If there is one law that has developed in the board gaming world, it's that any successful game will have at least one expansion. If it's a VERY successful game, it'll probably get several of them. And since most gamers don't have qualms about spending $50 for another box of cardboard, we lap up every new installment. But then we start to feel like maybe, just maybe, we have enough of a certain game. There are lots of new titles out there, and expansions pull away valuable time and money from new titles. For my own part, I've decided to not pick up Dominion: Cornucopia for the time being. I just have enough variety, you know? But I do have one weakness with expansions, one tiny little confession to get off my chest.
I would buy any expansion for Cosmic Encounter, no questions asked.
Cosmic Encounter thrives on expansions. It was practically the game that invented them. The original Eon release got nine (!) of them before bowing out. Mayfair only did one, but it was the size of the original game, effectively doubling its content. The biggest single gripe about the ill-fated Avalon Hill version? No expansions. And for my money, that's a fair criticism. Cosmic is a game entirely about variety and insanity. While more expansions can clutter up most games, Cosmic only gets more...Cosmic. So far, Fantasy Flight has done right by the this classic. Last year's Cosmic Incursion added a sixth player and 20 new aliens, as well as the Rewards Deck. Now, we have 2011's Cosmic Conflict. It basically adds more of the same, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
The slickest thing here is the fancy new black spaceships. They look very Darth Vader-ish, and seeing a stack of them parked on the hyperspace cone looks ominous AND awesome. I originally complained that the sixth player pieces weren't available in the base game. Now that we have that sixth player, a seventh color is just gravy. I haven't had a chance to try a seven-player game, since I don't think I could find six people who would be game to try it. My gut tells me that it would make for a longer game, but I also imagine it would make it even more insane. Adding another power and two more flares to the already chaotic six-player game can only ramp everything up. Sounds fun to me, although I'm sure there are boring people who would complain about it. I also like that FFG has allowed new players to get to six players with either expansion. Since FFG titles float in and out of print, a new player can pick up either one to make a more complete game, and then grab the other later. Buying just one is not an option.
What of the new aliens? Well, there are 20 more, bringing the grand total up to a ludicrous 90. As with the core game and Cosmic Incursion, the overall quality is very good. My personal favorites so far have been the Warhawk (who never negotiates) and the Trickster (who foregoes cards, and takes a 50/50 chance of winning). I still haven't seen many of them, but it's always fun to see new powers interact with old ones. I also really like the alien artwork this time around. Cosmic Encounter has always had some of the best artwork in the business, but they really hit it out of the park with this one. My personal favorite is the Filth, who looks for all the world like an enormous turd. Trust me, it's funny.
The only unfamiliar element is the new Hazard Deck. When I first got the base game, I noticed that some of the Destiny cards had a little halo around the colored circle in the corner. This very subtle effect was pointed out by the rule book, where it said there would be future content using this feature. Well, here it is. Essentially, the hazard deck is a variety of wild effects on the game. One card is drawn whenever the little halo turns up on the destiny card. Some of the Hazards have VERY strong effects (like destroying losing ships instead of sending them to the warp). Most of them are more subtle though. My personal favorite is the one that swap the draw pile and the discard pile. Okay, maybe subtle is relative, but you get the idea. The Hazard Deck can be inserted into a game with a minimum of fuss. It's basically some extra crazy for those who need/want it. I was more impressed by the Rewards Deck in Incursion, but there's nothing wrong with this one. It's just a little more forgettable.
At $25, this expansion is a no-brainer for Cosmic Encounter fans. If you are the type of person who wants to only get one of the Cosmic Encounter encounter expansions, my recommendation is to just delete Lost Cities from your cart online, and throw the second expansion on instead. Which one is better though? I'd probably lean towards Incursion, if only because I like the Rewards Deck so much. Not only that, but I'd like to see FFG really try something out of the box next time. This one feels just a little safer than the first one. That's a very small nitpick though. You can't really go wrong either way.
If rumors are true, there are three more expansions to Cosmic Encounter in the works. These may be tough financial times for all of us. But it says something about the quality that FFG has upheld with Cosmic Encounter that I fully intend to buy each of those three expansions. If Incursion and Conflict are any indication, it'll be worth buying one less small game to invest in more of this masterpiece.