|Cosmic Encounter | Published 02 December 2009|
Cosmic Incursion, FFG's first expansion for the beloved board game Cosmic Encounter, will be here before long. If you haven't had a chance to read the first preview, check it out. The second stop in our interstellar journey of alien life is the ever devious Genius, whose placid, emotionless visage is feared across the galaxy for reasons that will be made clear shortly.
Genius is one of ten brand new races introduced in Cosmic Incursion and is brought to us by Eric M. Lang, the celebrated designer of Chaos in the Old World. Here’s a bit of background regarding these most nonviolent marauders of deep space:
Originating on a planet filled with some of the universe’s deadliest predators, the Geniuses had to be smarter and more ruthless than any other creature on their world in order to survive. Now that they’ve left their home planet, the Geniuses have turned their prodigious intelligence towards a bloodless coup of the universe.
There are a few alien races that offer a crafty player an alternate to the standard victory conditions, and both Masochist and Tick-Tock from the Cosmic Encounter core set are great examples of offering you more than one path to stellar domination. The crafty Geniuses have discovered yet another new path to winning a game of Cosmic Encounter.
You can always choose to pursue a traditional course towards victory by starting five colonies in other players’ systems. However, by applying their monumentally advanced intellects to the problem of interstellar conquest the Genius can actually win the game without ever landing a single ship in a foreign system!
The Genius' alien sheet. Click to enlarge.
As you can see, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the Genius if he’s seated at your table, calmly observing the other players battling it out towards victory. The brilliantly devious Genius perfectly exemplifies how much a game of Cosmic Encounter can be bent with no fear of it breaking. You’ll have to stay aware of the number of cards in his hand, because they might be moments away from the win!
Cosmic Encounter is a classic board game for three to five players where fate and destiny collide against the unpredictable nature of the cosmos. With innumerable combinations of alien powers, and exceptional wheeling and dealing between players, this fan favorite game of galactic conquest is brimming with outlandish twists as players race to be the first to establish enough colonies to win.
Would the win condition go away if it lost too many planets? Or is that just the actual power portion?
Very, very interesting. Clearly you'd (usually) be a fool to invite them to ally on either side of a challenge. And I think Just_a_Bill is right, and that there's going to be a very different game around the use of Negotiate cards. Will the Genius compromise to take consolation (and thus, in a sense, win), or try for a direct victory?
I think this new alien is superb. I like that its power is both an alt-win as well as a means of increasing resources (cards). Appreciate the comments on aliens that could hurt it. Indeed, it could be disastrous to play in some games. On the other hand, Genius could theoretically win after just the first 3 encounters of a game - I can't think of any other alien that could conceivably pull that off.
That's what I get for trying to multi-task... apologies for misreading that. - That was just foolish.
I am still intrigued with the general defensive idea against Genius of having lots of defensive allies to keep the deck size small and potentially reset the hands.
Uh, the start of any turn, not just his own. The only chance people will have to stop him (if he gains the winning cards in a first encounter) is during the second encounter (if there is one). Once Resolution is complete (and Start Turn begins), he wins.
@Bill: Good catch, I was confusing Genius' power with Kamikaze.
@Toomai: That does make things harder. It seems like if Genius used his power and got over 20 he would likely get hit by some negotiates as other people took their turn and got a chance to attack him. That being said, seems like the easy way to avoid that would be for Genius to always defend with negotiate if he is going for the card win. He should have a lot of negotiate cards if he is over 20, and he doesn't care if they can't make a deal. It would only start to hurt if he got hit enough to lose his power. Then you could force a decision between losing the power or losing 4 cards.
I do wonder if using up the deck could be another defensive strategy. If Genius goes over 20 cards on his turn, is it feasible for other players to gang up as defensive allies on each other's turns to get lots of card draw? In a 6 player game, up to 12 cards could be pulled for a player/turn as defensive compensation (assuming Genius would never ask for defensive allies). Could the other players use up all of the cards and force a redeal? A couple rounds of lots of defensive allies could make Genius really nervous about how many cards are left in the deck.
I also just realized that the card says "start of any turn", not "start of any encounter". So that's about half as many chances to alt-win as Tick-Tock and Masochist.
@Twilight: Genius is not losing ships to the warp when he uses his power to get cards instead of a colony, because his ships go back to other colonies.
@Toomai: I noticed that, too. In general, other alternate-win aliens (Schizoid, Tick-Tock, Masochist) can be zapped at the moment of truth to delay the win. FFG must have felt that this would make it too hard for Genius to pull off the alt-win. So look around the table, and if you don't see a purse-snatcher like Trader or Barbarian or Hacker, then zap early and zap often!
The art for Genius is one my favorites for the new aliens.
I agree with Jhamin, I don't see Genius as being too powerful. He just changes the way you play the game. There are times when you can get a lot of cards in games, but you don't have everyone trying to limit your card draw.
Genius will end up as another one of those powers where people rarely ask them to ally. That being said, Negotiate cards do help offset their power, and there are several powers and flares that are good for taking cards away from people. Even Sniveler can help to keep Genius in check if everyone else is willing to lose cards. As was mentioned, Trader is Genius' nightmare opponent. Barbarian, Hacker, and even Mite also really can make things tough for Genius.
Beyond all of that, if Genius is focusing on getting cards through his power, he is losing a lot of ships to the warp and doesn't have many bases. Going all out for cards could result in just losing badly.
That said, in dual power games, there are some nasty combos. Kamikaze Genius could end the game very quickly. Healer Genius would be tough, and the dreaded Barbarian Genius could conceivably win in one turn.
Still in a single power game, Genius seems powerful but manageable. He just changes the way you have to play against him, which seems like a good trait for a power.
The part I find interesting is how Genius can only be zapped when he's trading a colony for cards - he cannot be zapped when his power causes him to win.
I think there may need to be a rule written as to whether a player must tell the truth when asked how many cards he has (aside from when Special Destiny [max cards] is drawn).
In a dual-powers game, Genius+Amoeba anyone?