It’s said that Cosmic Encounter is the equivalent board game of Mario Kart. Practice makes you better at it. Though just enough crazy stuff happens in every game that a beginner often has a chance of winning, which makes it fun for both first-time players and veterans.
The rules are very simple: each turn, a player is matched with another player and the two must either fight (using numbered cards in their hands) or bargain. They can invite other players to align with them in the fight, in a trade for rewards. The aim is to be the first to possess five colonies on other players’ planets, either by good negotiations or winning battles. It’s a very easy set of rules to learn.
The wrinkle is that each player has a distinct alien power that completely breaks those rules. One alien actually wins battles if it loses them. Another alien gets to take other players’ thrown away battle cards, getting more powerful the more others use their top cards.
One can just welcome itself into others’ encounters as a partner even if they don’t want it. Another wins the entire game if it loses all of its ships, meaning no one knows whether you’re going to try to win or lose on purpose any given battle.
For a light and small board game that has plenty of strategies to play again and again, while also not being threatening to new players, Splendor is a perfect choice.
It’s a game of purchasing cards by paying a price in gems of various colors. Each card you purchase gives you more gems you can use to purchase cards more simply, so everything snowballs pleasingly as you play. The only way to get the higher-value cards is to have a good suite of other cards in front of you.
Some cards have points values and when someone gets 15 points, the game ends that round, though other players have an opportunity to purchase one last card which could net them even more points.