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How To Play Cosmic Encounter (6 Minute Guide)

How To Play Cosmic Encounter (6 Minute Guide)


Cosmic Encounter is a space empire building game. Players rule a particular alien race, build alliances and negotiate with other players, establish colonies throughout the galaxy, and battle with opposing alliances throughout the game. The first player or players who build five colonies on planets outside their home solar system wins.

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The Warp and the Hyper Space Gate should be placed in the middle of the table. Each player chooses a color and is given the five planets that correspond with that color. Then each player places four ships on each planet and puts there foreign colony score market by the zero on the Warp.

Each player is dealt two cards after the deck is shuffled. After seeing the alien names on those cards, players pick out the two alien sheets that match those names. Then, players choose which one of the aliens they want to play as while putting the other card away.

After choosing their alien, players put their flare cards in the middle along with a random number of cards (if necessary) so there are 10. Then, those 10 are shuffled with the rest of the deck. Players are then dealt 8 cards for their starting hand.


The destiny deck features color cards that match up with different players. Remove any colors from the destiny deck that are not being used. Then, after shuffling, reveal the top card on the Destiny Deck. Whatever players color pops up goes first. Finally, return the top card to the Destiny Deck and reshuffle the deck before play starts.


Turns in this game are labeled “Encounters.” And each encounter has 7 phases:

  • Regroup- This will not be necessary on the first encounter of the game. When it is a player’s encounter, he or she may recoup one lost ship from the Warp before starting his or her turn and place it on any of his or her planets or colonies.
  • Destiny- Turn over the top card of the Destiny Deck to discover who you will have an encounter with. The player whose turn it is will be considered the offensive player. The player whose card is drawn is on defense. Both of these players are considered the main players
  • Launch- Take the Hyper Space Gate and point it at any planet in the opposing players Solar System you want an encounter over. You can put any number from one to four ships on the Hyper Space Gate.
  • Alliance- The offensive player will ask for assistance from any other player. Then, the defensive player will do the same. Players are asked in a clockwise direction if they want to join an alliance.

Of Note: Both the offensive and defensive players can choose not to ask for assistance.

Then, alliance members join one to four ships in the encounter.

  • Planning- Both main players choose an encounter card from their deck. They can choose to play a negotiate card (with an N on it) or a battle card (with a number on it). There are other cards, but we’ll discuss those later.
  • Reveal- The main players reveal the card they played. There are three scenarios that play out here:

                Both players play a battle card

Main players take the number of their ships plus the number on their battle cards and add them together. Whoever has the highest combined number wins. A tie goes to the defender.

If the offense wins, all ships on the defensive side (alliance ships included) go to the Warp. Then, all the offensive ships (alliance ships included) take over the planet.

If the defense wins, offensive ships are sent to the Warp. Defender allies get rewarded based on the number of ships they committed to the defense. They either get one ship back from the Warp or draw one card per ship they used in the alliance. Players are allowed to take a combination of cards and ships as well. The main player in defensive alliances gets nothing extra.

                Both players play a negotiate card

If this happens, all alliance ships return to the planet or colony they came from. Main players then have one minute to negotiate a deal. That deal can include swapping cards and/or settling on planets where players already have a colony. If no deal is reached, both main players must pick three ships and send them to the Warp.

                One player plays a battle card, while the other plays a negotiate card

The player with the battle card automatically wins here. Carry out the same rewards and punishments for battles with one exception: the losing player gets to steal cards from the winning players hand, one for each ship lost.

  • Resolution- This is when all the results from the reveal phase are carried out and go into effect for the next encounter.

Offensive players who win a battle or negotiate a deal can commit to another encounter if they choose to do so following the same phases. If they do not, then it is the next player’s turn.


  • Any planet that has one of your ships on it is considered a colony. Planets will frequently have multiple ships on them.
  • If a planet does not have a ship on it, the encounter is played as normal.
  • Ships on a planet that are not a part of the alliances in an encounter will keep their spot regardless of the result of the encounter.
  • Cards are rarely drawn during the game. But if you have no cards, draw a new set of 8 cards if it is your turn or if someone is encountering you.

Alternate Cards outside of “battle” and “negotiate” are also in the deck. They include:

Artifacts are one time use cards with various effects. They can only be used on the phase directed on the card.

Reinforcement Cards add extra force to a side in an alliance.

Morph Cards copy the encounter card played by your opponent.

Flare Cards have varying powers that are played based on whether they match your alien or not and can be played once during an encounter.

Alien Powers are detailed on each card. Information includes what the power is, when it can be played, and what it’s effects are when it is played. Players must have ships on 3 of 5 of their home planets in order to use an alien’s powers.


Once a player has achieved five foreign colonies (in galaxies not their own) the game is over. If multiple players achieve five colonies on the same encounter, then each player is considered the winner.


Cosmic Encounter was created in 1977 by Ion Games. The rights currently belong to Fantasy Flight Games. It is recommended for players 12 and up and involves three to five players. Average game length is around 1 to 2 hours. Cosmic Encounter received a 7.404 Geek Rating on Board Game Geek. Game difficulty is medium to near difficult. Popular alternative versions of Cosmic Encounter include:

                -Cosmic Encounter: 42nd Anniversary

                -Cosmic Encounter Expansion Packs

                -Cosmic Encounter Online

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