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Subject: Review, 15 minutes of fame. rss

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Felix Jaeger
Sweden
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Introduction
Let's start by mentioning that this review is not written with intentions to worsen an already doomed swedish-finnish relationship. It is written so that people get a diversity of opinion about this very popular game.

First contact
One of my friends who is also a boardgameholic, called me some time ago and talked about a boardgame he read about. This boardgame would be the next TI3, but with improvements and shortened sessions. This was very interesting for us, and the months passed on with lots of reading and discussion about this game, the game was called Eclipse.
About three weeks ago, my friend got his pre-ordered version of Eclipse, it was his time to buy a new boardgame for the group. We were all fired up and 6 of us gathered for an all-nighter.

Ocular impression
Unboxing of the game proved to be quite disappointing, the chosen colors was not done with care. Everything felt dark and depressing, the planets on the tiles didn't really invite one to inhabit them.
The artwork was bad, considering the amount of talented, freelancing graphical designers, it wouldn't have cost much to have someone better replacing the little there is.
However, I am usually the one who says to friends that graphics and design is not everything, I will not let my eyes be my judge.

Rules
The rule book felt solid, there were no problems to grasp them. Even one of my friends who isn't a very good reader managed to grasp the rules quickly.
When we all went thru the rules, there were signs that alarmed me a bit. No diplomacy and no politics? No actual alliances? No event cards, nothing to actually influence other players except combat?
Another thing I noticed was the bankruptcy rule, this was screaming exploit, although it was minor I felt it wasn't solid.
After the rules I decided that despite all of these alarm bells going off, it might just be a really good combat oriented game, I was eager to give it a try.

First blood
The first time we played, we decided that we try all races. We rolled for them, I came out as the winner. I choose the warrior race, it felt like the right kind of philosophy for this game.
One of my friends choose the plants, most of us laughed, they felt puny and weak. Oh how wrong we were..
The game started and I soon realized the extreme importance of getting the good tiles, I could have passed but it felt like that would almost have been as bad. My very bad homesystem was complemented by even worse surrounding border colonies.
It didn't take long before my superior invasion fleet was crushed by the ancient race player who had the luck of the irish. Another player took the opportunity and sent a lone fighter to take my best colony system in one round and I was basically out of the game by turn 6. The winners of that session was the massive expansive plant race who just cut off all routes to his system and then expanded backwards at an alarming rate, the others fought for scraps.

Second blood
This time we decided that everyone had to be human to see if the balancing felt better. I decided to change tactics, I got build myself a nice cozy corner with only one way in and I got some good colonies. I grabbed the centre system pretty quickly and I had 2 nice alien techs, my systems were all well protected and everyone thought I would be the winner.
The other players really couldn't wedge me out of the centre because if they all attacked they would have to battle each other before the winner battled my forces. So the responsibility ended with one player who built a massive missile fleet and attacked. He only hit on 6' because I had the alien shields (-3), he failed miserably and I finished off his fleet before they could flee. He then tried another tactic with the warp technology so he could travel into my less protected systems as well as attacking the centre, it also failed miserably due to unlucky rolls.
I was pretty confident since I was the only one with such a big and well protected empire, I had the middle tile, I had monolith and I had most technologies. What happened is that in the last round, the other players had most of their fleets tied up with each other or some by my troops (since I was the biggest threat). This gave a player who had been turtling most of time, the opportunity to strip his fighters and equip them with really fast engines, he just sent these to as many 3VP systems as he could and overtook them and he had some really lucky rolls against the small defence people could muster, used the tactical bankruptcy to scrap 1VP and 2VP systems he had which wouldn't give him a final bankruptcy. During the VP counting he flipped up 3 4VP chips and one 3 VP chip that he got in the beginning by battling a couple of ancients. He had the same amount of technologies as me, no monoliths, and he won the game over me by 3 points. This came as a big surprise to everyone, the guy wasn't even in the top 5 for 8 rounds.

More blood
More plays and I soon came to my final conclusion about this game.

Summary
This game could have been a shining beacon, it could have been the game that could have lived up to the hype, but for me it fell short and I will list the things I think is good and bad about Eclipse;

Good
-I like the resource management, it feels good and works very well. I also like the way a bigger empire is harder to maintain. I like all the actions except the influence in combination with bankruptcy which is to me, open for exploit. It should be impossible to take an action if that leads to bankruptcy, which in turn may give you an opportunity to sack a crappy system for a better one. It should instead require the action influence, in order to downsize before you are able to do that action which you so eagerly want.

-I really love building my own style of ships, this is the best thing about Eclipse. This will probably lead to infinite variations with expansions to the game.

-It is a galactic space empire theme.

-It's a boardgame, not a digital game.

Negative
-Player interactivity, to read others saying this game is very interactive comes to me as a total surprise. This game has zero interactivity besides combat, the rest of the time people have their noses over their own personal board and micromanages. There is absolutely no way to actually influence players which aren't neighbours, you can just watch them expand like crazies and do whatever they like. You can't pass thru systems which belong to players you count as friends because you will enter combat if you end there or crosses his fleet. You can't send supplies to a so called friend who is in need, you can't really reach his systems without exposing yourself too much to the others. It feels solitaire.

-Luck! I don't disagree with having luck as a factor in games, but having luck as the engine of a game, especially a strategic game takes away a big chunk of the pride one might feel when achieving victory and/or with certain strategic maneuvers.
Luck is the deciding factor for system build, there is a big difference between systems as well.
Luck is the factor for the very important VP combat chips, these could be drawn and probably decide a final outcome already by turn 2, especially since they are hidden.
Luck is the factor for deciding research.
Luck is the factor for gaining hidden resources or tech which can be overpowering or useless, depending on your current situation.

-Combat, this could have been fine if there weren't so many other important factors in the game which was decided entirely on luck. However, when a fleet of ships can be taken down by a single fighter, which is a big deal in this game, just because one is lucky and another is unlucky makes this game a real slot machine. A rolled dice is written in stone, there are no abilities or events that can affect a rolled dice. In other games where the combat is only decided by dice there is usually a way that people can somehow affect results and perhaps even affect an entire combat. These cards or abilities are also usually acquired by luck, however there is no luck in deciding when to use them if they are limited.

-System build, I really don't like the way it's built and how easy it is to shut away other players. I don't like how it handles with 5 players, it just unbalances the game totally and I wouldn't recommend playing this game with 5.

-The pass action which leads to first player doesn't really work well. If you have a player to your right side who is being attacked hard, this will probably lead to him doing just one action on his turn, and that is build. Then he passes, this leads to you being second starter every turn. This would be to your gain, however if the situation is for your left neighbour instead, it would lead to you being last player every turn instead. This happened in round 5 until 9 and there is really no good way to break that trend.

Overall
I wanted this game to be good, but I just can't see the things others see in it. Therefore that is the name for my review, I believe this game suffers from a 15 minutes of fame.
People wanted this game to be the one, that when it came they just couldn't find it in them to actually see the limitations of it. I don't think it is a worthless game, I just don't think it is a great game.
There are lots of comparison between Eclipse and TI3, they share a theme but they are not similar. What they have done is strip away the things which made TI3 a social and epic game, in order to get a fast paced, dice rolling solitaire with certain fun and unique elements.

Perhaps expansions will come and these might actually change this game more to my liking, until then, I choose other games to spend 3 hours on.
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Markus
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You complain about luck yet you would have wanted Eclipse to have event cards for more luck?
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Felix Jaeger
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As I said, they may be acquired by luck. However there is no luck in actually using cards to your advantage in certain situation.
I just think certain abilities or cards would increase the strategic value of this game.
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Arthur Rutyna
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Good review. I saw many of the same things you mentioned in your review after just 1 play. I'm interested in trying this game again, but I don't know that it's really that great or epic.
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Ed Bradley
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Neo_1 wrote:
Good review. I saw many of the same things you mentioned in your review after just 1 play. I'm interested in trying this game again, but I don't know that it's really that great or epic.


I don't think any game with a small fixed turn-limit can be described as epic.
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Lance
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I read your review and I thought it was quite good, even if I disagree with a great deal of it. I was going to compose arguments to some of the things that you pointed out were negatives about the game, but then I just realized that this happens to be a game that just doesn't meet your expectations.

No harm in that - there are plenty of games out there for you that might fit the bill.

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Håvard Sommerseth
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Nice review! I agree 100% with everything you are saying. Escpecially this:

Romassanta wrote:
There are lots of comparison between Eclipse and TI3, they share a theme but they are not similar. What they have done is strip away the things which made TI3 a social and epic game, in order to get a fast paced, dice rolling solitaire with certain fun and unique elements.


Which are exact the same issues I have with Galactic Emperor.
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Jeremy Diachuk
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I will point out that taking a Technology tile when there's only one of it also counts as interacting with other players. In addition, if you worry that the player across from you is going to be a threat later in the game, you should try to connect up with them directly by taking the center ASAP, or avoiding the Diplomatic relations with one of your neighbours so you can more easily manoeuvre through them to the threatening player. Planta can be dangerous if they expand a lot, but they're easily bombed if their neighbours actually try an offensive strategy against them and don't let them isolate themselves.

That's another way to interact with other players, although it's normally just your neighbours: if you explore an empty space before they do, you have the say as to how those wormholes go, allowing you to either invade their space or prevent them from invading yours, depending on how you prefer it.

But yes, like many eurogames, Eclipse doesn't have a tremendous amount of player interaction (although I'd say that since combat is a large part of the game, it's still there). With combat being something important, even taking Upgrade actions could be considered a little bit interactive, since players will have to respond to your ship designs in different ways.

Still, many of your points are valid (though I disagree about the heaviness of the luck in determining a winner)


One other minor point: If being start player was more advantageous than losing some actions (considering you can still use "reaction" moves to move, build, or upgrade, if you didn't have much to do anyway) then you should have passed before the player to your left. If you know he's going to pass after taking one action, then you either play like you want to and know that you're going to end up last in turn order again (making it hard to get a brand new technology) or you pass before him, giving up some actions in order to secure the starting player marker for the following round.
To be honest, starting player is more important earlier in the game (or if you need a specific technology and are hoping for it to come out), sometimes it's actually better to go last so you can see where other players move their ships, letting you actually surprise people by snagging Wormhole Generator and then moving into their home systems after they move their main armadas into the center or something.
Some people have come up with a variant where the turn order actually depends on the pass order entirely, instead of clockwise from the first to pass. This option may be more to your liking. It is a very reasonable houserule to add, since it was pretty much excluded just to make the game a tiny bit less fiddly. With that houserule, you wouldn't get screwed as much by a player to your left who is doing awful (nor benefit as much from the same to your right), but it would add a little bit more hassle to turn-taking.
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Felix Jaeger
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Jeremy, I agree that player interactivity is probably just a point of view.

We discussed this actually that we probably wanted run turns in pass order, since we saw that this was the most balanced way. There is no way I was going to pass instead of doing a single action when I had the largest empire and could use all except one of my action markers, however I agree that if it really was that important for me, then I could have.

Otherwise I thank you for your comments.
 
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Noel
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Hi, thanks for the honest review.

Personally, I think TI3 is bloated junk -- it didn't come close to its promise nor did it accomplish what it was trying to do.
I'm looking forward to trying out Eclipse. It seems to know what it wants to do and does it, without dazzling you with surface theme that has no depth.

To each his own.
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Travis R. Chance
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Here in NYC the TI3 guys have been on a warpath, doing their best to defraud this game as inferior when it is simply apples and oranges. If you like spending a third of your day playing Imperium, more power to you. But Eclipse isn't that kind of game. If anything, I would liken it more to something like Civilization (with a little more margin for course correction, and far more intuitive). To merely draw comparisons because it is in space seems rather uninspired, even for the most zealous of haters. Beyond this, a great many of your comments seem to hinge on your expectations of other games rather than what Eclipse is, or, at least, trying to be.


While I appreciate the time that went into composing this review, it seems more of a commentary on the author's interests rather than one about Eclipse, for which they carry quite a bit of disdain. To parrot the last responder: "to each his own." But to be damning, this damning, is silly (to me). Will you next post be about how the new Mission Impossible movie wasn't exciting enough, more akin to a romantic comedy? Or perhaps that the food at a new local restaurant reminds you of poorly written books?
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John Doe
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Your review is very likable, Felix.

Quote:

Another thing I noticed was the bankruptcy rule, this was screaming exploit, although it was minor I felt it wasn't solid.


Since you felt about bankruptcy that way, I want to ask, what do you think of the invasion of other players' planets, then?

I mean the population cubes go to the graveyard, and the attacked player gets the production, but influence disks go straight back to hand with no upkeep pay.

Quote:
This came as a big surprise to everyone, the guy wasn't even in the top 5 for 8 rounds.


If I otherwise like your review a lot, this is, however, just wrong . I feel your empire was kind of overextended, a liability alike. You were trying to be too strong, but you were actually weak, and so the bigger part of your efforts went to trying to keep things together. Otherwise your empire would have collapsed, fallen apart. Hence, the turtle could do what he did. Yours and other players' evaluation of the situation, if I may use this word, was not anywhere near right.
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Felix Jaeger
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Travis, I never did compare them except that they share the theme. However, I do think TI3 did influence the creation of this game.
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Felix Jaeger
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John Doe, I understand where you want to go with that question of yours. However that is not called bankruptcy, and that is not made by choice. The situation is also so that you probably did not loose a crappy system to an invasion so I think that action marker will be sorely missed on the board.
Perhaps there is a need for an action graveyard as well?

Otherwise, thank you.
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Travis R. Chance
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Romassanta wrote:
Travis, I never did compare them except that they share the theme. However, I do think TI3 did influence the creation of this game.


Perhaps I misunderstood, but it seemed implicit. Nonetheless, I appreciate your candor and taking the time to make the post.
 
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Łukasz Łazarecki
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Felix, just a short comment about your strategies.

First game - you took the agressive guys (Orion) and tried to use them as farmers (Planta), so farmers won by simply being farmers. Bad idea.

Second game, you had the most powerfull army, but somehow a low profile guy was abble to beat few aliens before you and take the VPs. Then you concentrated all of your ships in the middle and seemed supriced when somebody else easily conquered part of your unprotected empire. Another bad idea.

I'm not saying there's no luck factor in Eclipse, but it doesn't look like you didn't win because of it.
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Peter O
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A lack of player interaction in this game is a failure on the part of the player, not the game. Tabletalk and normal diplomacy is required to do well and even feel like you have a sense of control. All of my own moves are played with not just my neighbors in mind, but also their neighbors as well. My actions have chain reactions. Even just militerizing my border can result in my neighbor not feeling safe enough to go after the turtle next to him. I see many new players in my games complain about luck when in reality they failed in terms of diplomacy.

If anything, this games greatest weakness is that it doesn't coddle newbies. You have to be mentally tough to play and willing to explore other possibilities, including that your perception of events might be wrong and your own actions, including talking to others, is to blame rather than luck. I've had my share of slow starts and still did well in the end. I didn't succumb to defeatism and instead concentrated on the way forward. Read the design diaries, the game is well tested and balanced. Have a little faith in the people who spent a lot of time putting it together (and yes, not all games deserve that faith).
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Felix Jaeger
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Łukasz Łazarecki, I don't understand where I stated using Orion as farmers.
Tactics afterhands is probably as useful as a bag of nutshells for this kind of game, perhaps if we talked about World Inflames it would have contributed to something, sorry. Otherwise I am grateful for input.

Peter O. Then all games are player interactive? What I meant is that the game itself does not encourage player interaction, sorry.

Another thing Peter, I do not know what qualifies a person as a newbie. What I know is that swedish people usually uses a humble approach and do not try to use titles or badges to supress others. I am not entirely sure if that was what you tried to do there, but I can probably say that I am definately not a newbie to strategy, both gamewise and in RL.
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Travis R. Chance
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tranenturm wrote:
A lack of player interaction in this game is a failure on the part of the player, not the game. Tabletalk and normal diplomacy is required to do well and even feel like you have a sense of control. All of my own moves are played with not just my neighbors in mind, but also their neighbors as well. My actions have chain reactions. Even just militerizing my border can result in my neighbor not feeling safe enough to go after the turtle next to him. I see many new players in my games complain about luck when in reality they failed in terms of diplomacy.

If anything, this games greatest weakness is that it doesn't coddle newbies. You have to be mentally tough to play and willing to explore other possibilities, including that your perception of events might be wrong and your own actions, including talking to others, is to blame rather than luck. I've had my share of slow starts and still did well in the end. I didn't succumb to defeatism and instead concentrated on the way forward. Read the design diaries, the game is well tested and balanced. Have a little faith in the people who spent a lot of time putting it together (and yes, not all games deserve that faith).



I agree completely. This game absolutely captures this palpable feeling of expansionism: the tension of potential warring neighbors, the ambassadorial ties that could diminish, the fearful peering at someone's blueprints who happens to be within range of invasion.

The point of the game is not to hold hands and sing campfire ballads. The interaction is quite realistic: you are sharing a world with other people, all who have agendas that may in no way include coordinating with others. Whether or not you sandbag and try to win through technology, or raid the shit out of another player isn't the sign of weak design, but, rather a very strong design. One where you can hiccup, but still recover, switch gears, and potentially win.
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Joel Berg von Linde
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Romassanta wrote:
I believe this game suffers from a 15 minutes of fame.
People wanted this game to be the one, that when it came they just couldn't find it in them to actually see the limitations of it.


hehe, in other words; "I didnt see the appeal, so everyone else must be wrong if they had a good experience"

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Joseph
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Felix,

Thanks for your thoughtful review of this game; I enjoyed your writing style. I've had my eye on Eclipse for a while, and reading everything I can about the game.

What I've discerned about this title, so far, follows:

1. Luck exerts a significant influence on the game.
2. The game is shorter than most of the "epic," space games out there (Shorter than TI for example)
3. Variable set up.
4. Little diplomacy or politics.

In summary, the game sends me a strong "Master of Orion (MOO)" meets "Dungeonquest (DQ)" vibe. Permit me to explain:

1. Like MOO, variable setup can lead to poor starting areas. The game may be doomed from the start, or at minimum, very difficult based on "luck of the draw."

2. Like DQ, you may be doomed from the start, or suffer from outrageous misfortune, resulting in an assured loss or unfair position. DQ is bloody, and definitely unfair at times.

Surface level analysis on my part, but you may see where I'm going with this. So, the very things that you disliked about Eclipse, may draw me to the game. Personally, I'd love to play the heavier titles with a full complement of players. I love the 4X genre (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate), especially when space is involved. Unfortunately, getting four like minded individuals around the table is difficult. Eclipse may offer me that opportunity, using only two players.

So, seems to me that Eclipse's gameplay is a cross between MOO, and DQ in space — plays fast, bloody, with occasional outrageous swings of fortune. If I'm reading the creator's minds at all, seems like they intend for us to laugh at our misfortune in one game, and quickly set up the board again! Over the course of many sessions, the game begins to shine.

Again, my impressions based solely on reading all the reviews and background. — I've not played the game yet. I've been resisting picking it up, but my resolve is weakening!

Thanks for an interesting read.

Joseph.

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Jeff Kayati
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Finally a non-fanboy review that expresses all the reservations I have about this game!

Thanks for taking the heat and your honest opinion.
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Felix Jaeger
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Joseph, yes that might be some sort of hybrid that might fit. I love MOO and MOO2, I also love ascendancy, imperium galactica II, galactic civ II, heck I like anything that has to do with space.
Thank you for your kind words about my review.

Joel Petersen, you totally misunderstood that sentence. I just think some people might have exaggerated their ratings.

I just wanna direct something to everyone that reads this.
I am not trying to get people to not buy it, I am trying to give a different view than the main reviews do.
Since buying a boardgame isn't really an investment, just buy it and have a go. I usually buy 2 boardgames each month and I don't really care if they aren't all to my liking.

Why I am involved in the threads concerning Eclipse is because I have to find something that can explain to me why there are so many people that gave this game a rating of 10. I am not trying to say they aren't allowed to rate a 10, but why did they? It's become some sort of mystery to me. There might just be a single answer, I am more different than I thought.
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John Doe
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Romassanta wrote:
I am not trying to say they aren't allowed to rate a 10, but why did they?


To my understanding, it is because of a fallacy of a sort. They adopted the ideas of Eclipse as their original thoughts. Eclipse became the representation of them in their mind..

I guess a similar answer I was looking to that former question of mine. Some of the game mechanics my intuition says are not as good as they could be.
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Romassanta wrote:
I am not trying to say they aren't allowed to rate a 10, but why did they? It's become some sort of mystery to me.


The reason is that Eclipse is a good game to most, there's no big mystery or conspiracy behind it.
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