I really enjoy this game and am interested in its expansions, upgrades, and latest release. I hardly ever say that about a game.
Designer: Touko Tahkokallio
Artist: Ossi Hiekkala
Artist: Sampo Sikiö
Game Type: 4X (eXploitation, eXploration, eXpansion, eXtermination)
Game Type: Civilization building
Game Type: Variable Player Powers
Game Type: Tile Placement
Initial Year of Release: 2011
Age Range: 14+
Expected Playtime: 60-180 (30 minutes per person)
Number of Players: 2-6
Theme and What is it?
Following a terrible period of war, most species worked hard to ensure peace, or at least, be prepared for a future conflict. Space is vast, but resources are slim. When the different civilizations encroach on each other, problems can happen. They are not, however, unprepared. Some have specialized in certain areas.
In Eclipse your species will explore space, expand your population in new areas, exploit resources, and possibly exterminate others in order to succeed. You will need to build your civilization by gaining resources, researching technology, and building ships and structures to hold your ground. Watch out for neighbors because you might just want to go ahead and form an alliance before things get ugly.
Wow, where to begin? Is this a worker placement game? Yes. Is it a resource management game? Yes. Is it a wargame? Yes. Is it engine building? Definitely, and quite literally. It is so much packed into a big box of goodness.
There are three areas you can focus your population’s work habits into. You might want them to research science, generate income, or mine resources. The more people working in these areas, the more you gain.
You also have influence in Eclipse. These tokens are used both as workers for the worker placement aspect of the game as well as indicating which corners of the universe you are holding onto.
Influence is an interesting animal in this game. You can use as many of these as you desire, but it will come at a cost. You don’t want to overspend the income your population brings in or you can become bankrupt. If you overextend yourself, there are nasty consequences.
Another part of the game is obviously war. You have all these neat little ships to go into battle with. However, you might want to improve them before trying to take over the universe. For this, you need to upgrade them. For upgrades, you need technology.
In order to research new technologies for your ships, you must have enough of your population investing in science. Once you have researched certain drives, weapons, or other interesting ship technology, you can finally upgrade your ships.
Arghhh, but to upgrade your ships you need influence and to have influence you need money! Furthermore, if you want to build the ships, you need materials! So much balance!
Well, it is clear you need things to do things in this game. So, where do you get these ‘things?’ You explore, of course! Sometimes, while exploring, you can waltz right into a corner of space and start to gather resources. Other times, you may be faced with ancient technology that must be defeated first. Or, worse yet, you may be squeezed up between races and need to fight for more space.
Here we are, digging down into all the minutia when we need to draw back and take a look at the winning conditions of this game. Victory points can be gained through holding influence over sections of space, entering into diplomacy, fighting in battles, and researching an abundance of technologies. There are a few little other ways to gain points but we are going to focus on the big picture.
I’d say the heart of all the mechanisms is worker placement. This is because all actions are taken with influence tokens. You are not blocked by other players in how many or which actions to take. It all comes down to whether or not you can pay the people in your civilization for what they do. Dare I say it even adds a bit of push your luck?
When you don’t want to spend any more influence on taking actions, you can pass. Other players may continue. This might later put you into a bad situation. Fret not, Eclipse has a provision for that. Even after you have passed, you may react by building, moving, or upgrading your ships…granted you are going to spend the influence for it.
Let me mention that not all technology is available to be researched eventhough, you always have access to the ship upgrades. Each round allows for a number of technology tiles based on the number of players to come out into the research zone. This ensures that all races do not proceed at the same rate.
I was so excited to be able to review such a highly rated game. Yet, it didn’t look like a game I would normally pick out. I tend to think space games look a little bland and dark. The ships looked too much like a dollar store pack of plastic toys for little boys.
So, in essence, this looked very much like a really nerdy guy’s game. Before you check back to see who wrote this article, yes, I’m a woman reviewing the game.
On the other hand, I like games with lots of little bits and tracks to move up on. While the board looked unappealing and the colors a nightmare, the complexity of the playing boards drew me in. Sometimes, I just want to sink my teeth into a big beefy complicated game. Besides, this game was so highly rated on Board Game Geek it must be good!
Then, I sat down with the 32 page rule book. Oh my, was it a drag. It is not that it isn’t written well, but that there is so much to it! So, I put it aside. Then I came back. Then I put it aside. I did this so many times the rule book got all wrinkly and somewhat tired of me. Just learn already or get off the pot! Hmmm, I think I might have got that saying incorrectly.
Anyway, I spent time watching videos on how to play and finally jumped into a game. It was slow and bogged in referencing rules. We made mistakes and forgot to do important things. It was a bit of a muddle. Even so, I could begin to see a beautiful game starting to emerge.
Game Build Quality
I need to start out by saying that I think when they designed this game they had to balance the cost of production with the sheer amount of things in the box. Is it overproduced? No, I don’t know so. Could it have a few things improved upon? Yes, but maybe at a price people are not willing to pay.
Everything in the box is adequate and nicely done. I can’t complain about anything. However, I can list some things which might have made it better.
The first thing I would have liked to have had are hard game boards with recesses for all the little pieces. It would make game play easier, but I think it would have been much too expensive. There are so many population cubes, influence tokens, ship upgrades, and technology on a board that you have to tip-toe around your game pieces or employ tweezers. Well, maybe not tweezers, but…you know what I mean. Disrupting the board can be a real problem.
Another thing I would have liked are unique ships in each color. I know the expansions help out in this area, but I just think that would be more fun to play with. Again, that would have driven up the base game cost a big high.
Finally, the supply board as well as player boards a quite congested. I’d like bigger boards, but I also know that would reduce table space. This game already eats normal sized tables for a snack. It would be fairly unreasonable to ask for bigger player boards. However, I can still wish.
The bottom line is that everything is good quality. I have no complaints about all the standard parts in the box. I only have a wish list of things I’d like to see in upgrades.
There is very little art in Eclipse. There are 12 different races and each one has a different image on their playing board. I can’t say any of them float my boat.
The background art on the hex pieces and player boards is okay. Nothing stands out as stellar. Mostly everything is functional, and it is easy to understand the iconography.
The whole color palate in the game is a bit unappealing to me. I’m not sure why they chose the shades of orange, pink, and brown for resources. They don’t seem to fit with the rest of the color schemes.
Here is the fun part of this review because I get genuinely excited about playing this game again. The excitement starts while actually playing a game. About halfway through you begin to see new things and strategies you want to try. Even though the game isn’t even finished, I’m plotting what I might do next time.
It is interesting too that even the best thought strategies can be interrupted by unexpected actions of other players. I like this. For instance, I hung back in a game while two races got into a real tit-for-tat issue. It took their focus off my own little plans.
However, my expansion and building plans would not have been successful had someone begun to attach me. This is because I didn’t spend resources on buttressing my military and defenses. I could have easily been overtaken. In the end, I won only because others were too busy fighting.
Each time you play Eclipse, you will need to adopt a different strategy. That is what makes this game fun. Sometimes it is because of what kind of things you might find or not find while exploring. This also might be affected by your starting player powers. At the end of the day, it really comes down to who you are playing with and what kind of strategy they employ.
I really enjoy customizing my ships. There are interceptors, cruisers, dreadnoughts, and starbases. I like how different races start with different kinds of ship strengths and starting technologies. I like that the building costs are different as well.
Combat isn’t the most fun for me because of the dice rolling aspect. However, the upgrades really mitigate the outcomes. It feels so good to throw on better electron computers, hulls, cannons, missiles, and shields. It is just so satisfying to completely out gun another ship.
It also appeals to me that combat is not the entire goal of Eclipse. There are only so many places you can gain victory points from battle, so it does not behoove you to be warmongering barbarians. It matters when you want more resources or to be able to control more areas of space, but it is not the central theme. I like how they have done that in Eclipse.
Age Range & Weight
This game is listed for ages 14 and up. I would say that it depends on the 14-year-old. This can be a long game with subtleties and complexities.
I think it takes a good gamer time to grow into this game. I would not recommend getting this for a 14-year-old showing interest in board games. I would say it is for a 14-year-old who is experienced with board games.
This is an awesome game with great replayability. I love the 4X aspect of this game. It is the kind of game I like to pull out and hunker down with for a long afternoon.
I recommend this game if you like 4X and can invest some up front learning time. Once you understand the game it will move along at a good pace. After all, it should run about 30 minutes per player as long as you don’t have the overthinkers.
At first, I thought this was a nerdy-guy game but I really enjoy it! Once you get past its looks, and focus on the development of your race, it becomes immersive and interesting.
There are a couple of provisions you need to make for this game. You will need a large table space and somewhere free of young children and pets. A bump to the table can be catastrophic!
I really enjoy this game and am interested in its expansions, upgrades, and latest release. I hardly ever say that about a game. In fact, the only other game I’ve blinged out is Viticulture and Tuscany. I’d recommend getting Eclipse if you can find a copy!
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