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Subject: Eclipse – Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate rss

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craig dias
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ewa beach
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Introduction

This game seems to be growing a reputation as the streamlined 4X'er. As I've accumulated some experience with the game thus far, I wish to confirm or disprove that reputation and tell you all how the game feels to me.

4X

Explore and Expand! The modular board allows for an explore system that feels like, well, exploring. With each explore action, you have a say in how the map is formed for that particular game. Also, by careful placement of wormholes, you can block and gain access to enemy territories. Based on the different regions you can choose to explore within, you have a relatively well-founded idea of what to expect in an explored hex (the rings on the innermost parts of the board tend to have more resources). But, there's always the potential risk of an undesired hex.

Exploit your neighbors! In games of 4 or more players, I would say that the exploit aspect is definitely there. You can use your neighbors to increase your production by creating diplomatic ties with them. The same diplomatic ties can be broken later when you feel they are of no use to you any longer. With a little meta-gaming, you can also try to convince a neighbor that it would be in their best interest to attack an enemy of yours. I find a lot of talk like this during our games. “You need to attack him, he's getting too strong!” “Why me? I'm not even close to winning.”

Exterminate! This game has extermination, but I think I would deem it pseudo-extermination. There's definitely a lot of action between the players in my group. By the end of the game, we've all engaged in battles, trying to push each other off of important hexes and vying for prized reputation tiles. But I think it's a pseudo-extermination, and thankful that it is so, because no one has actually ever been completely exterminated. There has been players that have lost all of their ships, but hang in the game to the very end. I don't know how my gaming group would feel, but I certainly wouldn't want to be eliminated entirely from the game. Gaming time is precious time for me, I don't want to spend it on the sidelines as the rest of my group finishes up a game.

Positives

Now that we've confirmed the 4X part, let's talk about the feel of the game.
Let's start with the positives...

Keeping track of production is easy. As you take actions and produce resources, you move the pieces on your player mat to their respective locations. What makes the upkeep easy in this game is that moving your pieces reveals the cost of taking that action or reveals how much you will be producing at the end of the round. This is why the game is often associated with words like smooth and streamlined. I wholeheartedly agree with this view. The game really is smooth. Upkeep is never a struggle or a worry, instead I can remain focused on what is actually happening in the game.

Intuitive rule-system. There are lots of rules to this game. That doesn't mean that this game is hard to learn. After a decent rules explanation and a few rounds, players should have a good grasp of how the game works. This is also supported by the fact that everything in the game is also noted and reinforced by the game mats. On the player mats themselves, the set-up, the costs, and abilities are clearly defined if you just take the time to look. After one complete game, I believe players can look forward to working out strategy and tactics in their next game. This is definitely a feat. A game with so much rules doesn't feel like it should be so easy to learn, but Eclipse is.

The game scales well. The game can hold 2-6 players during any given session. In my experience, the game is equally satisfying with any of the player counts available. The two player experience is more chess like in nature. You will be reacting to every move your opponent makes as your opponent reacts to yours. The 4+ player games, on the other hand, offer a chance for diplomacy, negotiation, and increased action. But the main point here that I'd like to reiterate is that the game holds up to the advertised 2-6 player limit.

Mostly little to no downtime. There is a set number of actions you can take in a turn. You must choose one. After doing so, the next player takes one, and on and on this goes. In practice, this results in a game where you're mostly always engaged in the game. It also helps if players are encouraged to anticipate what action they will be taking in a turn. The only time where I really see the game slowing down is during the final turns. Here, players are trying to squeeze out any victory points they can and often have to take some time to deliberate on what would be their best moves.

Depth of strategy and tactics. The game allows you to try out different strategies and tactics. You can try and blitz the galactic center, you can create heavily defended choke-points and turtle, you can be aggressive and wage war with your neighbors as soon as possible. Beyond your overall approach to the game, there is also a lot of tactical choices available. Many of your actions can be utilized to gain that slight edge you need to beat your opponent(s). Overall, I feel like the game holds enough depth for its rules complexity and game length.

Maneuver is important in this game. I, for one, like the pinning rules. Pinning in this game basically means that every one of your ships in a hex must be matched by an equal amount of your opponents ships. Any other ships exceeding this limit are free to move. This means that ships can be positioned to utilize the pinning rule. If you place ships in a key choke-point, your opponent will have a difficult time circumventing the choke-point unless he gets a wormhole generator (technology that opens up new routes to move through), builds more ships, or confronts your ships head-on.

Research system is flexible. The research system is set up so that for every technology you research in a particular track, all subsequent technologies are bought at a discount. In this way, you can specialize in a particular track to gain access to the more advanced technologies at a cheaper cost. But, specialization is not a requirement. As long as you can afford the cost, every technology is available to you. This makes the research track flexible. I think this aspect gives a nice edge to the game. You have to make a decision of whether you will or will not specialize and which track you should specialize in.

Battles are interesting. Ships configurations are varied and interesting. Your ships can be outfitted for specific purposes. This is supported by the different parts that can be attached to a ship and how they interact together. If your opponent is rigging their ships with lots of hulls (gives a ship hit points), then maybe you should upgrade yours with antimatter cannons (4 hits on a successful roll to hit). If your opponents are rigging their ships with computers (increased chance to hit), then maybe you should invest in some shields (decreased chance for opponent to hit). This also plays into the amount of actions a player can take in a round. If your opponent must pass before you during a give round (due to upkeep costs), you can use one of your remaining actions to tailor your ships specifically to counter your opponents. To summarize, battles are awesome because of this sort of dynamism. And who doesn't like to roll handfuls of dice?

Aliens equate to varied player powers. I always appreciate a game that allows for balanced asymmetry. I feel like the different races in Eclipse are mostly balanced. More importantly, they offer players a unique role in the game. Each alien race has their own strengths and weaknesses to play off of. These races include the tech-savvy, the war mongers, the ancient-friendlies, the zerg, and more. The different alien races offer spice and variety to the game. I am keen to explore each and every race with future plays.

Expansionable. This game offers lots of room for expansion. I can definitely see new alien races and new technologies being made available. Heck, you can expand on the game yourself. Just take some time through the variant section on the forums if you're not a believer.

Negatives

If we have positives, we must have some negatives...

The game runs a bit long with 5 or 6 players. This is completely a matter of opinion. In my case, I feel like the game feels significantly longer with 5 or 6 players. In our game, each player equates to around 30-45 minutes of game time. This means that with 5 players, a game can last between 2 ½ to nearly 4 hours. Our 5 player games typically last 3 ½ hours. A bit too long for my bad posture which results in an aching back.

It's a BIG game. Quite literally, the game is big. It takes up a ton of space. The game requires room for the modular board, the research mat, and each player's player mat. We use two foldable tables and a garage to handle this beast. If you don't have this kind of room, then you might want to pass on this game.

Set-Up/Tear-down. The game can be a pain as there are lots of pieces that have to go in specific places. Naturally, all of these pieces have to be returned in some kind of orderly fashion. I find this to be a minor gripe as set-up can tear-down can add some time and hassle to the game.

Randomness. Before I expand, I'd like to say that I've read the threads and played the game more than once. The last fault that I'd like to bring up is the randomness inherent in the game. You roll dice. You reveal hexes. You flip discoveries. You draw from bags. I agree that this can all be mitigated by the decisions you make. But, this does not discount the fact that there is a chance of abnormally bad or good luck. Once, we were playing a 5 player game with 1 person who was absolutely new to the game. This person, through discovery tiles, attained +3 computers and the ion turret technology by turn 2 or 3. By outfitting these two technologies to his interceptors, he was practically unstoppable. He went on to win his very first game. I will reiterate, I still feel that randomness can be mitigated with some forethought. But, randomness is built into the game. And when random occurs in its extremes, it can be a negative.

Conclusion

Time to wrap things up. Eclipse holds a niche in my small game collection. It is the streamlined 4X'er. I always feel a sense of accomplishment with the empire I've built by the end of the game. I feel like I've built my own little civilization in my part of the galaxy. I have my own ships with their own unique ship parts. I took part in hard fought battles against ancients and my opponents. It just feels good to look back at all I've done at a game's end. Despite the drawbacks that I have mentioned, I think the games positives always make Eclipse a worthwhile experience for me and my playgroup.
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Daniel Corban
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Eclipse » Forums » Reviews
Re: Eclipse – Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate
Less than four hours? I was expecting much worse based on the times I have seen it played at conventions. I guess that is just due to the "convention tax" with players being distracted and such.
 
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Forrest & Ryan Driskel
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dcorban wrote:
Less than four hours? I was expecting much worse based on the times I have seen it played at conventions. I guess that is just due to the "convention tax" with players being distracted and such.


It is completely player dependent. I always make a point to keep our games moving along. Many actions are not dependent upon the previous player completing every little detail before the next person starts their turn.

The longest game I've ever played was 4 hours, with most being just over the 30 minutes per player. We've finished the game in 20 minutes per player as well.
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James Hamilton
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I saw a group of wide eyed excited people sit down to their first ever game of Eclipse at a convention. None had ever played before. I did warn them that it was not a good plan but the hot new game and limited numbers of copies available (there were only five copies at the convention :O ) meant that nobody was willing to drop out.

Six hours later they finally completed their marathon game.

Don't play with 6 new player. Just because you can does not make it a good idea.

At the same convention a group of four players myself included decided on one last game of the evening. We started at 10:00pm after a long day of gaming following a long most of a day the previous day. Our game was done and dusted including packing away by 11:20.

Eclipse is not a super quick game but with the right players and the right attitude it is not a slow one either.
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M T
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Hammy wrote:
I saw a group of wide eyed excited people sit down to their first ever game of Eclipse at a convention. None had ever played before. I did warn them that it was not a good plan but the hot new game and limited numbers of copies available (there were only five copies at the convention :O ) meant that nobody was willing to drop out.

Six hours later they finally completed their marathon game.

Don't play with 6 new player. Just because you can does not make it a good idea.

At the same convention a group of four players myself included decided on one last game of the evening. We started at 10:00pm after a long day of gaming following a long most of a day the previous day. Our game was done and dusted including packing away by 11:20.

Eclipse is not a super quick game but with the right players and the right attitude it is not a slow one either.
Indeed, Eclipse only lasts for 3 or more hours if there are new players in a 5-6 player game.
 
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