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Subject: A First Galactic Conquest - session report and thoughts after our first game rss

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Terry
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Eclipse.

Our first play of Eclipse last night marked my 1000th BGG game to rate, and as such I thought I'd ring it in with a brief session report and first thoughts about this game. In the thousands of games I've played over the last decade I haven't made a single session report, so I figured now's as good a time as any to contribute.

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Jonathan Takagi
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Tim Thomas
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Spielgeek.com
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The universe began off a peaceful place, with 4 terrans vying for control: me, Tim, Steve, and Jonathan.

We all began by exploring our neighboring regions to see what was around. Tim began with a lucky discovery that gave him a free turn 1 cruiser, and Steve likewise had some good luck with easy discoveries. Jonathan and I both drew some alien ships. Neither of us discarded the tiles, so had to live with the consequences of a slow start.

In fact, during our game no one discarded a single tile, which is probably due to none of us having any clue what a good tile was and was not. I suspect in future games discarding will be used more.

My little empire grew haphazardly and far too connected with other players, to the point where nothing was at all defendable. I had worm holes connecting everything with everything.

However, my biggest problem became apparant early -- I was producing a ton of science, but little money and almost no materials. I set to work producing technologies. My neighbors were busy building cruisers and dreadnoughts while I was stuck on interceptors for most of the game. Fortunately for me, none of my opponents really caught on to my "no materials" problem, and didn't rush in to crush me. By the end of the game, my empire was a disconnected, undefended mess.

Tim played a little like Japan. He launched an early, quick surprise war on my empire with interceptors, failed miserably and got crushed when I built starbases in the sector, and then resorted to pacifism for the rest of the game, never really upgrading any of his ships.

Star bases (upgraded with a +1 computer) seem to be great early game defenses and do well at keeping pesky interceptors at bay. Tim really did not attack again for the rest of the game, instead expanding hugely and working on an entire technology branch and building monoliths. His diplomatic relations with everyone except me meant that no one attacked him until the very end of the game. By the last round of the game he had a 5 point row bonus and 2 monoliths.

Steve was an isolationist at the start of the game, building a huge empire of his own and making some valuable discoveries that gave him an early power position in the game. He ended up with tons of money planets and could take lots of turns. He started spreading himself too thin though, leaving room for Jonathan to attack him from one side.

Jonathan, like me, was forced into early research and upgrades by the presence of neighboring ancient ships which needed destroying. His
fleet grew fast and furiously, and he certainly appeared to have no problem with materials. He was the first to have a scary looking fleet on the board, filled with cruisers and dreadnoughts. Fortunately for Tim (who had a diplomatic pact with Jonathan) and me (who was too far away), Jonathan invaded Steve. Steve was caught completely off guard, and came within a tile or two of being wiped off the board. Fortunately for Steve, Jonathan pulled back (either due to charity or being spread too thin, or perhaps a little of both), allowing Steve to remain in the game.

Steve managed to make a remarkable comeback though, loading up on missile interceptors and re-expanding his empire rapidly as Jonathan tried to consolidate his huge empire which now had almost no turns per round due to its size. Steve's missile interceptors allowed him to take out some ancient ships and move into my territory.

As the game wound down, Jonathan set his fleet's sites on the galactic center, and Steve's missile ships started scaring us all and invading both Jonathan and me, until we realized that none of his ships had other guns.

I loaded up on advanced hulls, and when his missile ships were unable to do enough damage to destroy them, killed a lot of his ships. Steve chose in most cases to NOT retreat in order to get victory point pulls. In fact, during our battles, very few people retreated for exactly that reason.

By the last round I had the most powerful ships in the game, with cruisers with 4-damage cannons, computers and hulls of 5.

A series of battles between Steve, Jonathan and I ended up with me taking the galactic core after a miraculous roll where I needed 3 5s/6s out of 4 dice to wipe Jonathan's population cubes. I wiped the population and took the 4 points.

Tim, having been left alone and having invested little in defense was vulnerable and looking like a potential winner.

Jonathan broke his pact with Tim at the last second, taking in an invasion force to attack some monoliths. Unfortunately, Jonathan didn't account for population-destruction, and could only take one monolith.

Tim just held on. End scores were incredibly close, with Tim winning, then me, then Jonathan, then Steve. Steve, who had been almost eliminated early on had every chance to win, but was thwarted by poor dice rolls at the end of the game.


THOUGHTS:

- This is an outstanding design, particularly in terms of colony management. The way that cubes go on the board and that how painless upkeep is makes me wonder why so many other games are so awfully designed in this manner.

Hopefully Eclipse will usher in a new era of cleverly designed "self-accounting" games, much in the way that Apple brought upon a new era of ease-of-use and intelligent human factors. This is one case where the design community's enthusiasm for cloning success (dominion, worker placement * 1000, etc) will hopefully lead us to better games in the future overall.

- The game is easy to explain, and the limited number of actions per turn make it very accessible.

- Strategically, there is a lot to consider. In our first game, I suspect we all played pretty horrendously. Most ships built were ineffective and poorly balanced, or misunderstood (Steve didn't realize that missiles only shot once until he had a fleet of missile interceptors!). Most of our empires were way too connected, and we didn't take enough advantage of tile-discarding and strategic wormhole placement. We didn't take enough advantage of defense and hulls.

- I can imagine varied strategic approaches in this game, whereby you can explore your local region to create choke points, and single defensible entrances. I can imagine approaches whereby you improve ship parts in a logical order to give you the most strength for least cost. Or, where you use diplomatic relations with a particularly dangerous looking opponent to keep them at bay. So much of the game seems to revolve around efficient use of technologies and upgrades.

- Throughout the course of the game there were very few points of confusion or even a need to reference the rule book. It helped considerably that I had played a few solo rounds the night before to get the hang of the flow of the game. I REALLY recommend this if you're going to teach this game to a new group. Combat is not at all difficult, but there are enough considerations that it helps to have at least simulated a couple of battles before trying to teach it.

- As a couple of other people have mentioned, taking ships off the board and lining them up in initiative order at the start of a battle is VERY helpful in speeding up combat and keeping things simple.

- We seemed to have way too many techs to choose from in our first 4 player game. A bunch came onto the board each turn, and it seemed like almost anything could be bought. Perhaps we weren't buying enough techs as newbies.

Negatives:

There aren't many, but setup and take down is certainly one. A storage box is really not optional for this game; it is necessary. Also, the published concept of piling up all of the ship parts on the ship part board is pretty ludicrous, and is solved easily by the aforementioned storage box.

The orange/brown marker confusion was solved by placing a sticker with a $ sign on the top of the "orange" markers. Still, slightly annoying that of the 4 million colors out there, they deployed a game where 2 of 3 colors can be confused.

The "missile debate" reminds me a lot of the "insta kill" spell debates that you often see in D&D games. It's like a wizard with a single "disintegrate" spell killing an accomplished warrior who has invested years honing skills in traditional combat and defense before the warrior even gets a chance to participate. It's legitimate, but it doesn't feel like an "earned" victory. Many a D&D game has been damaged by such instant-kill abilities. So I'm a little disappointed that missiles appear to be so cheap, and so instantly cloneable once you have the technology.

If I were to make a house rule, I'd suggest forcing missiles to use power (which increases the cost of missiles, putting it more in line with the cost of defense), or a tech with approximately the same cost of missiles that can be used to completely stop them. Or something like that.


First Impression:

I give Eclipse an initial 8.

While I understand the raving of the community who are finally happy that a gaming company has done away with the fiddliness and complexity of so many empire building games, I don't FEEL the excitement *yet*. Yes, it's a solid and cleverly designed game, but I'm not in love after one play. Maybe I need to take her on more dates first and get to.... know her... better.

Perhaps this has more to do with it being a little overwhelming on its first play, where much brain power is used to try to work out what stuff does rather than concentrating on the game itself.

There's room for it to grow on me though, as I rated le Havre a 7 on my first play, and it quickly grew to be a 10 and my favorite game.

The rest of our group appeared to enjoy the game, and I think it will be relatively easy to get it to the table again.

So Eclipse has been a worthy game for my 1000th rating, and I look forward to playing it again and hopefully spending time enjoying it more.


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David Gardner
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Outstanding session report. More are welcomed from you! Thank you for contributing. --David
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Mike Robinson
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My first game will start in approximately 14 minutes. The anticipation is killing me. I am glad I read your write up and expect much of the same our first few times around. The pulling the ships off of the board idea sounds like a real time saver. Thanks to whoever came up with that. Enjoy future plays!
 
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Jason Cawley
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My strong recommendation is to start with 3 or 4 players.
One group I know started with a 6 player and it went very long as a result, and some of the players are intimidated about trying it again as a result.

Two player is quite fast, but it becomes significantly more interesting with 3 or 4 (military first isn't a single optimum strategy). Also, I strongly suggest that the person teaching the game emphasize the importance of going less than full speed on actions at the start, to avoid getting "money screwed" out of ability to do anything around turns 2-4. Also make sure players use trade to deal with money screw (cashing all their research for extra money for a turn or 2 e.g.). Some new players will (a) take too many actions early, expanding until out of monetary "gas", then (b) stall with 0 money and still try to keep building and researching. Make sure they also understand the usefulness of orbital tech to get out of such a money screwed situation (by expanding pop locations and allocating them to money, to allow additional actions each turn).

FWIW...
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Richard Mandeville
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How much did the PC game Masters of Orion did this feel like (similar to Elite - Phantom League)? I liked the original PC game but the second version was awful, due to poor game design and serious bugs.

I like the look of Eclipse, but can't justify spending the RRP so would need to wait for the price to drop whatever.
 
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Antti Autio
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anubis_cuk wrote:
How much did the PC game Masters of Orion did this feel like (similar to Elite - Phantom League)? I liked the original PC game but the second version was awful, due to poor game design and serious bugs.

I like the look of Eclipse, but can't justify spending the RRP so would need to wait for the price to drop whatever.

I never played MoO2, but loved the first one and Exlipse does give me the same feel. Another game I'm reminded of is SMAC (Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri), especially by the unit customisation and the feel of the different factions.

Eclipse is not a cheap game, but absolutely worth it's price tag, IMO.
 
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boardgamemuse
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I agree that this is a great session report.

It seems that at times we jump headlong into the NEW as the best yet. Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to new games and repeated plays help define the overall experience and with different people.


This type of game is DEFINATELY not a gateway game. ninja
 
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Terry
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anubis_cuk wrote:
How much did the PC game Masters of Orion did this feel like (similar to Elite - Phantom League)? I liked the original PC game but the second version was awful, due to poor game design and serious bugs.

I like the look of Eclipse, but can't justify spending the RRP so would need to wait for the price to drop whatever.


Actually, this game "feels" closest to "sins of a solar empire" to me, of recent 4X computer games (the features differ though). Perhaps that's because both are "easy" 4X systems that don't require a lot of work to get into.
 
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Terry
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Also to add: Total play time our first game (after rules explanation) was almost 2 hours exactly, just as written on the box. This is a good thing.
 
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