my favorite fantasy or sci-fi themed simple card games with endless rule breaking special role situations
Peter Mumford
United States
Somerville
Massachusetts
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This list was inspired by noticing how similar Zarcana feels to Cosmic Encounter. Then I thought there might be more games that fit this general category that I don't know about because I'm mainly into train games and economic oriented games.
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1. Board Game: Cosmic Encounter [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:101]
Peter Mumford
United States
Somerville
Massachusetts
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At heart Cosmic Encounter is very simple card game, involving blind bids, and temporary alliances between players. The real game is using your special power, conferred on you by your alien, in creative and unexpected ways. This is a wonderful, sprawling mess of a game that I can barely play, but usually love (unless I am getting clobbered, which is to say most of the time).

The downside of Cosmic Encounter (and probably every game on this list) is that it is inevitably unbalanced. But if your alien is not winning the game for you, you can at least hope for luck of the draw – some consolation there at least.
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2. Board Game: Zarcana [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:8634]
Peter Mumford
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A sci-fi fantasy theme?? Zarcana is played with a tarot deck as a board. It has much in common with a the art and style of sci fi paperback book covers. The most common tarot deck, the Rider deck dating from 1909, is a masterpiece of American illustration. It is weird, fanciful and evocative:


For me Zarcana has almost the same feeling as Cosmic Encounter. The card play is not complicated: there are four suits, you just need to learn what each of them does. The excitement of the game comes from the wildly unexpected powers of the trump cards and the creative ways they can be played.

If a trump card is present on the board, and you occupy that card with a minion (i.e. pawn), that card gives you the equivalent of an alien's special power in Cosmic.

If you play a trump from your hand, that is the equivalent of Cosmic's flares.

It shares with Cosmic the quality of being cruelly unbalanced, but having sufficient luck that one can always hope to equalize. And in the end the more daring and creative player will usually win, as should be.

Zarcana is an elegant game, consisting of simply a tarot deck and a "stash" of pyramids for each player. I never bothered to sticker my cards. I would never cover the lovely art of Pixie Smith, illustrator of the Rider deck. I do keep a reference sheet handy for each player.
 
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3. Board Game: Blue Moon [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:884]
Peter Mumford
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This is the last game I'll add to this list, but I'm sure more will follow. Sci-fi/fantasy theme indeed. Complete with nearly naked babes reminiscent of Frank Frazetta. (Unfortunately my girlfriend hates Blue Moon's art and won't play this.)

Blue Moon is a very simple card game. At first I was like "that's all there is? Where is the game?" But of course there is a game here, and is is deep, far deeper than you might think at first. When you put down a card you always wonder: will my adversary take the bait? What's my back up plan? Do I withdraw or can I last another card?

Special powers? The deck that you choose give you something of the feeling of special powers. You have to know your deck of course, and players who slapped down a lot of Magic in high school almost always clobber me at this game, but that just shows that it is not a luck game - its a hand management game.

In spite of Dr. Knizia's renowned playtesting, Blue Moon is not perfectly balanced between all decks. Play the Flit against the Terrah is you don't believe me. But hey life is not fair either, so deal.
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