Place the board and place the Colony City tile in the center. Make 6 stacks of terrain tiles based on biome and lay each group out randomly following the yellow arrows for each pie slice. Optionally, place all Population Zone miniatures, Cave pieces, and Mountain pieces on the appropriate tiles. Each player receives a player board, all units of a single color, an influence tracker token, 10 Core Action cards, a blue Stabilization Die, and a random starting Faction. Shuffle the Discovery Card deck and Relic Card deck and place them on the locations on the board. Shuffle the Opportunity Card deck and place it next to the game board. Place the faction tokens for the current factions in play next to the Opportunity deck. First player is the person who is most like their Faction character. Each player in clockwise turn order places his Terraformer at any standard terrain location within one Biome not already occupied by a Terraformer. Each player then simultaneously finishes their unique setup according to their Faction by drawing cards, taking control of the closest listed population zones, and spawning starting units adjacent to their Terraformer as well as in controlled population zones.
The first player will play his first turn by playing their Core Action cards down on his board, performing a bonus action, and then passing play to the left. When all players have played 5 turns by filling up their player board action slots, then all players reclaim their played cards back to their hand and the round starts again with the player who currently holds the First Player marker.
Each turn, a player will select one card to exhaust (play facedown) and one card to activate (play faceup). The player will then follow the actions on the faceup card based on taking up to 1 action per card section. Then the player has the option of performing a single bonus action. Available bonus actions are based on matching the colors on the bottom of the activated card with the colored rows underneath the card. When the player completes the bonus action, turn passes to the left.
There are no points in Cysmic. The first player to successfully launch their completed Colony Ship is the winner. To win, your Terraformer must be currently stabilized and you must perform the Launch action.