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Some of the Aliens in Cosmic Encounter have alternate win conditions, some of which are very beneficial as they allow you to simultaneously pursue two paths to victory. However, I haven't really been able to figure out the real benefit of The Masochist's power:

You have the power to Hurt Yourself. At the start of any player's regroup phase, before the offense retrieves a ship from the warp, use this power to win the game if you have lost all of your ships. Lost ships include those in the warp, those removed from the game, and those captured by other players.

You do not lose this power because of having too few home colonies, and you may still win the game via the normal manner.

At first, I thought this would be awesome because all encounters become a win-win situation. If I win, I either get a colony or prevent my opponent from getting one, and if I lose, I lose more ships and get closer to winning. However, the 2 paths to victory seem pretty mutually exclusive, and I haven't really thought of a way to move toward both of them. Obviously moving towards just one is all I need to do for victory, but whenever I try to lose a lot of ships I worry that a Mobius Tubes will destroy all my hard-earned self-destruction, and whenever I play towards getting a lot of colonies I feel like I'm playing without a power.

I suppose the best way to play the Masochist would be to work primarily toward colonies without much deliberate self-destruction, and view any lost ships earned along the way as an added benefit. How do I take advantage of this power with maximum benefit to myself and minimum benefit to my opponents? How do I determine when to deliberately hurt myself? Is it just me, or is this one of the weaker powers?

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You should play as if you don't have an alien power, since Masochist's power is diametrically opposed to setting up 5 foreign colonies and it is extremely difficult to send all your ships to the warp.

I will assume that you are playing with the latest edition of Cosmic Encounter by Fantasy Flight Games, because the Masochist is only available in this version. From the rule book, there are 72 total Cosmic Cards (82 with Flares). If you are playing a 5 player game, then there is just a 38% chance that one of the other 4 players does not have Mobius Tubes in their opening hand. You only have a 18% chance of having drawn a Card Zap to prevent Mobius Tubes in your opening hand. Even without a Mobius Tubes being drawn, you have several things working against you.

The Regroup step isn't optional, so every turn you must return 1 ship to your colonies, which means that it would take a minimum of losing 7 Offensive Encounters (I will get to Defensive Encounters in a moment) instead of winning 5 Encounters. In general, your opponents should see you attempting this strategy long before you can actually win with it. They will avoid allowing you to lose ships quicker by preventing you from allying with them (so you cannot lose more than 4 ships a turn). Additionally, when you win your first offensive encounter, you are allowed to take another turn. You do not have the same luxury when losing encounters, so even the 7-5 ratio is a little bit misleading.

Once you have lost a planet in your color home system, all other colors can choose to attack your 0 defense planet in your home system. This means that it is even harder to lose ships on the defense, since any player that hasn't established a foreign colony on your home system can just attack your defenseless planet (the other ships are just bystanders), and not make you lose any more ships. When they do have to attack your home system with ships on it, they can always aim the Hyperspace Gate at the planet with the fewest ships on it.

As for when to hurt yourself, you might consider all the possible Flares, Cosmic Cards, and situations that would benefit/hinder your progress at losing all your ships.

Beneficial

  • Amoeba Flare: Its ability to allow you to lose up to 8 ships in a turn is useful.

  • Masochist Flare: Once you have your flare, you put a clock on your opponents.

  • Clone Flare: returning Plague would be useful.

  • Kamikaze Flare: Free sacrifice

  • Loser Flare: Auto losses each turn.

  • Machine: Two turns, although admittedly, this would be just as good if not better trying to get 5 foreign colonies.

  • Filch (Classic) Flare: cheat legally, returning whatever card you want from the discard/retrieve from the deck/etc. once per turn, or "lose a ship." I think I like those choices.

  • Negotiate Cards: These will ensure a loss, or at a minimum a loss of 3 ships if you cannot "come to a deal." Good thing these cards make up 15 of the 82 cards

  • Warrior Flare: Useful for extra attacks to lose ships after defense.

Harmful

  • Healer: Healer so definitively makes Masochist a non-power, since it can heal ships removed from the game.

  • Mobius Tubes: A complete setback.

  • Reincarnator and/or Flare: Can make you switch powers, whenever you lose.

  • Sorcerer Flare: Negate your power

You can only be certain of half of the Flares are in the deck, based upon the Aliens your opponents are playing as. The remaining 5 Flares are random. All in all, it is much more likely that your opponents will draw a Mobius Tubes, and you won't have a Card Zap to counter, than you will have a good selection of beneficial flares in the deck that you actually draw. Masochist is one of the weaker powers, and since you are allowed to choose between two different aliens at the start of the game, it might be best to consider which alien race is worse than Masochist.

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I see several ways to use the Masochist to good effect, even if it is weak. I would get myself invited more. Why? Because everyone would understand that I'll always contribute 4 tokens. I would also abandon all my home bases as there's no reason to keep any there (since the power is retained anyway). You could almost restate this power as "you have the power to use your tokens extravagantly, and if this extravagance leads to heavy losses, your opponents will rescue your tokens from the warp to prevent you from winning." –  Joe Golton Aug 9 '12 at 5:09
    
@JoeGolton, perhaps. At some point, your opponents would realize that it is highly likely that you will win with no ships, so everyone else can also play extravagantly with there own ships (they must have a Mobius Tubes, otherwise, why would they let you ally and lose more ships). If everyone is playing extravagantly, is it a power? –  user1873 Aug 9 '12 at 8:34
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I played a ton of the EON version of Cosmic Encounter and can see how this would be an interesting and potentially very good power if the rules work the same in the later versions of CE. So here are some principals that could apply:

  • You can't lose all your tokens gradually, because then your opponents will see what's coming and can stop you. You need to gather up special cards until you can lose all your tokens in one quick shot.
  • Consider all the possible special cards and what they do. I actually lost all but one token in a single turn of EON Cosmic Encounter once because every planet in my home system was simultaneously blown up through a combination of the Filth power and the Terrorist flare card. You may not have the Filth power (part of Cosmic Conflict expansion) but think about all the different powers and cards that do things like cause planets to explode or be evacuated, cause more than the maximum number of tokens be used on attack or defense, cause results or attack/defense to be switched/reversed, cause you to have more turns than you normally get, etc.
  • Do everything you can to delay using all the special cards in your hand (while protecting them to stay in your hand) until the moment you think you have a fairly good chance of playing them all right in a row with just the right timing.

Then do it. You might get stopped. Or you might not. But it will be one heck of a dramatic moment in the game, like the terrorist/filth play that eliminated 19 of my tokens in one shot, that I still remember to this day (incredibly, I came back to win a shared victory in that game with the person who nearly put me out of the game . . .)

But there's more. In my initial thinking about how I might win by losing with this power, I neglected to think about the benefits obtained by the threat of losing. I would get myself invited more. Why? Because everyone would understand that I'll always contribute 4 tokens. I would also abandon all my home bases as there's no reason to keep any tokens there (since the power is retained anyway).

You could almost restate this power as "you have the power to use your tokens extravagantly, and if this extravagance leads to heavy losses, your opponents will rescue your tokens from the warp to prevent you from winning." Being able to mount attacks (or ally with others) with no fear of suffering a permanent setback has to be worth something, though until play testing this power a number of times it's hard to know exactly how worth while it would be.

EDIT 1/23/14: I obtained the FFG version of Cosmic Encounter and have played enough games over the past month to have additional info. In games where tech cards are used, the Masochist has a significantly better chance to win.

By far the best tech card is the Omega Missile. It will take several turns to get all of your tokens on either a single planet or the Warp. Then you win at the start of any player's encounter by launching the Omega Missile on that planet.

The Precursor Seed could be helpful with the right power such as the Machine or Amoeba but is more likely to result in a useless power and with cost 9 takes a long time to build.

There are several other tech cards that are mildly useful, and potentially more useful when combined with other cards: Plasma Thrusters, Infinity Drive, and Delta Scanners.

A general principle in Cosmic Encounters is that large hands give you more options and control over the game. With Masochist, it becomes almost mandatory to build a very large hand with many special cards that, when used with the right timing (and hopefully combined with a good, developed tech card), lead to a quick victory.

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