Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Cosmic Coasters - war, abstract, weird

I recently tried out a game that was nothing more than Rock-Paper-Scissors with a different theme. Which really wasn’t worth it. However, it got me thinking about how Rock-Paper-Scissors can be a good starting point. 

No, I am not yet talking about Hoity Toity by Klaus Teuber. Which is an absolutely brilliant game and part of what makes it brilliant is the Rock-Paper-Scissors style of hidden decision. No, I’m thinking about Cosmic Coasters, which isn’t as brilliant as Hoity Toity but still takes Rock-Paper-Scissors to a higher level.

It’s Looney Labs game, which is how I ended up finding out about and getting it very early in my collecting. It’s closer to the Looney Pyramids end of spectrum than Fluxx. It’s an abstract war game that is printed on beer coasters. (You supply your own pieces. Glass beads seem to be a popular choice.)

It was actually one of the first games I wrote a review about : https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/74545/cosmic-coasters which also covers the rules pretty well.

Each coaster serves as a player’s board/base/planet/moon which is made up of different types of spaces, including the ability teleport your pieces to the other boards. You win by taking over an opponent’s board to the degree you can teleport a piece home.

It’s actually an oddly intricate game for an abstract that takes about ten minutes to play. You need to occupy three spaces to build a new piece and occupy three other spaces to teleport a piece in the middle and there are optional special powers.

When I think of abstracts, I tend to think of the Go model of simple rules with complex decision trees. Cosmic Coasters doesn’t fit that model very well :D It definitely has its own feel.

The Rock-Paper-Scissors combat where the defender winning just pushing the attacker back helps the game balance. A more straightforward capture-by-moving-onto-another-piece would lead to stalemates.

That said, Rock-Paper-Scissors, particularly over several rounds, isn’t a random system. It’s a psychological game. Which means Cosmic Coasters can tilt to one player’s advantage easily but not by chance.

As time has gone on, my interest in Cosmic Coasters has waned. Even in the Looney Lan catalog, there are better abstract war games like Sandships or World War III or Homeworlds. However, it is both a good use of Rock-Paper-Scissors and really distinct.

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