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Subject: Eclipse: Skirmish (A variant for 2 or 3 Players) rss

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Alexander DeSouza
Netherlands
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Introduction Eclipse: Skirmish is a variation to the base game intended to avoid a run-away leader scenario in games with just a few Players [which I've found to be an issue in 2 Player games with my partner]. It is recommended that Players select from only the Terran Factions to preserve symmetrical starting conditions. If alien species are used, the Planta, Descendents of Draco, and Hydran Progress should all be omitted from the available choices due to the reduced number of Sector and Technology Tiles used in this variant.

Main Concepts The game proceeds as normal with the following exceptions.

1 Only Sector I and Sector II hexes may ever be explored. Sector III hexes are not used in Eclipse: Skirmish games. The confines of this smaller galaxy configuration forces Players into exploring towards their opponents' Sectors, placing them into competition for Resources more quickly.

2 Technology Tiles are drawn at random according to the number of Players as in the base game, however the number is slightly reduced: 8 (+4 per Round) in a 2 Player game, and 12 (+6 per Round) in a 3 Player game.

3 Finally, in Eclipse: Skirmish there are only two Ship types available for construction: Interceptors and Starbases (in the standard amounts of 8 and 4 of each, respectively). These Ships function identically as described in the base game. Cruisers and Dreadnaughts cannot be built in Eclipse: Skirmish games. As a result, the Orion Hegemony start with 2 Interceptors rather than a single Cruiser. As this gives them more movement options than other species from the start, they begin with fewer Material Resources, 2 instead of 5. Related, the Ancient Cruiser Discovery Tile should instead be utilized as an Ancient Interceptor Discovery Tile.

Aside from the modifications listed above, the game is otherwise unchanged.

In our experience Eclipse: Skirmish provides a fast-paced experience for games between just a few Players. Competition for Resources tends to occur quickly, and because Interceptors are inexpensive to build and can only be minimally upgraded, combat tends to be frequent and unforgiving. However, for those same reasons, even Players that lose several Sectors in quick succession can often quickly rebuild a sizeable fleet with which to mount their counter-attacks.

Feedback on this variant is welcome.
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Jim Richardson

Pennsylvania
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My immediate feedback is that Starbases should crush interceptor fleets, and barring that, that Neutron Bombs may too heavily decide victory.
 
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LucCros
Canada
Oakville
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Did you find that the first person able to build and upgrade their Dreads and Cruisers sufficiently dominated the games? Or other reason why they were excluded?
 
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Alexander DeSouza
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@Jim Richardson Starbases are strong in this variant, but Players can only ever build a maximum of 4, and they're immobile. Those limitations, in the few times we've played this variant, made them difficult to deploy really effectively. If stacked in a single hex, that hex can easily be avoided; if spread out among multiple hexes, then the Starbases are able to pin a only single opponent Interceptor by themselves.

@Luc Cross The results of several different games led us to creating this variant. In one, as you guessed, an early Ancient Cruiser Discovery Tile find on my part and poor hex draws on my partner's part led to me being able to take the Galactic Center by Round 4. The subsequent Resource glut I held as a result removed all semblance of competition from the game thereafter. We removed Cruisers and Dreadnaughts because of the significant number of upgrades the individual Ships can carry. Optimizing Interceptors is comparatively more tricky.

Reducing the size of the galaxy was an idea we added so that defensively minded Players would be forced into confrontation. While a more isolationist/defensive strategy is still a viable option, I personally find that the game shines with more inter-Player conflict, thus the smaller galaxy almost guarantees that Players will need to battle each other in order to grab enough VP to win.
 
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Steve
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What starting ship do you give the Orions?
 
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demonhanz demonhanz
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This sounds really fun, sort of like a lite version of Eclipse. I imagine you can finish a game in about an hour or so.

I'm going to try to test this out this week.

Thanks for coming up with this!
 
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Alexander DeSouza
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@Steve The Orion Hegemony should start with 2 Interceptors rather than a single Cruiser. This gives them more movement options than other species off the get-go, so they additionally start with fewer Material Resources, 2 instead of 5.

I've appended the original post with this information as well; thanks!
 
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Steve
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I hope to give this a go soon, since I live with my two regular Eclipse opponents (my sons).
 
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Alexander DeSouza
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We've tried to play test by taking different strategies across multiple plays, so I'm eager to hear how others fare with this variant. Whatever feedback you have after your own play-throughs is always welcome!
 
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Jan-Willem van Leeuwen
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Sounds interesting, I would like to try this

I think in terms of strategy some things will change:
- It will be hard to get any significant points from anything but battles, since points from technology tiles, discovery tiles and hexes will be (much) lower.
- It will be very hard to conquer the center with only interceptors. If you try to, you might win but will still lose a lot and become very vulnerable, I believe.

In terms of alien species, I think that with the focus on battles and interceptors, Orion and Mechanema should be strong, and Eridani weak. I agree that this would probably be most fun if played only with Terrans.
 
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Steve
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I just played this 3 player with my two sons.

It played very well indeed. As suggested, it resulted in a tight game, and came down to the very last die roll (my 6 plasma interceptors, rolling 24 dice, hitting on 6s, needing 6s to hit and needing 4 hits) to take the galactic centre.

One rule blip came up. We drew a cruiser discovery, so we just threw it back and drew again. We found power constraints a major difficulty with the interceptors, but that just added to the fun. We all scored within 8 points of one another, meaning whoever held the galactic centre on the final turn won.

As with most 3-player games with high conflict, there is scope for king-making, and there was a lot of shifting of positions in the final two turns, but no greater than other similar games.

That final battle? My plasma interceptors rolled 5 6s, destroyed the Mechanema starbases and interceptor, neutron bombed the system and took the victory. A real stand-up dice roll moment enjoyed by all 3 of us. Thanks for posting this enjoyable variant!
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Alexander DeSouza
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@Steve In 3 I had mentioned substitution of an Interceptor for a Cruiser with that Discovery Tile; though it sounds like you three came up with a very sensible workaround. Thanks for the feedback, I'm glad to hear yous had fun with it =)
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Steve
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Oh yeah! Missed that.
 
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Glen Davis
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I was thinking that in order to get straight in to the exciting bits how about starting this variant with the whole galaxy explored, minus the six starting hexes. Starting with the last player choose which home space to start in then fill in the rest with alien home worlds.
To speed up play even more and increase strategy and focus you could draw 15-20 tech per player before the game starts then don't draw any more for the rest of the game.
If you combine both of these you'd get one player getting the best board position but the other player getting first dibs on the entire tech tree.
Thoughts?
 
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Jason Romein
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This sounds like a fun variant, and I'll see if I can give it a spin next time we have only 2 or 3 players. However, limiting the player to only one interceptor design seems like a missed opportunity. In a 2 or 3 player game, you have 3 or 4 other piece colors sitting around and doing nothing. And with this variant, you also have two full ship blueprints doing nothing...

Maybe you could use the unused colors to represent different interceptor designs? Then use the cruiser template with only the 'interceptor' spaces to allow a different design. That way you can populate fleets with slightly different ships. For instance, you could have a missile boat and a dogfighter, without gimping the design of your whole fleet.

You could also use the dreadnought space in the same way, if you wanted even greater variety (and so long as you have the pieces for it).
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Played this with three players and enjoyed it. I have a few ideas on how it might be improved:


1. Remove the Traitor card. Instead, if you ever betray a neighbor, in addition to returning ambassadors as normal, those two players are now forbidden from forming a trade agreement with eachother in the future.

Reason: The Traitor card disincentivizes conflict. Players should expect to attack and be attacked regularly when playing this variant. Trading essentially becomes an optional temporary boost to the early game.


2. Add an extra (empty) upgrade space to both interceptors and starbases.

Reason: While the difficulty of having only a single empty space on interceptors was interesting, just a bit more flexibility makes for more varied builds and battles. Adding a tile space for starbases is simply to keep them overpowered versus interceptors.


Thoughts?
 
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Mateus Furquim
Brazil
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Quote:
1. Remove the Traitor card. Instead, if you ever betray a neighbor, in addition to returning ambassadors as normal, those two players are now forbidden from forming a trade agreement with eachother in the future.


But you cannot use ambassadors while playing with less than four players.

Quote:
2. Add an extra (empty) upgrade space to both interceptors and starbases.


I haven't played this variation yet (will try it in a couple of hours). But by the reading of it, it does sound a good idea to have an extra upgrade space. Or even give an external anything to it, such as an additional hull external to the upgrade slots.
 
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Mateus Furquim
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I've played more than four times this variant, with two and three players.
It is really fun to play and fast. It is good to practice playing eclipse.

I tried changing the blueprint of the interceptor ship by removing the drive and considering that the ship can move one hex naturally (the same way each ship has one 'hull' naturally). But didn't like that much.

The four-only spaces on the interceptor is challenging to make a good ship, but yout opponent is also having the same difficulties.

This skirmish variant is a go.
 
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