Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League

This is a review of the 2-player board game “Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League”, published in the USA by Z-Man Games.  This is an English language edition of the German game “Perry Rhodan: Die Kosmische Hanse”.  Z-Man Games published the game in 2010.  It’s listed as a Card Game on their web site.  “Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League” is designed by Heinrich Glumpler.  The game is part of the Kosmos 2-player line of board and card games.

The game is for 2 players, age 10 and up and is rated to play in about 30 minutes.  I find it usually goes longer, but never more than an hour.  The game retails for around $25 and can be purchased on-line for a little over $16.

Here is some flavor text from the publisher:

As commanders of the Cosmic League, the players use their spaceships to transport goods and passengers between the six planets. For this they receive a certain number of Megagalax (1 Megagalax equals 1,000,000 Galax, the currency unit of the Cosmic League). The players may spend the earned Megagalax to buy technologies to facilitate their tasks. But they must not forget the main objective of the game because the first player who reaches a total of 70 Megagalax will win the game.

A strategic two player game set in one of the most prolific and best selling universes in science fiction. Discover Perry Rhodan and the Cosmic League for yourself!

That bit about “best selling universes in science fiction” was news to me.  But it just shows how much I didn’t know.  The Perry Rhodan universe was created in 1961 in Germany and went on to generate over a billion copies in books, novels and magazines.  Evidently it is the most successful science fiction book series ever written.

The artwork on the box and of the game components is by Swen Papenbrock, an illustrator for the book series.  I must say that the artwork is quite appealing and well done.

Whats’s in the box?

Here’s a photograph I took before we played our last game.  You can see the box and it’s contents.

The box and contents

The box has a nice insert with compartments to hold the pieces.

Included, there’s a large “Sun” piece that is used to keep track of the score.  The game also includes 2 small cardboard chits, one for each player and representing their ship.  They are used on the score track of the “Sun”.

The game also comes with a stack of 6 cardboard “Planets”.  More about those in a moment.  Next there are 2 cardboard ships, one for each player, mounted on little plastic stands.  A D6 die is also included with the game.

There are 2 larger sized card decks, one for each player.  Each deck is identical with the exception of the artwork on the back to signify which player owns the deck.  One card from each of the 2 player decks has a lighter colored background.  This is a handy way of identifying the initial card each player uses at the start of the game.

Here’s an example of some of the larger cards.

Lastly, theres a smaller sized card deck with various goods.  The goods cards are 2-sided and have one kind of good on one side and another different good on the other side.

Above is a shot of the pieces on the table and a glimpse of the rulebook.  The rulebook is pretty clear and has many illustrations.  The glass colored gems are not included with the game and are an enhancement I added to aid game play.  More about these later.

Game Play

I took photographs during a recent game session.  They will be helpful as we discuss game play.

At the start of the game each player chooses one deck, and corresponding space ship.  With the glass gems added, each player also take a set of those.

The Sun is placed at one side of the table and the 2 scoring markers are placed at Zero on the score track of the Sun.  We’re using smaller gems, with the clear one for the lighter-colored player ship and the blue gem for the player with the darker “Death Star”-looking player ship.

The Planet discs are laid out in order, as seen below, moving outwards away from the Sun.  In the below layout we didn’t really have them far enough apart for easy game play and ended up spreading them out before we actually began play.  Each planet depicts 1 unique resource.  This represents the demand for that resource at that planet.

The Goods cards are carefully shuffled.  Adjacent to each planet, 5 cards are initially placed.

The cards are then laid out in columns to one side of each planet.  There are 2 rules to observe while placing the Goods cards on each planet.  If the Goods card depicts the same resource as shown on the planet, it must be flipped over to the other side.  Also, they are grouped together if any match.

For example, you can see the outermost planet has only three types of goods available.  Having a lot of one kind of resource grouped together like that makes this planet attractive for an early visit and loading of a ship container.

You can see that there needs to be enough space between the planets so that the Goods Cards are not crowded too close together.  We ended up adjusting the spacing between the planets to make it easier to layout the Goods cards.

One more step before the game begins.  Each player places their starting card face up on the table in front of them.  This card shows a “Container” technology.  The rest of the cards are shuffled and then each player takes 5 cards into their hands.  Cards in the hand are never shown to the opposite player until they are player or discarded.

The youngest player gets to make an important decision before the game begins.  They must decide if they want to be the starting player or not.  The player who is not the starting player gets to decide which planet is used as the start position for each player.  So it’s an interesting trade-off.

The ships are placed, the players have their initial 5 cards.  The game proceeds.

Each player completes a number of actions and then turns game play over to the other player.  On a player’s turn they can execute up to 2 Planetary Actions, 2 Intervention Actions and 1 Flight Action, in any order.  Here’s where we use those extra gems.

I used a permanent marker and wrote letters on each gem.  “P” for Planetary Action, “I” for Intervention Action, and “F” for Flight Action.  The player can use these gems to count off actions as they are completed as an aid to remember what they have and have not done during their turn.

Planetary Action

A Planetary Action can be 1 of three things.  You can choose the same one twice:

Load one Container with a Good, or group of same Goods.  Once a Container is loaded with Goods onto your ship, the Container is sealed and cannot be opened until it is unloaded.  The player’s ship must be landed on a planet to load Goods into a Container.

Unload one Container at a planet.  Note the Planet must have a matching resource symbol when you unload a Container and that the entire contents of the Container is unloaded.  Unloading Goods on a planet is the key way to earn points and win.  You earn as many points as the value of the goods you unload.  The player’s ship must be landed on the planet to unload a Container.  Goods that are unloaded at a planet are then evaluated to see if they can become part of the resources available at that planet.  When the Goods are delivered, the cards are turned over.  If any of the turned over Goods cards are the same those cards are removed from the game.  Goods that are not removed are then available at that planet and are placed on the table with the planet, following the same rules as at the start of the game.

Buy a technology card.  Each player begins with their score marker on 0 of the Sun score track.  The Score also represents the wealth of each player during the game.  To pay for technology, the cost of that technology is subtracted from their score.  So at the start of the game, since each player is at 0, they are unable to purchase any Technology.  Technology cost depends on the number of Technology cards they player has already placed in front of them.  If you have one Technology card already in play, as everyone does at the start of the game, any new cards you buy with this Planetary Action will cost 1 point.  If you have 3 Technology cards already in play, then each new Technology card you buy will cost 3 points.  There’s no limit to the number of Technology cards a player has active and it’s another interesting game play trade-off since they can provide considerable advantages but cost points to add.

There are Technology cards that allow a player to add more Containers for Goods.  There is technology available that allows a Container to be loaded or unloaded from orbit, instead of being landed on the planet.  Other Technology cards give Flight advantages and “Replenishment” bonus — more about Replenishments later.

As resources are loaded onto ships they are removed from the planets.  You can see how there are less Goods cards on the above planets later during game play.

Above is a shot later in the game showing the distribution of goods between the planets.

Here, you can see the player’s ship in orbit around the outermost planet.  The are 3 kinds of Goods available here.  The grouped set is worth 5 points.

The above photograph shows the player has 2 Containers, both of which are loaded with the same kind of Goods.  These were obviously picked up at different planets.  When this player arrives at the green planet, with 2 Player Actions, both Containers can be unloaded for a total of 7 points.  The player also has an Orbital Station Technology which helps loading or unloading Goods (one time per turn) from orbit.

 Intervention Action

A player can play up to 2 optional Intervention Actions during their turn.  Interventions are cards you have in your hand.  Some Interventions give a player extra actions they can use, and some can cause direct interaction with the other player.  Other Interventions are “Passenger” cards which allow the player to gain 3 points for delivering a Passenger to a specific planet.

For an example of the highly interactive actions, one of the Intervention cards a player may use will swap the locations of the 2 player ships.  Another can swap the contents of a Container.  A very good trick when played at the right moment.

Each player has the same deck of Technology and Intervention cards but since the decks are shuffled at the start of the game, extra variability is included in each game play session.

Intervention cards can be played at any time during a player’s turn.  It is also possible for the opposing player to cancel an Intervention card coming into play.  This is done if the other player has the identical card in their hand and wants to abort the action.  Note that Passenger cards can not be canceled.

Flight Action

 A player can execute 1 Flight Action during their turn.  This is where the D6 die comes into play.  The player rolls the die and whatever number comes up represents the amount of flight energy available during the turn.  There a cool game mechanism applied with rolling.  If the player rolls a 1, the player gets to roll again and that 1 is added to whatever is rolled next.  If the player rolls 1 again, that also gets re-rolled and added in.  This process continues until the player rolls something higher than a 1.

Incidentally, one of the simple enhancements I’ve made to help speed up the game, and just because it’s more fun, is to add an extra D6 and just give one to each player.

Once a player has a total of flight energy available they can move their space ship.  To leave a planet and enter orbit costs 1 energy unit.  The same is true to land on a planet.  Movement between planets depends on direction.  When a player’s ship wants to travel sun-ward, it costs 1 energy unit to hop from planet orbit to planet orbit.  When moving away from the Sun, the player ship uses 1 energy unit to move between planet orbits as shown by the diagram above from the rule book.

For example, if your ship is landed on the yellow planet, it would cost you 8 flight energy to land on the purple/blue planet.  Whereas, leaving the purple/blue planet and landing on the yellow will cost 5 energy.

The photograph above shows a ship in the half-way point between two planets.

Replenishment

After completing your Flight Action, Planetary Actions and Intervention Actions, the cards in their hand are replenished.  Each player begins with 5 cards in hand.  As cards are played the count of cards in your hand are reduced.  As a final step before turning over to the other player, the player can add cards from his draw stack to his hand.  You can draw as many new cards as you have Technology cards already in play that say “Replenishment”.  At the start of the game each player began with a Technology card that is a Container and also specifies 1 Replenishment.  You can only draw as many cards as you have Replenishments available.  There is a maximum hand capacity of 5 cards.  If you exceed it you must discard some cards before your turn ends.

The game continues until a player’s score marker reaches the end point of the scoring track.  The photograph below shows the scoring glass gems we use in our games.

Conclusion

You can see that Perry Rhodan is a “pick-up and deliver” game with a science fiction theme.  The rules are simple and easy to learn.  We found that we occasionally have a brief discussion about some particular nuance to the flight rules and intervention rules, but found that simple common sense applied thematically quickly helped us move along.

So what do I think of the game?  It’s fun and perfect for lunch time play between two friends during the work week.  The box is the same size as the other 2-player Kosmos board games and is relatively small to carry.  The artwork on the cards is well done.

I have found that the game can pause while a player carefully considers their options and this could be the reason the game seems to take longer than the 30 minutes claimed on the box lid.  So it can suffer a little from “analysis paralysis”.

The most common complaint people seem to express about the game is that the scoring track on the Sun can get a little out of hand.  The cardboard chits for scoring, although not very large, seem sometimes crowded and make it difficult to see how each player is doing.  I changed to using small glass gems and that helped, but we do give up the nice artwork found on the cardboard scoring chit.

I found that it’s easy to get confused during a turn, keeping track of whether Planetary Actions, Intervention and Flight Actions have been done, since they can be freely intermixed within a turn.  We found that using small glass gem markers helps somewhat.  We just slide a gem forward or to one side when we complete the associated action.  It also helps the other player understand exactly what you are doing.

There is an “official” 3-player variant for the game.  It looks interesting but I have not tried it.  The extra glass gems I pack with the game make it ready if this opportunity presents itself.

Overall, it’s a fun game.  I enjoy “pick-up and deliver” game mechanisms and enjoy just about every science fiction themed game I play.  The game is inexpensive to own too.  And it plays pretty fast, easily fitting into a lunch hour break at the office.  This one is a winner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *