Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday special: Cosmic on my iPad

Yeah, that's right, I said it: Cosmic Encounter on the iPad. It's the dream, baby — and I'm feeling dreamy today.

I'm playing a lot of boardgames on my iPad right now. In fact, I interrupted a nice game of Neuroshima Hex to type up this quick post. And don't even get me started on the time I've spent with Ticket to Ride, Bang, Small World, and about 15 titles from Dr. Knizia.

And here's the thing: I'll often make a move in one of these and be struck by a powerful thought: "I can totally see playing Cosmic Encounter on this thing!" I can visualize it so easily ... moving ships with my finger, swiping to play cards from my hand, clicking inside some simple dialogue boxes. And all in gorgeous color on my convenient, 1-pound, go anywhere, internet-ready device. (And how about purchasing "Alien Packs" with iOS' In-App Purchase feature? Someone get the cash register ready!)

I'll go out on a limb here: I think, one day, I will be able to play CE on the iPad (or the iPad's successor, whatever it might be). I think it's almost inevitable, in fact, and a natural progression for the game. It won't be happening this year or in 2012; I understand that. But in the short- to medium-term future ... ? I can really see it happening.

I know it sounds a bit nutty on the surface. "Cosmic on the iPad? No way!" But you know what else sounded really nutty a few years ago?

Cosmic Encounter Online.

So who's with me? Is anyone else seeing my vision? And how do you see it working? Four players ... five players ... more? In-app purchases? Achievements and leaderboards? Dare to dream, friends.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday special: Going digital (part 1 of 3)

With Symbiote and Tick-Tock having been announced as "under development" at Cosmic Encounter Online, it's a good time to look at what other aliens might be good candidates to become digitized.

"Hulk SMASH!"
What follows (in three parts) is a look at 11 good candidates from the Fantasy Flight Games edition (FFG being the currently "in print" edition of the game) who would likely make good aliens at CE Online. Why 11? Well, why not? Top 10 lists are so routine and mundane ... it's time to break free of those shackles.**

But we can't just throw the kitchen sink at this exercise — not all CE aliens would be fun to play at CE Online. So what does make for a strong digital alien? These are some of the leading factors:

Flexibility: A good CE Online alien should be easy enough to play for most newcomers, yet challenging to play for CE veterans. Sorcerer is a good example of this. Anyone can understand a simple switching of cards; playing Sorcerer well, though, requires some experience.

Relative simplicity: Hey, I like both Plant and Insect a lot, but there's some good reasons they aren't included (yet) at CE Online. They are complex aliens which introduce a metric butt-load of obscure rules issues, for one thing.

Ease of coding: This is certainly not my area of expertise, but I do know "simpler" when I see it. I know intuitively that Zombie would be easier to code than Reincarnator ... I know the simple math of Virus would be easier to work with than the invisibility factor of Ghost.

So, keeping the above in mind, here's five good CE Online candidates, in no particular order, from the FFG base set:
  • 1. Cudgel. A simple smash-and-grab alien. Losing ships is something all CE players can easily understand. I'd think it would be a breeze to code, too.
  • 2. Mirror. I'm personally not a huge fan of this sort of number-manipulation, but I can where others might think it's very "cosmic." Plus, being able to turn a bad hand of cards into a great one is a dream come true for all CE players. Even easier to code than Cudgel?
  • 3. Masochist. Hey, we've all lost a ton of ships when we didn't mean to ... why not finally be rewarded for it?
  • 4. Hacker. The first part of the power is similar to how Mind works, so it's already kind of in the game; the second part would require some new code, but it doesn't seem like an insurmountable problem.
  • "My best friend is Void"
  • 5. Amoeba. Scores extra points for being one of the few original Eon aliens not already present at CE Online. Some sort of dialogue box would need to be added, but that doesn't seem insurmountable.
There's certainly some good honorable mention candidates, too, that I left off the list for various reasons. Fodder and Fido would be fun to play, but have more steps than are usually seen at CEO; Grudge is pretty simple, but would introduce the concept of tokens for the first time; Human couldn't possibly be simpler, but is almost universally loathed; and Spiff would be fun, but desperately needs a name change, which is a subject for a different day.

Coming next week: Three aliens from the Cosmic Incursion expansion who should be digitized.

**Actually, that's not it at all. I'm trying to take the FFG releases proportionally ... so, five from the core set, and three apiece from the two expansions.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Can Twitter be a game-maker?

"Play me!"
Just throwing this out there for any Cosmic Encounter Online players: would it be possible to use Twitter to set up games?

I've seen this occasionally with some other games. Players will use hashtags to let others know, in real time, that they are available for a game. I'm thinking something like "#cosmicnow" or "playCE" might work.

Overall, it's probably still easier to use instant messaging to set up games, but not everyone uses the same service or is on the same friends list. So we'd need to start a user-name database or something for that to be effective ... hmmm, that could be a future blog post.

So, what say you, CE Online players? Does this idea have any legs?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunday special: The $10,000 question

Here's a question I never get tired of posing to Cosmic Encounter players. I've asked it in blog form, on messageboards, in the Cosmic Encounter Online lobby, and in general conversation with CE fans.

Here's the scenario:

You are a finalist in the Cosmic Encounter World Championships. You will be playing one game, with a $10,000 prize for first place — and it's winner-take-all. Second place will get nothing; third place will get nothing ... I'm sure you get the idea.

Here's some other specifics:

  • Five foreign bases are needed to win;
  • The game must be won solo; no shared victory is allowed;
  • Flares will be included in the game, but no other "extras" will be used (no kickers, no lucre, no reinforcements, etc.)
  • For the sake of discussion (and because this is an exercise in imagination), just assume you'll be playing with the rules set you're most familiar with.

And now for the fun part: you get to pick your alien! Woot!

Again, some requirements:

  • For the sake of discussion, just assume your four opponents have no interest in your preferred alien;
  • Published aliens only! No homebrews allowed. (And "published" doesn't include old magazines or fanzines, or published on the internet ... it means, basically, Eon, Mayfair, Avalon Hill, or FFG)

So, there's $10,000 on the line — but you have to win. Which alien would you pick?

(I'll add my own answer in the comments later. And, trust me, that answer will not be "Virus" ...)

Friday, April 29, 2011

The First Fifteen: Virus

Second in a series of articles taking a (mostly) fond look back at the 15 aliens included in the original 1977 release of Cosmic Encounter:

Name: Virus
Description: "Multiplies in attack"
Power: "You have the power to multiply"
Art: A scary-looking bacteria dude
The rule it breaks: You add your ships to your card number.
Still active? Yes; included in the FFG core set
CE Online? Yes; generally regarded as "unbeatable" ... until it starts getting beaten all the time
One-sentence pass/fail test*: Pass. "You multiply your ships times your card."
Power scale (1-5): 4. Definitely powerful ... and easily beaten. Virus often seems like a 6 on the power scale; a bit of experience proves this isn't the case.
For 30 years, Virus fans have said: "200! Booyah!"
For 30 years, Virus detractors have said: "Seriously? Your total is 200? Clearly, this game is broken."

* A completely arbitrary test of whether an alien power can be explained to a CE newcomer in exactly one sentence, using basic English. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An introduction to CE Online (part 2 of 2)

Here we go with the second and final part of an overview of the differences between Cosmic Encounter (the boardgame) and Cosmic Encounter Online. Part I can be found below.

There's no central theme this time, but three general areas are covered:

  • The difference in scale between the two versions;
  • The social aspects;
  • And the difference in play styles.

Just press "play' and all of this CE goodness can be yours for a low, low introductory price.

Monday, April 25, 2011

An introduction to CE Online (part 1 of 2)


Are you a new player at Cosmic Encounter Online? Been lurking for a while? A former player who hasn't been back in some time? Visited the site once and were flummoxed? Or maybe a veteran who might be interested in hearing some thoughts on how the game is played?

Well, if so, then this is one of those fabled lucky days. Just press "play" above to hear my take on the major differences between Cosmic Encounter (the boardgame) and CE Online.

Bonus: it's the first of two parts. More audio fun to follow shortly!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The First Fifteen: Trader

First in a series of articles taking a (mostly) fond look back at the 15 aliens included in the original 1977 release of Cosmic Encounter:
Name: Trader
Description: "Trades hands with opponent"
Power: "You have the power of transference"
Art: A space crab
The rule it breaks: You're stuck with your own cards; you can't just grab other players' cards
Still active? Yes; included in the FFG core set
CE Online? Yes; one of the six aliens which can be played for free
One-sentence pass/fail test*: Pass. "You get to trade hands with another player."
Power scale (1-5): 4. Trader can be an absolute game-changer if the timing is right.
For 30 years, Trader fans have said: "That's right ... come to papa!"
For 30 years, Trader detractors have said: "What? Twenty-seven cards for one? Clearly, this game is broken."

* A completely arbitrary test of whether an alien power can be explained to a CE newcomer in exactly one sentence, using basic English.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cosmic goes social, and other notes


It's the first episode of "Poor Man's Podcasting." Just press play to get my earth-shaking thoughts on Cosmic Encounter's official presences at Facebook and Twitter.

Also of note:

1. Blogmic Encounter can now be accessed directly from the CE page at Facebook. The link is in the left-hand column.

2. As mentioned at the end of the audio, my first project right now is to clean up/add/remove/improve the links at Blogmic. If anyone has come across any new CE (or even Dune) links, please let me know.