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Subject: Why are these aliens Mandatory? rss

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Just a Bill
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Just a little rant about icons that don't really make sense for one reason or another. The title is rhetorical, and since I'm not actually proposing to change these I'm posting in the General forum.

Must be a slow news day.

The Claw — The player naturally wants to grab as many planets as possible, but in the rare case where he doesn't want to for some reason, he could cheat by quietly leaving his claw face down and swapping it out later, and none would be the wiser. Why not just let him do this legally, then? Making it mandatory creates an honor-system issue for no good reason.

Dictator — If Dictator ever wanted to make his power optional, he can just choose the top card of the destiny deck. Mandatory is meaningless (and all other published versions are Optional).

Fury — Fury would always want to collect a token anyway. Mandatory may have been chosen for thematic reasons, but it is conceptually inconsistent with the fact that the "non-use use" portion of her alien sheet is optional: she chooses whether or not to spend her tokens.

Glutton — This alien is actually ambiguous: since it can retrieve "up to" two ships from this warp, this part is actually optional, and it's in a use clause. Making the whole power Optional would have been cleaner.

Lightning — This is in the same category as Fury, but even worse since two-thirds of the effects on the sheet are completely optional. Why did they feel a need to force Lightning to take a token that he will always want to take anyway?

Pygmy and Symbiote — The Mandatory icon (well, actually every icon on the bottom of the sheet) is completely meaningless on these special-hexes-made-as-powers, since they have no use clauses at all.

Vacuum — Same ambiguity as Glutton. This may actually be a screwup, since "up to" does not appear on any other versions of Vacuum except FFG's.

Will — Like Dictator, Will can make his power optional by simply choosing the color that destiny has already revealed. However, this is thematically worse than Dictator because Will has the power of choice! (And again, all other published versions are Optional.)

Note that there are other mandatory aliens that didn't really need to be, since the player would have the incentive to use them anyway; but most of those make sense for thematic reasons without creating the kinds of gameplay or conceptual conflicts listed above, and thus are not included in this diatribe.
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Shawn Garbett
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A meta-game created in 1977. Many reworks and cleanups as ownership changed. They always work on cleanup problems. Then some great new idea or alien they have to make the game better is introduced. Each new owner of the rights then discovers just how hard all this meta-logic is, as they have just introduced a whole new round of problems into the mix.

Stir this pot for 35 years, and it appears little has changed.
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Ian Toltz
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I think the answer for many of these is, interestingly, for the opposite reason that Magic often makes effects optional which people would always want.

People forget. In a Magic tournament setting, if you forget to do a mandatory effect, that's a warning. In Cosmic, if you forget to do a mandatory effect, there's no real penalty.

This way the Fury can say, "Oh, hey, I forgot to take my tokens last encounter..." and grab them. It could be disheartening if the effect were optional and the other players wouldn't let him go back. By making it mandatory, the game rules enforce that, yeah, he should be allowed to go and make up for it (within reason).
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Good observations. Slow news day hehe.
Bill Martinson wrote:
The Claw — Making it mandatory creates an honor-system issue for no good reason.

This kind of issue doesn't bother me at all, as the game is full of honor-bound actions. Loser could call 'upset' and play an 'N', even though he has an attack card in hand. Seeker's opponent could flat out lie: "No, I don't have any attack cards higher than a 12". The game shouldn't be about hiding cheating opportunities IMO.
 
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Just a Bill
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btblack wrote:
[The Claw] doesn't bother me at all, as the game is full of honor-bound actions. Loser could call 'upset' and play an 'N', even though he has an attack card in hand. Seeker's opponent could flat out lie: "No, I don't have any attack cards higher than a 12". The game shouldn't be about hiding cheating opportunities IMO.

I agree with your last statement, but my question still stands: What was gained by making The Claw mandatory? Or, to put it another way, what would have been lost by making it optional? Nothing that I can see.

I'm not too bothered by honor-system issues either, because in most cases cheating becomes exposed sooner or later: in many cases players will eventually see the contents of Loser's hand, and can often deduce that he would have had the card when he said he didn't. Loser, Seeker, and most other situations involve some kind of information disclosure that can be later checked (at least in an average sense), but this case with The Claw is all hidden: once he swaps his claw, you'll never know what it was before.

Anyway, if such a situation can be eliminated without causing any other downsides, why not do it? That's all I'm really saying. I can't see any design benefit from The Claw being mandatory, but I can definitely see a design benefit from it being optional. Not a big deal; just something that makes me scratch my head and say "why did they think it needed to be this way?"
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Dictator wouldn't gain much by being Optional, and choosing not to activate the power would require shuffling the Destiny deck. I don't really mind having one less reason to shuffle cards. And Ian hit the nail on the head for why the token-claimers being Mandatory is useful.

Bill Martinson wrote:
Glutton — This alien is actually ambiguous: since it can retrieve "up to" two ships from this warp, this part is actually optional, and it's in a use clause. Making the whole power Optional would have been cleaner.

Even if the Glutton doesn't want to draw extra cards, it still allows the Glutton to be Zapped, which could be relevant if a Cosmic Quake occurs later that turn and the Glutton has Super Glutton in hand. So it actually does have an effect on gameplay... just a really obscure and random one that wouldn't be missed if it were gone.
 
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Dave Hollinsworth
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I've thought for a while that in addition to Mandatory and Optional, FFG should have used Continuous as well, with no use clause anywhere in the power description.

This would make Pygmy and Symbiote a little clearer, along with any of the other non-Zappable ones, and it might also clear up the alternate-win powers (i.e. "Any time all other players have at least 8 tokens each in the warp, you win the game.").
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Bill Martinson wrote:
The Claw

The The Claw can be forced to trigger the Entropy Beast everyone-loses game end.

Quote:
Fury

If Fury was optional, then it could avoid being Zapped if it needed to guarantee being able to use the tokens it already had later in the encounter.

Quote:
Glutton

I notice it says "up to" on the ship part, but not on the card part. I would assume this is because Glutton might have fewer than two additional ships in the warp, but if there aren't two extra cards to draw, there are already rules in place to deal with that.
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Just a Bill
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salty53 wrote:
Dictator ... choosing not to activate the power would require shuffling the Destiny deck.

I'm not seeing where that would be the case. He only reshuffles if it's his turn or he is zapped. For all we know, he didn't pay attention to the order last time, or there may have even been an actual shuffle last time. All I'm saying is, what would be the harm in letting him not use his power and allow the other player to draw normally? Nothing that I can see.

Phil Fleischmann wrote:
The The Claw can be forced to trigger the Entropy Beast everyone-loses game end.

Thus greatly exacerbating the incentive to cheat and not reveal the card. Or at a minimum, a quick discussion and unanimous agreement to ignore the text. Seriously, who would want the game to end on account of something like this?

I have a hard time seeing this as anything other than a ten-year-flood kind of event. Knowing that the game is one stolen planet away from a complete loss, The Claw will probably pick a claw card that is unlikely, if not impossible, to be matched. Unless he wants the game to end, in which case it wouldn't matter whether his power was optional or mandatory.

Anyway, I highly doubt this was their conscious intent, setting aside the extreme unlikelihood of it even happening in the first place.

Phil Fleischmann wrote:
If Fury was optional, then it could avoid being Zapped if it needed to guarantee being able to use the tokens it already had later in the encounter.

Is that a problem? There are other aliens that can choose not to use their use effect and thus guarantee a later use of a non-use effect. A quick survey reveals Cryo, Cyborg, Lightning, and sometimes Siren. Doesn't seem like a problem for any of these powers.

Phil Fleischmann wrote:
I notice [Glutton] says "up to" on the ship part, but not on the card part. I would assume this is because Glutton might have fewer than two additional ships in the warp, but if there aren't two extra cards to draw, there are already rules in place to deal with that.

I considered that as well. It's a reasonable theory, although most other powers that can find themselves able to fulfill their effect only partially do not say "up to": stuff like Cudgel, Fury, Grudge, Hate. The only exception I found was Vacuum, and it actually seems more likely than some of the others to be able to apply maximally.

So the question would be, what's so special about Glutton and Vacuum? (Items #35 and #36 on my Unanswered Questions list.)
 
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Bill Martinson wrote:
Phil Fleischmann wrote:
The The Claw can be forced to trigger the Entropy Beast everyone-loses game end.

Thus greatly exacerbating the incentive to cheat and not reveal the card. Or at a minimum, a quick discussion and unanimous agreement to ignore the text. Seriously, who would want the game to end on account of something like this?

Sure, it's not likely, but there could certainly be a game in which the The Claw is hopelessly behind, and feels he has no chance of winning (especially when one or more other players is about to win) - better to make everyone lose than to let someone else win.

Quote:
I have a hard time seeing this as anything other than a ten-year-flood kind of event. Knowing that the game is one stolen planet away from a complete loss, The Claw will probably pick a claw card that is unlikely, if not impossible, to be matched. Unless he wants the game to end, in which case it wouldn't matter whether his power was optional or mandatory.

Or he could actually say what his claw card is (though he wouldn't be allowed to show it) as a threat: "Don't play your Attack 23, because my claw is the other one, and that will cause the game to end." Of course, this could just as easily be a bluff, which the The Claw can do anyway, even without the Entropy Beast in effect.

Quote:
Phil Fleischmann wrote:
If Fury was optional, then it could avoid being Zapped if it needed to guarantee being able to use the tokens it already had later in the encounter.

Is that a problem?

No, it's not a problem, just a potential difference. None of these things I pointed out are necessarily problems. I was merely listing game-effect differences. Whether they would be better or worse, I have no opinion. And yes, they are minor differences at most.

Quote:
Phil Fleischmann wrote:
I notice [Glutton] says "up to" on the ship part, but not on the card part. I would assume this is because Glutton might have fewer than two additional ships in the warp, but if there aren't two extra cards to draw, there are already rules in place to deal with that.

I considered that as well. It's a reasonable theory, although most other powers that can find themselves able to fulfill their effect only partially do not say "up to": stuff like Cudgel, Fury, Grudge, Hate. The only exception I found was Vacuum, and it actually seems more likely than some of the others to be able to apply maximally.

So the question would be, what's so special about Glutton and Vacuum? (Items #35 and #36 on my Unanswered Questions list.)

Well, Glutton is probably the most likely of these to bump against the "up to" - it would be a very common occurrence for Glutton to have fewer than two additional ships in the warp. For Cudgel, Grudge, Hate, and Vacuum, it's highly unlikely that there would not be enough opponents' ships *not* in the warp.

For Fury, I assume you refer to the possibility of running out of tokens. That seems to be an unanswered question in the rulebook: What happens when you run out of tokens? Say for the Fury or Warrior, et al. I would assume that you still get the benefit of the tokens, and keep track my some improvised means (pennies, or good-old-fashioned-pencil-and-paper). I don't think that they intended for the number of physical tokens included in the game to be a hard limit (as suggested by the inclusion of additional tokens in the expansions).

And in general, I agree with you that no harm would be done by allowing these powers to be optional.
 
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