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Cosmic Encounter Review

Life is too hectic on Earth, so let’s jet to intergalactic worlds that are lightyears away!

Pack your spacesuit, oxygen, and speedy quick thinking to beat out your alien opponents as you compete over establishing your alien race at cosmic speeds. Here we’ll tell you all the secrets to planetary domination! *cue evil laughter*.

Let’s dive into our Cosmic Encounter review!

Brief Overview of Cosmic Encounter

Cosmic Encounter 6-Player Board Game

Pandemic’s galactic brother, Cosmic Encounter, functions with high replayability and multiple user functionality as players attempt to spread their alien race far and wide.

Infect your opponent’s home planets by playing your cards right, lying, and a bit of outmaneuvering. Since this is outer space, new rules apply — any player can join you in your battles and opponents can call on their alliances for defense.

There’s a decent chance you might win beside your space world ally or fall out of existence by being colonized by invading aliens’ gene pools. 

Unboxing Cosmic Encounter

Sci-Fi game art adorns the box and deck set of Cosmic Encounter when you open and begin to unbox the layers of card stacks, boards, and your future alien family’s home bases. In total, inside the box you’ll find:

  • Rulebook
  • 1 Warp
  • 1 Hyperspace Gate
  • 50 Alien Sheets
  • 50 Flare Cards
  • 1 Alternate Filch Flare
  • 72 Cosmic Cards
  • 20 Tech Cards
  • 42 Cosmic Tokens
  • 7 Grudge Tokens
  • 1 Genesis Planet
  • 1 Lunar Canon Token
  • 1 Prometheus Token
  • 100 Plastic Ships
  • 5 Player Colony Markers
  • 25 Player Planets
  • 20 Destiny Cards

The overall quality seems made on Mars — and for all you humans out there — it means it’s top-notch! The stackable UFO pieces are functional and cute, being used like poker chips in your galactic agenda. The card decks are organized, ranging from big to small decks all made from thicker card materials.

The quality of the components is in alignment with the normal high-quality expected from Fantasy Flight Games. The action cards could have been elaborated on a bit more, but the text was trimmed down on these compared to the lengthy flavor text on the alien cards.

The components are extensive and detailed beautifully. I especially loved the alien art and their personal special actions. One of the alien’s special powers was to switch the loser and the winner roles, strategic little gremlins!

Cosmic Encounter
  • BUILD A GALACTIC EMPIRE: In the depths of space, the aliens of...
  • SCI-FI ADVENTURE GAME: This game of interstellar exploration,...
  • STRATEGY GAME: Every planet is ruled by someone and the only way...

How to Play Cosmic Encounter

Cosmic Encounter Board Game Cards


To begin your quest of galactic conquest, start with choosing your alien race’s color representation. Snag 20 ships, and five planets of your chosen color, stacking the UFO pieces in piles of four on your five home planet bases.

Shuffle your cards into the Destiny Deck and place the Warp and Hyperspace gates in equivalent player reach. Next, you’ll deal two Flare Cards to each player, allowing players to choose their alien sheet. Ten Flare Cards get shuffled into the Cosmic Deck, all players are dealt an 8-card hand, and the race is off!

Turn Phases

When playing Cosmic Encounter, a turn is broken into eight phases:

  1. Start Turn

Offending players begin the round by searching their hands for an encounter card: Attack, Negotiate, or Morph. If a player does not hold an encounter card, they must discard their entire hand and pick up back to 8-cards. 

  1. Regroup

In this phase, the offending player snags one of their ships back from the Warp and places it on a foreign or home colony stack.

  1. Destiny

Offender draws the top card of the Destiny deck to see which opponent they’ll be facing in battle. Three types of destiny cards exist: wilds, color, and special cards. 

  1. Launch

The Destiny card will dictate what color planets the offense can target in the Launch phase. The offending player must direct the Hyperspace gate to the planet of choice, and decide how many ships to allocate for this conquest. In the case that the offense pulls their planet’s colors, they can either draw again or fight against a foreign colony in their home planet range. 

  1. Alliance

Call on your alien brothers and sister to ally up with you on both defending and offending attacks. The offense gets to invite players individually first, and then the defense can call on their space partnerships. It’s important to note that players cannot accept the invitation until it comes to them in clockwise order. It is also not necessary to accept an invitation. 

  1. Planning

Now, only the main attacker and defender place an Encounter card face down in front of them. If the defense does not have an Encounter card, they are able to show all cards, discard hand, and pick back up to their current hand limit of 8. In the rare chance that the offending player still does not hold any Encounter cards, their turn ends immediately and all players’ ships are returned. 

  1. Reveal

It’s time to flip the Encounters and see what awaits!

Attack v Attack: Number of personal and ally ships in attack/defense + selected Encounter card attack amount= Total Attack Amount
Whoever has the highest number wins the attack- obviously! If all is equal on the playing field, the defense takes this win and you retreat.

Attack v Negotiate: Attack wins here, and negotiations will follow.

Negotiate v Negotiate: Allies withdraw, and peace is established by trading cards or establishing colonies. Make a deal quickly or you both risk losing 3 ships to the Warp.

Morph v Any other card: If you play a morph card, you’ll see your outcome transform into whatever card the opponent played. Carry out the following battle by the above pairings. 

  1. Resolution

Every battle must come to an end, either with an offense win, defense win, successful deal, or unsuccessful deal. 

Offense Win: The winning player and their allies invade the defense’s planet and secure a colony. Defensive forces are sent into orbit and placed in the Warp. Advance the colony marker for every player who procured their position on another planet. 

Defense Win: Same as an offense win, except all allies are instead given a choice reward: draw a card from the Cosmic deck, or retrieve one of their ships from the Warp. 

Successful Deal: Follow through with your space terms, making sure to read the fine print.

Unsuccessful Deal: Three of your ships (Offending and Defending) get sucked into the Warp. It pays to make a deal!

Galactic Victory!

Winning Cosmic Encounter is simple — the first player to establish five foreign colonies wins the victory and their alien race survives. Thanos would be so proud :’)

Your First Game of Cosmic Encounter 

If you consider yourself a pro playing Risk or Pandemic, then you’ll hold your own quite well in the other solar systems too! Cosmic Encounter is all about lying your way to the top and getting others on your side for the sweet victory.

Offer other players a chance at success by forming an alliance, and then let them eat your dust when you rapidly colonize and sweep the galaxy. With any angle for strategy, this game is a tried and tested favorite, and here are our top three victory tips:

  1. Cards outweigh ships.

Since you only technically need 5 ships to win the game (it will be a challenge though), make sure you’re playing high damage attack cards to hit opponents where it hurts. 

  1. Save to take on the big dogs.

Some planets will be easy to dominate, but keep your eyes and tentacles peeled for those stacking defenses and forces. Eventually, you may need to colonize a well-protected area and you’re gonna need the big guns for that.

  1. It’s okay to share your victory!

While we don’t recommend counting on allies all the time (remember this game is about stabbing your opponents in the back), it can be enjoyable to win together. If your hand is looking pretty dull, find a sucker to pull you (and them) to the finish line.

Cosmic Encounter
  • BUILD A GALACTIC EMPIRE: In the depths of space, the aliens of...
  • SCI-FI ADVENTURE GAME: This game of interstellar exploration,...
  • STRATEGY GAME: Every planet is ruled by someone and the only way...

Pros & Cons


  • High variety of aliens
  • Shared victories
  • Lying (enough said)

With over 50 alien choices come countless special powers, and therefore, high replayability. I have played this game many times and still am perplexed at how quickly the game can turn around depending on the aliens’ abilities. For example, one alien nicknamed the “Prophet” secures a free colony if they predict who wins correctly. The “Genius” alien instead picks up cards, rather than colonies and can declare victory if their hand reaches 20 cards!

It seems taboo to share a victory but if you’re left with human-worthy cards (ew, mortals), then it could be very advantageous for you to piggyback on a victory by using an ally. Of course, not everyone likes free-loaders, so prepare to sell yourself like a used-car salesman.

Lying, enough said. If you need more reasons for this “pro”, lie more. Bonus points if you secure an entire planetary system because of it.


  • Not as fun to play with less people
  • Can be hard to teach/catch on to

The only negatives I can think of for Cosmic Encounter is that it’s not as much fun with fewer people and it can be a bit of a pain to teach newbies. Having a larger crowd allows you to pull different allies, and makes conquesting other planets way less cliquey. Most expansions allow up to 6 players so you’ll have more slimy opponents to team up against.

A possible con is the adaptability of this game for new players. It can be a bit more technical than other land-conquest games because of all the turn phases, timings, and tricksters in the midst. Once you play through the round once or twice, you’ll be more equipped to square up to sneakier, more advanced alien races. 

Cosmic Encounter Review (TL;DR)

The rounds run like clockwork once you get in the routine of the turn phases, allowing a smooth transition to planetary colonization. The ever-changing avenues of attack ensure you never get too buddy-buddy with your allies, keeping you on your toes (Limbs? Tentacles? Slug tails?).

Whatever alien race you are, your special abilities offer even more chances to throw a warp in the mix and win randomly. Try new strategies in your offending Reveal Phase to see what works best for your colonization missions and watch the table. You never know when a spaceship full of alien invaders is heading your way.

Versions & Expansions

Conclusion: Verdict?

If your space senses are tingling and you have a thirst for cosmic conquests — I cannot recommend Cosmic Encounter enough. Since its birth in 1977, countless expansions have solidified this classic table topper as a fan favorite, and I’m loving the new adaptations that the alien expansions offer to the gameplay. Having an expansion provides more player enjoyment and a better diversity of allies and enemies. 

This game is best suited for a game night with good pals who don’t mind your shifty deception tactics and bloodthirsty lust for victory. Since it can be considered technical, I would refrain from a younger audience playing this game as it could be difficult and the turn phases tedious.

I personally enjoyed this type of gameplay more than normal hand management, land-conquest game due to the lying aspect. You’re guaranteed a few laughs, and at least one shameless victory shared or not. That’s far out, dude!

Cosmic Encounter
  • BUILD A GALACTIC EMPIRE: In the depths of space, the aliens of...
  • SCI-FI ADVENTURE GAME: This game of interstellar exploration,...
  • STRATEGY GAME: Every planet is ruled by someone and the only way...

We hope you enjoyed our Cosmic Encounter review! Have you tried this game or any of its expansions? We’d love to hear your thoughts on gameplay and pros/cons so drop a comment below! We’d love to hear from you.

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Stats at a glance

Players: 3-5

Ages: 12 +


60-120 Mins

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Published: 2008