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Subject: Six Rookies Playing Eclipse rss

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Art Wright
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Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017

This is my first time writing a session report. Thanks for reading! Our gaming group gets together about once a month for our usual fare: Lords of Waterdeep, 7 Wonders, Roll for the Galaxy, Dead of Winter, and other medium-weight games. We’re an adventurous group, and are always eager to play a new game. Keith, our host, got Eclipse for Christmas, and we all wanted to give it a shot, but it would be by far the heaviest weight game we’ve played to date. I want to share how our session went as a way to report back to others who might be thinking about giving this game a shot. This won’t be a play-by-play, but I hope to paint how the game went in broad strokes. We had a great time and I want to share some thoughts about how we approached the evening and about how much fun we had!

There were six of us playing, with a handful of others hanging out for the evening.

Pre-Game
Keith did a great job setting the tone and prepping us for the game. He sent out links to rules posted online, as well as a video or two with a game overview. I started a thread here on BGG to request some tips from experienced players for our first game, and shared that link with the group in advance. We got some great tips from the BGG community. All six of us showed up Saturday evening having read the rules, and that made things go a lot more smoothly. Keith set things up while we were arriving as well—it took him 30 to 45 minutes to set up the board! We spent some time reviewing the basics of the rules before getting underway shortly after 6:30pm.

Early Game



Exploration was the main theme early in this game. Most of us explored two or three times during the first round, adding a number of hexes to the board. Several folks were able to place influence disks on new sectors that they’d explored. Playing yellow, I uncovered a couple of hexes with ancients. I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to immediately colonize other planets and increase production, but as the game progressed, it seemed advantageous to have close access these ancients to fight for VPs and to get the development tiles that lay beneath. They seemed to have better planetary options on these hexes, as well.

I took one last explore option at the end of round one before passing, and uncovered a sector with one grey planet in it. It didn’t seem like a boon until I placed an influence disk on the hex and collected the development tile, which gave me 8 material points! In the following round, I was able to build a dreadnaught and an extra interceptor as a result of this windfall, and suddenly had a very respectable fleet for this early in the game.

I was sitting next to John, who was playing white, and we chatted throughout the game about rules, strategy, and so forth. We thought a diplomatic relationship would be advantageous early in the game, as it would give us both an edge in income over the other players. We exchanged ambassador tiles and both increased our monetary income as a result. Other diplomatic treaties quickly followed suit.





I attacked some of the ancients in an adjacent hex during the second round, as well, and won fairly easily, except for losing one of my interceptors. I lucked out and pulled a 4 VP tile that I kept as a result of this battle. I also scored a free Cruiser from the development tile on the hex. Several other players also attacked ancients and won. Much cheering and high-fiving ensued after these initial battles, as we were excited to engage in space combat for the first time. We found that, while initially intimidating, the ancient ships were quickly surpassed in strength, and these hexes became fantastic for extending our influence and bolstering our various income streams, as they typically had more planets on them.

I lucked out by uncovering yet a third ancient hex and moved my fleet to conquer it, and was able to extend my empire’s influence even further.

Meanwhile the other players were expanding their empires as well. We all started researching tech and slowly upgraded our various ships.

Mid Game

After I’d won two battles against ancients and had extended my influence over several sectors, I noticed that my fleet was next to Emily’s homeworld (playing blue). Because the homeworld tiles are worth 3 VPs and have three planets on them, it seemed to make the most sense to me, strategically speaking, to attack her. It was a way for me to increase production even more, and also score some more VPs for combat. I’d made a couple of upgrades to my ships—stronger hulls and guns (and a computer for my interceptor), and she hadn’t, so I figured I had a pretty good chance. My main hesitation (and I voiced this to the group, as we talked through strategy, trying to help each other out) was that I didn’t want to be a complete a-hole. But—as Keith pointed out, she did have two dreadnaughts and three interceptors. It was a risk that I’d be taking, and that did give me pause.

Still—rolling dice against the ancients had been fun, so I figured the game would be even more fun if we fought against each other, as well, so I moved my fleet over a couple of turns onto her hex (and realized in the process how expensive it can be to move a fleet around this board!). My cruisers scored an early hit on one of her dreadnaughts and sent it down in flames. She scored a kill on my lone interceptor, but I got some lucky rolls with my cruisers and destroyed her three interceptors quickly. Her one remaining ship, a dreadnaught, retreated.



I was able to wipe out the population and then colonize her planets the following round, and gained a significant increase in production. At this point, I had influence disks on 7 sectors, and was starting to feel a little over-extended. I found that I couldn’t do to much each round without the risk of spending too much money. So I hunkered down and started thinking about other ways to gain VPs.

Lots of emphasis on defeating ancients, researching tech, and upgrading ships during this phase of the game. Some further exploration. A couple of players researched advanced economy and advanced labs, and that seemed to strengthen their production significantly, as they had planets on their hexes that they could immediately colonize as a result. Several players beefed up the tech on their ships later in this phase of the game, too, and suddenly there were several intimidating fleets on the board.

Late Game

Keith had developed a great fleet (green) and was able to take the galactic core. John’s fleet (white) of strong cruisers hovered in space one hex away, and an epic battle seemed imminent, but never came.

At this point, I was quite content with the extent of my empire. I researched Advanced Mining and increased my material production significantly. I opted not to upgrade or build more ships, and let my now nearly obsolete fleet hover in space where I’d won my battle with Emily (blue). Since I had so much material, but wasn’t spending it on ships, I figured I’d start building monoliths—I built five by the end of the game, and this was the main way I cranked out VPs toward the end of the game. I naively believed Emily when she sweetly said that she wasn’t planning on attacking me (as she upgraded her ships and built an ever bigger fleet at my border!). Did I mention I am gullible?



Every other player had a strong fleet by round nine, and there were some terrific battles to conclude the game. Emily moved her now superior fleet against mine, which was still parked above her former homeworld, and she quickly got the vengeance she desired. I ended the game with no ships on the board! But—she couldn’t place an influence disk on the hex because she was unable to destroy all of the population cubes on the hex. The battle didn’t hurt me too bad at all.

John remained a friend to the end, and was gracious not to invade my empire (in spite of strong encouragement to do so from other players!). He could’ve done some serious damage since I had trusted him and left my borders exposed to his fleet. Eric (black) sent his fleet against JJ (red), and did significant damage, taking a handful of sectors by game end. Meanwhile, Keith (green) sent parts of his fleet to seize hexes from Eric (black) and took three, a strong late-game push.



Concluding Thoughts

Overall we had a blast, and are looking forward to playing again soon. It took us just about 5 1/2 hours, as we wrapped up right around midnight. Cleanup was not insignificant, either. Though we were a little intimidated by the complexity of the game from the outset, we found that once we got a couple of rounds in, things flowed very smoothly, and we rarely had to consult the rules. There wasn't too much downtime, either—just enough to grab more food or beer between turns.

All of us felt accomplished in various ways, and we marveled at the various possible paths to victory.

I ended up winning with 44 VPs as a result of my many monoliths (five at game end). I also had chips with 4, 3, 2, and 2 VPs from battles, which seemed strong. My seven sectors provided a good source for VPs, as well. Keith (green) scored 35 VPs for second, and John (white) had 24 VPs for third. I think Eric finished fourth (can't remember his VPs), Emily fifth with 11, and JJ with 5.

I find myself continuing to think about the strategy and mechanics, and what made for a successful game. For example, I wonder if my fellow players were a little too cautious and polite. I wonder if they waited too long to fight some of the ancients—in many instances I felt like their ships were over-developed by the time they engaged ancients, and this over-development slowed down their progress in other areas. There was also very little human-to-human combat until the very last round. Several players had great ships—I think more aggressive play would have rewarded them, even at the risk of making a couple of enemies. The fighting the last round was great to watch, but I felt like, from a strategic standpoint, it was too little too late. In many cases, when someone won their combat, it only earned them VPs from the combat itself, because they couldn’t successfully influence/colonize the sector where combat happened. I wish we had seen more combat throughout, since I thought that aspect of the game was so much fun, and seemed to create a richer "narrative" for our session. For example, Emily and I had a healthy banter throughout as a result of my initial invasion of her sector! And she earned her vengeance in the end, even if it wasn’t enough to deny me the title of galactic overlord…

One quirk that struck us as odd was that each of us primarily interacted with only our immediate galactic neighbors. Most of my interactions, for example (both at the table and in the game), were with John and Emily, sitting to my left and right. I never held a sector or moved my fleet adjacent to any of the other players. I was generally aware of what the three players across the table from me were up to, but had only marginal concern about how their decisions might affect mine throughout the game. This was generally true for the others, as well.

Seems like so much more to say in such an involved game, but this is a rather lengthy session report already. Thanks so much for taking the time to read it. We would love to hear any thoughts/suggestions you have. If you ask questions, please feel free to ask, and I’ll try to answer them. One or two of my fellow players might chime in in the comments below, too. ;-)
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Rob Wright
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Sounds like an amazing game—it's great to hear how it played out and good to know that being somewhat aggressive can pay off. I hope I can make it next time around!
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Peter O
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As you get better you'll learn when to fight earlier. It's rare for everyone to upgrade all at once so throughout the game so even with otherwise equal opponents there are small windows of opportunity to press an advantage. (I.e. Attack before they're ready).

Interaction with non-neighbors picks up as you get better and the mind overload goes away. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Even if you never connect, two people on the board share a neighbor with you. Double teaming the person between you makes them fall that much quicker. Of course you have a second neighbor as well so make sure they are otherwise occupied.

Furthermore, you need to pay attention to who is winning the turtle race. If your neighbors neighbor is turtling attacking your neighbor means the turtle doesn't have to fear your neighbor as much. So make peace with your neighbor on the condition they attack the turtle.

I've even made agreements with the person holding the galactic core to let my ships go through so I could attack the person on the far side. (He moved his ships to let me through)
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Craig Truesdell
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I was kidding about being honor bound to post a session report but I am really glad you did!

It may help if you keep score as you go making some estimate for the hidden reputation shields. That may prompt the well meaning players to realize that maybe their agreements aren't in their best interest.

Countries have no permanent allies, only permanent interests I heard quoted before.

If your aggression is helping you win the game, that's good play, if your aggression is just to keep someone from winning, you are being a jerk (maybe, depends what they did to incur your wrath). If someone leaves themselves unguarded so they can buy the latest tech or something, they are trying to win too just in a different way so they deserve to be attacked.

How did you feel when your fleet nuked their first planet? I found it a bit unsettling. Is that what aliens are going to do to us when they arrive? Drop an influence disk on the Sun and promptly zap us?

Was there any advice that really helped your game session? besides my of course...whistle

Thanks again for posting! (and with actual pictures!)
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Keith G
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I'm Keith (green), the host and owner of the game. I love a good 4X game as evidenced by the majority of my video gaming hours going to Civilization, Crusader Kings II, and Stellaris. Once I saw my first playthrough of Eclipse, I knew I had to add to my collection at some point. The cost is a little prohibitive, but this game is worth it.

I was a little concerned that the rest of our gaming group would not share my excitement for a more complex and lengthy game. The majority of our group has only started gaming on a regular basis since I renewed my passion for the hobby and started hosting a monthly game night 18 months ago. Still, I figured I could at least get three or four of the more ardent attendees to take a chance on the game for one night. I underestimated my group. We had all six slots filled through the Facebook event page two weeks before the night.

I made it very clear that Eclipse night would not be as casual as our usual nights. I asked people to read the rules beforehand, arrive on time, and plan to stay the duration of the night. They were wonderful. Unlike, Lords of Waterdeep or Alhambra, I can't explain the rules for Eclipse in ten or fifteen minutes and have everyone understand the basics within the first couple of rounds. By giving homework, it made the rules explanation time a refresher and a time of clarification. Though we made mistakes, everyone hit the ground running in the first couple of rounds.

Of course the game itself has an elegant design that lets the user get into their strategy rather than focusing on the minutiae. While calculating initiative for combat sometimes required heavy thinking, the player mat and population cubes do an excellent job of informing the player of their exact economic status at all times. I had thought 4X video games would have an advantage in this regard, but Eclipse makes this a non-issue.

Once the game began, I tried to take my digital 4X strategy to the analog. I typically turtle in the early game while I build my resource base and especially my scientific research. Later, once I have a technological advantage, I can strike with victory assured. In the Early Game, I maneuvered my exploration tiles to create an effective wall between myself and my neighbors. John (white) could not get to me without going through the the center sector. Despite our proximity, we did not make contact until much later in the game. I made a similar wall against JJ (red), though we had access to one another through ring I. With the rules of engagement clearly defined and access limited to choke points, it made diplomacy a much more attractive option to any would be invaders.

My civilization researched Plasma Cannons in Round 2 before anyone else. The technology allowed me to clear ancients with a small fleet of interceptors and I managed to steal JJ's (red) ring I tile before he could build a capable fleet. From that point, I achieved diplomatic relations with both JJ (red) and Eric (black).

In the Mid Game I used that peace to build a scientific and economic powerhouse. I saved enough science to develop Advanced Labs in Round 4. With my science output in the mid-teens from then on, I could grab any technology I wanted. In Round 5, I developed Advanced Economy and I never once had to worry about the money problems that so many of my competitors faced. Add Quantum Grid and Advanced Robotics and I could take any action I wanted. I devoted my scientists towards designing the best fleet in the galaxy.

As we entered the Late Game, I looked to JJ (red) and Eric (black) and realized that despite all three of us sharing diplomatic relations, they were both building large fleets. I had neglected production while focusing on technology and I feared they would seize the opportunity to turn on me. That was my weakest moment. With my choke point and advanced technology, I doubt they would have a landed a fatal blow, but they certainly would have ended my chance to win. I quickly built a fleet to match, partly out of defense, partly to achieve my primary objective: I wanted to take on the GCDS and conquer the center. Surprisingly, only John (white) ever even hinted at wanting to compete there as well, but I built a larger and more advanced fleet before he did. I easily took the lucrative sector.

I strengthened my position and focused on a strategy to defeat John's (white) fleet should he try to invade. He had outfitted his cruisers with Antimatter Cannons, so I did the same in my fleet. I also abandoned any semblance of hull or shields in favor of Gluon Computers and higher initiative. Against such a powerful foe, I wanted to fire first and not miss. In post-game I learned that we engaged in a kind of inadvertent arms race, both fearing an invasion from the other that never came. I planned to invade, but I realized (too late) that Art (yellow) had become the real threat.

While I edged my way across the galaxy, the one civilization I never met had become a cultural juggernaut. Had I understood the advantage of Monoliths sooner, I would have begged and encouraged Emily (blue) and John (white) to create chaos in Art's (yellow) half of the galaxy from the moment he researched them. I did what I could in Round 9. I engaged diplomatic relations with John (white) to immediately end our arms race and free him to hit Art's (yellow) unprotected flank, but no matter what I said, he couldn't see the personal advantage to betraying Art (yellow) and he felt a personal pride in maintaining a friendship that had lasted since the early rounds. I asked John (white) to move his ships back and let me pass through, but he didn't have the economy to support the action. I couldn't get to Art (yellow) on my own, not even with a Wormhole Generator. I would just have play my game and hope for the best.

With the strongest economy in the galaxy, I could wait until everyone else committed before making my move. This landed me the Betrayer card in the final tally, but it also let me secure my own territory before advancing on my neighbors. I used my advanced drives to take a pair of undefended three point territories from Eric (black), including his home world, and an isolated two point sector from Emily (blue) for a net gain of five points in the final combat phase (8 points from territory minus two for betrayal and minus one for a lost diplomat).

I had so much fun with this game. For a more involved game, Eclipse has a fantastic pace. You never have time to get bored. Keep in mind recency bias, a lack of data points, and my personal affinity for 4X games, but right now, this is the best board game I've ever played.
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Art Wright
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Craig, I really appreciated your encouragement to post a session report. Thanks! I'd never written one before and hadn't considered it. Thanks to your encouragement (that I was "honor bound"!), I was thinking about it during the game, and it helped me think about what I might like to say to report back to you all.

Nuking another planet—was great, honestly. I played enough Master of Orion on the PC years ago that I could virtually imagine it in my head. :-)

And—I think the most helpful suggestions we received for first-time players were the following:

1. Don't feel like you have to finish the game on the first run-through. (Although we did, thanks to everyone reading the rules beforehand. This just took some pressure off for me.

2. Let the first game be a learning game—focus on learning the mechanics the first game, and then plan on diving deeper into strategy the second game.

3. Don't get discouraged if you turn up several ancients tiles—they are good in the long run.

4. Play only terrans the first time through.

5. And I think someone mentioned something Monoliths, which I took to heart in building 5 of them on my way to victory... :-)

6. I'm reading back through all of the suggestions, and I think a lot of the strategy suggestions I am only understanding now, in hindsight. I can see a lot of possibilities open up now that we understand the game.

Thanks y'all!
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Craig Truesdell
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IronPlaidFighter wrote:


I had so much fun with this game. For a more involved game, Eclipse has a fantastic pace. You never have time to get bored. Keep in mind recency bias, a lack of data points, and my personal affinity for 4X games, but right now, this is the best board game I've ever played.


I am very new to the game also and feel the same way. I like to tweak games and add house rules and this game stumped me, I end up not wanting to change anything.

Games that I hold in high regard are Victory in the Pacific, Middle-Earth Quest which there a few that feel the same as I , and now Eclipse. I am NOT a big 4x fan (too long, too boring, map too random) and this game converted me for all the reasons you mentioned. There is a PC version which is pretty good, turn off the plasma missiles (it makes the AI stupid) though. Eclipse: New Dawn for the Galaxy Nothing beats a night with your friends though and the AI isn't truly up to the challenge (I say that but I don't win every time yet so maybe it is..whistle ) but it is fun and you can learn quite a bit watching the AI do things.
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Starkiller
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Excellent! I am very glad everyone had a good time and you finished.
Next game it may not be a good idea to go for monoliths.
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Art Wright
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akinfantryman wrote:
Excellent! I am very glad everyone had a good time and you finished.
Next game it may not be a good idea to go for monoliths.


I think you're right. With 5 monoliths, I noticed that right at the end of the game everyone wanted to turn their guns on me... :-)
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Martin Stroud
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Thanks Art and Keith for taking the time to report in so much detail on your first experiences with this excellent game. Our group of 6 played it for the first time over Christmas, and are giving it a second airing tomorrow. I think I shall look to be more aggressive this time and maybe go for the monoliths. The first round explore tiles are crucial though, if you don't get easy access to some wealth, the game can be a struggle.
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Craig Truesdell
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Colonel Sanders 81 wrote:
The first round explore tiles are crucial though, if you don't get easy access to some wealth, the game can be a struggle.


I do not have that much experience playing the game but I may disagree with you here. This game has very clever ways of keeping things close for a long time. Sure, unforced mistakes hurt but steady play of the hand you are dealt wins the day in the long run from what I have seen. If someone gets ahead quick, they will attract serious attention and it is your job, if you are behind, to help the other players see that.

If this game has taught me one thing, it is you are rarely as far behind as you think you are.
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