Cosmogenesis, the birth and evolution of the universe, is a two to four player worker placement and resource drafting game where the ultimate goal is to create the most developed star system. The game is designed by Yves Tourigny (Arkham Noir: Case #1 – The Witch Cult Murders, Expedition: Northwest Passage) and published by Ludonova.
Cosmogenesis has a serious and mostly scientifically accurate space theme, with a complex game engine. Inserted into the rule book is an editor's note stating that certain mechanics in the game do not hold true to known scientific facts, but are adjusted for more rewarding gameplay.
Unboxing and initial reaction
The first thing you will notice is a continuation of the boxed theme, seeing components closely align to the space flavour, followed by the sheer number of components that form the game. There are nine cardboard frames that house the various components together with some additional game resources.
The rule book pages are physically the size of the game box and ease storage of the game components in the box. At first glance the rules appear complex, though a first play-through helps translate the complexity of the rules into action.
Detailed components and set-up
The components for the game are split into celestial bodies, objectives, playing boards, tokens and some additional game aids. Celestial bodies are split into: terrestrial bodies (55 in total), gas giants (15), exotic objects (10), asteroids (35) and comets (25). Each of these celestial bodies serve a specific function and are marked with size and player number indicators.
Objectives are split into: planetary (25) and stellar (19). These objectives are completed and scored in different ways and will be drafted in alternating rounds as the game progresses.
Boards are split into: a central board (1), personal boards (4) and expansion modules (4). The central board is used for drafting purposes and game layout, the personal and expansion boards are used to build individual stellar systems.
Tokens are used to indicate actions performed by players and possibly actions to be performed by exotic objects. There are a total for 16 player tokens (four of each color), 30 circular counters and a first player marker (monolith).
To set-up the game, each player is provided with a personal board and tokens, the central board is placed within reach of all players, objectives are formed into decks and various parts of the game board are populated with objectives, counters and celestial bodies as indicated in the rules.
After this starting player is decided, the first set of objective cards are distributed and the game begins.
The game consists of six rounds, and each round sees players completing four actions in the form of "work placements" in various locations across the game board. The four actions are indicated on the game board, though no action can be duplicated. This first action is mandatory and can be one of the following actions:
- Draw an additional objective.
- Select a terrestrial planet, gas giant or exotic object (this action can be done twice, for sections II and III of the game board).
- Obtain an asteroid or comet.
Each round, one of your actions will be to select an objective which means that each player will have a total of seven objectives by the end of the game - Four Planetary and three Stellar. Drawing a terrestrial planet allows you to place a new terrestrial planet, place a new gas giant or exotic object. Drawing an asteroid or comet allows you to add those to your asteroid belt. Additional actions can be performed when drawing certain terrestrial bodies, which are detailed in the rules.
Once your mandatory action is complete a single optional action can be performed, which consists of the following list of possibilities:
- Create a moon from an asteroid.
- Collide an asteroid.
- Create a comet from two asteroids.
- Create life.
- Expand your system.
- Reveal a planetary objective.
- Collide a comet.
Additionally, once before or after the optional action, you can use ability from an exotic object which is usually an additional optional action. Once each player has completed four turns of mandatory and optional actions, the round counter is advanced to start evolving life, and then moved to the next round. This process is repeated six times until the end of the game, when various scoring mechanisms are employed to determine the winner.
Why Cosmogenesis? - Final Thoughts
From the description Cosmogenesis may seem like a run of the mill worker placement game with unique resources, but the game alternates actions and choices in a way that removes some of the worst aspects from both worker placement (blocked from performing a specific action) and resource gathering (not being able to access required resources) games and continues to leverage those mechanics for their positive aspects.
After completion of the game, scoring provides a sense of pride for having achieved specific solar system objectives, like largest number of gas giants or most terrestrial planets with evolved life. Every step of the way the game contributes to its own space evolutionary flavor that culminates into stellar systems that are visually appealing and as close to realistic as a board game allows.
The number of varying objectives and the total of seven per player provides a great shelf life for the game, allowing multiple play-throughs without Cosmogenesis feeling monotonous.