I was really excited about this game. I played this at Gen Con and was really into it and looking into buying it, only waiting until it comes to retail to get a copy.
Later I was thinking about the different mechanics that I liked about the game. I liked the fact that you could focus on improving your weapons or shields to make your ships very powerful or highly survivable. I liked how you can shape the map when you explore, instead of it being a static map. I also liked how you can develop a world to make it very powerful part of your civ/empire, but then need to protect it. As I was thinking about these things it was reminding me of Eclipse, one of my favorite games ever.
And then it dawned on me, most of the things I like about this game I like about Eclipse, but I like Eclipse more. The ship upgrading in Eclipse is way better, the exploring is about the same, and developing a world is much easier with the same result. The random events and fleet mechanic are cool, but also annoying as simply flying into a sector can get your ships destroyed.
I already own Eclipse and both big expansions, so while I like this game I think I will just be playing Eclipse if I can get people to commit to a couple of hour long game, especially since Eclipse seems to play faster than this.
You are perfectly entitled to play Eclipse. And the fact you have it is excellent jutification for why you should keep doing so!
I have Eclipse myself and I will actually be selling my copy in exchange for Star Trek Ascendency (or rather I'll be selling Eclipse since Star Trek Ascendency is on its way to replace it
I respect your reasons for why you think Eclipse is better, and if you like it more do so! No one will stop you doing so
That said I assume you started this thread as not just a rant, but also an inquest as to why people like ST:A over Eclipse. So here are my take from someone who has access to both:
1) ST:A has a much more enjoyable exploration mechanic.
Yes the Hexes are nice, but there is a limit to them in that there is the 6 ring of Mk 3 Hexes around the centre, the ring of Mk 2 hexes that form outside of that, and then the Mk 1 hexes that spawn outwards as long as there are hexes to place.
It feels rigid where you know the quality of titles towards the centre get better. While ST:A with its flexable lanes and disks feels more manuverable and random - allowing you a sense of exploration.
2) The ST:A Story is superior.
As you mentioned there is a card draw for each System you find. Some will have Crisis, some with have civilizations setup, some will have events, etc... This creates a HUGE degree of replayability and discovery. Finding Riza may have you negotiating with the Children of Tama in one game, only for you to find Riza has founded Farpoint Station in the next game, or that Q has decided its a great place to launch your fleet across the universe. These create moments that are reflective of the TV series, but also create their own story in their own right.
Eclipse has its tiles for discoveries and they're nice - but there is little story behind how you got that new tech, or what that "victory point" really means. Its a bit hollow and more mechanical.
3) The ST:A map is easier to read.
Eclipse has a good mechanic of how you build the board, but with all the ships cluttered onto a hex, there are times the "link points" can be overswamped that its not easy to tell at a glance where your movement options are.
ST:A is very obvious to where the lanes are since they are separate to the system disks. Less effort means less thinking/ analysis, means faster gameplay.
4) The ST:A Leader is easier to Identify.
Both games have a Victory Point accumilation system, but while Eclipse has it somewhat hidden among ALL its calculations (i.e.: VP for research completed, VP for winning a fight, VP for locations, VP for racial bonus, etc...) ST:A has it upfront for you. Any player who achieves 5 Ascendency Wins the game. And there is benefit to raising your Ascendency (specifically in diplomatic superiority), which in turn lets people see who is rushing ahead and thus who needs to be taken down a peg so the others can catch up.
This creates a stronger level of interaction as you aren't waiting until the final turn ends to THEN discover who was winning (at which point its too late to do anything). Instead you feel, even if you are losing, you can have an active part in pulling the big-bad down so you don't feel useless.
5) ST:A Victory points are resources
VP in Eclipse is just that - a total of your winnings. VP in ST:A (aka Culture Tokens) go towards achieving Ascendency, but its also spent to Colonize new worlds, attempt Diplomacy, and build new Culture factories. There is a level of choice and strategy in how you use the VP you've earned in ST:A beyond hording it that it becomes part of the game LEADING to the outcome. I have to say this is superior for me.
6) ST:A Combat is encouraged.
Eclipse FREQUENTLY resulted in turtling due to the clearly obvious count down of turns; the end of which results with an explosive rush to secure the centre. Occasionally skirmishes do occur, but otherwise it feel more "Game of Thrones WINTER WILL GET HERE EVENTUALLY" than active interaction.
ST:A encourages conflict because its obvious to see who is leading, and thus the factions who are behind will target them to pull them down. Furthermoe the Klingons actively hunt the Fleets you form because it benefits their victory condition. The Romulans actively hunt stray ships cause its an easy kill for them with their Cloaking tech. Invasion occurs often because it is a tactical advantage to do so (especially for the Cardassian's comming out soon).
It feels active and engaged where you are looking for opportunity turn-by-turn, instead of hoping to pack your snowball big enough to MASH the final push at the end.
7) ST:A technology is simple
Ok yes I'll agree. Eclipse has SIGNIFICANTLY better customization in ship design. You can build fighters, carriers, destroyers, etc... and each can have exclusive purpose by your own creation (missile silos, laser harriers, bombing invaders, etc...). It is fun.
However its also VERY complicated and complication doesn't always mean fun. It also requires a LOT of setup and pack up in the tech tree which can be tedious.
ST:A tech is simple. Each faction has 14 cards. And thats it! Yes the cards are drawn randomly, and true they don't customize your ship radically, but thats ok. We don't need to complicate things by knowing the difference between missiles and lasers. We don't need to understand the 20+ different tech tiles and their application. We simply need to learn the basic rules, and then apply the changing effects of the new technologies as they appear.
Its kinda like Flux in that regard. New rules appear and, when they do, you apply them. Otherwise you don't need to know about it.
8) ST:A Combat is simple and fast
The result is kept simple at a case of roll X dice and every Y - Z = one ship gone. There is no HP to keep track of with armor plating. Its gone. It over. Its done. Move on.
This keeps the ST:A game fast and not delayed as two people slug it out, the other people waiting for the fight to conclude. For me thats a plus as I hate downtime (suffering it, and making others suffer it).
There is more but this is turning into a review (which I intend to do proper when I get my copy and am not just rules referencing and researching). In the end, these are the reasons why I will be replacing Eclipse for ST:A. But those are my reasons.
If you are enjoying Eclipse, keep enjoying it! Its a good game with decent mechanics. I just feel ST:A has streamlined things to a degree that retains deep tactical play, but also keeps things simple to not be convoluted.