Reviews written by JonathanVolk
Rare: a uniquely happy marriage of narrative and mechanics. I can't imagine what it would be like to play not knowing the Dune universe. Overly complex. Over a dozen plays in and we still get the rules wrong. Six players all but mandatory. But the design keeps giving (and giving in, to story). Here imbalance is virtue. Six factions that resist and enable each other in delightful ways. The Bene Gesserit may never win, but never-winning has never been so fun. Defeat here has the glow of defeat in narrative: somehow it's more interesting, more vital. Games need drama. The story of numbers adds up to nothing. Full disclosure: I hated math until I discovered it had imaginary numbers.
If wonk has a center, it is here, in Cosmic Encounter. Infuriating to players who like machine-builders, maths, multi-turn strategies. In other words: control-dissolving. A game of "giving in", like flying, like death. Hilarious, if viewed from the right location. If I fall into a sewer, some Roman said, that's tragedy. If I see someone else fall into that sewer, that's comedy. Cosmic Encounter is that glorious sewer, depending.
So you think you can Pope? Fine: a "burn books" action is yours. The "verbs" mask bad mechanics. For players who salivate at the words "Tudor marriage track." Jane Seymour gets a +1 to rolls on the "birthing chart." Weren't Jane's last words, dying from postnatal complications, "fucking +1"? Like history, this game happens viciously to you.