The Game’s Afoot

In Cosmic Run: Rapid Fire from Dr. Finn Games, you and up to one other player are trying to colonize brave, new worlds! But there’s no such thing as the Prime Directive, prohibiting you from meddling in the natural development of alien cultures.

With survival on the line, you are looking to find a new home, regardless of whose it formerly was.

Unfortunately for you, you have to worry about the indigenous planet-dwellers fighting back with space mines (that fill up spaces on the roll-and-write sheet along your path to victory). The longer the game goes on, the more they hurl your way, in a desperate bid to stop you. Sometimes, they even score a direct hit, if you are particularly unlucky.

Not only that, but your opponent player is also trying to colonize these worlds faster than you, and might even try to shoot you out of orbit.

There are three worlds, each with a correspondingly-colored orange, blue, and green space ship, trying to reach it.

Buckle up, ’cause the space race is about to begin.

Blue planet or bust!

All About Them Dice

For anyone that’s played a roll-and-write game before, the concept of marking down your score on a pad is a familiar one. But, most new roll-and-write games are (justifiably) discontent with being thinly veiled Yahtzee clones, and add some new powers and twists.

The basic goal is to use dice to move your ships closer to the planet, but the other powers enhance and supplement that goal, earning you extra points along the path to victory!

To wit, in Rapid Fire, you have dice with technology symbols:

  • A defensive missile,
  • A warp drive to skip past mines
  • A diagonal movement (instead of orthogonal)
  • a tech that lets you apply the color of the movement pips to your choice of ship

In addition to these technology symbols tracked on their own sidebar on your sheet, you also have movement and move-and-attack die faces (the pip on the die is a movement; the pip with explosion is a move-and-attack die face).

Those black dice in the corner? Oh, those control the placement of indigenous space mines before each round. The longer the game goes on without a victory condition being met, the more mines are placed each round–until players must roll those dice three (!) times prior to taking their turns.

A Round and A Round

The round tracker with twelve rounds of alien mine attacks to conduct, followed by players turns.

Now that you understand the dice, it’s time to get a feel for gameplay.

Players take turns selecting action dice and marking down their results (or modifying them, if their technology allows), until all dice have been divided between the two players.

Then a new round begins until one player has reached all three planets (they automatically win at that juncture), or until twelve rounds have passed, at which point the scores are tallied.

The person with the higher score wins. And that’s the basic structure!

But, How Does it Feel?

In a word: tense. But, it’s a fun kind of tension. From the die rolls to place the mines at the beginning of the round, to watching your opponent’s choices to see what will happen to you, or how you might thwart their ambitions–there’s a lot of quick thinking and some adaptation.

Yet, the game is light enough to avoid the descent into analysis paralysis and keeps moving. For two players, at any rate, the game is a blast! But, what about one?

The Solo Showdown (or ‘Slowdown?’)

Don’t have a friend to go up against in Cosmic Run: Rapid Fire? The game does boast a solo mode against the nefarious Zorlord! Quake before his cosmic fury! Watch your dreams die, as he colonizes world after world. Tremble as he is totally unaffected by mines at the start of the round.

Zorlord kicked my space butt in the technology department for the win.

*Ahem.* Ok. There’s a bit of extra bookkeeping on your turn in the solo mode. You are minding the dummy player’s sheet as well as your own. And, you’re picking his dice for him, according to some AI logic.

Well, “logic” isn’t quite the right term. You just select the farthest die from you and mark it down on Zorlord’s sheet. There’s nothing that Zorlord prioritizes during die selection, except when there are only two dice left. Then, the AI selects a move-and-attack die, if available.

I have played other roll-and-write games (most notably La Granja no Siesta) where you have to effectively choose when to allow the AI player what resources, forcing some painful and interesting choices that might  prematurely hasten the end of the game.

Here, there’s not as much of that, because Zorlord chooses first. Also, the basic requirement of moving faster and collecting more technology can dictate your strategy.

The record keeping for Zorlord is minimal, but I found playing vs. this AI a decent, but not exceptional, solo experience.

I did lose the first time, so you do have to pay attention! But, I imagine it will not take long before I can reliably win.

Still, the theme of space colonization might better appeal than (say) bringing produce to market. There is that “gee whiz!” factor of science fiction to sweeten the deal.

The Verdict

Since the box says 1-2 players on it, I’ll be treating each of these play-modes individually, when rating them.

Two-Player

The two-player game is a slick package, and the fast pace kept my wife and I entertained and engaged from start-to-finish. We even had a few collective nail-biting moments as we fretted over where the mines would land at the start of the round, with groans or cheers to follow!

The game was on the lighter side, but did offer meaningful choices, which impressed my spouse and me.

If you like a sci-fi theme, and are looking for quick fun with a friend, I can’t think of anything this side of Star Realms that delivers it better–especially in under an hour.

Solitaire

Well, Zorlord. It’s time we had a talk. I’m sure we’ll clash across the table from time to time, but there just was some chemistry missing between us.

To be sure, you had a few good things going for you:

  • The designer realized the limitations of a score threshold for replay value, and built in having to beat Zorlord in technology value, as well as arriving at all three planets first. Other designers should take note: a victory condition is always more fun than “beat your high score.”
  • The immunity to mines sensibly kept the recordkeeping on Zorlord’s sheet to a minimum, and put the focus of the solitaire mode on player actions, as it should be.

Many solitaire modes fail at these basic criteria, and leave much to be desired. If I had one wish, my alien AI friend, it’s that you picked your actions with a little more flair. Perhaps, even different modes, like prioritizing attack or straight movement, or technology might have added a bit of personality to the opponent.

As it is, I will play this mode again, so I’m generally pleased.

Solitaire Judgment: approved. There is definitely more right than not, here. But, the AI needed a little something extra to achieve greatness.
— Dave.
Twitter: @ptboardgames

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