Due to the fact that I got the latest expansion for Chanukah, we decided to drag out Cosmic Encounter for the first time in awhile.
It was Ghoul vs. Fungus vs. Filth (me) vs. Remora...
We played with all of the "Optional Stuff" except for Technology (I'm not sure I really like Tech anyway).. the Hazard Deck came up with some very interesting effects; the very first Hazard that came up created a permanent alliance between the Fungus and the Ghoul, which led to some danger in the Ghoul almost winning.
There was one very strange interaction where a card (I forget which) caused players to temporary swap powers for the encounter, but then the Fungus played the Sorcerer flare, which caused permanent swappage, and by the wording of the rules (and experience with VTES's situations of temporary control effects and permanent control effects happening simultaneously), we figured that the effects basically canceled each other out.
The Filth's power came in useful as a game-balancer; I attacked a planet in Remora's system which also contained a Ghoul ship, when those two aliens were tied at 4 foreign colonies apiece.. The Ghoul actually allied with me so that he could keep his total of 4, because when I won the encounter, the Ghouls on the planet had to go to other colonies. Pretty cool.
In the end, there was an anticlimactic Shared Victory between me and the Remora, based upon us both agreeing to play Negotiate cards and swapping colonies.
I think Shared Victories are one thing that make the game "iffy". I might try to play with a house rule that you can't share a victory except where an alien power/flare allows it, to avoid silliness like this, or like the game where 4 people shared a victory before the 5th player got a turn. But I'm not sure how to mediate it. Will have to think about a variant, or see if anyone in the N-year-history of the game has similar feelings and came up with something.
After that, instead of playing 7 Wonders (my other Chanukah gift game) or Risk Legacy or anything, we played Chaos in the Old World (Matt's copy).
We used the alternative cards from the Horned Rat expansion, but not the Horned Rat god.
This was my third time playing Chaos.
I was Slaanesh, and I had yet another lukewarm experience with this game that everyone seems to love.
I got into a situation that, by no apparent misplaying of my own, I had already fallen too far behind by turn 3 or so. I could not possibly win. A combination of dice not in my favor, the regions with Nobles getting ruined quickly because they were otherwise popular, etc.
Granted, Slaanesh has a very hard time of getting dial-ticks, and maybe it was my mistake for trying that strategy, but I really felt helpless again.
I still don't rate Chaos very highly, but I'm still not ready to completely give up on it. Maybe it's one of those games that takes several plays to "get", and maybe there is a way to come back from behind that I don't see yet.
Not trying to be such a Negative Nelly with this post .. it just turned out that way :)