warp hits ONE THOUSAND aliens

Pretty amazing: fully 1,000 Cosmic Encounter aliens are now stored in The Warp's mammoth database. These can be searched, viewed, printed, and played with in a matter of minutes, creating what is basically the world's most tasty CE buffet. And it all began with a strange game with 15 aliens in a little blue box. Amazing.

For the record, alien #1,000 was Leviathan, another power based on the free-floating planets from the Fantasy Flight Games edition (and my personal favorite so far of that grouping). Let's take a look at what Leviathan is all about:
You have the power of Magnitude. As the offensive player, use this power to treat one of your system planets as a ship. Take one of your planets (with one to four of your ships on it) and load it onto the hyperspace gate. The planet itself is worth 10, plus the value of your ships on it. You may not ask for offensive allies. If you win the encounter, the planet moves to your opponent's system (but does not count for him or her). If you lose, your planet and ships go to the warp. You may raise a planet from the warp as you would any of your ships (returning it to your system as an unoccupied colony).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

BGG's Cosmic Encounter rankings nearly equal

Fun with BoardGameGeek ... a site that just can't quite seem to decide how it wants to deal with Cosmic Encounter:

New Fantasy Flight Games edition: ranked 225;

All previous editions (lumped together; BGG "logic" at work): ranked 220.

I expect these two rankings to merge together at 222, form a chain reaction, and spontaneously produce an expansion set.

Take advantage of those mobile planets

One of the unique features of the new Cosmic Encounter boardgame is that the planets come as "individuals" rather than grouped together in fives, as in past editions. This has already led to much speculation — which I happen to agree with — that Fantasy Flight Games has plans to showcase this feature in a future expansion.

But for now, we've got The Warp, which has already blasted out two pretty nice homebrewed aliens that focus on the single-planet aspect of the game. Allow me to introduce Focus and Shift.

Let's see what the powers actually do ... for Focus:
You have the power to Channel. At the start of the game, arrange your planets in the order you wish them to be challenged. Arrange your ships on the planets in any denomination you like (as long as there is at least one ship per planet). Other players must attack you in the order you select. At the start of your turn, you may rearrange the order of the planets.
And for Shift:
You have the power to Transpose. Whenever you win an encounter as a defensive main player, you may use this power to exchange your planet that was just attacked with one from the offensive main player's home system. Your planet is now a home planet in his or her system (and an external base for you and any other player with a colony there). His planet in your system is now treated as one of your home planets.
Good stuff, as always, from The Warp.