Cosmocracy is an incredibly unique sci-fi themed party game where players debate issues to become the President of the Galaxy. On the agenda are topics such as deporting Humans out of Monstrous Bug People’s planet and declaring war against shape shifters for their interstellar bike lanes. Candidates must debate issues as various alien races such as Brain Sucking Parasites and a Proud Warrior race all putting candidates forward for the role of President of the Galaxy. Let’s start with how this debate works.
At the start of the game, players are randomly assigned a candidate card. This is the alien race they will be representing the game, though you may be the boring humans. Candidates are then given the corresponding double sided Pro/Con card. The unused candidate cards are returned to the box and the used cards are returned to the middle and shuffled. Piles of voting tokens, matter cards and issue cards are placed in the middle of the table and the game is set up and ready to go.
The top two candidate cards are flipped, these are the players involved in the first debate. The moderator, another player not involved in the debate, takes the top issue card, if it has a blank for race they can chose which it refers to and if it has a matter blank a matter card is drawn. The moderator then states the issue to be debated by the candidates. Out of the two debating candidates the first to have been flipped can decide if their race would be for or against the issue and the second player must oppose them. This can see peaceful factions having to come up with elaborate reasoning behind being pro-war or garbage lovers being pro-recycling nanobots.
This is where the game gets interesting as each candidate then has 30 seconds to discuss the issue and debate their point. So far it sounds rather normal but whatever is said by a candidate is true. If a player states that Androids are keep violently attacking space animals with towels it is true until the end of the game. Importantly in this example, the Android candidate cannot simply say it isn’t true. It is possible to spin previous true statements but it is pretty much impossible for players to completely reverse a statement. Thus, each time you play Cosmocracy parallel universes are made where the races all do and have done very different things.
While there is technically is no wrong way to debate, players are trying to represent their race as a candidate in the Galactic Presidential race. When the debating time is up the candidates including the moderator can pose questions to the debating candidates. Each of the debaters can answer a single question or follow up the answer of their opponent. Finally, a vote is called and all non-debaters must vote whom had the best response. Each vote is worth a point and at the end of a predefined number of rounds the player with the most points is sworn is the President of the Galaxy! Oh, and they win the game.
One aspect that helps to limit downtime is candidate questioning. Players can ask the candidates questions after the initial speeches, poking holes in the right places, either for entertainment or their own personal gain later on. As mentioned, the candidates won’t necessarily answer because of only being able to make a single response. Nonetheless, the non-debaters are still encouraged to think what to ask and concentrate on the intricate story that is being made by the debaters. It keeps players engaged and stops attention waning between rounds.
To properly set up the atmosphere of the game up the rules suggest that each candidate provides a fact about their race at the beginning of the game. This starts the story flowing often in completely unique ways with plenty of entertaining tangents to explore. Even in the first debate players can extend the comments of others to win votes or destroy their opponents in the debate. It all comes down to how far can you weave the statements of others into your own agenda, for your race’s benefit?
At the lowest player count of 3 players Cosmocracy does seem to falter slightly, it really is built for more of a group of players. The problem stems from the only races included in Issue cards are the races in play. Therefore, with 3 players only 3 races are utilized. This is somewhat limiting which is almost good and bad. It keeps the web of tales being spun contained and of purpose. This also increases the chances of players having to dodge around previous statements from other candidates. Some of this containing is key for the stories players come up with to flourish but with such a reduced race pool in a 3-player game it seems very back and forth rather than everyone spinning previous statements as a group.
From playing with differing sized groups, 5 people shone out as the ideal player count. The limitation of races for issues is reduced but more importantly downtime is still limited. As only 3 players are ever involved in a single debate, the two candidates and the moderator, it means that players are most likely all going to be involved in at least alternate rounds. Listen to the speeches and clapping their finish is on its own entertaining but pales in comparison to when your placed in the hot seat yourself. At this 5-player mark there is plenty of rotation between rounds so players rarely spend too long outside of the debate.
Cosmocracy is the only game I’ve ever played (maybe even the only one in existence) where space whales may in one round have a fetish for nibbling on Androids and in another see towels be awarded citizenship on the worlds of Energy Beings. These are, I must unfortunately admit, claims made during games of Cosmocracy by gamers I would normally refer to as friends. Post-Cosmocracy I may have to rethink that after the weird and wonderful thoughts that some have come up with! That is the brilliance of the game though it lets players’ imaginations run away, to (pardon the pun) out of this world places.
Cosmocracy doesn’t over complicate things, allowing it to be picked up quickly by new players. The complication can certainly be added to the game by the wonderful spiralling tales from candidates but that is firmly left up the players, the rules themselves are kept simple. The one rule to rule them all is that everything said by a candidate is true and truthful, for once there are no lying politicians. This may seem weird but it is the basis of Cosmocracy and what give the game it’s edge.
Replayability is sky high as the small box of Cosmocracy packs plenty of entertainment in because the gameplay revolves around players’ imaginations. The cards made up of Issue cards, Matter cards and candidate cards total 112, so you’ll play multiple full games of Cosmocracy before even seeing repeated cards. On top of this great variety of cards the amount of unique combinations of issues and races/matter means potential topics ranges from the peculiar to astronomically insane. These cards offer light structure and pointers for the debates. Where the game goes is truly up to players’ imaginations.
Cosmocracy is brilliant if you have a group of friends willing to let a little bit of peculiar fun into their lives. If players can forget the norm, then the entertainment will flow and the stories created are often laughed about well after the game has been packed away. This combined with the ease of transportation means it is even a great game for people on the move, whom want to take something small to entertain groups of people. If you find yourself constantly with a low player count as with many party games Cosmocracy does lose its shine. However, fear not the entertainment possible when a group is round certainly makes up for this and firmly earns Cosmocracy’s place on my gaming shelf!
[Editor’s Note: Cosmocracy Was provided to us by Road To Infamy Games for review purposes.]