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Cosmic Encounter (1977)

No filler here, this is the first edition, second printing (I think) of Cosmic Encounter (1977), the science fiction game for everyone! Created by Eon Productions, this is a stone cold classic board game of the 70s.

The core rules are simple. You have your alien and your system. You need to colonize five planets outside your system. The player on defense is selected randomly. Conflict is resolved through combat and augmented through alliance, with other players joining the attack or the defense. It is possible to resolve an attack through timed diplomacy as well (or to feign diplomacy to gull your opponent into playing a Negotiate card against your attack card). Already we have a pretty fast, pretty complex strategy game.

The real joy of the game is the aliens, which are selected randomly at the start of the game and have special powers. Those powers modify and sometimes outright break the core rules in specific ways, allowing alternative paths to victory or specific advantages in conflict. There’s a big pool of aliens (expansions, of course, introduce ever more), which essentially ensures no two sessions of Cosmic Encounter will ever play the same.

It’s a massively influential game, basically the first to popularize the idea of having a set of core rules that get modified for each player. You can see this influence in stuff like Dune and Illuminati and on into the RPG-lite board games that start showing up in the 80s. Richard Garfield cited Cosmic’s idea of delivering a new experience with each play session as super important for the development of Magic: The Gathering. There are numerous editions, the latest, I think, being a well-expanded one from Fantasy Flight that my game group played the hell out of for a while.

This early edition features rad art by, I believe, Dean Morrissey. It is my favorite look of the game.

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