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Cosmic Factory Review


Quick Look: Cosmic Factory

Designer: Kane Klenko
Artist: Sylvain Aublin
Publisher: Gigamic
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-6
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 30 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


Cosmic Factory Box and Galaxy Tiles - Gigamic - Board Game Review of Cosmic Factory Kaosmos - Photo by Benjamin Kocher

Review:
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of real-time games. Racing against the clock to accomplish some goal always gets the blood pumping! I’m already a fan of two of Kane Klenko’s other real-time games, FUSE and Flatline. Cosmic Factory, however, is quite different than his other aforementioned real-time games. Instead of using dice to defuse bombs and heal patients, Cosmic Factory is a tile-laying race to create the best galaxy in the universe.

Sounds easy, you say? Excuse me while I roll on the floor laughing for the next few minutes.

Alright, I’m done laughing. And I may have to ask for forgiveness, because the gameplay itself is super simple to understand. I had no troubles launching into my first game after reading the rule book through one time, and other players I taught the game to picked it up quickly, as well. So, in a sense, you’re not wrong at the “easy” part. Winning, and the actual processes of building the galaxy, is where things get tricky.

You see, at the end of the game, each player scores their lowest total points of the three planetary regions in their galaxy. Which means nothing can be neglected. Which means you’re actually going to have to think while racing against time while creating your galaxy.

Thinking? With a time limit? Yikes!

But don’t worry, because it’s chaotic fun. I’ll discuss the actual gameplay further on, but for now, let it suffice to say that trying to arrange each of my nine tiles in a 3x3 square, all while optimizing my different zones (without neglecting any, mind you) and making sure my asteroid path is as long as freakishly possible, is a thrill. Add to that the aspect of needing to construct a really big area of a certain zone in order to grab a bonus tile—which, mind you, after you grab, you are no longer allowed to alter your galaxy, so that could be potentially dangerous to your score—without forgetting to snatch that bonus tile (guilty, like, every time but three), and you’ve got yourself a cosmos of chaos!

Real-time board game Kaosmos or Cosmic Factory by Kane Klenko at Gigamic Games 3x3 grid galaxy

The opening step of each round involves drafting, which is a fun mechanism because you can see what you need (obviously), but you can also see where your opponents are hurting for points. Hate-drafting is real in Cosmic Factory, and it’s fine, because they’ll probably do the same to you the next round when the direction of the draft changes.

I think, however, that what makes Cosmic Factory the fun, fast-paced game that it is, are the Kaos cards. These beauties change the rules of each round (galaxies must be a straight line; two of your tiles are flipped over, becoming black holes; etc.). With constantly changing rules in the galaxy, your creative skills are put to the test.

I daresay there’s also a puzzle element to Cosmic Factory as well, in that players need to connect lines of asteroids from card to shining card in order to maximize points. Mix that with aligning tiles so that you get as many points for green, blue, and orange zones—taking the constellations into consideration as well—and there’s a lot of moving and shifting, trying to find that perfect spot for that one tile. All in one lightspeeding minute.

Whenever the timer starts (we use a timer with sound rather than the included sand timer—more on that later), the excitement inside of me detonates into a mad scramble to find the perfect layout for all my tiles. My mind races, creative juices flowing so quickly that I’m afraid I’m losing too many of said juices as it sloshes out of my head in my mad attempt to make the perfect galaxy.

When the timer stops, all is calm (as it should be in the cosmos’ depths). I grin as I realize how horribly I botched my galaxy—or miraculously salvaged it. The Bible makes it sound like creating all living things was a breeze; just say the magic word, and it’s done. Cosmic Factory has enlightened me to how difficult creating a working system actually is.

I think that one of the best parts of the game, that ties with the actual playing part, is the minute following the building of our galaxies. Without fail, players look around at everyone else’s galaxies, bemoaning their own frail existence, or exulting with someone else and congratulating them over their seemingly divinely inspired 3x3 galaxy. Talking and laughing about the experience is always a good time.

In the end, I really enjoyed Cosmic Factory. Real-time games make me happy, and this is no exception. The game isn’t broken at varying player counts and is a fast and fun choice when a short game is in order—or multiple short games, for that matter. I definitely enjoy playing this one back to back to back.

Setup:

Score tokens for Cosmic Factory Kaosmos by Kane Klenko and Gigamic
The four different scoring tokens.

There’s not much to set up in Cosmic Factory, which makes starting a game a breeze. Everyone grabs a scoreboard (they’re all identical), one token of each color, and one white star token. The galaxy tiles are placed in the bag, the timer placed nearby, and once the Kaos cards are shuffled, you draw five and place them face down on the table. Place the three Bonus tokens in the middle, within reach of all players.

Let’s build a galaxy!

Gameplay:

Galaxy tiles and draw bag for Kaosmos Cosmic Factory board game by Gigamic and designed by Kane Klenko

Each game is played over five rounds, and each round has four phases. After the fifth round, final scores are added up, and the player with the most points wins! Before I discuss the actual gameplay, though, it needs to be stated that the final score is your lowest planetary color zone, added to the points from your star token. This means you have to focus on each color zone without neglecting any (or else your end score will be pretty awful). However, you also have to keep up with your points associated with the star token, as well. It’s a splendid scoring mechanic that really takes this game to the next level.

Now that you know how scoring works, let’s dive into the gameplay itself:

Change the Kaos Card
Flip over the top Kaos card. This will give you a special rule you must follow (or apply to this round’s scoring) during this round. If the text on the card contradicts the rule book, the card takes precedence. Note that only one Kaos card is used per round.

Draw and Draft
Draw and draft (or D&D, as I like to call it) is the next step. Each player takes turns drawing nine tiles from the bag. Once everyone has their nine tiles, each player chooses three tiles to keep, and passes the remaining six to the next player. From there, choose three more to keep and likewise pass the remaining three in the same direction. You will receive three final tiles from the player on the other side of you, which you are not allowed to look at until the start of the next phase (the suspense!).

Construct Your Galaxy
Once everyone has drafted and has nine tiles, start the timer (sand timer or other timer as you deem worthy). Everyone has precisely one minute to arrange their galaxy tiles in a 3x3 grid, but there needs to be both rhyme and reason to your galaxy’s layout.

You get points based on the number of planets within a color zone. For example, having 3-5 green planets in one green color zone grants you a measly one point, having 2-4 blue planets in a blue color zone grants two points, and having 2-3 orange planets in an orange color zone grants you two points. Of course, the more planets you have, the greater amount of points you will receive. And each separate color zone scores separately, so having too large of a color zone can end up being detrimental if they could have been split up.

Constellation spaces on the tiles only count for points if a Kaos cards says so. Otherwise, they’re of no worth to you.

Completed 3x3 galaxy in Kaosmos Cosmic Factory by Kane Klenko
As lovely as a color-coordinated galaxy is, there's a fat chance of this happening in a real game.

While arranging your color zones for optimal pointage, don’t forget about your asteroids! Most tiles contain some form of asteroid path, and you will want to have the longest continuous path of asteroids possible in order to score your star token on your scoreboard. An asteroid path is scored per tile within a consecutive path, meaning if the longest path of asteroids in your galaxy is 4-5, you get one point for your star token. Having asteroids pass through 6-8 tiles gives you two points, and having an asteroid path pass through all nine tiles awards four points. While the points don’t appear to be too high for this, they are all the same crucial to your final score. Don’t forget about this part! Another way to think about it is that it’s basically the same method of having the Longest Road in Settlers of Catan.

The last thing during this phase involves the Bonus Tokens. After you’re satisfied (or satisfied enough) with your galaxy, you may grab one or more Bonus Tokens from the middle. Be careful, though, because once you grab one Bonus Token, you have to keep it, and the only way to grab more is by grabbing them all at once. Keep in mind also that once you grab the Bonus Token(s), you may no longer rearrange your galaxy. What’s done is done, and you’re at the whim of everyone else.

Bonus tokens for Kaosmos Cosmic Factory board game by Kane Klenko and Gigamic
The three bonus tokens.

Bonus tokens are important for two reasons. The first, of course, is because Bonus tokens grant you three points if your largest color zone (of the same color as the Bonus token) has an equal or greater number of planets than any other player. For example, if you took the blue Bonus Token and you have a blue zone with five planets in it, and Steve right next to you has his largest blue zone with three planets, you get three points. Huzzah! However, if Steve were to have six or more planets in one blue zone, you would lose two points. So confidence is important when grabbing a Bonus Token, because it could me more detrimental than helpful, which is the second reason why these Bonus tokens play an important role in galaxy creation.

Scoreboard and score tokens for Kaosmos Cosmic Factory by Kane Klenko
A player's scoreboard.

Score Your Galaxy

One the timer ends, it’s time to score your galaxy. As mentioned above, each group of planets in the same connected color zone grants points. More planets equal more points, and not enough planets crammed together earn zero points. I already talked about that part of scoring at the beginning of the Gameplay section, so I won’t rehash it here. Kaos cards, however, may grant additional points. Note that score tokens may not go past 30 on the scoreboard until after the game ends (i.e. final scoring). This makes it all the more important to focus on every color zone throughout the game.

If five rounds have ended, then the game is over, and players add their weakest-colored score marker to their star score marker. The player with the most points wins! If there is a tie, then the player with the highest weaker score takes the victory. (ex. Steve has the following points per color: Green-12, Blue-13, Orange-10. You have: Green-13, Blue-12, Orange-11. Because your weakest score (11) is higher than Steve’s weakest score (10), you win the tie.)

Theme and Mechanics:

Kaosmos board game by Kane Klenko and Gigamic--Galaxy tiles (Cosmic Factory)

The theme essentially revolves around building a galaxy, and I’ll let you classify it as science fiction or something else entirely. Regardless, it’s a wonderfully delicious theme for what it is. I’d much prefer building a galaxy over, say, building a farm (which could work just as easily, although I wouldn’t be nearly as excited about it).

The mechanics are what make this game shine (as in any game, right?). The tile drafting helps level the playing field as to who gets what tiles. The scoring mechanic of using your weakest score at the end of the game is brilliant. It makes for tight games and more strategy during the real-time rush. Along with that, not being able to move past 30 points on the scoreboard until after the game ends makes for some interesting endgames. As wonderful as those aspects of the game are, it’s the Kaos cards that really make Cosmic Factory the exciting game that it is. Because there are new conditions each round, the games turn away from simply building a galaxy following simple rules to having to work around certain obstacles (or work for new incentives) while still trying to maximize points as normal. Some of these cards change the way your galaxy is laid out, such as in a straight line rather than a 3x3 grid. Others utilize the constellations to gain extra points. There is so much to gain from these cards.

Artwork and Components:

Kaos cards for Kaosmos (Cosmic Factory) board game by Kane Klenko
Some examples of Kaos cards.

The components are good quality wood and sturdy cardboard. My only beef is the sand timer—which is, in and of itself, a good quality timer—as it just doesn’t do the job as well as a digital timer. That said, there’s no reason why you can’t set your phone’s timer for a minute instead of using this sand timer. I find having an auditory clue that the round is over to be massively helpful.

The art is really fun. We’ve got images of beavers hanging on to trees as planets spin faster than is apparently useful for a life-sustaining planet, a Cthulhu-esque alien thing, a Bith (but not exactly a Bith because copyright) playing his cantina band song as seen in Star Wars, and a polar bear eating a popsicle, just to highlight a few. The art definitely adds to the feel of the chaos of Cosmic Factory.

The Good:

Constellations on Galaxy tiles for Kaosmos (Cosmic Factory) board game by Kane Klenko
Some of the constellations include a Christmas tree, Mufasa, a toilet, and either a really skinny person or a zombie.

Everything seems well-balanced. Sure, sometimes certain rounds can be absolutely horrendous point-wise, but it never seems that one bad round can put you out of the race.

The puzzle aspect mixed with real-time action is a lot of fun. A lot of real-time games I’ve played use dice (which I love), but with Cosmic Factory, it’s all about your ability to solve several puzzles: where to join tiles, how to maximize asteroid paths, and how to do everything (and more) while exploiting the active Kaos card for your gain. It’s a wonderful mix of mechanics.

It’s fun. There’s just something about racing against the clock—and the other players—to be the very best galaxy architect around.

It’s fast-paced, hectic work that can even help you work better under pressure. Having a background in live events (working camera at sports and concerts, directing news casts, etc.), I know all about working under pressure. And while I was good at what I did (just going to toot my own horn for a moment k thanks), Cosmic Factory constantly reminds me that there’s still a lot about “working under pressure” that I could do better at (so much for tooting my own horn…). I love that about this game.

The Bad:

Sand timer for Kaosmos (Cosmic Factory) by Kane Klenko and Gigamic

Due to the nature of the tiles and the size of the bag, it can be difficult to shuffle them sufficiently following each round. One such case came up that one player drew the same nine tiles as another player’s final galaxy from the previous round. The tiles simply don’t shuffle around in the bag, but to make the bag any larger might make it rather unwieldy. This really is a minor issue, though, as the drafting will also help divvy up all tiles drawn. 

The sand timer is useful, but doesn’t do a great job of alerting the players that the minute has ended. The first time I played, I don’t know how long we were building our galaxies for after the sand timer ran out, because we didn’t think to look up. Oops! What we then decided to use was the Renegade app (by Renegade Game Studios), which has a one-minute timer for their game Flatline (another wonderful Kane Klenko game). This timer intensifies as the time runs out, alerting the players to its imminent end. And then, when it does end, it’s obvious to everyone playing. I’m not a fan of the sand timer, but that’s really not an issue if you use your phone or the Renegade app that makes noise when the time is up. I feel like that’s essential.

Final Thoughts:


Cosmic Factory Board Game Review on Everything Board Games - Kaosmos - Gigamic - Photo by Benjamin Kocher

Other than the two aforementioned issues with the draw bag and sand timer (which are super small issues), I really don’t have any complaints with Cosmic Factory. It’s fast, fun, and changes up each and every round with the Kaos cards. I tell you what, those Kaos cards are fantastic; they are what make this game so good. Because the rules are easy to learn, Cosmic Factory is also a great game to introduce people into the real-time game genre.

For me, Cosmic Factory will get a lot of love for a long time to come. It’s fairly light, but I found the real-time aspect ups the difficulty quite nicely, insomuch that everybody is at the same level. It’s a win in my book. Two thumbs way, way up!

Players Who Like:

If you like Fuse, Flatline, Escape: Curse of the Temple, or other real-time games, definitely check out Cosmic Factory! You may also like Cosmic Factory if you enjoy drafting, tile placement, and puzzle games.

Check out Cosmic Factory on:

                 




Benjamin Kocher - Editor and Reviewer

Benjamin hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He's a certified copyeditor through UC San Diego's Copyediting Extension program. He's a freelance writer and editor, and covers everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and Instagram @Kocherb, and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

See Benjamin's reviews HERE.
Cosmic Factory Review Cosmic Factory Review Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on March 05, 2019 Rating: 5

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