When comparing Cosmic Encounter vs Carcassonne, the Slant community recommends Carcassonne for most people. In the question“What are the best board games?” Carcassonne is ranked 4th while Cosmic Encounter is ranked 12th. The most important reason people chose Carcassonne is:
The rules are pretty basic for Carcassonne, with first time players being able to grasp its concepts quite quickly, making Carcassonne a great gateway game. Every turn the player draws one tile from the pile. They then must place the tile adjacent to a tile that has already been placed in a way that the edges match. There are four types of terrain on the tiles – roads, cities, monasteries, and grassland. After the tile is placed the player can choose to put a player figure, a.k.a. a meeple, on the tile to potentially score points. If a meeple is placed on a road, then the player will score one point for every road tile until the road ends in an intersection or a city. If the meeple is placed on a city, the player will receive two points for every city tile until the city is fully walled off. If the player chooses to place the meeple in a monastery, then they will receive one point per tile until the monastery is fully surrounded by tiles. Lastly, if the meeple is placed on grassland, then it’ll only score points at the very end of the game, giving three points for every city in the field. The player with the most points wins.
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Pro Every game is unique
The basic rules of the game are background noise. The alien powers, both individually and as they interact with each other, determine the dynamic of each game you play, and each dynamic is radically different. For example, you can try different races and alien powers each time you play, and the way to mix and match them is almost limitless. This makes every game feel different than the one before it.
Pro The social component of the game requires you to strategize with other players
It's almost impossible to win on your own. When attacking or defending, you will get the chance to ask for allies on your turn, or assist others when they are engaged. Allies can help you win the attack or defense, but they will also gain benefits if successful. It is a team-based game, although each player is out for themselves in the end.
One of the neatest parts of the game are the negotiate cards - instead of laying down an attack card you can try to negotiate. If you both play negotiate cards, you have 1 minute to come to an agreement which can include creating new colonies, trading cards, or virtually anything. If the players don't come to agreeable terms within a minute, they both suffer a hefty penalty (4 of their ships are sent to the warp).
Pro Potential for very satisfying, creative plays
With so many unique combinations of alien powers and the fact you can form unstable alliances with other players, there's so many ways to get creative. For example, knowing when and where to pick your battles. Perhaps two other players just had an epic battle and now they're down a few ships - it would be the perfect time to swoop in and try to colonize their planets when they're weakened. Perhaps you have a special power that will give you an edge in a certain fight against another player. By paying attention to what's going on around you at all times, skillful tacticians will find all kinds of extremely clever or amusing plays to be possible.
Pro Great illustrations on the cards
Illustrations on Alien Power cards are beautifully rendered and imaginative. Each one features full color, hand drawn creatures that are distinctly unique and look like something out of a sci-fi movie.
Pro You have some influence over the theme of each game
At the beginning of each game, players are given 3-4 alien powers to choose from, usually taken at random. However, if you were trying to put together a specific theme - for example, a war between certain aliens races, or a battle using only certain powers - you can manually select the set of powers available to each player. This allows you to generate personalized games that have specific story to them or heavily revolve around a particular strategy or resource.
Pro This is an exercise in social dynamics as much as a board game
Working with or against other players, forming unstable alliances, and negotiating with other players creates some situations which will test your real world social skills.
Pro Excellent expansions
There are six expansions which not only add a minimum of 20 new alien races with new powers each, but they also brings unique gameplay mechanics to the table. For example, Cosmic Conflict adds space quake hazards, and Cosmic Alliance adds new rules for teams and expands the game to 7 players.
Pro Not as complicated as it might sound
After you play one or two games, the basic mechanics become trivial to work with. Additionally, you only have to worry about learning as many alien powers as you have players in the game, so your personal knowledge and experience with the powers can grow slowly over time. Most alien powers take a minute or two to really understand, then the fun begins of finding creative or unique ways to develop strategies around them.
Pro Easy to learn for beginners
The rules are pretty basic for Carcassonne, with first time players being able to grasp its concepts quite quickly, making Carcassonne a great gateway game.
Every turn the player draws one tile from the pile. They then must place the tile adjacent to a tile that has already been placed in a way that the edges match. There are four types of terrain on the tiles – roads, cities, monasteries, and grassland. After the tile is placed the player can choose to put a player figure, a.k.a. a meeple, on the tile to potentially score points.
If a meeple is placed on a road, then the player will score one point for every road tile until the road ends in an intersection or a city. If the meeple is placed on a city, the player will receive two points for every city tile until the city is fully walled off. If the player chooses to place the meeple in a monastery, then they will receive one point per tile until the monastery is fully surrounded by tiles. Lastly, if the meeple is placed on grassland, then it’ll only score points at the very end of the game, giving three points for every city in the field. The player with the most points wins.
Pro Near-endless replayability
Carcassonne will pretty much never feel dull, there are so many possibilities and variables in the game not only because of the randomness, but also because of the simplicity and the variation count.
Carcassonne is going to be a different game every time because of the tiles you and your opponents draw and where you choose to place them. There are over 70 tiles in the base set, which amounts to a lot of possible combinations.
Carcassonne has been around for a while, and this has led to the release of many expansions throughout the years. Each of these provides more tiles, rules, and other variables to the game.
Lastly, you can even introduce many variations that’ll change up the game without owning any expansions, for example, instead of drawing one tile and placing it every turn, have the players manage a hand of four tiles.
Pro Detailed with polish
The board game pieces are highly detailed and colorful, be it lush grassland, a fortified medieval castle, or a monastery in the middle of nowhere. The game is themed after southern France in the medieval ages and the actual fortified city of Carcassonne and the landscape around it. There is definitely some forethought put into the polish of this game that makes much of it intuitive and a pleasure to look at.
On a more practical note, the back of the tile with which the game starts is in a separate color, so it is easier to find when starting the game.
Pro Simple, but allows for lots of thinking if you want
The game is very accessible to beginners, but it allows for quite a bit of strategic play when you get more familiar with the concept. You can either go for long-term strategies with farms, or for quick point-grabs; you can build your own cities in peace or try to mess with your opponent whenever possible. A lot of tactics come in the form of cutthroat play – trapping other players’ meeples, stealing cities, and getting to share points.
Moreover, the last turns of the game can also influence the outcome a lot – players receive some points for unfinished creations as well.
Pro Quick to play
In a regular expansion-less game of Carcassonne it can take 30 – 45 minutes to blast through the approximately 70 tiles.
Because of the simple rules Carcassonne is very easy to get back into even after big breaks and it’s great to teach to other people. This means that the people you play with can change without any problems and you can play the game with anyone – children, your parents, your friends, or your partner.
The gameplay is dynamic, and everyone’s constantly engaged, managing their meeples and calculating which part of the board is worth fighting over. Even the kids stay engaged since the winner is usually not obvious untile the very end.
Con Can cause arguments
Due to the nature of the game, which has you working with others and then turning against them in the same breath, it can create some situations where people are going to feel used or mistreated. This can result in a lot of fighting or arguments, especially when playing with easily offended people.
In situations where all players gang up on just one single player.
Con Some alien powers are difficult to parse
Some of the cards have walls of text that look intimidating at first, and may take a slow read and group discussion to really figure out. Thankfully, the alien powers are divided into three sets based on "difficulty" which translates roughly to "difficulty to understand, and how much it disrupts basic gameplay." Green (easy) cards are usually simple enough that a child of 12 or so can understand them.
Con Might be hard to teach
This is one of those games that has to be played to be fully understood. As such, it can be hard to teach someone. It will take new players a few rounds to start understanding.
Con Risk of accidental tile moving
If the game is not played on a flat surface or if you accidentally apply more force to the tile when you're placing it adjacent to another, then everything can shift, which can be annoying to fix.
Con May be a little light for hardcore boardgame players
The game itself is not very deep in design or play, which may be a turn off for the more hardcore of boardgame players though can be good for newcomers.
Con Small official scoreboard
The official scoreboard that comes with the base game only stacks up to 50 points, but proper games of Carcassonne go way past that mark – a game without any expansions can easily reach over 100 points. If you add expansions to the equation, then the points can stack up even past 400, but some expansions feature scoring tokens that help resolve this issue.
Con Highly random
As is typical for a game with a drawing mechanic, almost every action in the game is influenced by whatever tile is drawn and where a player has chosen to place it, so it’ll benefit him the most. The randomness is enhanced by the fact that the players only draw one tile at a time, so you must take what you get.