My gaming group and I had been interested in Eclipse since it first came out. With it going out of print so quickly and the price tag, we hadn’t pulled the trigger yet. When researching games, we had put Sid Meier’s Civilization and Eclipse in the same category, but thought that Eclipse would be more appealing partially due to the sci-fi theme. Then Myriad Games’ game share program came to the rescue. It’s basically Netflix for board games that you can either pay for each month or can get free if you buy a certain amount from the store every month. It’s the perfect way to try out Eclipse. So how did it go?
First I’ll say that I think we need a couple more plays to get a real grasp on how the game plays, but these are the initial impressions.
We all thought that the whole system was really slick. The way that putting your cubes and disks on the board instantly reveals your new production level is really nice. It might be confusing to some people, but once we got it, it was really easy to understand. They could have done this with a chart, but that would have required recounting all your cubes and looking it up all the time. The way they did it is so much better.
We played with 5 players which is really the only unbalanced setup. In a 5 player game, 2 of the players have an empty spot next to them where the other 3 are surrounded. In all other numbers of players, neighbors vs empty spots are always equal. I wouldn’t say it was the main reason, but one of the players not surrounded was the one who won.
In addition to the slickness of the system, we also had people pursue very different strategies and do well. One player walled themselves off from other players and allied with the one person she contacted, built orbitals and monoliths and went for a bunch of tech. One player built up his cruisers and took the central tile early. One player got a bunch of science and built up tons of tech before attacking. One player built up dreadnoughts and took out a bunch of ancients. One player did get almost wiped out, but we think that’s due to it being the first play. It seemed really cool that in a conquest game like this, there were so many avenues to victory.
The alliance token/combat token system is pretty cool. You’ll get more VPs for combat, but better production from alliances. The traitor card makes breaking alliances slightly painful but still possible.
Combat itself is interesting. Without upgrades, everything kind of sucks. You have to roll 6’s on one die over and over again. As soon as you get upgrades though, it stops being such a drag. It’s cool that you can upgrade without paying anything other than an influence disk, so you can always do something. We had a funny moment when we played 2 rounds as practice before the whole game. We all attacked ancients with our base ships and all died miserably.
In general we all really liked the game. It even turned around the one member of our group who absolutely hated all games where the goal was to have the most victory points. The only thing stopping us from buying it straight away is the replayability. In Eclipse, the only thing in the game that you don’t see in one playthrough is the alien races and a couple of tiles. And with those, you could experience in a second game. Some people really like this, because then subsequent games become about mastering the game. Some of our group would prefer experiencing new things as opposed to mastering the same things over and over. To name a few, games like Arkham Horror, Dominion, Descent, etc give you new cards, monsters, enemies to experience every game and to some people that is more interesting. In this way, Eclipse is more like Power Grid, Settlers of Catan or Shogun. We’re going to play it at least one more time to see if we like it enough. My initial opinion is that it is the best game of this kind we’ve ever played, so I’m thinking that it will make it into the collection.