Full disclosure: A review copy of Cosmic Factory was provided by Gigamic.
Like I said, it’s Accidentally Kane Klenko Week, here at What’s Eric Playing?. Weird coincidence, but happened to get two review copies of games he designed, so, here we are. This used to be known as Kaosmos, but was recently renamed to Cosmic Factory. I don’t really have a lot of opinions on game names; just kind of reporting that one as a fact.
In Cosmic Factory, you’re doing a bit of Nine Tiles and a bit of Kingdomino as you create a nine-tile galaxy each round. The trick here is that the Kaos will influence how you build, and asteroid paths will block off certain systems. Just don’t let any one type of planet score too little, otherwise you’ll pay a hefty price. Will you be able to create the ideal galaxies? Or will they just end up being a waste of space?
Setup isn’t too bad. Take the tiles:
And throw them all into the provided bag:
Give each player a player board:
Along with three planet tokens (one in each color) and a star token:
They can go off the board, for now. Shuffle the Kaos cards:
Take 5, set them in a line within view of all players, face-down. These are the round modifiers for each of the five rounds. You can remove the rest from the game. Set the sand timer nearby, as well.
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to start!
Cosmic Factory is a real-time game of galaxy construction. Each round, you’ll draft nine tiles, and then put them into a galactic configuration (usually 3×3, but not always!) that best allows you to score. You score each zone (and your longest path of asteroids) individually over each of the five rounds. At the game’s end, however, your total score is your star token’s value plus your lowest color value. Sort of a Between Two Cities thing going on, there. Let’s cover play in a bit more depth.
Like I said, at the start of a round, you’ll reveal the Kaos card affecting the round. Some give you bonus points, some let you build weird galaxies, and one lets you build a galaxy for an opponent, effectively challenging you to score as little as possible. Cruel, but efficient.
After you reveal the card, every player should take nine tiles from the bag. Good luck taking exactly nine, but what can you do. Newer / younger players can skip the draft and just take nine without looking at them. Experienced players should then take three, place them face-down, and then pass tiles to another player, as follows:
- Rounds 1, 3, 5: Pass tiles to the left.
- Rounds 2, 4: Pass tiles to the right.
As you take additional tiles, you may not look at tiles you took previously. You always take three at a time. When you’re passed the final three, you may not look at those, either. One player flips the sand timer and then you can get to it!
There are no placement rules for tiles in your galaxy (beyond a general 3×3 requirement), but you may want to check to see how the various zones (green, blue, orange) score, as they are not the same scoring. Keep in mind you get bonus points for your longest asteroid path, as well, so it might be worth working on that. Just make sure you’re done before time runs out, or you’ll have to add tiles to your galaxy at random. If you think you’re done, you may also grab as many of the bonus tiles from the center as you want. Once you do, however, you cannot modify any part of your galaxy.
Once time runs out, score! Move your various tokens up on your player board according to how much you scored for each color / your Asteroid Path. If you hit 30, you cannot score more with that token; maybe focus on the other ones? Additionally, for each Bonus Token you took, score 3 points if you have a single zone with more planets of that color than any other player (or tied). If someone else has a zone with more planets of that color, lose 2 points.
Play continues with another round, and after five rounds, the player with the highest score wins! As a reminder, that’s the value of your star token plus the value of your lowest color token.
Player Count Differences
There aren’t any meaningful ones; the draft doesn’t change much at higher than three players, since you still won’t get any of your original tiles back; it’s just essentially random what you end up with.
The major point of contention will be around the bonus tiles, but hopefully you’re a quick enough scan that you can make sure that you’re not going to clown yourself by taking one that you’re not going to be able to win. That will become more challenging as the player count increases. Beyond that, it’s kind of impressive that it can scale to 6 players, so, props to them.
No real preference for player count.
- Seriously, don’t neglect any colors. You usually need a score of at least 30+ to win, so if you aren’t pulling at least 20 across the board (and 10 on your Asteroid Tracker) you’re going to run into some problems. Generally speaking, at least; there are exceptions (games with Gift, Dynamite, and Black Hole may not have these same outcomes). Also, if you spend too much time bumping up one color, your opponents can hate-draft you and just make sure you only get that color, thereby making it even harder for you to break out of that cycle.
- Try to always get at least 2 / 4 points on your Asteroid Path. 4 is really challenging, but 2 isn’t too bad if you get the right tokens; they’re basically always-active points (which is why you score so few at a time), so having more of them is explicitly helpful for you.
- It’s best if your worst color is someone else’s best color. You don’t want to have to fight another player for tiles of that color, so, if you are mutually exclusive you’re going to have a better time in the draft. If not, well, good luck. Similarly, if you can, try to give players tile sets such that they naturally come into conflict with each other. Two players fighting over a color is good for you as an unaffiliated player, generally speaking.
- Try to look at other players’ galaxies before you grab a bonus token. You don’t want to lose points. That said, doing this too much might cost you a bonus token, so, sometimes you’re going to have to just trust and go for it.
- Also keep an eye on the timer. It would help if you got a five second warning or something, but it’s a sand timer, so, you won’t.
- Naturally, try to play to the Kaos cards. Sometimes they’re unhelpful (they give you a bonus in your best color or actively ensure that everyone’s going to get a low score this round), but, other times they can be really instrumental in giving you a boost in the color you need most. Don’t undervalue them.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Fun theme. It’s very spacey and has a lot of cute references to other space genre stuff, similar to last week’s Bunny Kingdom.
- Plays pretty quickly. It’s a nice speed, especially for its slightly-above-gateway weight. It’s a bit weightier than Eco-Links or Kingdomino, two games that I think immediately invite comparison. Though I suppose Woodlands is in that conversation, too.
- I still really enjoy real-time games and tile-laying games. This is a nice combination of both of them, so it works out well.
- Very scalable player count. Getting up to six players without a huge bump to play time is very impressive.
- The scoring mechanics are very solid. I liked them a lot in Between Two Cities, and I like that other games are doing similar things. It’s also nice that the zones all score differently.
- The player interaction is surprisingly solid, as well. I don’t love some of the more take-that cards, but it’s just as easy to throw them out when one’s revealed. Competition for the Bonus Tokens is solid, though, as it adds a good number of wrinkles to an already complicated game.
- No insert is kind of a bummer. Everything just kind of slides around inside. It was nice that the Kaos cards got a little tuckbox, though; that does keep them pretty well-insulated against damage.
- I think I wish the timer were about 15 seconds longer. It’s right at the “stressful” point but a bit faster than I’d like. I always want another 20 seconds to make sure I’m right, and a bonus 15 would make the game a bit less “bad stress” and a bit more “good stress” for me, I think. Your mileage may vary.
- The bag is a little bit too small to meaningfully shuffle the tiles. Not much you can do without including a gigantic bag, but, it’s definitely caused issues for us where you
- Numbering the backs of the tiles makes it loosely possible for a player to memorize them, which is a bummer. I know it’s unlikely, but I played Kingdomino once with someone who had memorized the number combinations (or at least enough of them that it negatively impacted play), so, it’s not impossible for such a thing.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, Cosmic Factory is a lot of fun! Intriguingly, my normal game group seems to like it a lot more than I do (which is totally fine, but usually I’m the positive one). I think they really like the combination of path-building and tile-laying, which I’m also really enthused about, and I think that the Kaos cards add a really nice layer of variability that’s similar to Landmarks in Dominion: Empires. I kind of wish a lot of games had cards like that that change the basic conditions up enough to keep things fresh from game to game. The nice thing is that future expansions can just add more of those with extra features (a la Santorini: Golden Fleece) and breathe a bunch of additional life into the game. As it stands, there are probably other real-time tile games I like a bit better (Eco-Links is still probably my favorite out of the set), but this is certainly a fun one as well that I’d definitely recommend. If you’re looking for a space-themed real-time tile-laying game (or any one of those things in particular), I’d recommend checking out Cosmic Factory!
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