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Subject: Nothing is perfect but Eclipse comes pretty darn close rss

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Eclipse is a space empire building game for two to six players that lasts two to three hours or roughly 30 minutes per player. In Eclipse players are tasked with expanding their galactic civilization in a variety of ways, both peaceful and warlike.

There's no denying that Eclipse is one of the most hyped games of 2011. At the time of writing Eclipse has broken into top 100 (which alone is a monumental achievement) and is quickly ascending the ranks towards top 10. However, as with all hype, there is always the lingering question: is it really that good? If you just want to know the answer to that question, then yes, it is that good. But if you would prefer a little more information, please read on.



WHAT'S IN THE BOX?

The components of Eclipse are very high quality. Nothing sticks out in a negative way and even the box itself is very thick and sturdy. The cardboard stock is nice and hefty and there are even two cloth bags included to draw technology and reputation tiles from. It would have been easy to tell the players to draw these tiles from the box lid or something similar, but the publisher decided to go all the way here.

There are plenty of wooden cubes and discs and as far as I can tell they are just fine. The plastic figures are made out of hard plastic that has a good feel to it. The ship design is a little generic but at least the three ship types (interceptor, cruiser and dreadnought) are very different looking and easy to tell apart even from the other end of the table. So, points for functionality here.



HOW DOES THE GAME PLAY?

Eclipse is played over nine rounds. During each round, players take turn taking actions one action at a time. These actions are:

* explore the galaxy by placing a new hex
* add or remove influence from hexes in play
* research a new technology
* upgrade your ships
* build ships and structures such as monoliths and orbitals
* move ships across hexes
* pass

There are some very interesting game mechanics going on here. First of all, you may take as many actions as you want but the more you take the more money you must pay at the end of the round during upkeep. Secondly, you may take any action as many times as you want. So, if you feel like doing nothing but exploring for a whole round you can do that.

The first player to pass gets to be the next starting player. Players are still allowed to take upgrade, build and move actions even after passing, but they are not quite as powerful. Once all players have passed the round proceeds to the combat phase in which all combats on the board are resolved. After combat players perform upkeep (paying upkeep costs and gaining materials) and cleanup and proceed to the next round.

After nine rounds of play players count up their score and the winner is announced. Points can be gotten from:

* controlling hexes (1-4 VP per hex)
* gaining reputation tiles from battles (1-4 VP per tile, can have 0-5 tiles)
* researching technology (0-15 VP)
* having political relations with other players (0-3 VP)
* making discoveries (2 VP per discovery)
* building monoliths (3 VP per monolith)
* achieving race specific goals

The promised two to three hour playtime is realistic and most games should last that long especially once players are familiar with the rules.



HOW DOES IT FEEL TO PLAY?

Eclipse's gameplay has been refined to be extremely intuitive and fast-paced. This has been achieved by making the game completely language free and by making each action as streamlined and simple as possible.

I think my brother said it best, that when compared to a certain other big space game, there is nothing in Eclipse the players have to read during their turn. No action cards, no technology cards and no player sheets full of text and special abilities. Since everything has been presented with a cohesive set of symbols, understanding what something does is almost instantaneous. Players simply know what their options are instead of having to first read them from somewhere.

The second important part that makes this game so intuitive is that each action the players have has been condensed to be just what its name implies. When choosing to "Build", for example, you simply build two ships or buildings, pay their cost in materials and place them on the map. Or when exploring you take a sector hex, place it on the map and take control of it if you want (as long as it is not guarded by ancients).

There are no superfluous mechanics in Eclipse. Instead of gaming some complex ship movement grid mechanic that might allow you to move your ships if your neighbor does not move his first, you simply choose to move your ships. In Agricola, for example, you generally cannot choose Family Growth action if another player has already chosen it. It makes no sense thematically to not to be able to have a child because your neighbors already did. There is no such nonsense in Eclipse. This is a really important point to me.

I have two pieces of anecdotal evidence to support my case that Eclipse has been made extremely intuitive and easy to play.

Evidence #1: I play a lot of games with my wife. She plays anything from Go to Twilight Imperium to Roads & Boats. However, she has this dislike of learning new games. She might get a little grumpy during the first few games when she has not yet internalized all of the rules. There was no sign of that when we first played Eclipse. She pretty much grasped everything and we played a very exciting two player game. Afterwards, when we discussed it she agreed that Eclipse was somehow far easier to "get" than most other games. She told me she was very happy with my purchase - which was something that had not happened ever before.

Evidence #2: On the day before Christmas eve we played a five player game of Eclipse at my parent's house. My wife, brother and I were joined by my father's friend's two daughters - ages 10 and 14. Neither of them had experience with "modern board games" except for a few games of Survive with us a year ago. Both of them managed to complete the game and the elder daughter even placed second. Both thought it was fun and expressed interest in playing again.



A FEW WORDS ON TECHNOLOGY

The technology system in Eclipse is so genius that I had to cover it separately. Basically, there are three different types of technologies available - military, grid and nano technologies. They are available randomly - a certain number is drawn at the beginning of the game and more added at the end of each round. Cheaper technologies are mode abundant while more expensive ones are rarer.

There is no tech tree as such and any player is allowed to research any technology they want as long as they have the resources to pay for it and the technology is available. However, the more technologies of a single type you research, the cheaper future technologies of that type become. This means that you can always buy those antimatter cannons right off the bat (if they are available) for an immediate advantage but by slowly working your way up the grid technology tree, not only are you paying less for your technologies but you're also getting more of them. This has the added advantage of giving you points because to get good points from technologies you must have lots of them - it does not matter how expensive or high-end they are.

The randomization of available technologies creates an interesting dynamic. No matter how much you like building ships with tachyon drives, those will not always be available to you. Other players may research them first or they may not even come out of the bag (not every technology necessarily does). Not only is this thematic in the sense that you cannot know that by researching "the wheel" you will be able to research "the car" it also creates an interesting replayability element since the order and amount of technologies available changes each game. There are no sure-fire technology paths to take - just like in real life.



WHAT ABOUT LUCK THEN?

Luck's role in Eclipse has already been discussed a lot so I will comment upon it only briefly. For a more in-depth analysis, I suggest reading Antti Autio's excellent post. There are several mechanics in Eclipse that use chance. Most notable of them are reputation tiles, galaxy building and combat.

After each battle the participants get to draw reputation tiles. Depending on how many ships they destroyed they get to draw between one to five tiles and keep one of them. The tiles are worth one to four points and there are more ones and twos than threes and fours. In theory you get better tiles if you battle early and often and blow up a lot of enemy ships. You can only store a certain number of these tiles so after a while battles are not as profitable anymore.

In most cases reputation tiles do not decide the winner, rather it is how often, early and successfully players fights. However, I must admit that there is a small possibility that two players each fight four times. Player A draws four tiles worth points and player B draws four tiles worth 1 point. In this case player A has a decisive 12 point advantage. The chances of something like this happening are very low though and in most cases both players should get around eight points total.

When exploring the galaxy, players draw random hex tiles and place them on the map, slowly forming the galaxy. The hexes can be pretty different, with some having planets, some having ancients (passive enemies that must be defeated before the hex can be taken) and so on. There have been some concerns whether unsuccessful exploration draws can decide the winner. For example, if a player draws only empty sectors with discovery tiles and no planets, can he win? My guess, at this point, is yes.

Contrary to what I thought at first, drawing a sector with an ancient in it is not a bad thing. Surely getting a sector that has the potential of a reputation tile (1-4 VPs), a discovery (2 VPs), sector VPs (1-3 VPs) and some planets is a not bad draw. You will just have to defeat the ancient(s) first for the potential of up to nine victory points. As scores in this game usually seem to be in the 40-50 range, this can be a massive advantage.

Finally there is a lot of dice based combat in Eclipse. Players have a lot of options for affecting their odds in combat by equipping their ships properly, researching technology and building more ships, but in the end whatever you do it is possible to roll twenty ones in succession. It is very likely that better ships will win, but there is always a chance of an upset. Personally I prefer this as it gives the game more drama and story - a single fighter fending off three cruisers armed with plasma missiles - but it may not be everyone's cup of tea.



THOSE PLASMA MISSILES!

Speaking of plasma missiles, this has already been debated to death but I simply could not write this review without touching the issue. Basically, plasma missile is a technology that gives the player who researches it weapons that usually fire first (but only once), do a lot of damage and do not cost any power. This combination makes it easy to build your ships into floating missile platforms with missiles, targeting computers, some power and a drive and nothing else. These kinds of fleets tend to win any battles they participate in as long as other players are not reacting to them properly.

The described problem is this: plasma missiles are too good, or even if they are not too good they change the game dynamic too much because when someone buys them you must equip yourself against them or face annihilation. Now, there are several ways to counter plasma missile fleets, some better than others and if a plasma missile fleet is bearing down on you, better prepare for it. I am not too sure what the actual problem is though - would it be better to have a weapon that does not need to be prepared against? Would anyone research such a weapon?



WHAT ABOUT POLITICS?

The political dimension that is built into Eclipse is pretty light. It basically allows two players who come into contact with each to exchange ambassadors. Each ambassador awards a point and an increase in production of one resource. A player who attacks a player he has exchanged ambassadors with loses the ambassador as well as receives the traitor card worth minus two points. The traitor card is like a hot potato, as in only the player who last broke an alliance gets it. The galaxy has a short memory I guess. That is pretty much all there is to the actual political game system but that does not mean that there is no room for table politics and non-binding promises.



TIME FOR A BOTTOM LINE

Eclipse is very nearly the perfect game as far as I am concerned. It has just the right amount of luck and depth combined with extremely intuitive rules. It also supports a variety of player counts (all of them well too) and plays in a reasonable time. The components are very high quality and the game looks pleasing on the table.

Eclipse is a lot like Settlers of Catan in a sense. It is a very streamlined and intuitive design for its time that is bound to please most gamers out there. Just like Catan though, Eclipse might not appeal to players who prefer their games without any luck or table diplomacy. Unless you identify yourself as one of them, I suggest you immediately try and get a copy of this game - you won't regret it.
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Arthur Rutyna
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Nice review. One thing I will agree with is that the rules and overall flow of the game are very smooth, make sense, and are easy to pick up.
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This game related to Galactic Emperor? They both are space games, use hexes and use the exact same plastic spaceships.
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Jeff A
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Pretty sure not Tibbs, the plastics are just a design that games can choose from.
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Arthur Rutyna
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tibbs2 wrote:
This game related to Galactic Emperor? They both are space games, use hexes and use the exact same plastic spaceships.


Good point. I own Galactic Emperor and enjoyed my 1 play of it. I've also played Eclipse 1 time, and also thought it was pretty good. What I'm trying to figure out is why Eclipse has so much of a bigger following? I guess I just need more plays of both games. Right now, I really don't see a big advantage/disadvantage of 1 game over the other.

Eclipse has action selection, Galactic emperor has role selection. Both mechanisms work fine for me.

Both games have economic mechanics that make sense and are intuitive.

I prefer Galactic Emperor's free roaming of space, instead of the worm hole blocking in Eclipse.

If I recall correctly battles work in a similar manner as well. But in Galactic Emperor you can NOT exterminate any player's home world.

Space exploration seemed less luck dependent in Galactic Emperor. If on your turn you choose to explore in GE in a 4 player game, you get to choose 1 of 5 face up tiles. You got a pretty good chance of getting a decent space region.

Eclipse has more Techs and Alien Races. Not a big deal, Galactic Emperor fans have created Races and more Techs as well. For me, too many techs slow the game down. You have to understand what they do and figure out if you want to build a strategy around them, if you can still get them on your turn.
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Ryan Davis
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Played my first and probably only game on Tuesday. On turn 3, I was the first player to initiate a battle against the aliens. I lost a battle I was a heavy favorite to win because the aliens rolled a bunch of sixes and I rolled a bunch of twos.
Once that happened, all the time and resources I'd spent to build the ship and move to the hex were wasted, and I was thrown way back behind all the other players who got their economies going.
So after turn 3, my game was effectively over because of bad dice rolling and I had to sit there for 2 or 3 more hours knowing I had no chance to win.
It was among the least fun I've ever had playing a game.
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Arthur Rutyna
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ryansdavis wrote:
Played my first and probably only game on Tuesday. On turn 3, I was the first player to initiate a battle against the aliens. I lost a battle I was a heavy favorite to win because the aliens rolled a bunch of sixes and I rolled a bunch of twos.
Once that happened, all the time and resources I'd spent to build the ship and move to the hex were wasted, and I was thrown way back behind all the other players who got their economies going.
So after turn 3, my game was effectively over because of bad dice rolling and I had to sit there for 2 or 3 more hours knowing I had no chance to win.
It was among the least fun I've ever had playing a game.


I can feel your pain. I had a bad start on my first game as well. So I know quite well how it feels wasting the next 3 hours of your life being in a position you have NO way of getting any decent amount of victory points.
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ryansdavis wrote:
So after turn 3, my game was effectively over because of bad dice rolling and I had to sit there for 2 or 3 more hours knowing I had no chance to win.


Sorry to hear you had a bad experience, but I am quite not convinced that your game was "effectively over" at that point. Still, it was a set back I'm sure.
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ryansdavis wrote:
Played my first and probably only game on Tuesday. On turn 3, I was the first player to initiate a battle against the aliens. I lost a battle I was a heavy favorite to win because the aliens rolled a bunch of sixes and I rolled a bunch of twos.
Once that happened, all the time and resources I'd spent to build the ship and move to the hex were wasted, and I was thrown way back behind all the other players who got their economies going.
So after turn 3, my game was effectively over because of bad dice rolling and I had to sit there for 2 or 3 more hours knowing I had no chance to win.
It was among the least fun I've ever had playing a game.


I believe this is what is known as "high risk high reward".

If you want a sure thing, don't choose a strategy that depends on betting everything on a dice roll (or rolls). Or do, but don't imply that it is the game's fault you lost.

If you had won the combat would you be here fervently arguing how great the game is? Would you be right?
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DeePee wrote:
ryansdavis wrote:
So after turn 3, my game was effectively over because of bad dice rolling and I had to sit there for 2 or 3 more hours knowing I had no chance to win.


Sorry to hear you had a bad experience, but I am quite not convinced that your game was "effectively over" at that point. Still, it was a set back I'm sure.

Typo?

I'm guessing from context that you mean:
...but I am quite not convinced that your game was not "effectively over" at that point.
 
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jpwrunyan wrote:
ryansdavis wrote:
Played my first and probably only game on Tuesday. On turn 3, I was the first player to initiate a battle against the aliens. I lost a battle I was a heavy favorite to win because the aliens rolled a bunch of sixes and I rolled a bunch of twos.
Once that happened, all the time and resources I'd spent to build the ship and move to the hex were wasted, and I was thrown way back behind all the other players who got their economies going.
So after turn 3, my game was effectively over because of bad dice rolling and I had to sit there for 2 or 3 more hours knowing I had no chance to win.
It was among the least fun I've ever had playing a game.


I believe this is what is known as "high risk high reward".

If you want a sure thing, don't choose a strategy that depends on betting everything on a dice roll (or rolls). Or do, but don't imply that it is the game's fault you lost.

If you had won the combat would you be here fervently arguing how great the game is? Would you be right?


You're wrong on most counts. I was a clear favorite in the dice battle. My estimate is 75% chance of winning. So it was not "high risk." It was low risk, high penalty, as it turned out.

Second, I didn't choose a strategy that depends on dice. The combat is integral to the game. If you avoid it entirely, you cannot score enough points to win, so you're forced to battle and rely on dice rolls.

Third, I didn't imply it was the game's fault. I said it was bad luck and I was very clear to say it was among the least fun I've had, and not it was one of the worst games I've played.

Fourth, no, I wouldn't be here saying the game was great if I'd won. Winning because I rolled a 6 is nearly as unsatisfying as losing because I rolled a 1.
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ryansdavis wrote:
jpwrunyan wrote:
ryansdavis wrote:
Played my first and probably only game on Tuesday. On turn 3, I was the first player to initiate a battle against the aliens. I lost a battle I was a heavy favorite to win because the aliens rolled a bunch of sixes and I rolled a bunch of twos.
Once that happened, all the time and resources I'd spent to build the ship and move to the hex were wasted, and I was thrown way back behind all the other players who got their economies going.
So after turn 3, my game was effectively over because of bad dice rolling and I had to sit there for 2 or 3 more hours knowing I had no chance to win.
It was among the least fun I've ever had playing a game.


I believe this is what is known as "high risk high reward".

If you want a sure thing, don't choose a strategy that depends on betting everything on a dice roll (or rolls). Or do, but don't imply that it is the game's fault you lost.

If you had won the combat would you be here fervently arguing how great the game is? Would you be right?


You're wrong on most counts. I was a clear favorite in the dice battle. My estimate is 75% chance of winning. So it was not "high risk." It was low risk, high penalty, as it turned out.

Second, I didn't choose a strategy that depends on dice. The combat is integral to the game. If you avoid it entirely, you cannot score enough points to win, so you're forced to battle and rely on dice rolls.

Third, I didn't imply it was the game's fault. I said it was bad luck and I was very clear to say it was among the least fun I've had, and not it was one of the worst games I've played.

Fourth, no, I wouldn't be here saying the game was great if I'd won. Winning because I rolled a 6 is nearly as unsatisfying as losing because I rolled a 1.


Sell the game to me!
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30 minutes per player? Between turns maybe.

This game sucks. Can't wait for it to just go away when the fanboys find another euro with wood cubes ANC cheap Chinese miniatures to drool over.

Vanished Planet is worse but not by much.

Nice review otherwise though.

For $100 there are many other things you can buy to inflect pain on yourself and others.
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maynerd wrote:

Sell the game to me!


Happily!...except it was my friend's copy
 
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Phlegm wrote:
Can't wait for it to just go away when the fanboys find another euro with wood cubes ANC cheap Chinese miniatures to drool over.


Let me know when they find it because I thought that combining wooden and plastic parts together was a stroke of genius - a physical sign of the dawn of a brave new age where American and European design come together to form games better than ever before. I'll be waiting!
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Phlegm wrote:
30 minutes per player? Between turns maybe.

This game sucks. Can't wait for it to just go away when the fanboys find another euro with wood cubes ANC cheap Chinese miniatures to drool over.

Vanished Planet is worse but not by much.

Nice review otherwise though.

For $100 there are many other things you can buy to inflect pain on yourself and others.

30 minutes between turns??? Seriously?
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ryansdavis wrote:
jpwrunyan wrote:
ryansdavis wrote:
Played my first and probably only game on Tuesday. On turn 3, I was the first player to initiate a battle against the aliens. I lost a battle I was a heavy favorite to win because the aliens rolled a bunch of sixes and I rolled a bunch of twos.
Once that happened, all the time and resources I'd spent to build the ship and move to the hex were wasted, and I was thrown way back behind all the other players who got their economies going.
So after turn 3, my game was effectively over because of bad dice rolling and I had to sit there for 2 or 3 more hours knowing I had no chance to win.
It was among the least fun I've ever had playing a game.


I believe this is what is known as "high risk high reward".

If you want a sure thing, don't choose a strategy that depends on betting everything on a dice roll (or rolls). Or do, but don't imply that it is the game's fault you lost.

If you had won the combat would you be here fervently arguing how great the game is? Would you be right?


You're wrong on most counts. I was a clear favorite in the dice battle. My estimate is 75% chance of winning. So it was not "high risk." It was low risk, high penalty, as it turned out.

Second, I didn't choose a strategy that depends on dice. The combat is integral to the game. If you avoid it entirely, you cannot score enough points to win, so you're forced to battle and rely on dice rolls.

Third, I didn't imply it was the game's fault. I said it was bad luck and I was very clear to say it was among the least fun I've had, and not it was one of the worst games I've played.

Fourth, no, I wouldn't be here saying the game was great if I'd won. Winning because I rolled a 6 is nearly as unsatisfying as losing because I rolled a 1.


Please show the calculation for the 75% figure.

When is some crazed maniacal math geek going to put out a spreadsheet for calculating combat odds for this game!?!??
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Great review! I'm excited for the second printing . . . it looks like I'll be excited for a while . . .
 
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ryansdavis wrote:
Played my first and probably only game on Tuesday. On turn 3, I was the first player to initiate a battle against the aliens. I lost a battle I was a heavy favorite to win because the aliens rolled a bunch of sixes and I rolled a bunch of twos.
Once that happened, all the time and resources I'd spent to build the ship and move to the hex were wasted, and I was thrown way back behind all the other players who got their economies going.


As mentioned, you piled your critical early resources into ships and took a chance. You made the choice. You yourself estimated the odds at "75%." What do you expect in this situation, to always succeed? Are you one of those people that thinks 51%+ odds means it happens every time?

BTW, what ships and blueprints were you running? And how many ancients? I can tell you the actual odds.
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Really good review. Well done. I'm seriously interested in this game, now, too.
 
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ParticleMan wrote:
BTW, what ships and blueprints were you running? And how many ancients? I can tell you the actual odds.


I am not the OP but I did have a battle I wondered about the odds of. I went into a battle with the Ancients on round 1 last game and lost. It was not a game-ender (though at the time I thought it was) as I was able to recover and actually win. But what were the odds?

I had two Cruisers from the black race (unmodified) versus one Ancient. I figured four dice rolling for 5/6 against two dice rolling for 6 only was pretty good for me. Then I missed and the Ancients rolled boxcars. The second ship put up a good fight (I debated retreating but stayed) but ultimately only managed one damage to the Ancient.
 
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jsciv wrote:
I had two Cruisers from the black race (unmodified) versus one Ancient. I figured four dice rolling for 5/6 against two dice rolling for 6 only was pretty good for me.


Confused on this. Black race = Orion Hegemony, right? As far as I can tell, their stock cruiser would only get 1 yellow die each. Did you have ion turret or something?

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jsciv wrote:
ParticleMan wrote:
BTW, what ships and blueprints were you running? And how many ancients? I can tell you the actual odds.


I am not the OP but I did have a battle I wondered about the odds of. I went into a battle with the Ancients on round 1 last game and lost. It was not a game-ender (though at the time I thought it was) as I was able to recover and actually win. But what were the odds?

I had two Cruisers from the black race (unmodified) versus one Ancient. I figured four dice rolling for 5/6 against two dice rolling for 6 only was pretty good for me. Then I missed and the Ancients rolled boxcars. The second ship put up a good fight (I debated retreating but stayed) but ultimately only managed one damage to the Ancient.


Good thing neither of your neighbors decided to attack after your failed attempt of the ancients. That would have ended the game for you most likely.
 
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ParticleMan wrote:
jsciv wrote:
I had two Cruisers from the black race (unmodified) versus one Ancient. I figured four dice rolling for 5/6 against two dice rolling for 6 only was pretty good for me.


Confused on this. Black race = Orion Hegemony, right? As far as I can tell, their stock cruiser would only get 1 yellow die each. Did you have ion turret or something?



Oh, my fault. You're right I was two dice at 5/6 in a race to two hits vs two dice at 6 in a race to four hits. blush

This is what happens when I don't have immediate access to documentation.
 
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Neo_1 wrote:
jsciv wrote:
I had two Cruisers from the black race (unmodified) versus one Ancient. I figured four dice rolling for 5/6 against two dice rolling for 6 only was pretty good for me. Then I missed and the Ancients rolled boxcars. The second ship put up a good fight (I debated retreating but stayed) but ultimately only managed one damage to the Ancient.


Good thing neither of your neighbors decided to attack after your failed attempt of the ancients. That would have ended the game for you most likely.


It was a 5p game so I had only one nearby neighbor who had explored to III and then III again. Because I was the warrior-like race people weren't building toward me. But yeah, I did take that into account.
 
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