This is one of our more off-the-wall Cosmic Encounter expansions. It tends to increase (and complicate) player interaction and yield a lot of entertaining crisis situations (usually involving Nemesis, as you'll see) and new strategies.
While these rules should, theoretically, work in a two-player game, I don't recommend it. We haven't actually tried Zodiac cards in a two-player game, but playtesting suggests the more players, the better. No big surprise there.
Because Zodiac cards can be a substantial drain on tokens if you're not careful, I also recommend not mixing them with other "token-sucking" expansions (Praw [Eon] or Reverse Warp [Mayfair], Prisoners, etc.) at first, though they seem to work fine together once everyone gets the hang of it.
Fifteen "Zodiac" cards--twelve "Zodiac Sign" cards (one each of "Aries", "Taurus", "Gemini", "Cancer", "Leo", "Virgo", "Libra", "Scorpio", "Sagittarius", "Capricorn", "Aquarius" and "Pisces"), two "Zodiac Cusp" cards, and one "Zodiac Nemesis" card. Zodiac cards are made from spare blank cards and added to the main deck.
One "Zodiac Chart"--a diagram showing the twelve signs arranged in a circle and in zodiacal order, as listed above (i.e., like a clock face, with Aries at the 1 o'clock position, Taurus at 2 o'clock, and so on to Pisces at 12 o'clock).
Shuffle the 12 Zodiac Sign cards and deal one face up in front of each player. Add the remaining Zodiac cards (Cusp, Nemesis, and undealt Sign cards) to the main deck, shuffle, and deal hands as usual. The face up Zodiac cards are not considered part of players' hands.
Zodiacal signs have "psychic relationships" to one another--called "Yin" and "Yang"--which affect game play. To determine the relationship between two signs, refer to the Zodiac Chart. The signs are "Yin" if they are less than three apart (measured around the circle in either direction, whichever is shorter) and "Yang" if they are more than three apart.
For example, Taurus is Yin to Aries, Cancer, Gemini, and Pisces, while Yang to Capricorn, Libra, Sagittarius, Scorpio, and Virgo. Taurus has no psychic relationship to Aquarius and Leo, which are exactly three from Taurus.
Your zodiacal sign is indicated by the face up Zodiac card in front of you. You begin with a particular sign, but it may change during the course of the game as other Zodiac cards are played on you. If the Zodiac card in front of you is a Cusp or Nemesis card, you have no sign and are instead "in cusp" or "Nemesis", respectively.
Tokens on your face up Zodiac card represent your "Karma". You begin with 2 Karma, and gain and lose Karma at various times throughout the game. Normally, Karma tokens are not available to you for other purposes (e.g., participation in a challenge) nor subject to any other game effects (e.g., The Plague).
Because Karma tokens are effectively (albeit temporarily) out of the game, you will usually try to keep your Karma as low as possible. However, if you manage to acquire more Karma than any other player, your inspiring display of self-sacrifice earns you the title of "Spiritual Leader", which brings with it certain privileges.
Playing Zodiac Cards--
As offensive main player, you may play one or more Zodiac cards from your hand before pointing the cone. Whenever you play a Zodiac card, draw two cards from the main deck into your hand.
You may play a Zodiac card on any player, including yourself, with the following restrictions:
If you are the Spiritual Leader or Nemesis, you may play a Zodiac Sign card on ANY player, despite restrictions 1 and 2.
Gaining and Losing Karma --
You lose 1 Karma when a Zodiac card is played on you, as described above.
Your psychic relationships to other players also affect how your Karma changes during the game. Your relationship to a particular player is defined as follows:
For example, if your sign is Taurus, you are Yin to a player whose sign is Gemini, Yang to one whose sign is Scorpio, and have no psychic relationship to a player whose sign is Leo. If the Scorpio player happens to be the Spiritual Leader, however, you are Yin to her, not Yang.
To gain 1 Karma, take a token from any of your bases and place it on the face up Zodiac card in front of you. To lose 1 Karma, release a token from your face up Zodiac card to any of your bases.
The Spiritual Leader--
The player with the most Karma at any given time is the Spiritual Leader. If two or more players are tied for that honor, there is no Spiritual Leader until the tie is broken.
While you are the Spiritual Leader, you enjoy the following privileges:
In addition, no one can play the Zodiac Nemesis card while there is a Spiritual Leader.
While you are Nemesis, you enjoy privileges complementary to those of the Spiritual Leader:
Although, as Nemesis, you cannot give yourself enough Karma to become the Spiritual Leader, it is possible for you to become the Spiritual Leader anyway if everyone else's Karma drops below yours. If this happens and you hold both positions, the game ends and you win!
If you must gain Karma and have no available tokens, or you must lose Karma and have none, or nowhere to place the returning token(s), your Karma remains unchanged.
Powers, Flares, Edicts, Moons, etc., do not apply to or affect Karma tokens. For example, a Macron token on a face up Zodiac card counts as 1 Karma, not 4.
Only a player's original set of 20 tokens can be used as Karma tokens. Others, such as Super Zombie's [Eon] and Vampire's [Mayfair] captives, Symbiote's [Mayfair] second set, and Moon Boon [Eon], cannot be taken as Karma. Fungus may take a fungoid stack as Karma, but only the top (i.e., Fungus's) token is placed on the Zodiac card; the rest are released to the Warp.
"Spiritual Leader" and "Nemesis" are special positions, not Alien Powers. A Cosmic Zap, for instance, does not prevent either from using the privileges of her position (though it DOES stop her from using her Alien Power(s), as usual).
Expansion by Bryan Bowe