[Transferred over from the old forums.]
#4: The Mind
[I don't guarantee this link, as the new website is quite new and still a bit twitchy.]
Ok, now that I've made my way through the three aliens in the About section of the CE website, it's time to start catching up on the actual preview aliens.
The Mind is another alien that dates way way back into the pre-dawn of Cosmic history and has been around since the very first edition (it can even be seen as one of the 6 original powers in some of the earliest prototypes). And is it any wonder? Looking at the other players' hands of cards is the type of power that Cosmic really suggests. Gathering information and predicting an opponent's play is a fundamental Cosmic skill, and the Mind is one of the best aliens for that purpose.
Mind is an extremely simple concept. Once per encounter, before allies are invited, look at one of the main players' hand of cards. There are probably fewer than 10 aliens that have a power as clean and straightforward as this, and I love most of them.
Mind has a lot of splash to it as well, once you realize just how much of the game is based around playing cards in secret and bluffing your opponent. Mind can give you critical information before a battle. It can let you conserve your high cards instead of wasting them against an opponent whose hand is weak, and it can forwarn you of dangerous flares and artifacts, or it can alert you to a sweet hand that's ripe for a little compensation plundering. A lesser used aspect to the Mind's power is the ability to speak with authority to the other players. "Yeah, he's gonna lose this encounter." or "You all might as well ally with me, because this one's in the bag." The other players know that you've seen most of the other players' hands after a few turns, so they have to at least pay attention to what you say, even if you turn out to be bluffing. Finally, there's one last aspect to the Mind that I like - your power can go off every encounter. I like powers that you can use frequently, because it's nice just to be doing something all the time.
However, as straightforward a concept as Mind is, I chose to make it a yellow alert alien. The main reason for this is that putting the Mind in the hands of a new player is a recipe for information overlord and massive game slowdown. Also, as with the Mirror, a new player doesn't have a good sense of the make-up of the deck and isn't prepared to use this information as effectively.
Two moderately small changes were made to Mind in this edition. First, I nailed down the timing on Mind's ability to before allies are invited during the alliance phase (as opposed to previous editions, which read "Anytime before cards are played face down in any encounter"). The moment before allies are invited is just about the optimum moment to use Mind most of the time anyhow (it gives you crucial info before joining an alliance or inviting other players to join your own alliance), and wherever possible, I've tried to clarify and eliminate timing issues in the new edition. So, Mind loses a bit of flexibility, but only in a couple of very specific situations (If the defense exhausts their encounter cards and draws a new hand during the planning phase, Mind is out of luck for that turn). In exchange, we get a tighter alien power and fewer rules issues.
As for the second change, it's actually something from the online version of Cosmic Encounter. "You may not tell any other players what cards you see in a player's hand using this power." Without that little bit of text, a couple of unpleasant loopholes are opened up that can suck the fun out of the game. Imagine if Mind just read your hand out loud every time he looked at it. Sure, it doesn't really gain him any advantage to do that, but as the Simpsons once said, "Some elephants are just jerks." and as a game designer, it's best to try and head that sort of thing off at the pass.
P.S. - Lots of folks have been really enjoying the new art. Great! When planning the new edition, I chose to go with a visual style called retro-futurism, which implies B-movie flying saucers, jetpacks, helmets with fins, and that sort of thing. I felt that the slightly tongue-in-cheek look would fit really well with Cosmic. As for the aliens, I used "Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials" as my ideal. Aliens that are very alien, yet still realistically drawn. I've forwarded everyone's comments on to Zoe, our art coordinator, and she'll pass them on to the artists. My personal favorite piece of art has yet to appear, but it's in the preview queue. In the meantime, the Parasite and the Loser are my #2 and #3 most favorite pieces from among the aliens, respectively.