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Cosmic Encounter Duel Gets Lost to Warp - Review

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09 Jul 2020 13:37 #311821 by Michael Barnes
...

An overdesigned, overwrought mess.

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09 Jul 2020 14:24 #311822 by hotseatgames
Wow. It sounds like a lot of layers were thrown on in an attempt to simulate the insane variety of the original game.

It also makes me wonder... how would people feel about this game if they had never played the original?
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09 Jul 2020 16:53 #311827 by Andi Lennon
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09 Jul 2020 18:09 #311830 by ubarose
Well, that’s hugely disappointing.

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09 Jul 2020 20:46 #311836 by Josh Look
bUt MiChAeL, oF cOuRsE yOu’Re GoNnA hAtE oN a FfG gAmE!
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09 Jul 2020 23:08 #311840 by MarloweSpade
I don't particularly hold Cosmic in any sort of reverence, but I've only ever played it 3p so I probably haven't seen it at its best. And after reading this I'm certainly not about to try the 2p version, which I had been considering. Thanks for the heads up!

That said, this was worth it just for the tag:

"Wow, wouldn't a 2 player Cosmic be cool?"

No.
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09 Jul 2020 23:52 #311842 by san il defanso
Judging by your description, it sounds like the game made the mistake of thinking the "crazy" and "lol random" is the heart and soul of the Cosmic experience. I know that some people do feel that way, but I think it's more what the chaos and interaction facilitate, which is this sense that you are never out of it. There is almost always some trick you can pull, some card you can play, or some deal you can make that might tilt the game back in your favor. It is very much a game that lives in the moment, not one that locks you in with process.

It's also worth noting that the process in Cosmic Encounter is almost all some kind of parameter that manages the interaction. Essentially the rules are guardrails. In other games, the process of playing is meant to be managed in a way the Cosmic doesn't always seem very interested in. I mean, you CAN manage it, and indeed good players will do so, but it defies that sort of management at the same time.

On one level it's pretty interesting to see a two-player interpretation, even one that doesn't work very well. Cosmic is a big enough game that five people can look at it and have five different interpretations on what the "soul" of the experience is. But it sounds like this product wasn't very well-developed or polished, which is an odd oversight for FFG. I hate seeing standalone products like this not work, because I want to see fewer serialized purchases from FFG, but it sounds from your review like this is a total bust.
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10 Jul 2020 04:03 #311846 by Matt Thrower
That's unfortunate. On the face of it, the idea of envoys is a good substitute for a mix of alien powers and bluffing is a good substitute for the vagaries of negotiation. I had high hopes for this.

It sounds like those two core concepts might well make the basis of a decent two player CE variant, but it's been buried in an over-complex, over-engineered design. I'd still try it if I got the chance, I guess.

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10 Jul 2020 09:41 #311854 by Shellhead
decaf espresso
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10 Jul 2020 11:41 #311862 by drewcula
Jeesh. Thanks for the write-up MD. Cosmic Zap DODGED!

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10 Jul 2020 15:15 #311872 by cdennett
OK, having played 4 games of CE: Duel with my son, I feel like I need dampen some of the negativity being thrown at the game. I will start with the caveat that I've played less than a dozen games of the FFG Cosmic Encounter as my group generally dislikes it as a whole (several people will flat out refuse to play unless forced), so my love or appreciation for the "Cosmic Encounter Experience (TM)" is probably different then a lot of you veterans. I see it as a fragile game that depends heavily on the group, but I've always held onto it due to its reputation and potential. So take my tainted opinion as you wish.

So, as I said above, I've played 4 games of it, and they all were all enjoyable and played quite differently. I will not quibble with calling the game very random, as it definitely is. You sometimes are not in control of your destiny, but you could certainly argue that your decisions also influenced where you ended up. Clearly this was meant to imbue the game with some of the chaos of the original, and I can see why some see this as a negative. But it also allows for some very different outcomes. What was important to me is that I almost always felt like I had interesting decisions to make during the game, even if I could just simply get screwed by a random card that throws all my plans away. Kinda sounds like Cosmic to me, it's just the game doing it instead of another player.

In Barnes' example of being down 4 to nothing and winning due to an event, that may seem unsatisfying. But, that also indicates he was still in it, even while being decimated. And I could argue why was his son so low on ships? Maybe he sent too many ships early on in the game or chose to draw cards instead of retrieving ships from the warp (that's something you have to manage more carefully in this game that you don't need to in CE). But I'm saying this all hypothetically, maybe his son was never able to retrieve any ships and it was all just bad luck.

One example of a CE:Duel game had my son up 4 to 3 on me (you still play to 5 colonies). The next planet duel that came up had the caveat that if the player that wins the duel also wins the game, they actually lose the game. So now my son has to do everything he can to lose that planet, I win the planet easily, saving resources for the next duel. So now we're tied at 4, and the next planet duel that comes up says that no ships retreat at the end and if both players win the game, it's a shared victory. I couldn't blow up all of his ships, and thus we ended with a shared victory. That was a satisfying series of random events.

And to say base CE isn't random, let me recount one of the last times I played CE. Another player and myself were at 4 colonies and it was his turn. Much effort was spent by the collective group to keep him from winning that encounter and he was narrowly defeated. And then on my turn, I drew the flare card that just lets you get a foreign colony for simply playing it, which I did and then won the game. My friend, who was playing his first game of CE, was incredulous that I basically won simply because I drew the "you win" card from the deck. And I can't say he was wrong (yeah, I guess if someone had a Zap it would have been different). Anyhow, I've always though CE had a strong element of randomness, so not sure why it's such a harsh criticism here.

My biggest complaint for CE:Duel is that the alien powers seem a bit tame compared to CE, though some are more interesting then others. My last game I could steal played cards from my opponent and put them under my Alien or take a random card from under my alien and force him to use it without either of us looking at it. That led to some mind games about did he play a good card or a bad one (expecting me to take it).

I guess I'll just say if you can try out the game (hard to do in a pandemic, I know), I wouldn't completely write it off. But by the same token, you need to go into it with the right expectations.
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10 Jul 2020 15:25 #311873 by Gary Sax
Appreciate another take on it, cdennett.

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23 Jul 2020 15:02 #312392 by BackBurnerGames
I have to differ from this review, at least in part. Yes, the Cosmic Encounter Experience (TM) is a unique one, and is best cultivated through playing with a group of people. The mechanics in this version, I think, do a good enough job of creating options for 2 people that want to play a form of CE without the pandemonium that can come from discovering another player's abilities to break the game. It makes the game less social and more about tactics and strategy; I don't think that weakens a great game, but rather, creates a new variant of play.

I don't like CEDuel as much as CE, but that's a really tall order, as CE is one of my Top 5 All-Time Board Games (TM). For what it is, though, CEDuel gives you a good taste of the CE world if that's what you're in the mood to play, but don't have the people to play it. I will never NOT want to play CE, but there will be times I won't be in the mood for CEDuel. A 2-player version of Cosmic Encounter was never going to be like the original, so I choose to take the game for the merits of what it is, not what it isn't.
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