Sunday, April 11, 2010

Nova Cards

I recently issued a plea on the CE newsgroup for information about Mayfair's never-released expansion for Cosmic Encounter that tantalized players for a long time, was play tested, and on the verge of release when.... it wasn't. Nova cards.

Responding the most popular complaint about its edition of CE, the one-shot flares, Mayfair cooked up a new card that would behave like the classic Eon flare (play it, but don't discard it). There would be one Nova card for each alien in the game. That was about all the information that was ever released.

Now, it's more than a decade later, and I've always wanted to know what the content of the Nova deck was going to be. I felt there was no reason to keep the data secret anymore... people worked hard on creating it- it deserved to be shared and discussed. I didn't really get the information I wanted, but close. Gerald Katz explained that the Nova cards were essentially going to be a new version of his Pulsar cards (also known as Immunity cards). Gerald has been posting Pulsars for every CE alien (including many homebrews) for years- which to me says that it's even more all right for someone who had access to the "official" rules for Novas to just send that stuff to me, but I digress).

Nova cards, like Flares, have two headings: Con and Pro. The Con heading is an immunity to the effects of the power listed on the card. It partially or completely nullifies that power, ala Cosmic Zap to some degree, but often only to the benefit of the card holder. The Pro heading was only used if you held your own power's Nova, giving your power a boost like a Super Flare (but a different effect than the Flare).

For example, if you held the Anti-Matter Nova, all allies' ships add to the encounter total (his allies as well as yours). Conversely, if Anti-Matter held his own Nova, the effect is his opponent's allies add to the encounter total instead of subtracting.

In an article on the newsgroup, Gerald explained that he almost ditched the idea since they were too close to flares, but when Mayfair's one-shots came out, he decided they were a great way to reintroduce a retained card to the game.

That brings us to the FFG edition, which does have the classic Eon style of retained flares. Would it be too weird to have a second flare-like card in the game? One of the unfortunate things about flares is that you rarely ever get your hands on your own Super. I didn't want to see a game where you had two cards for your alien power and even less chance of seeing one of them. I was on the fence about it, but then I thought about the Reward deck. What if you added a Nova card for each power in the game and shuffled them into the Reward deck? No extra Novas were added- only powers in the game, meaning each one that did come up would be relevant. The Reward deck is smaller than the encounter deck, so you had a better chance of getting a Nova for a power being used into the game. It might still be hard to get your own Nova, but now you have the added tension of having a player acquire your Nova and becoming somewhat immune to your power.

It's no secret that I am a big fan of the Reward deck. I like that makes people think twice as the defense about inviting players to ally (and think carefully about whom to invite). It makes other players think hard about which main player to ally with. And it makes the offense have to worry about whether or not he invites certain players on offense, because if he doesn't invite them, the defense just might. Plus, before the Reward deck, if you did ally with the defense, and drew cards from the deck as your reward, you stood an excellent chance of drawing cards you didn't want. The odds of getting something good are a little better in the Reward deck (no guarantee, which is how it should be).

If you mixed in 3-6 more cards, it doesn't have a huge effect on the Reward deck distribution, but it does make you a little bit more keen on accessing it. And, the Rift cards take on an even bigger role in the game when you know someone has a Nova in his or her hand, and you want to target it for compensation. If the dozen or so games I've played with Cosmic Incursion, I haven't felt much of a need to hold onto my Rift cards as a deterrent. I just play them and get the ships out of the warp. If I had a Nova in my hand, I would be more inclined to keep a Rift if I could afford to.

Culling info from old newsgroup posts by Gerald, and noodling up my own info on the new aliens, I have created my own set of Nova cards and add them to my Reward deck when playing. The first game was about a week ago, and it was very well received. We got three of the six Novas into play. Only one of the flares for the powers in the game was played, and as a Wild, not a Super. There was also a desperate move by one player to take his Nova out of another player's hand through compensation, and it took him two tries to do it. The cost in ships was pretty high (7), but it ultimately led to his sharing a win with only one other player in a six player game.


  1. Maybe I'm slow on the uptake regarding prototype fabrication, there a program that is making these cards similar to AH's Strange Eons?

    Or did you just sit down and shoop it one day and been reaping the results ever since? :P

    Would love a link to the Nova cards, if one is available.

  2. I shooped it. My template is not exactly like the FFG cards, but close enough for me. I started with a master file, and then broke it into separate files for every type of card. Because I'm crazy like that.