Cosmoclasm has two major strategic dimensions: the card management and the board management. Let's start with the
board, since this is where the victory is determined and hence dictates how you should play your cards.
The board management
Let's start with some numerical facts:
The board consists of 12 planets; 3 central planets bordering 6 other planets, 3 semi-central planets bordering 4 other planets and 6 peripheral planets bordering 3 other planets.
Around those planets there are 37 grid points; 13 triple points bordering 3 unclaimed planets, 9 double points bordering 2 unclaimed planets and 15 single points bordering 1 unclaimed planet.
The more unclaimed planets a grid point borders to, the more potential majorities can it contribute to and the more valuable it is.
This means that it's not the number of grid points you have that determines the game but the size of those grid points.
Let's take the extreme example to the left where player A has placed on 3 battle stations on triple points,
player B has placed 4 battle stations on double points player C has placed 7 battle stations on single
Player A has placed the least number of battle stations but still takes part in most of the
majority struggles, 9 planets compared to 8 and 7 for the others.
However, don't fall into the trap of always placing on triple points. As planets get claimed, the
original triple points will border less unclaimed planets and become no more valuable than double points
and single points. In the left example below, planet 1 and 2 have been claimed and planet 3 is played for.
Player A has just placed on a triple point and it's better for red to claim double point 2 than triple
point 1, since the latter is effectively just a single point.
Besides bordering unclaimed planets, it's also important to consider bordering own battle stations.
Ties are not uncommon in the majority struggles so having your battle stations connected may pay off in
the end game. In the right example above, player B's seemingly useless single point around planet 1
breaks the tie around planet 3 in player B's favor.
The card management
Let's now move on to the card management. To win a fight on the board, you must first win a fight with the cards. The outcome of this fight determines two things: when do you get to place battle stations (the timing) and how many do you get to place (the quantity). However, you cannot have both - if you withdraw early, you typically get to place early but less battle stations, and if you withdraw late, you typically get to place late but more battle stations. You simply have to decide what's most important for you at the specific planet.
For the early planets, it's typically better to position your battle stations to be able to contribute to as many majorities as possible. As we discussed about board management, triple points are good for this purpose. However, if winning the triple point results in another player winning the planet, your precious triple point has been reduced to a double point, so which tactic should you play tactically at the planet level to win strategically at the solar system level?
Let's compare the scenarios for the 3 planet types:
Central planet (6 triple points): All card winners get a triple point so timing is less important than quantity.
Semi-central planets (3 triple points): Three of four card winners get a triple point so both timing and quantity is important.
Peripheral planets (2 triple points): Two of four card winners get a triple point so timing is more important than quantity.
From a strict board management perspective, we can conclude that the more central the planet, the more aggressive you should play your cards. For the less central planets, it may be better to save your cards and get the fewer but more valuable battle stations. Ideally, you will want the planets you don't win to be tied so that your better placed battle stations may turn the majority in your favor later. Could even a lost planet be acceptable? Perhaps, the more of the following conditions that are true, the more acceptable is a planet loss:
No other player gains a higher total value of grid points than you.
Your placed battle stations are or can be connected to other battle stations of yours.
The lost planets are equally spread among the other players.
The first example below shows how the loss of a planet makes some of your earlier grid points less valuable while other players' earlier grid points still are as valuable. Player B has failed
to win planet 1, 2 and 3 and her centrally placed battle station cannot contribute to any more planets.
However, the second example below shows how this "boxed in" battle station has been connected to a longer chain and hence may come to live later in the game to break a tie. If planet 4 ends up in a tie,
player B's connected battle stations may break it in her favor.
A good execution of this strategy would be a middle game where your opponents have claimed 1 planet each but where your total value of grid points is the greatest, giving you an advantage when the final planets are fought over. However, this also requires a well managed hand of cards.
The card rules limits you to play 1 suit at the time, after which you get 2 new cards (or 1 if you are the last to pass). This gives you the following options:
Spread your suits so that you have flexibility to pick up similar symbols without having to worry about their suit.
Balance your hand between 2 suits and alternate between them depending on which is currently the strongest.
Focus on few suits and empty your hand each round. Then pass 1 round completely to build up a new strong suit again.
I normally prefer option 2, since this gives you the possibility to participate each round and contribute to tie planets you're currently not interested in. Option 1 may be OK in the early game, where you just want to spread your battle stations, but if the other players start specializing in suits, you're likely forced to pass much earlier than them. Option 3 may be tempting at the end of the game, when you want to go all in to win the last planet in the victory condition, but if other planets are resolved before yours, you won't be able to stop other players from winning before you.
A balanced hand should also aim for a balance between double symbol cards and single symbol cards.
It may seem that a player with only double cards will spend less cards to win battle stations but by
adding single cards, you may be able to beat their double cards and withdraw before they have the time
In the example to the right, player 1 has played a double and a single fighter card and unless any
other player has the same combination, player 1 will be able to withdraw with the most fighters, no
matter how many the others have left on their hands.
How many cards to spend per round is dependent on the group psychology. If all players are aggressive, you can afford to be that as well, and if all players save their cards, you should as well. The important thing is to maintain the balance in planets, battle stations and cards so that not a single player benefits from the other players' depleted card hands (unless, of course, you're the benefitted player).
How about the stargate cards then? They do not allow any battle stations but rather lets the player shift the order of two consecutive planets. This is not very important in the game opening but as your battle stations spread in the solar system, you will find planets where you have more adjacent battle stations than other players and hence an advantage in upcoming majority fights. Stargate cards may let you advance the resolution of those planets before the other players catch up. You may also choose to delay the resolution of those planets, if your card hand is too weak to take advantage of your battle stations and you want to save them for later.
A majority of stargate cards also gives you an extra card. Not only does this compensate you for the spent card but it also gives you more options for the cards you intend to play the next round. Perhaps you have a strong hand in one symbol that you know another player also is strong in? Save them for later and take three cards with another symbol instead.
Stargate cards can be particularly powerful in the end game. At this stage, you have typically decided which planet that is necessary to win and started to build up a strong suit to get it. A stargate majority will not only let you advance the resolution of this planet but also let you get the extra cards necessary to make your suit invincible.
But each stargate symbol on your hand also means one less of another symbol, doesn't it? Yes, it does, so when taking a stargate symbol, make sure you do it on the expense of a symbol that you don't need anyway. Say that you collect fighters one turn and are given the opportunity to take fighter-drone card. If you don't have any other drones, you're much better off taking a fighter-stargate card instead.
To conclude our discussion, you must formulate a strategy in terms of both board management and card management
to be able to utilize your tactical strengths (battle stations, suits and symbols) where they make the most
difference, either by maintaining a balance between the other players or by giving you the edge.