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Subject: Hey, you mind getting your drink off my spaceship? rss

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j b Goodwin

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Cosmic Coasters is just an odd game. That's not a bad thing; in fact, that's very attractive. The game comes by its oddity honestly; it was created by Andrew Looney, the head of the "hippy game company," Looney Labs, maker of such other oddities as Icehouse, Fluxx and Chrononauts.

Cosmic Coasters is an abstract game with a thin but workable theme: you are attempting to teleport a spaceship to an enemy moon and teleport it back to your home before your enemy does the same. Think of it as a recon in force.

Like other Looney Labs games, the design and manufacturing of Cosmic Coasters is of high quality; like Cheapass games (not related to this game), it is inexpensive, and to play, you will need a few items that are not supplied with the game.

The product consists of four coasters about the size of compact disks. It's very clever for LL to have made the game on coasters. Because of the great numbers of promotional advertising coasters being custom-printed, it's fairly inexpesive to made coasters, and because of the need for them to resist wetting, drying, and multiple use, they make pretty sturdy game boards.

The front of each coaster features a NASA public-domain photo of one of Jupiter's Gallilean satellites (Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa), overlaid with a circle intersected by a four-way cross. The circle has four Factories alternating with four Control Points, and the spot in the center of the cross is the Teleport Pad.

The back of each coaster has the rules for the game, plus the Special Power rule for the moon pictured on the front.

At this point, I will mention my opinion that, while there are four coasters and rules for three or four players, I feel that this is really a two-player game. Therefore, while you play with two coasters, you can flip the other coasters over to have the rules before you (not that they are difficult to learn or remember).

You will also need seven distinct counters for each player. You could use seven heads-up pennies for one player, and seven tails-up pennies for the other, or you could use two colors of glass beads, which is what I use. Looks, great, and beads are just the right size for the spots on the coasters.

If you wanted to go all out, you could go to Looney Labs' website and order fourteen small Icehouse pyramids at a buck apiece plus shipping (although they really intend for the individual pyramids to be available to replace lost or broken ones). If you did that, I would recommend dropping another twenty cents for two Cosmic Coasters player aid cards; they are full-color playing-card-size cards that give all four of the moons' Special Powers. Very handy. These additional items could add from fourteen cents to twenty-one dollars or so to the five-dollar cost of the game. It all depends on how much you like the game, and want to customize it.

Now that you know what the coasters look like, you might be interested in what you do with them. All seven of your spaceships (counters) start the game on your home moon. One of your ships starts on your Teleport Pad, four start on your Factories, and two ships start on two of your Control Points.

Each turn, you can do one of three things:

1. If you occupy two or more Control Points in the circle around the Transport Pad, you can transport a ship from a Transport Pad to any spot on another moon (destroying an enemy ship if you "land" on it); you can also transport an enemy ship from the Transport Pad to deep space, thus destroying it;

2. If you occupy the two Control Points that flank an empty Factory (and have available ships due to destruction of one of your original seven ships), you can build a new ship on that Factory;

3. You may move a ship into the next point along the line it lies on. If this lands it on an enemy ship, you must combat.

Combat is resolved by Rock-Paper-Scissors. While the psychology of RPS is interesting, it can get a bit tedious at times, so I made some RPS dice, which have two faces with Rock, two faces with Paper, and two faces with Scissors. It makes the game roll a little faster.

And one of the really attractive thing about the game is that each player has a Special Power (Rapid Transit, Stinging Defense, Teleport Inhibitor, Warning System)that allows that player to break one rule of the game that no other player can break. This gives a little asymmetry to the game that makes it more interesting, and gives a bit more replayability to the game.

The goal of the game is to teleport one of your ships to the enemy's moon, and then teleport it back to your home moon. This may sound simple, but it means a battle for control of enemy Control Points, a battle to reduce enemy forces, and replenishment of your own forces, while simultaneously defending against the same aggression on your own home moon. This gives the game an interconnected two-board action that creates good tension.

The tempo of Cosmic Coasters is generally quick, but there can be a mid-game slump that does not last long, and can be remedied with a "Ko" rule to prevent repetion of board position. All in all, it plays fast, is easy to learn, teach, and play, and does not require great concentration, so it's a good game to play where there could be distractions such as food, drink, curious onlookers and waitpersons.
The small, separate gameboards are easy to work in between plates and cups on tables in the bar, the restaurant or the lunchroom.

It's an odd game for people who like interesting play and interesting-looking game components. It's portable and sturdy. It's It's an odd game for people who like interesting play and interesting-looking game components. It's portable and sturdy. It's got pictures of the moons of Jupiter. You get to play Rock-Paper-Scissors. You get to feed your aggression in a friendly way. And if you don't actually like the game, you've still got a nice set of very serviceable coasters. How could you not like a game like this?
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