Eclipse is a big bold game about developing galactic empires by growing an economy, exploring the galaxy to find other planets which can be exploited for resources, and space combat. Though a game can be won without combat, and combat can be expensive in terms of resources, it is almost certainly going to happen – apart from which it is fun. This said, ultimately it is necessary to get that economy running, you’ll need it to build and upgrade the warships.
As the producers say,
“In each game of Eclipse, you take control of a vast civilization, competing for success against your rivals. On each game round, you can expand your civilization by exploring and colonizing new areas, researching technologies, and building spaceships to wage war with. Will you pursue science and technological advancement or make the galaxy bleed beneath your massive armies?”
I need to say that Eclipse is big. There is a mass of components. You will need a big table, and you will need a few hours. It is best with four to six players and factor in around an hour per player, maybe a bit less if everyone is familiar. Also factor that the game does take a fair bit of time to set up. Jiffy bags are going to be your friend here, they will aid a great deal in set up and take down and in storage.
On the surface it is simple. There are nine rounds, each round players take it in turns to take actions. Players have a choice between six different actions and they can take as many different actions as they want, or can afford. As I said, managing and developing the economy of your empire is essential. The six actions are:
- Explore - Allows the player to draw a hex tile and place it on the table, ideally connecting it to a hex he controls. Population can then be moved to newly discovered planets, or maybe new technology will be discovered or victory points gained.
- Influence - Moving around influence discs on the board. This allows for expansion but can have an economic or population cost. Also used for limited moving of capital ships.
- Research - Spending resources to develop stuff, perhaps an upgrade for a ship or a new technology. There are three research tracks, each with its own benefits, and the more one is researched the cheaper associated items are, but beware, you’ll need things from more than one track.
- Upgrade - Upgrade ship components. Add missiles, plasma cannons, power units, shields and the rest.
- Build - Build new ships and starbases. With the right research there are other things that can be built too.
- Move - Move ships, move to an empty hex to claim it, move to an occupied one to attack your enemies.
After all of these have been completed, there are two more phases to a round:
- Combat - Any and all combat is resolved. Combat always happens if there are opposing ships in the same hex. Combat is resolved with dice, it is a quick process and of course ship upgrades increase the chance of success in defeating enemies.
- Resource Reconciliation - All the above actions must be paid for. Production of resources also happens at this point. Remember I said Eclipse is an economic game, this is where it can hurt. Overspending will result in problems, so it is vitally important to get that economic engine running. Of course the devil is in the detail, and there is a lot of detail and a lot of possible options.
Eclipse really is far too big to go into all the options and strategies, but I’ll mention one that is important, diplomacy. Diplomacy is possible, entering into a peace deal with a neighbour, sending population which can free up resources and so on, and of course such deals can be broken. This adds to the interaction in the game which otherwise is simply combat.
Beyond all this there is a mass going on in any game and a lot to look out for, for a start keep an eye on opponents, if they get ahead combined action may well be needed. One final tip, stay flexible, react to what becomes available, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
I could add more, I could go on all day, I’d still not do Eclipse justice. It really is that big!
This is a high production value game with good quality components. I could nit-pick, the ships could be painted, the amount of cubes and other things on some boards can if nudged cause a problem, but, these are nothing many other games do not have.
The counters and the boards are all on good and solid stock, they are all well printed and thematic, the other components are equally good. The rule book is well illustrated and well written, with good examples and very well laid out. The whole game looks fantastic.
There are numerous expansions. None are necessary and the game is pretty big as it is and has enough going on and enough variety without the expansions. But, and this needs little or no saying, anyone who gets into Eclipse is likely to want to add to the joy with some extra goodies.
Eclipse - Final Thoughts
Ultimately, Eclipse is an economic engine game with a need to pay attention to resources, technology and wealth. It is these that are the heart of the game, it is why exploration is necessary, it is why growth of an empire is necessary, and it is why you will need to build those warships to defend.
Eclipse is a victory point game, at the end the player with the most victory points wins. There are numerous ways to gain victory points, through research, through development, through expansion, through economic growth and through battle. Winning battles is a good way to gain victory points, it is also a good way to push back an opponent, but beware, it is not going to take away what they have already achieved victory points or technology wise.
One other thing on battles, each player can customise their ships, giving then bigger guns, better defence, higher power or speed, missiles and more. This is a really great aspect of the game, it creates an arms race which will keep everyone on their toes and force players to balance their economic plans with the need to upgrade their ships.
There is a fair degree of randomness in the game, not just in victory points from battles, but what is found through exploration, what technology that might be available to develop and more. To some it might feel that there is too much randomness, to others it is simply something to take into account and plan for. It does mean that players need to keep flexible and react to what becomes available and make the most of that. I think it fair to say that after a few plays it becomes easier plan for the random.
Eclipse is best with the alien races. It gives the game a slight asymmetric feel because each race is different, and has different strengths and advantages. This means that each empire will develop in slightly different ways and makes the game a lot more interesting and add to the potential different paths to victory.
There is a lot going on in Eclipse, but all of it is pretty simple, and fairly easy to pick up. The trick is in weighing up the many options at any given point in play. Ultimately, Eclipse is an unashamedly high production value, economic engine Euro game with the added bonus of exploration, combat, and customisable warships.
In my book this makes for a near perfect combination.