As promised in my last post, here’s my typically badly written account of the rather intergalactic halesowen board gamers night on the 18th June ;)
I arrived a little late on Wednesday, although it didn’t appear anyone was sorted out for what to play yet. That wasn’t to last long, with some grouping for a game of…something (18xx but not as long as most I think was Mike’s one-liner description, no idea what that means though =P) and another group going for Tzolk’in, leaving myself, Ian, Kevin & Steve for sorting out what to play amongst ourselves.
Kevin suggested Cosmic Arguments, and after a brief not so cosmic argument where we didn’t actually have any other options that anyone particularly wanted to play, went with Cosmic Encounter, where we might find a better argument (After all, argument clinics are effective and this method was going for free!). I’ve not played before but have been wanting to for a while, as while ‘screw each other over’ tends to put me off, its’ popularity and apparent variety according to reviewers intrigued me ^^.
The principles of this game are simple. Each turn, the ‘main’/’active’ player draws a card from a randomized deck, which determines who they are ‘encountering’ this turn. Some provide choices, but mostly it’s something like ‘Encounter Blue’. The main player then places a number of ships (1-4 I believe) in towards the encounter, which is usually pretty minimal in actual effect, but goes some way to display intentions (4 Ships, attacking and confident, 2-3 ships, attacking but unsure – don’t want to lose too much, 1 Ship – Likely to negotiate). Both players may then invite others around the table to send ships to help out, who can either place them into the attack force or around the planet in defense.
With preparation done, the 2 players choose an encounter card from their hand, with both players then revealing them simultaneously. If both negotiate, they have 1 minute to decide on an exchange (Or none at all, if both agree that’s ok). If one negotiates & one attacks, the attack is an auto-success (Defenders ships are lost ‘to the warp’ and attacker(s) ships occupy the planet), but the loser takes as many cards from the attacker as ships lost. If both attack, then players work out their strengths and may play additional cards if they have any, with allies able to reinforce if they have the cards to do so – Success they occupy the planet and defenders ships go to the warp, fail and the attackers ships go to the warp with the defender keeping their planet.
If the first encounter on a players turn is successful, they get a second one immediately. When they have performed their encounter (or encounters) their turn ends and the next players turn begins. Play continues like this until a player (or players!) manage occupy a total of 5 enemy planets, at which point they win (Or not…maybe).
The big twist to the game, is that at the start, each player gets an alien race (Chosen from 3 they get dealt in secret, with the chosen one going face-up on the table). There are an absolutely huge amount of these to choose from, with wildly varying effects, from just increasing attack strength over the game (My power) to changing that players win condition to just having 20 cards in hand (One of my other possible options from the game start). These are what make the game interesting, as they push each player to think differently depending on who they fight and who they are, and with the huge amount available will eb different each game (Hence, I’d love to play again sometime ^^).
So anyway, enough about that (Particularly as the game is nearly 40 years old and many probably already know it). In our game, I played the warrior (If I win an encounter I gain a token, if I lose I gain 2, when I attack I get +power equal to the number of tokens I have). Kevin was a Sorceror (Swap encounter cards with opponent), James (Who turned up just after we’d decided to play, fortunately before beginning ^^) was opposite me and I was too lazy to try and read a long-distance upside-down card, Ian could swap the digits of attacks (So a 09 becomes a 90) with the caveat it effects both sides and Steve was a Ghoul, which probably had an effect but well..I don’t know if he ever used it.
The very first thing which happened, was that Kevin, being an evil wizard, attacked my beautiful summer-resort planet, aiming to claim its’ beauty as his own. Steve, being gruesome and presumely recently dead, being a ghoul and all, opted to join in on the relentless and cruel assault. Ian jumped in to help me out, but alas, we lost and a fantastic picnic location went to the bad guys.
Sorry but I’m not going to go that in-depth for the other encounters, but needless to say something I loved throughout was the ridiculous banter and the crossover of both wanting to win but also wanting to do odd things just for the hell of it ^^. After the first planet went to Steve/Kevin, myself, Ian & James teamed up for the next one bringing it to 1 planet for everyone. From there, all of us but Steve regularly increased our count in planets (Kevin was a step behind for a while too, as he, naturally, wasn’t part of the ‘Not Steve or Kevin’ alliance). By the end of the game everyone but Steve had 4 planets (He had 3) and ultimately victory went to James after an attack that he could not (And didn’t really try to, opting not to invite anyone to aid him) defend against.
It was a ton of fun and I don’t know how to convey that here. The random ‘who you’re encountering’ system works great, as it forces you to think about how you want to deal with different people – Do you attack the person that helped defend your planet just one turn back, or try to negotiate a deal, hoping they think the same. The ways that different powers worked was great (Although a shame that James/Steve didn’t seem to have much of an obvious impact with theirs) and I think will make replays a hugely interesting experience ^^
Among the Stars
Sticking with the Space theme, we next went with one of my games (From a number of suggestions ^^) – Among the Stars. I’ve talked about it before so I’ll try to keep it short! Over 4 years, players build space stations by drafting ‘location’ cards – each turn they pick one card, pay its’ cost and place it in their station, gaining points as per the value of the card and any text on it, then passing their hand to their left or right (Alternates each year), when the last card of a round is built, new hands are dealt and the next year begins. At the end of the game, objectives (Face-up from the start) are awarded and any final scoring happens (Some locations have ‘delayed’ abilities that’re counted now).
I don’t have a huge amount to say about how our game went, as when using just the base-game stuff there’s fairly little interaction (Asides from with your neighbours, although in this case there wasn’t much denial for me to do).
I can say though that for most of the game myself & Ian had lowish points, while the others shot ahead (I think they got to 20-30 points ahead at one point), although this was largely because we both went for more of a delayed-ability route (The location abilities that are counted at the games end rather than as you go) – It wasn’t deliberate, I was just using certain colours to go for the ‘Be the first to build 2 locations of each type’ objective ^^. I also tried to get ‘Be the first to build 4 different military locations’, but couldn’t get enough in hand that I could afford (The first ones I saw required 3 power, and my race, while I started with 5 power, couldn’t build additional power reactors, so it seemed too much of a risk), as a result James was able to nab that one away from me.
As we came into the last round, I noticed that interestingly, almost every players station was a fairly tight build (Often some will spread out, or be ‘spikey’ or have holes, etc to go for certain location bonuses, but the particularly ones we had this game led to the tight layout. Kevins power gave him extra money which I think he used well enough, James’ gave him an extra objective which he completed, but at the cost of missing out on one of the faceup ones (He had to build 12 different basic locations, which led to him missing on 12 different special locations ^^). Ian got to cancel one turn for each player over the game, which I think had varying effect, although successfully annoyed me as it cancelled a turret (Which are pretty good, but only if you can get a few of them). Steve had better power reactors than others (3/reactor) and I had a super-reactor (5 power) with infinite range (Normally 2) but couldn’t build extras.
When we came to the games end, I was sitting in 4th place until I added my objectives (I got 2, one for the first to 2 of each type as I mentioned, and the other was ‘least power reactors’, amusingly easy when I literally couldn’t build more), after which I shot up to first. The others weren’t far behind though! I think I could have eked out a few more points but I was stingy on power usage because I worried about having only 5 ^^…awkward considering I still had 2 left at the end =P. A fun time was had, and hopefully will lead to being able to play next week with the ambassadors module added (Or any of the other gazillion modules that I haven’t touched as I keep introducing new players rather than doing repeat plays with the same people ^^).
Great evening, as always. Again, super happy that I got to play Cosmic Encounter for the first time, as well as Among the Stars which is one of my favourite games.