Overlooked Gems: Perry Rhodan and the Cosmic League

I recently wrote about Hellas, a nifty two player game set in classical Greece. It’s part of the Kosmos two player game set. Since then, I introduced Tasha to a couple of Kosmos two player games. The first was Dracula. The second was Perry Rhodan and the Cosmic League. Perry Rhodan is a delightful game which is altogether too often overlooked. It’s also the subject of our blog today.

Overlooked Gems: Perry Rhodan and the Cosmic League

Goal and Overview

Overlooked Gems
Perry Rhodan from Kosmos/Z-Man games

The goal of Perry Rhodan is to be the first player to reach 70 megagalax (victory points). You score points for delivering goods and passengers. These deliveries take place on a series of planets in a single solar system. You and your opponent will move from planet to planet, landing and taking off, in an effort to pick up goods and deliver them to the necessary planets.

Goods cards from Perry Rhodan
Goods cards from Perry Rhodan

Each goods card has to be delivered to a specific planet. Each is worth two or three VP. When delivered, the cards are flipped to their other side which has a different planet depicted on it. If any of these flipped cards have the same planet on them when flipped, they are removed from the game. Because of this, goods become ever more scarce.

Players also have a hand of cards. Some are passengers looking for passage to these planets. You score 3VP for taking them to their destinations.

Play ends when one player has reached 70.

Game Play

Score track in Perry Rhodan
Score track in Perry Rhodan

On his turn, a player gets two actions. There are three types of actions from which to choose: load cargo, unload cargo and purchase technology. All three require a player to be on a planet.

Players start the game with a container. They may place cargo on this, spending an action to do so. A container can only hold cargo for one planet and once there is cargo on the container, it can only be unloaded.

Players will take their cargo to the planets depicted on the cargo cards. By spending an action, a player can score points for selling all of the cargo in one of his containers.

Technology cards from Perry Rhodan
Technology cards from Perry Rhodan

The last action type a player can take is buying a technology. Players start with a technology card in play: Container/Replenishment. Each additional technology a player wants will cost him both an action and victory points. The cost in VP is equal to how many technologies he already owns.

The technology cards will give a player a lot flexibility in his strategy. Some cards will allow you to move farther, gain an additional container, give you the ability to perform one of your actions in space so you don’t have to land or to draw more cards.

Because of the VP cost, players will have a tough decision about which techs to buy. If you buy too many, you will lose too much VP ground to your opponent. Don’t buy the correct ones, and you won’t keep pace with your opponent.

Intervention card from Perry Rhodan
Intervention card from Perry Rhodan

In addition to taking two actions, a player may take two interventions. Each card in a player’s hand is either a technology card or an intervention card. The intervention cards give a player a one time bonus such as an extra action, or the ability to load cargo from a remote planet.

Your opponent can cancel your intervention if he plays the same card as you. Since you only get two interventions, you will have to use them correctly to get the edge on a savvy opponent.

To get from planet to planet, a player will have to execute a flight. This is done by rolling a die. If you roll a 1, you may reroll, adding 1 to the result. Thus, the minimum distance you will move is 2 with 7 or more being a possibility.

Players will move from planet to orbit for 1 movement point. To move from one planet’s orbit to another planet’s orbit will cost 1 movement point if you are moving towards the sun but 2 movement points if you are moving away. Some technologies will give you bonus movement. Players are free to execute their actions, interventions and flight in any order.

Why is Perry Rhodan good?

Perry Rhodan game in progress
Perry Rhodan game in progress

Perry Rhodan has four things going for it. One: it’s a short game. Counting set up and tear down, you are looking at 30 minutes to play a game.

Two: exploding 1’s. Several games have exploding dice. But usually these are exploding 6’s like in Firefly. But exploding 1’s are so much better. You are always going to get at least a 2. And if you get really lucky, you might end up with a 7 or 8. This narrows the luck factor considerably and allows for better planning.

Three: lots of interaction. This is not a two player solitaire game. You will be scooping the cargo goods from a planet before your opponent gets them. You will play intervention cards to cancel his cards. You will want to pay attention to his technology purchases so you can respond properly. The interaction is about what you would want in both a 30 minute game and a pick up and delivery game.

Four: players get two actions per turn. I can’t tell you how much I like games where this is the case. Games where you only get one action are fine and all; but they are easy to predict your opponent’s decisions, allowing for analysis paralysis. Some games give players 3 actions such as Clash of Cultures or Merchants & Marauders. This can be difficult to remember how many actions you’ve taken. But two actions in a turn? That really hits a sweet spot. You can’t game out which actions you’re opponent is going to take so you eliminate analysis paralysis. Plus you can pull off some cool combos on your turn. An example would be the classic A Few Acres of Snow. When you can compare a 30 minute game to A Few Acres of Snow, you know you have a gem on your hands.

Who will like Perry Rhodan?

Merchant of Venus
Merchant of Venus

Perry Rhodan and the Cosmic League is a good fit for most people looking for a two player game. But it also scratches a few other itches as well.

I’ve mentioned Firefly earlier. Perry Rhodan is like a two player version of Firefly. You fly around space, picking up cargo and delivering it. But it takes 30 minutes instead of 4 hours.

But Perry Rhodan is probably the spiritual successor to Merchant of Venus. The classic roll-and-move space faring pick up and deliver game probably inspired designer Heinrich Glumpler to make a two player version. For me, Perry Rhodan is the superior execution of this theme compared to the bloated Merchant of Venus.

Give it a try. Let me know if you agree.

And as always, you can come by The Gaming Annex to check it out too!

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