At a glance: An epic and competitive strategy game of galactic exploration and conquest.
The galaxy is a big place, full of wonders and terrors in near equal measure. You must lead your space-faring civilization among the stars, exploring and colonizing systems while trying to maintain resources. But beware, there are others among the stars, some of whom will need to be dealt with by plasma and ion fire rather than diplomacy.
Eclipse is an epic game of galactic exploration and conflict, putting you in the seat of power of a fledgling empire, and daring you to go forth and conquer. You will uncover lost systems, research technology, and build magnificent fleets of star-ships to keep it all safe. You will also need to use your resources wisely, and be wary of growing too fast too soon, or all could collapse from bankruptcy.
Eclipse is a BIG game, and for it you will need adequate space. You will also need time; though the suggested time seems pretty average, your first game will almost certainly take longer. Once you have a place to play and time to play it, you’ll need to set it up.
Eclipse uses hexagonal playing tiles for the board, ensuring that each time you play the universe will be different. At the beginning of the game, only your starting tiles and the one in the very middle will be in play; during the game as you explore you’ll lay down more until you get an organic galaxy to fight over.
The most elegant thing about Eclipse is the Influence Disc. Each player has a starting number of these discs, laid out on their player mat. Each time they take an action, they use a disc. Each time they take control of a system, they use a disc. As these discs are removed from their player mat, however, a negative number appears, getting larger as each disc is removed. This is the cost of your empire! If you over-extend yourself, you can go into bankruptcy and have to give up systems, or even worse you will simply lose if you cannot repay the debt.
The player mat also houses your unused population. Population is represented by cubes, and is removed to be placed on planets in systems that you take control of with Influence Discs. As they are removed, resource numbers grow larger, representing your workforce generating resources. The more population you have working on planets, the more resources you get each turn to build, research, or pay for your empire.
These two systems interact in a way that will click very quickly as you play, giving a very solid, and even simple, foundation for such an epic game. The actions you take will be things like Explore, to uncover tiles, or Research and Upgrade, to utilize new technologies or to upgrade your star-ships respectively. Each of these actions pave the way to victory points.
The game ends in nine turns, and whomever has the most victory points by the end of the game is declared the victor. You get victory points by taking control of hexes, by winning or even just participating in battles, by making discoveries, and by researching technology. Thus, the game isn’t simply a battle game: you’ll have to be both pragmatic and cunning to find your quickest route to victory, and sometimes this may be without firing a single shot at another player.
The simple foundation of the game is built upon by the myriad technologies and upgrades for your empire and ships, and of course by the dynamic board, and it can seem to be a lot to take in at first. Soon, generally after the first turn, things will click into place, and it becomes very intuitive.
The game is a big one, and it requires a bit of effort to play and to develop strategies. Though it is intuitive once you make this effort, it is not for anyone looking for a quick and casual experience. The rulebook is a very well designed document, presenting everything in an intelligent manner and never overloading the reader with information without providing nice examples and pictures. Each part of the game isn’t complex in of itself, it is when these pieces interact that things begin to take on extra dimensions.
The game takes a very common theme and game style, that of the 4x style of simulation games, and makes it both engaging and best of all sleek. While most games of this sort are bloated monstrosities that could literally take twelve hours to play, this one is a lean and elegant system that rewards pragmatism. Coupled with a very sparing amount of down-time, I believe this to be the most original of epic space games.
The game looks wonderful set up on a table. The pieces are hardy and well designed, the board itself swells and protrudes in an organic shape echoing a body of stars, and everything is marked in a manner to allow for fast play without much need for the rulebook after your first game.
This is the kind of game that I search for when making a new purchase. It is brimming with theme, and this theme is supported by a rule set so intelligently designed that I cannot think of a single vague game situation. It is not a casual game by any stretch, but neither is it overwrought or bloated. If you want to experience an epic game of civilization creation, exploration, and warfare, this is currently the best game on the market to do that with.