Eclipse Review

“The best things in life are beyond money; their price is agony and sweat and devotion.”

Description from the Manufacturer

Despite the many years of peace the galaxy has known since the Terran-Hegemony War, tension and discord have begun to fester once more among the seven major spacefaring species. The Galactic Council seems doomed to fail. Old alliances have been shattered, and new treaties of convenience are being hastily forged in secret. A confrontation between the spacefaring superpowers seems inevitable. The only question is if the shadows of war eclipse the galaxy, which faction will rise victorious to establish its rule?

Eclipse is a massive, operatic game of exploration, expansion, and galactic conquest for two to six players. As the seven major spacefaring species brace for conflict, you must devise and enact a far-reaching strategy that will ensure your empire is the one that ultimately emerges strongest from the battles that appear destined to reshape the galaxy.

As you vie for dominance, you must balance your empire’s defenses, research, exploration, and economy. You will want to advance as far as possible in every direction, but with your limited time and resources, you will need to pursue only those advances that best suit your strategy—even as you’re forced to adapt to the complications caused by your opponents and the chaos of discovery.

Playing Time

60-200 Minutes

Number of Players

2-6

Best With

4 or 6 Players

Complexity Rating

3.68 out of 5

One of the very first “grown-up” games I played, shortly after High School, was a great space fighting board game called Twilight Imperium.  It was a bit clunky, the rules a touch convoluted, but it was a lot of fun, in particular at a time in my life where playing a random board game until 4 in the morning was something my body could do (ah… the good ol’ days).  So when I’d heard that someone had created a game similar to Twilight Imperium, but that was far superior, of course I was intrigued.

And they weren’t wrong.  The games are incredibly similar, so much so that I’m kind of surprised that lawsuits haven’t been filed between the two companies.  But Eclipse takes everything Twilight does, and makes marked improvements over the “original” game.

In Eclipse, each player selects (or is randomly assigned) an alien race.  Each race plays very differently, with different strengths and weaknesses.  You them begin space exploration, resource management, and technological research to expand your empire, and earn more victory points than your enemies.  If that sounds at all intriguing, then you will love this game.  It is a complex game, one that takes about an hour to teach, and a couple of hours (depending on how many players there are) to finish.

But it is a blast!  If you’ve ever wanted a game that simulates space war, then this is it.  The race for technology, the ship customizations, the random encounters with ancient aliens, it all makes for an incredibly satisfying game.  This gets regular play on our game nights, because despite its minor flaws, it is monumentally fun.

Things I Loved About Eclipse

With the many different races, and the many different ways to gain victory points, there are many, many paths to victory.  Don’t want to fight someone?  Built monoliths.  Prefer exploration?  Seal off your hexes.  Warmonger?  Then have at it, you can invade to your heart’s content.  I love games that have multiple paths and strategies, and this game has that in spades.

Because of all those different paths to victory, the game is very replay-able.  Sure, that might not be an actual “word”, but you get my drift.  You can play the game in a completely different style each time, and with the giant mix of races to choose from (especially with the excellent expansions) no two games feel the same.

Speaking of expansions, I really love the way they handled the expansions they have created for this game.  Rather than a giant, singular add-on to the game that drastically alters everything (often for the worse), Eclipse wisely included a huge number of small expansion rules, each independent and optional from the others.  So you can pick and choose which expansion rules to include in your game, making each play through more custom and unique.

The technology research is loads of fun.  Most of my games are spent pouring over the different available technologies, and planning how to best implement them, and in what order.

The combat is great.  Mostly because, you can customize your ships.  That’s right, instead of having a set of default ships, you can completely customize your three different ship types.  One of my fondest memories, was when a friend decided to invade my empire.  But because of how I had laid out my defenses, it took him several turns to get to my main fleet for the big fight.  During those turns, I was able to customize my ships to counter his incoming attack, and he was easily defeated, despite having a much larger fleet.

Things I Hated About Eclipse

The game is really fun with more players, but towards the end of the game as each player has more and more moving parts to their turn, the downtime between turns can become brutal.  This is not a great game for impatient players.  Or indecisive ones.

There are a ton of pieces to this game, and setting up and tearing down is a bit of an ordeal.  Expect at least 15 minutes to get set up (and that’s on the low end) and once the game is over, it can be a mess to put back together and fit into the box.

Luck does factor heavily into the combat, which involves a lot of dice rolling.  If you hate the luck factor in your games, you will likely not enjoy the combat in Eclipse.

Speaking of combat, often times it feels as though the players who embroil themselves in a war, end up both losing.  While the combat is fun, and it can be tempting to just out and out attack your neighbor, you really need to make sure you are considering the why of your attacks.  If it is to gain a good amount of victory points (by seizing unprotected monoliths or planets), then go for it.  But if not, you are probably handing the game to one of the other players.

Final Thoughts

I love Eclipse.  If you hadn’t figured it out from the Starship Troopers quote at the beginning of this review, I love sci-fi, and epic sci-fi war is one of my favorite genres of fiction.  This game scratches that itch.  It has a lot in common with games like Through the Ages, where you need to build your economic engine and resources to build your space fleet to explore and expand even further.  The game also has a great in-game mechanic to account for the bureaucratic inefficiencies that come with running a giant space empire.

All in all, I’d be hard pressed to think of a better sci-fi empire game.  This is definitely one of our favorites, and while the pieces can be a bit fiddly, and there is most definitely a learning curve to the game, it is well worth the effort to learn.  Ever since my first play, I’ve loved this game, and enjoy it each time my group revisits it.

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