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This is Part 3 in my series grading the 20 aliens in Fantasy Flight Games' Cosmic Incursion, the first expansion to Cosmic Encounter. This is not a "power ranking" of the aliens; rather, it is an attempt to assess the alien powers based on the nature of the advantage they provide to their players, and whether that advantage is a genuine contribution to the game as a whole. I've previously reviewed and 'graded' the 50 aliens of the base set - see the forums of the base game for those posts.

Part 1 of this series, in which I introduce the project, as well as evaluate Bully, Chronos, Cryo, Deuce, and Disease, is here. As I mentioned in the introduction to this project, the aliens of CI are not graded "in a void"; attention is being paid to whether they integrate well with the base set aliens or not. As I said there, "as a corollary to this effort to value that which is prior, I will not be revising the grades of base set aliens, even if the effects from later aliens or Reward Deck cards affect them positively or negatively. It's my opinion that the responsibility of designers of expansion products is to ensure that future components work well with already-established components."

Part 2 of this series, in which I discuss Ethic, Fungus, Fury, Genius, and Ghoul, is here.

Part 3 of this series features 5 never previously-published aliens. We'll start with Guerrilla, sometime today.
 
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_GUERRILLA_
Winners Lose All But 1 Ship

Power Description with History and Flare (from The Warp):

GUERRILLA: Winners Lose All But 1 Ship

You have the power of Attrition. As a main player, after you lose an encounter, use this power to weaken your opponent and each of his or her allies. Each player you weaken loses all but one of his or her ships in the encounter to the warp.

History: Used to fighting against superior forces, the Guerrillas have leaned to strike from the shadows, wearing down their opponents' numbers even when they lose a battle. Seeing themselves as heroes underdogs, the Guerrillas have set out to liberate the Cosmos form those who would oppress it, whether the cosmos wants to be liberated or not.

Wild: After you lose an encounter as the defense, you may blow your own planet up rather than allow it to be captured. The planet is removed from the game along with all of the attacking ships (your side's ships are sent to the warp as normal). A player cannot be reduced to fewer ships than the number of foreign colonies needed to win the game. Any ships removed from the game that would reduce a player below this number are sent to the warp as normal.

Super: Each player you weaken that has three or fewer ships in the encounter loses all of his or her ships in the encounter to the warp.



EVALUATION AND GRADING

1. Is it a power?

Guerrilla is a “ship loss” power, like Vacuum, Cudgel or Shadow, from the base set. Like those aliens, Guerrilla is trying to play a “long game” of ship scarcity; the desired state is for Guerrilla to see his opponents with tons of ships in the Warp, compelling them to strip colonies in order to function. This is not an easy state to achieve as defensive rewards and the presence of two Mobius Tubes cards in the deck allow players to retrieve ships and slide out from Guerrilla’s pressure.

Guerrilla is a nice variation on this “ship loss” theme because it can influence the Encounter more overtly than Vacuum. If the main player believes he will win, he will Launch fewer ships… but how many fewer? If potential allies believe that Guerrilla will lose, how many ships are they willing to send against Guerrilla? Might it be better to ally with Guerrilla? These are the fun tough decisions Guerrilla forces players to make.

2. Does it obsolete a previously-published alien power?

Guerrilla has some important advantages over Vacuum, but Vacuum is more flexible. For example, let’s say you’ve Launched 3 ships against Guerrilla. You’ve won, but now Guerrilla’s power kicks in, and you lose 2 of those offensive ships right away. Same scenario, but against Vacuum, who’s losing 4 ships: Vacuum could make you lose 2 ships (from any colony) and Virus lose 2 ships – helping to de-fang that mighty power.

Plus, Vacuum engages whenever he loses ships; Guerrilla only when he’s lost an Encounter.

3. Is the alien over-powered?

No.

4. Does the alien power strip a player of control in one of the most basic aspects of the game?

No.

5. Is the alien accessible? In other words, if I’m a first time player of Guerrilla, can I read the alien’s power and get a good grip on how the alien works?

Yes.

6. Is the alien innovative? In other words, does it bring something unique to Cosmic Encounter?

Somewhat. Guerrilla is yet another “makes you lose extra ships” alien power, and like Cudgel, ties that ability to the outcome of the Encounter. Like Vacuum, Guerrilla triggers on losing, but more overtly and straightforwardly impacts opponents.

All in all, I can’t give this alien a top grade here. It’s one of the best implementations of the theme we’ve seen yet, but it’s definitely a twisting of an already-done idea, not an original mechanic or concept.

7. Is the alien elegant in its simplicity?

Yes.

Classification: Guerrilla is both a Class B (helps you plan for the future) and Class A (helps you in the Encounter) alien. I put “B” first, because it’s the most direct, but the “A” is definitely present. This is all to its great credit.

Extra Credit: Is the gameplay of this alien evocative of its theme? Yes.

Extra Credit: Does the art of this alien match its description or history? Yes – I like the “camo” insectoid alien we get here.

VISCERAL REATION a la Bill Martinson (is this alien power a Cosmic “Must Have”, “Don’t Need” or “Middle of the Road” alien?):

Quote:
By must have, I mean the gameplay is compelling, the story/roleplaying is hilarious, or the power is so quintessentially Cosmic that its absence would feel like a hole in the game.

By don't need, I mean it's conspicuously too weak or too strong, copycat, boring, or a rulings mess; or I just plain personally dislike it. In general, if you told me you were traveling back in time to prevent it from ever existing I'd probably say "Have a nice trip" because I'd never miss that alien.


If Guerrilla were the first “ship loss” alien, I might feel differently – but now, I’m going with “Middle of the Road”. There’s an aspect of Guerrilla’s gameplay that’s compelling – but we already have it, and it’s present in Vacuum. But Guerrilla is sufficiently distinct – and interesting – so I don’t feel that it’s an annoying copycat.

Grade of FFG alien: A

Is this a good alien for the first expansion? Or should it have been in the base set? OR, should it have waited for a future expansion, and not been published in FFG’s first expansion to Cosmic?

Yeah, it's OK. It's an easy-to-play, basic but good "green light" alien. Perhaps ideally it would be in the base set and push Cudgel to this expansion (or later, or not at all), but it's not bad.

Your thoughts?

Poll: Is CI the best place for Guerrilla?
Fantasy Flight games waited until Cosmic Incursion to print Guerrilla. Do you agree with this?
Is CI the best place for Guerrilla?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
No, Guerrilla should have been in the base set.
50.0% 2
Yes, the first expansion is the perfect spot for Guerrilla.
50.0% 2
No, FFG should have printed it later.
0.0% 0
No, FFG should have never printed Guerrilla.
0.0% 0
Voters 4
This poll is now closed.   4 answers
Poll created by rjburns3
Closes: Sat Apr 7, 2018 6:00 am


Personal “iTunes” rating, out of 5: 3 (“like it”)

Personal commentary:

I love Vacuum, and I enjoy Guerrilla. Cudgel is all right (I probably should have given it a “B”, but it’s still a decent alien), but that’s enough. We don’t need any more “you lose extra ships” aliens. We’ve got the best we’re going to get.

Jack Reda is right when he says that “getting something by losing the Encounter” is design space to be avoided. And thankfully, FFG has done pretty well keeping the occupants of this design space fairly low in number (although there are still more occupants than I care for). Guerrilla is definitely one of the better ones as he turns his opponent’s win into a Pyrrhic victory (unless the opponent is Warpish or Masochist, of course), and discourages others from joining with his opponent. I’ve played Guerrilla in a three-player game and even with that few players really enjoyed socking it to my opponents.

Wild Guerrilla is AWESOME, it takes “scorched earth” into Cosmic. It’s a satisfying Flare to play when you’ve lost a tough battle. It’s just a hilarious, outrageous, Cosmic effect and I love it. Grand Moff Tarkin would approve of this Flare.

The Super Flare is going to be highly annoying when Guerrilla first reveals it; from then on, it’s going to mean that opponents are going to be bringing 4 ships against you, or none at all. It’s a pretty decent Super Flare given the alien power.



A - This is the best kind of alien: it gives its player an advantage in the game (or its advantages outweigh its disadvantages, and significantly) but it's not obnoxiously overpowered or obsoletes other, previous aliens; it's innovative; it's accessible; it's elegant in its simplicity. Often these aliens are thematic or otherwise evocative. Examples: Clone, Disease, Scavenger.

B - This alien would otherwise be an "A" but has some flaw. Maybe it's not accessible. Perhaps it's something of a variant of a previous alien. Perhaps it belongs to the "hijacker" class of aliens, which are great but strip an important element of control away and are controversial. Examples: Laser* (Eon), Graviton, Converter, Swindler*.

*- denotes "hijacker class"

C - This alien blows it on several counts, but it's still playable. Alternately, it might be an OK alien otherwise, but can be rendered practically impotent if certain other powers or effects are present at the table. In those cases, a bit of revising prior to publication would have gone a long way. A "C" represents a lost opportunity. Cosmic is neither better nor worse because this alien is in the set. Examples: Masochist, Horde, Neighbor.

D - This alien is playable, but usually one of two things: (a) a weak alien that barely confers an advantage on its player, and debate exists whether this alien's disadvantages that reveal themselves during play outweigh its printed advantages, or (b) a strong alien that obnoxiously re-creates the effect of another previously printed alien, and typically better than the older alien, practically obsoleting it but not conclusively so. Cosmic Encounter is decidedly not better with this alien's inclusion in the set; I can't say it's decidedly worse, but it's definitely not better. Aliens that earn a "D" or an "F" are aliens that should not have been published. Examples: Chosen (Mayfair's version), Locust, Sloth.

F - This alien is either (a) can be shown to confer no advantage on its player whatsoever, even to the point of putting its player at a disadvantage (i.e. a "dud"), or (b) conclusively obsoletes another previously-published alien, or (c) obnoxiously over-powered to the point where it "breaks the game"; i.e. the advantages it confers to its player are an order of magnitude greater than the vast bulk of the powers. This last is particularly subjective, but usually the opinion is widespread that the alien breaks the game, with few dissenters. Virus and Loser have had some groups claiming that they break the game, but this opinion is not the majority opinion; both aliens have limits inherent to their power. Brute fails either on count (b) or (c), possibly both. Mayfair Games felt that Eon's original Judge failed on count (c) and tried to curb it (an opinion I do not share). Examples: Worm (Eon), Connoisseur (Mayfair), Brute, Grumpus.
 
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Grief and Guerilla are solid aliens. They are elegant in their simplicity. They are well-balanced. They absolutely belong in the game.

But I don't love them.

There are lots of great aliens that I can get excited about. There are even janky aliens that don't actually work properly that I can get excited about, like Masochist or Void. But there are a few aliens that, despite their fine design, my heart just can't bring itself to get into, and these are two of them. I don't hate them, I just don't love them either.
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You know, it's funny you say that because just yesterday I was re-reading this write-up and thinking, "Hmm. the tough fun decisions that Guerrilla provokes are on the side of his opponent; not on Guerrilla's side" and I remembered that you had said that about Hate. Everyone else around the table must constantly prepare for Hate's inevitable wrath; the Hate player waits until his turn and then chooses the most reasonable card to discard.
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salty53 wrote:
But there are a few aliens that, despite their fine design, my heart just can't bring itself to get into, and these are two of them.

I've actually always kind of liked Grief for its utter simplicity, but I totally agree on Guerrilla: it has just never interested me. This may have something to do with the fact that every time I read the Super flare I always have to stop and think through what actually happens and how it changes the power. The math is simple (dead simple in both cases), and I'm good at math ... but for some reason, maybe the wording, I always have to pause and read it twice.

rjburns3 wrote:
"Hmm. the tough fun decisions that Guerrilla provokes are on the side of his opponent; not on Guerrilla's side" and I remembered that you had said that about Hate.

That must be part of why these aliens don't appeal to me. They require somebody else to pay the price of playing a relatively boring design so that I can have the experience of reacting to it. And the Guerrilla player is also subsidizing my opportunity to play his wild flare! (Now that's truly a card that needs to be in this game, and a solid reason why I would never purge Guerrilla when trimming down the herd to make room for new aliens.)
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That all may be true, and it's perfectly fine for you to not love a particular alien. But there are plenty of other interesting things going on in the game that you don't have to rely on your own power to provide you with interesting decisions.

Some powers provide their owner with interesting decisions to make.
Some powers cause their opponents to make interesting decisions.
Some powers do both.
There may be some powers do neither.
The game itself provides interesting decisions for everyone, regardless of the powers involved. (How many allies do I need? Should I ally? Can I trust my opponent when he says he's going to Negotiate? etc.)

Granted, the powers should add more interesting decisions to the game, and make the ones that already exist more interesting. That's what that whole "imbalance" thing does.

And yes, certain combinations of powers within the same game, might very well make for a insufficiently interesting experience. For example, what if every power in the game was a simple, mandatory power? Say: Zombie, Pacifist, Macron, Oracle, Warrior, Tripler.
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_LEVIATHAN_
May Attack With Planet

Power Description with History and Flare (from The Warp):

LEVIATHAN: May Attack With Planet

You have the power of Worldships. As the offense, after the hyperspace gate is aimed, you may use this power to choose one of your home planets that has no opposing ships on it and send it through the gate to attack as a worldship. Take the worldship (with all of your ships that were on it) and place it on the hyperspace gate. After encounter cards are revealed add 20 to your side’s total, plus 1 for each ship you have on your worldship. If you lose the encounter, return the worldship to your home system, sending all ships on it to the warp. If you win the encounter, return the wordships to your home system with your ships still on it, although you may leave one to four ships behind on the planet you successfully attacked.

History: Immense and powerful creatures, the Leviathans consumed every resource on their own worlds until they themselves became like planets. The Leviathan fleets, now stationed within the fleshy folds of their masters, scout out new worlds for the Leviathans to envelop. The sight of a world-sized entity gating in through hyperspace often causes madness and hysteria on the targeted planet, but it doesn’t last long.

Wild: As the offense, after destiny is drawn, you may trade one home planet with the defense. Your planet moves to the defense's home system and vice versa. The encounter immediately ends successfully. Afterwards, give this flare to the Leviathan (or discard it, if Leviathan is not playing).

Super: Your worldships may contain any ships except the defense's ships. Other player's ships on your worldship count towards your side's total and those players are automatically allied with you for this encounter, but may not launch additional ships and do not receive a colony if your side wins.


EVALUATION AND GRADING

1. Is it a power?

Rarely should a Cosmic Encounter alien be designed to work as “Offense Only.” Leviathan is one of the happy exceptions. This is a very strong alien that gets an immediate, massive numerical boost in his Encounter total as offensive main player. Given that the game is about establishing foreign colonies, that’s a very significant ability.

As Leviathan’s designer Jack Reda has explained, Leviathan’s boost on offense means he can save his larger Attack cards for when he is defensive main player. Leviathan wants to win on defense so he can continue attacking with planets.

Unfortunately, the power as FFG has written it has a leak if the outcome is other than a win or loss for Leviathan (most notably, deal situations). Thankfully, Bill Martinson not only clarified the design intent with the designer but also re-wrote the power description to plug the leak (as well as clear out the “bugs” that use terminology that is misleading or unclear).

2. Does it obsolete a previously-published alien power?

No. While Spiff stands in Leviathan’s shadow in terms of raw power, Spiff is able to bluff as Offense, and Leviathan really can’t. And sometimes you’d rather be Spiff, as when attacking a loaded Macron or Virus home colony, or perhaps Warrior with a ton of tokens on his sheet.

3. Is the alien over-powered?

This was my concern upon first seeing Leviathan. However, the following comments from BGG user Zomber really helps to get a picture of the alien in use:

“When I first sifted through and read my new Cosmic Incursion powers, Leviathan seemed like one of the best. Was it as good as it seemed? No, but Levi is still pretty tough.

“One weakness is that since Levi has no defensive ability, it can lose home bases easily...risking the loss of it's power...But, that can be said of many powers that also don't help out on the defensive side of an encounter.

“I've had some success with Levi by using my best encounter cards for defense, and relying on the offensive bonus to 'ditch the 6' from my hand. The longer you can keep your power, the more offensive opportunities you'll get.

“The biggest weakness I've found is that Levi can not afford to lose much at all. Whether on offense or defense, beating Leviathan strips his ships from the planet. Being stuck with a bad hand of Negotiate cards is fatal to Levi. 3 combined losses on offense or defense, and *poof* goodbye power, and happiness.”


Reading these comments from Zomber – which came from multiple games including Leviathan – leads me to view the alien power as akin to Virus: super-strong early on, vulnerable later. It of course helps that I’ve personally played against Leviathan in a game – and he didn’t win. I did – and I was Worm.

4. Does the alien power strip a player of control in one of the most basic aspects of the game?

No.

5. Is the alien accessible? In other words, if I’m a first time player of Leviathan, can I read the alien’s power and get a good grip on how the alien works?

Yes. There’s a bunch of text on the alien sheet, but it’s not that hard to picture how Leviathan works, what happens if he wins, and what happens if he loses.

6. Is the alien innovative? In other words, does it bring something unique to Cosmic Encounter?

Most definitely yes. We have movable planets; why not use them? Leviathan (as well as Locust) answers the call.

7. Is the alien elegant in its simplicity?

It’s not ultra-elegant, but Leviathan isn’t bad. No awards for elegance, but no demerits either.

Classification: Leviathan is a Class A (helps you in the Encounter) alien, with a tinge of Class B in that Leviathan can save higher Attack cards for defense.

Extra Credit: Is the gameplay of this alien evocative of its theme? Yes.

Extra Credit: Does the art of this alien match its description or history? Definitely.

VISCERAL REATION a la Bill Martinson (is this alien power a Cosmic “Must Have”, “Don’t Need” or “Middle of the Road” alien?):

Quote:
By must have, I mean the gameplay is compelling, the story/roleplaying is hilarious, or the power is so quintessentially Cosmic that its absence would feel like a hole in the game.

By don't need, I mean it's conspicuously too weak or too strong, copycat, boring, or a rulings mess; or I just plain personally dislike it. In general, if you told me you were traveling back in time to prevent it from ever existing I'd probably say "Have a nice trip" because I'd never miss that alien.


Leviathan leaves such an indelible imprint when you see it in a game, that to me, it’s very much a MUST-HAVE alien power. It is a quintessentially Cosmic power. As I said about Virus: shock, awe, outrage, polarization – Leviathan delivers in spades, and the game is better for it.

Grade of FFG alien: A

Is this a good alien for the first expansion? Or should it have been in the base set? OR, should it have waited for a future expansion, and not been published in FFG’s first expansion to Cosmic?

It's an exciting alien, a selling point of this expansion. I think the first expansion is the perfect place for Leviathan.

Your thoughts?

Poll: Is CI the best place for Leviathan?
FFG waited until its first expansion to print Leviathan. Do you agree with this?
Is CI the best place for Leviathan?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
No, Leviathan should have been in the base set.
66.7% 2
Yes, the first expansion is the perfect spot for Leviathan.
33.3% 1
No, FFG should have printed it later.
0.0% 0
No, FFG should have never printed Leviathan.
0.0% 0
Voters 3
This poll is now closed.   3 answers
Poll created by rjburns3
Closes: Sat Apr 7, 2018 6:00 am


Personal “iTunes” rating, out of 5: 4 (“love it”)

Personal commentary:

We can trust Jack Reda when it comes to Cosmic Encounter content. The man rarely makes a misstep because he both (a) knows how to calibrate an alien so that, while it may look outrageous, fits right in to existing power levels, and (b) understands how Cosmic’s mechanics can be bent, twisted, dare I say warped in such a way that the game is not broken, players don’t feel cheated, and a sense of delight in the actual gameplay remains even after the game is over. Leviathan is a good example of Jack’s artistry (Lunatic is another, and there are many more at the Warp).

Wild Leviathan unfortunately isn’t clear with regards as to who makes the choice; thankfully, Bill and Jack have ridden to the rescue to confirm that the Flare holder makes chooses both planets involved in the swap. It’s a pretty clever one-use Flare.

The Super Flare is a nice boost, and potentially a nasty surprise, but I like how it’s a mild complement to a very strong base alien power.
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_LOCUST _
Eats Planets When Alone

Power Description with History and Flare (from The Warp):

LOCUST: Eats Planets When Alone

You have the power to Devour. At the start of any regroup phase, if you have a foreign colony on a planet by yourself (i.e., there are no other ships on the planet with you), use this power to devour the planet, removing it from the game and placing it on this sheet. Your ships on that planet are returned to your other colonies.

Each planet you have devoured counts as one foreign colony towards victory for you, even if this power is later lost or stolen. If this power is stolen, devoured planets do not transfer with it.

History: The Locusts recently swarmed out of their home system in a vast cloud of ships, searching for uninhabited planets that they could break down and consume to meet the ever-growing energy needs of their people. Needless to say, the other aliens are keeping a nervous eye on these destructive gluttons.

Wild: At the start of any regroup phase, you may send 4 of your ships to the warp to destroy a planet that is not in the Locust's home system, removing it from the game. Any ships on that planet are sent to the warp. Afterwards, give this flare to the Locust. If Locust is not in the game, discard it instead.

Super: Once per encounter, you may devour one foreign planet on which you have more total ships than all other players combined. If you do so, all other players' ships on that planet are sent to the warp.


EVALUATION AND GRADING

1. Is it a power?

This is the question, isn’t it? Locust’s main effect (devouring planets) is to permanently preserve foreign colonies he gains for himself. A side effect of this is that owners of devoured planets have a reduced number of planets in their systems. Theoretically, this will threaten opponents’ use of their alien powers; in practice, this isn’t nearly as threatening as it seems – after all, the defense, in losing, is already off of the planet. Games rarely last long enough for Locust’s effect to be a truly frightening threat.

I can’t tell whether Locust is more or less likely to garner offensive allies (I’ve never seen it in a game). On the one hand, potential allies may ally with Locust in order to prevent him from devouring a planet. On the other hand, if the defense does feel sufficiently threatened, they are likely to try to win the challenge, and your Locust-allied ships may be more likely to go hurtling into the Warp.

Locust, after devouring, gets to bring the ships involved home. But this advantage is typically so tiny it’s not really worth mentioning.

This thread here, started by Cyrus Tucker, is a great resource for cataloguing the weaknesses of Locust. A number of revisions to Locust are suggested there; my personal favorite is Roberta Yang’s version, which is Mayfair’s Berserker plus the ability to send offensive allies to other planets in the defending system (a la Filth). In that thread, I note that the initial reaction to Locust was quite different from disappointment – with some claiming that they felt it was the best new design they’d seen.

There may be as many disadvantages to Locust as there are advantages. It is the very definition of a grade “D” power; Locust is so weak as to be ineffectual.

2. Does it obsolete a previously-published alien power?

No.

3. Is the alien over-powered?

No.

4. Does the alien power strip a player of control in one of the most basic aspects of the game?

No.

5. Is the alien accessible? In other words, if I’m a first time player of Locust, can I read the alien’s power and get a good grip on how the alien works?

Yes. “Yellow alert” was the right choice for this alien; both Locust’s player and opponents can grok quickly how it works.

6. Is the alien innovative? In other words, does it bring something unique to Cosmic Encounter?

Like Leviathan, Locust is a never-before published alien that utilizes FFG’s movable planets. It is indeed innovative; it just doesn’t use its new effect to great effect.

7. Is the alien elegant in its simplicity?

Yes, it’s fairly simple and straightforward.

Classification: Locust is a Class B (helps you plan for the future) alien, barely. It certainly doesn’t help you win the Encounter, and may likely work against you.

Extra Credit: Is the gameplay of this alien evocative of its theme? It’s an attempt. Unfortunately, these Locusts can be largely ignored. The biblical prophet Joel is crying.

Extra Credit: Does the art of this alien match its description or history? No. I cannot give credit here.

VISCERAL REATION a la Bill Martinson (is this alien power a Cosmic “Must Have”, “Don’t Need” or “Middle of the Road” alien?):

Quote:
By must have, I mean the gameplay is compelling, the story/roleplaying is hilarious, or the power is so quintessentially Cosmic that its absence would feel like a hole in the game.

By don't need, I mean it's conspicuously too weak or too strong, copycat, boring, or a rulings mess; or I just plain personally dislike it. In general, if you told me you were traveling back in time to prevent it from ever existing I'd probably say "Have a nice trip" because I'd never miss that alien.


We “DON’T NEED” this alien; nobody would miss it if it vanished. It’s sad because there’s something there, and if we had Roberta’s version, it’d be a “must-have”.

Grade of FFG alien: D

Is this a good alien for the first expansion? Or should it have been in the base set? OR, should it have waited for a future expansion, and not been published in FFG’s first expansion to Cosmic?

Locust never should have seen publication in this form.

Your thoughts?

Poll: Is CI the best place for Locust?
FFG waited until the first expansion to publish Locust. Do you agree with this?
Is CI the best place for Locust?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
No, Locust should have been in the base set.
0.0% 0
Yes, the first expansion is the perfect spot for Locust.
0.0% 0
No, FFG should have printed it later.
0.0% 0
No, FFG should have never printed Locust.
100.0% 7
Voters 7
This poll is now closed.   7 answers
Poll created by rjburns3
Closes: Sat Apr 7, 2018 6:00 am


Personal “iTunes” rating, out of 5: 1 (“don’t like it”)

Personal commentary:

I really don’t have a lot to add besides what I’ve said above. Locust is a disappointing alien that is almost a non-power. That said, there is a basic idea here (devouring opponents’ planets) that is worthy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’d be really nice to have a “Cosmic Revision” expansion that gives us a Macron that can put two ships in the Gate, Super Void as Void, and Roberta Yang’s Locust revision (among several others).

Locust is brand-new to Cosmic, and I wonder how much playtesting it received prior to publication. On paper, it looked good to a number of Cosmic players after FFG put up the related product preview for Cosmic Incursion. But playtesting should have revealed the alien’s fundamental weakness.

The Wild Flare is another “destroy a planet” effect, not quite as thematic as Wild Guerrilla and his “scorched-earth” Flare.

The Super Flare is a good effect for a Flare, but some have suggested that the Super be added to the base Locust power, and I think this is misguided. Super Locust is good as a surprise, or an “oh, I forgot he had that” effect, not something the other players are actively planning around. Super Locust as Locust will never get offensive allies nor will anyone ever want to deal with him.
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_MAGICIAN_
Steals Cards, Confounds Opponents

Power Description with History and Flare (from The Warp):

MAGICIAN: Steals Cards, Confounds Opponents

You have the power of Prestidigitation. As a main player, use this power before encounter cards are selected to force your opponent to play two encounter cards facedown. Choose one of the two cards at random and add it to your hand. Then, play an encounter card from your hand normally (even the card you just took). Your opponent must play the card you didn't choose as his or her encounter card. The rest of the encounter is resolved as usual.

If your opponent only has one encounter card left (and proves it by showing you his hand except for the encounter card), your power has no effect.

History: Lacking any natural weapons with which to defend themselves, the Magicians had to use their keen intellect to survive. Confusing and confounding their enemies became second nature to the wily Magicians. Indeed, many a would-be Cosmic conqueror has found occasion to curse the day that the Magicians swindled a visiting alien out of his spaceship and soared out into the cosmos.

Restriction: Do not use with Oracle.

Wild: When you are a main player, before selecting cards, you may force your opponent to play three encounter card facedown. Shuffle these cards around on the table. Your opponent chooses one of the facedown cards at random, which he or she then plays, returning the other two to his or her hand. If your opponent has fewer than three encounter cards, he or she discards his or her hand and draws a new one.

Super: When using your power, turn one of your opponent's two cards faceup before choosing. Choose either the faceup or facedown card and take it. Your opponent plays the card you did not choose, as normal.


EVALUATION AND GRADING

1. Is it a power?

Magician is definitely a power in that it (a) restricts his opponent to one of only two possible (face-down) Encounter cards, (b) takes one of those possible Encounter cards, (c) can play the taken Encounter card, and (d) constrains his opponent to play the one Magician didn’t take. Magician is a power because his opponent rarely wants to see an Encounter card that works well for her go to Magician, and then have that card possibly played by him against her. There are obvious exceptions – Mirror and Loser are two of the most notable – but generally this is true.

There is no guarantee that Magician will do well in the Encounter. Magician may have taken the “best” of the two cards his opponent laid down; he usually will not know or be 100% sure. But in constraining his opponent to two Encounter card choices, one of which will be appropriated, Magician exerts pressure, and that’s power.

Magician makes an interesting contrast with his thematic cousin Sorcerer. As Sorcerer, you know whether you’re going to switch or not, and your opponent must guess; as Magician, you’ll take one of your opponent’s Encounter cards, but you must guess as to the other one, which she’ll play. Generally speaking, I’d prefer to be Sorcerer, but I can’t deny that I like Magician’s ability to mess with the mind of my opponent.

Magician has a "Do Not Use" clause... it can't be used with Oracle. Bill Martinson has tried to "square the circle" by disallowing Magician to use the card he takes from Oracle, but IMO, that's real handicap to Magician and makes him something of a weaker Filch. I personally don't have a problem with the "Do Not Use" clause in this case and won't use this workaround.

2. Does it obsolete a previously-published alien power?

No.

3. Is the alien over-powered?

No.

4. Does the alien power strip a player of control in one of the most basic aspects of the game?

A little bit, and we should explore this a little bit.

Magician’s opponent must select two Encounter cards – and one of them is going to Magician. Magician’s opponent can attempt to “psych” Magician out by playing one card closer to the opponent than the other, but this is a pretty puny way for Magician’s opponent to retain control of the Encounter.

However, Magician’s opponent still has an interesting choice. As Gerald Katz has pointed out, she can: (a) play two weaker Encounter cards, (b) play one “good” Encounter card and one “bad” one, or (c) play two “good” Encounter cards. Frankly, this is a significant amount of choice – and a lot more than Eon’s old Laser’s opponent got.

Is Magician a “hijacker”-class alien? In my verdict, no, not really.

5. Is the alien accessible? In other words, if I’m a first time player of Magician, can I read the alien’s power and get a good grip on how the alien works?

Magician is rightly designated a “red-alert” alien due to the calculations his opponent must run in her head with regards to what she’ll be potentially giving Magician, as well as the outcome, but the basic rules of the alien are very straightforward.

6. Is the alien innovative? In other words, does it bring something unique to Cosmic Encounter?

I find Magician to be an innovative and clever alien power.

7. Is the alien elegant in its simplicity?

Magician does have “moving parts” but it’s far from clunky. Magician’s opponent does her thing (plays two cards), then Magician does his thing.

Classification: Magician, like so many of the truly great aliens, contains elements of both a Class A alien (helps you in the Encounter) and a Class B (helps you plan for the future) alien.

Extra Credit: Is the gameplay of this alien evocative of its theme? Perhaps a Magician who plays card tricks – if he guesses your card, he wins.

Extra Credit: Does the art of this alien match its description or history? Sure, it's not bad. It's definitely "alien", which I like.

VISCERAL REATION a la Bill Martinson (is this alien power a Cosmic “Must Have”, “Don’t Need” or “Middle of the Road” alien?):

Quote:
By must have, I mean the gameplay is compelling, the story/roleplaying is hilarious, or the power is so quintessentially Cosmic that its absence would feel like a hole in the game.

By don't need, I mean it's conspicuously too weak or too strong, copycat, boring, or a rulings mess; or I just plain personally dislike it. In general, if you told me you were traveling back in time to prevent it from ever existing I'd probably say "Have a nice trip" because I'd never miss that alien.


I really like Magician – it’s a well-designed alien. And yet, it doesn’t feel to me like a “must-have” alien, and I’m not sure why. I really can’t put my finger on it, but I suspect it’s because I enjoy the gameplay of similar aliens such as Sorcerer and Filch more. Magician’s gameplay doesn’t compel me; the story doesn’t seem hilarious to me, and while the power is Cosmic, it’s not quintessentially so. Personally, Magician for me is “middle of the road”.

And for what it’s worth, I never felt the old Laser was a “must-have” either; in fact, I regarded it as a “don’t have”.

Grade of FFG alien: A

Is this a good alien for the first expansion? Or should it have been in the base set? OR, should it have waited for a future expansion, and not been published in FFG’s first expansion to Cosmic?

I like Magician here, in the first expansion. As I said above, I don't feel it's a must-have, and I prefer the base set to have a very high ratio of the "essential" aliens. I wouldn't want Magician later, because I feel it's good to have a new-and-improved Laser sooner rather than later.

Your thoughts?

Poll: Is CI the best place for Magician?
FFG waited until the first expansion to publish Magician. Do you agree with this?
Is CI the best place for Magician?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
No, Magician should have been in the base set.
0.0% 0
Yes, the first expansion is the perfect spot for Magician.
33.3% 1
No, FFG should have printed it later.
66.7% 2
No, FFG should have never printed Magician.
0.0% 0
Voters 3
This poll is now closed.   3 answers
Poll created by rjburns3
Closes: Sat Apr 7, 2018 6:00 am


Personal “iTunes” rating, out of 5: 3 (“like it”)

Personal commentary:

The only thing I want to add here is the observation – made by many – that Magician is the replacement for the old Laser power. Reportedly, Kevin Wilson didn’t like Laser and didn’t want it in FFG’s edition of Cosmic; personally, I fully support this thinking. Did I whine when I faced the old Laser in games? No, but I always found it annoying. Would I have banned Laser from my FFG set if it showed up? No; my attitude has always been that I’ll work around Laser if I have to face it.

All of that said, I love having Magician as a replacement for Laser. It has Laser’s feel – but only some of what made facing Laser a frustrating experience. To use Gerald Katz’s terminology, Laser was “bad annoying”; Magician is “good annoying”. Thank you Bruno Faidutti -- not just a super-fan of Cosmic, but a well-known designer with a valuable contribution to the game he loves.

Some of you may not feel that Magician is a good replacement for Laser. Let’s do a poll! Let me know how you feel.

Poll: Laser -- Magician
The old Eon power Laser used to take an Encounter card at random from his opponent's hand at Encounter card selection. This had its detractors. Many feel that Magician replaces Laser, and that the game is better for it. Do you agree?
Do you feel that Magician replaces Laser?
Yes, and it's a change for the better.
No, Magician is its own thing, Cosmic Dominion's Laser is the real replacement.
No, neither Magician nor the new Laser "scratch the itch". I wanted the old Laser back!
      6 answers
Poll created by rjburns3


Wild Magician makes Cosmic play “three card monte” – I love it. It may not be the most effective Flare in the Cosmos, but it’s fun and thematic, it has a good chance of working out to the benefit of its holder, and that’s good enough for me.

One disappointing feature of the alien power as a whole is that it doesn't specify what to do when facing someone with the Wild Flare. Given that the Magician Flare will be in the deck in a game with Magician, this is a significant oversight. Players have a knack for working these things out (and there's a good summary of the consensus at the Cosmodex), but we shouldn't have to.

I like the Super. It’s effective both when the opponent knows you (as Magician) have it, and when they don’t, and you’ve revealed it as a surprise.
 
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I've played Laser in my home-made set. It's.... one of the most annoying powers to play with and against that I've ever tried. The owner of the power has no control over it and neither does anyone else.... You don't even have the option to turn it off.
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Thanks for the input, Mar. I had forgotten about that aspect of the old Laser... that you can't "turn it off". I don't know if I ever have played as Laser... maybe CE Online once. I just remember how I felt playing against Laser, but your comment makes me think that it's at least sometimes frustrating to be Laser.

So Mar, what's your take? Do you like Magician? Have you seen it in action? As I note above, I feel like it keeps the good parts of Laser and tosses the frustrating, "bad annoying" parts.
 
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Magician does things Laser never did.... namely steal cards from his enemy. so it's a lot different. If I was picking powers I'd definitely choose Magician over Laser.

Even optional Laser can't be used strategically.

Hmm.... Laser would be better if you used it AFTER your opponent chooses an encounter card. The chosen card can't get used and the replacement is chosen at random from encounter cards not used. But this has a weakness that your opponents can plan around. At least if you're predictable and blind them every round. So probably not enough to make it useful.

Maybe if Laser forced them to use the top Encounter card from the deck? Not as thematic though.
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_MERCENARY_
Always Rewarded for Winning

Power Description with History and Flare (from The Warp):

MERCENARY: Always Rewarded For Winning

You have the power of Bounty Hunting. As a main player or offensive ally, after your side wins an encounter, use this power to gain defender reward as though you were a defensive ally (either retrieve one of your ships from the warp or draw one card from the deck for each ship you had in the encounter). This is in addition to any other benefits you receive normally for winning the encounter.

History: Originally created by another race to serve as police, the robotic Mercenaries were designed to be exert trackers and warriors. However, a terrible plague wiped out their master and, left along for eons, the Mercenaries gradually became self aware. Vowing that they would never be used as slaves again, the Mercenaries made their way out into the Cosmos, always being careful to exact a price for their services.

Wild: When you win an encounter as the defense, you may receive defender rewards as though you were a defensive ally.

Super: When drawing cards for rewards, you may discard any or all of them after looking at the cards.



EVALUATION AND GRADING

1. Is it a power?

Mercenary can pick up a lot of cards - including Reward cards. Of course, he can also use his power to get ships back from the Warp, and that's nice too, but in practice, Mercenary is a card hoarder along the lines of Healer or Remora. Of course, Mercenary must be on the winning side of the Encounter to take advantage of his power, but in the course of a game, that's going to happen.

Of course, the other players aren't going to want to watch you get too buff, and so some of the tougher decisions revolving around this power will be theirs, not yours. But Mercenary isn't boring; given your power, you'll have some nice opportunities to enhance your ability to bluff. For example, as offense sending one ship to attack a Macron planet where he has 3 ships, the other players will probably figure you don't intend to win and react accordingly, even though you plan to play the Attack 40 and get a foreign colony. Granted, anyone can do this, but other players aware of your power may be drawn to focus on that aspect of the power and count you out when they shouldn't.

I like that Mercenary operates within the design space of needing to win in order to activate. That's a good place to be because it often tailors the extra reward to a worthy goal, and as I've alluded to above, adds an edge to the proceedings as other players do not want you to win.

Unfortunately, Mercenary, like its contemporary Ghoul, is infected with what Bill Martinson terms the "rewards bug", meaning its power text should simply specify that Mercenary gains defender rewards and not say "one of your ships from the warp or one card from the deck", prompting questions as to whether the Reward deck is also included. I'm surprised at the oversight here when these aliens entered the pantheon at the same time as the Reward deck.

2. Does it obsolete a previously-published alien power?

No.

3. Is the alien over-powered?

No.

4. Does the alien power strip a player of control in one of the most basic aspects of the game?

No.

5. Is the alien accessible? In other words, if I’m a first time player of Mercenary, can I read the alien’s power and get a good grip on how the alien works?

Yes.

6. Is the alien innovative? In other words, does it bring something unique to Cosmic Encounter?

Yes. Rewards for winning no matter what part you played in the Encounter hadn't been in any previously published version but it's a pretty intuitive concept. Gerald Katz had a homebrew that got rewards as Offense or Offensive ally, and protected allies (a la Observer). Others have probably developed similar homebrews.

7. Is the alien elegant in its simplicity?

Yes.

Classification: Mercenary is a Class B (helps you plan for the future) alien.

Extra Credit: Is the gameplay of this alien evocative of its theme? No. A mercenary fights to be paid by someone else. "Power of Bounty Hunting" is even more inaccurate, given what the alien actually does.

Honestly, a better name and concept for this alien might be that of Investor. He invests ships, and expects to be rewarded for what he puts in.

Extra Credit: Does the art of this alien match its description or history? Yes, the art matches.

VISCERAL REATION a la Bill Martinson (is this alien power a Cosmic “Must Have”, “Don’t Need” or “Middle of the Road” alien?):

Quote:
By must have, I mean the gameplay is compelling, the story/roleplaying is hilarious, or the power is so quintessentially Cosmic that its absence would feel like a hole in the game.

By don't need, I mean it's conspicuously too weak or too strong, copycat, boring, or a rulings mess; or I just plain personally dislike it. In general, if you told me you were traveling back in time to prevent it from ever existing I'd probably say "Have a nice trip" because I'd never miss that alien.


Mercenary's a good, solid card-hoarding alien, with the simple and intuitive concept of Rewards for winning. That's strong and fun. Personally, at this point, I’m going with “MUST-HAVE”.

Grade of FFG alien: A

Is this a good alien for the first expansion? Or should it have been in the base set? OR, should it have waited for a future expansion, and not been published in FFG’s first expansion to Cosmic?

Yeah, it's OK. It's an easy-to-play, basic but good "green light" alien. Perhaps ideally it would be in the base set and push Remora to this expansion (or later, or not at all), but it's not bad.

Your thoughts?

Poll: Is CI the best place for Mercenary?
FFG waited until its first expansion to print Mercenary. Do you agree with this?
Is CI the best place for Mercenary?
  Your Answer   Vote Percent Vote Count
No, Mercenary should have been in the base set.
50.0% 1
Yes, the first expansion is the perfect spot for Mercenary.
50.0% 1
No, FFG should have printed it later.
0.0% 0
No, FFG should have never printed Mercenary.
0.0% 0
Voters 2
This poll is now closed.   2 answers
Poll created by rjburns3
Closes: Sat Feb 3, 2018 6:00 am


Personal “iTunes” rating, out of 5: 3 (“like it”)

Personal commentary:

I don't have a lot to say about Mercenary. It's simple, solid, and straightforward. It's fun to be on the winning side and get Rewards. It's also fun to convince main players to invite you, especially as an offensive ally, because unlike those other parasites (as well as Parasite), you're going to go "all in" because you want the loot.

Wild Mercenary is the old Victory Boon Edict (Artifact), but I think I much prefer it as a Flare. After the first time you reveal Wild Mercenary, you may find it easier to attract defensive allies when you need them. Potential offensive allies may be less likely to ally if they question that you as Defense isn't likely to "roll over".

The Super Flare is pretty nice for a card hoarder like Mercenary. After all, anyone who's played Healer, Remora, Mercenary or their ilk knows that your hand can quickly become a massive monster, half of which is junk. The designers could have gone a different route and made Super Mercenary more likely to win Encounters, but I like this much better.


 
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Like with the base set aliens, I wanted to give you the chance to grade these aliens. You will recall that I've not been using grades as an indicator of perceived "strength", but more as an indicator of how well the alien is designed.

I also plan to compare and contrast how I've been grading these aliens with how you've been grading them. I'll be interested to see both where we agree and where we disagree.

An "A" alien provides its player with an advantage but it is not too overpowered, it's innovative and elegant, and has no serious design flaw.

A "B" alien is pretty good, but might have a flaw (perhaps it's overpowered or too similar to an already existing alien).

A "C" alien is playable, but flawed, usually in multiple ways. A "C" alien represents a lost opportunity on the part of the publishers; Cosmic is neither better nor worse because this alien is in the set.

A "D" alien is playable, but usually one of two things: (a) a weak alien that barely confers an advantage on its player, and debate exists whether this alien's disadvantages that reveal themselves during play outweigh its printed advantages, or (b) a strong alien that obnoxiously re-creates the effect of another previously printed alien, and typically better than the older alien, practically obsoleting it but not conclusively so. Cosmic Encounter is decidedly not better with this alien's inclusion in the set; I can't say it's decidedly worse, but it's definitely not better. Aliens that earn a "D" or an "F" are aliens that should not have been published.

Remember also that we are comparing and contrasting aliens to other aliens in the FFG base set of Cosmic Encounter or in the Cosmic Incursion expansion, not to aliens printed in expansions AFTER Cosmic Incursion.

Poll: What grade would you give these CI aliens?
Considering the grade meanings above, how would you grade these aliens?
What grade would you give these aliens?
  A B C D F
Guerrilla
Leviathan
Locust
Magician
Mercenary
      7 answers
Poll created by rjburns3
 
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I'd also really like to get your personal "visceral reactions" to these aliens' presence in Cosmic Encounter: are they "must-haves", "don't needs", or somewhere in the middle?

As Bill Martinson defines these:

Quote:
"By must have, I mean the gameplay is compelling, the story/roleplaying is hilarious, or the power is so quintessentially Cosmic that its absence would feel like a hole in the game.

"By don't need, I mean it's conspicuously too weak or too strong, copycat, boring, or a rulings mess; or I just plain personally dislike it. In general, if you told me you were traveling back in time to prevent it from ever existing I'd probably say "Have a nice trip" because I'd never miss that alien."



And a "middle of the road" alien is one you don't feel strongly about; its presence feels neither necessary (on the one hand) nor distasteful (on the other) to you.

Here you go: [PLEASE NOTE THE RE-ORDERING OF LOCUST AND LEVIATHAN -- don't know how that happens between the time I write it and submit the poll]

Poll: What's your personal "visceral reaction" to each of these aliens?
How do you feel about each of these aliens' presence in the game?
What's your personal "visceral reaction" to each of these CI aliens?
  "MUST-HAVE" "Middle of the Road "DON'T NEED!"
Guerrilla
Locust
Leviathan
Magician
Mercenary
      7 answers
Poll created by rjburns3
Closes: Tue Jan 1, 2019 6:00 am

 
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I would argue that the history of Mercenary fixes the minor disparity between name and effect.
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marhawkman wrote:
I would argue that the history of Mercenary fixes the minor disparity between name and effect.


Yeah, I can see what you're saying. The history (which is longer than most) makes a case for the name, although doesn't answer the natural question provoked by the last word; namely, who pays the "price" Mercenary exacts?

The problem I have is that, ideally, we shouldn't need an alien history to explain the name. Think of aliens such as Clone, Fido, Gambler, Sorcerer, Virus, and Vulch. Even most other new CI aliens have a good match up between name and effect: Cryo, Fury, Ghoul, Guerrilla, even Leviathan.
 
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rjburns3 wrote:
marhawkman wrote:
I would argue that the history of Mercenary fixes the minor disparity between name and effect.


Yeah, I can see what you're saying. The history (which is longer than most) makes a case for the name, although doesn't answer the natural question provoked by the last word; namely, who pays the "price" Mercenary exacts?

The problem I have is that, ideally, we shouldn't need an alien history to explain the name. Think of aliens such as Clone, Fido, Gambler, Sorcerer, Virus, and Vulch. Even most other new CI aliens have a good match up between name and effect: Cryo, Fury, Ghoul, Guerrilla, even Leviathan.

It seems to me that there are quite a few aliens that don't fully match their name to their effect. Not that it's a major problem.

There are four elements to each power: The name, the "power of", the history, and the rules effect itself. Ideally, the name should match the rules effect directly, but it often doesn't. In many cases, the "power of" is a necessary added link that connects the name to the rule effect, without which, the connection is tenuous at best. Switching cards around is not really what I think of when I think of "Sorcerer", but the "power of" helps justify the theme. Same with Virus, Fury, even Leviathan. Their rule effects are not obviously connected to their names, but the "power of" clarifies the theme. Some of the aliens need even more help to bring the theme together, so they use the history.

And then there are some aliens that really have no connection whatsoever, despite the "power of" and the history. Such as Mite, Fodder, Kamikaze, Observer, Shadow, Genius, Merchant, Symbiote, Graviton, Relic, etc.
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Honestly I've never really felt much of a connection between names and effects. To me, The effect of Zombie feels just as thematically appropriate for Clone. Clone cards... clone troops... you see where this is going.
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