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Board Game Resource Review: Eclipse

In All, Eclipse, Reviews by Zach Hillegas6 Comments

Eclipse Review

The deep, dark blackness of space is calling your name. Out there, in the vast, starlit expanse, lie the worlds that will encompass your future empire. The galaxy is calling your name, and it is up to you to explore its untamed horizons, but you are not alone in your endeavor. Other civilizations, some human, some alien, also contend for supremacy over the wide regions of space, and not only that, but the bygone remnant of an ancient alien civilization lies in wait, ready to oppose anybody who stumbles across their scattered remains. How will you ensure your victory over the galaxy? Will you research advanced technology and crush other civilizations with your scientific prowess, or will you create an indomitable military, customizing your fleet of ships to be as deadly and efficient as possible? Will you vow for peaceful isolation, and stay far away where other life can’t reach you, or will you engage in diplomacy, teaming up with allies and stomping your enemies together? All these choices and more are yours to make in Eclipse.

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Eclipse, 2012’s epic, spacefaring 4X game, is no joke. Designed by Touko Tahkokallio and published by Asmodee/Lautapelit.fi, Eclipse is the game that tries to do everything at once, and, unbelievably, succeeds. Eclipse has you forging your own path as you build your space empire. Players will gather resources, manage an economy, explore the deep reaches of space, research technology, build a military, and take part in diplomatic relations with other players in their quest to rule the galaxy. Eclipse is a big game, and although I will try, it’s hard for me to believe that even a 7,000+ word review could begin to cover its massive depth. But, here goes…

Gameplay

How do you play the game? Is it a fun experience? How much interaction is there between the players? Is there very much luck involved? Will it take forever to to learn and teach?

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Depth

How much strategy is involved? Is there a sense of variety and balance? Does the game play well no matter how many players there are? How long does it take to play?

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Look and Feel

Is the game aesthetically pleasing? Are the components made out of quality material, or do they feel cheap? Is the rulebook well-designed and easy to read? How well is theme integrated into the game?

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Value

Is it a game you can play over and over? Are there expansions available for the game, and if so, are they necessary? Does the amount of the content in the box justify the price?

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Conclusion

It took a behemoth of a review to cover the behemoth of a game that is Eclipse. Eclipse attempts to do it all, and in just about every case, it succeeds. It introduces varied, complex mechanics and simplifies them enough to make the game playable in a (relatively) modest amount of time, while being easily teachable to newcomers.

The game is ripe with strategic possibility, and is designed in such a way that will challenge you to take a new approach every game; you’ll truly feel like you’re leading a galactic civilization as you make choices  that vary between exploring, invading, researching, building, or engaging in diplomacy. The game is mostly well balanced, save for a controversial upgrade part which even today inspires heated debates. The game will be won by player skill, despite the fact that luck plays a larger role than what would be expected in a game with this weight. The luck of the draw that’s connected to several mechanics might be a turn-off to players who aren’t savvy enough to retool their strategies should something unexpected occur.

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Aesthetically, Eclipse hits all the right notes, if not for the small exception of the plastic ships, which leave something to be desired. Nonetheless, the artwork, components, and overall feel of Eclipse feels like something that’s premium grade, fitting for a title that’s on the more expensive end of the spectrum. In this case, the game is worth the money. With nearly endless replay potential, thanks to both mechanics and depth of strategy, the game has potential of maintaining a very long shelf life for most gamers, and will be enhanced even more by its plethora of expansionary content.

Overall, there is a reason that Eclipse ranks among the top ten highest rated board games—it’s just well-made in nearly every aspect, and condenses something that should be more complex into a package that’s accessible even to newcomers of the hobby. Eclipse is not without its flaws, but in the end of the day, it’s such a good game that I find myself dismissing them. This one, for all intents and purposes, is a winner.

YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF…

  • You enjoy 4X games
  • You like games where you have a strong “presence” on the board
  • You like diplomacy, negotiations, and backstabbing
  • Your dream job is a spaceship customizer
  • You enjoy games that can be played both aggressively and non-aggressively
  • You like 70s space movies
  • You like games that tell a different story every time you play them
  • You’re looking for a good space game
  • You like resource management/economic engine building

YOU WON’T LIKE THIS GAME IF…

  • You have a small table
  • You like games that focus tightly on one specific mechanic or style
  • You don’t like aggression
  • You find yourself easily frustrated by the luck of the draw
  • You’re looking for a combat system that doesn’t use dice
  • You don’t like dealing with a million components
  • You don’t like committing to games that could potentially be very long
About the Author

Zach Hillegas

Zach is an avid tabletop gamer, and he created Board Game Resource out of his love for the hobby, and his desire to see more people come into it. When he's not writing for or managing BGR, Zach might be hanging out with cats, hiking a mountain, or spending time with his lovely wife. Zach is currently studying for a degree in Business Management. Zach has also enjoys creating digital character art. You can check out his gallery here, or follow him on Instagram at @artworkbyzach!

Comments

  1. “The game is ripe with strategic possibility, and is designed in such a way that will challenge you to take a new approach every game”

    That is not true, in my opinion.

    If you won’t focus on military – you’ll loose, plain and simple. These “new approaches” arise from fortunate (or unfortunate) tiles draws, that’s all there is.

    1. Author

      To an extent, I agree, but even if you focus on military every game, there are other components to your strategy that will make or break your game. Should the game get aggressive, you’ll have to figure out if you want to be offensive, if you’re going to turtle up, if you’re going to protect your own section of space, or wait for someone’s weakness and overtake them. You have to decide what kind of ships to use, and how many. Even if you’re doing strong military every game, just one change can completely change the way that you approach things. Buying a wormhole generator, for example, will open all kinds of doors you never would have had before.

      I also think, though, that it really comes down to the group. I have no doubt that, with a competitive min/maxing type group, that things would get pretty offensive no matter what; everyone’s going to have to put something into their ships. This is even true in casual play, though to a lesser extent. I think the game is interesting because it allows you to specialize in certain areas, but you can’t really completely neglect any given mechanic either.

      In any case, thanks for voicing your thoughts!

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  3. I completely agree about plasma missiles. Our group ‘discovered’ this strategy recently. One player was being hard pressed and decided on a whim to research plasma missiles, fitted out his cruisers with them in 2 upgrade actions and then … annihilated all opposition. He ended up winning easily in the mid-game.

    Like all war games, player interaction can create spontaneous balance even if the mechanics are unbalanced. If players are experienced and aware and treat the plasma missile research like nuclear weapons, then they will know to gang up on whoever researches it. If they are not experienced or forming a coalition is impossible, then its game over.

    Our house rule is that plasma missiles do not benefit from computers (thus always hitting on 6), which makes people far less likely to stack their ships with them.

    1. Author

      Yeah definitely. I see plasma missiles being much less of an issue with experienced players. Unfortunately, this requires several plays of Eclipse with the same group over multiple sessions, a luxury that a lot of gaming groups don’t have! You’re right though, a sort of meta game forms when you have experienced players, and that’s one thing I love about games with heavy interaction; knowledge of the game can change the very fabric of how everything plays out.

      I really like your house rule; I think that’d go a long way to curbing the “cheapness” of missiles. Of course, decking your ship with missiles and computers is a viable, legal strategy, but it just kind of feels like cheese. I’ve found Eclipse is better when certain things are house ruled. We also decided to remove the discoverable ship parts because some of them are just way too good and come way too easy. What are your thoughts on that?

  4. My group plays eclipse with Rise of the Ancients and Shadow of the Rift. The first person in the group to use missiles had few materials and zero computers. He failed miserably. We kind of ignored the missiles for a couple of games until the same guy tried them again. This time, he planned better and the results were devastating. Since then, technologies such as the distortion shield or point defense have become significantly more valuable. Slowly, missiles were balanced. Now, missiles are still used occasionally, but they aren’t the only strategy for winning combat.
    With Rise of the Ancients, 9 player games become possible. We have found those to be more enjoyable, especially with the alliances. You said you wouldn’t like this game without a large table. I laughed because when we got to 9 players, we found we needed two tables.
    We used to have one guy who would win the game almost every time. Finally, we asked him what his strategy was. His answer was “adaptability” being able to have a different strategy for each game. It not only prevents boring repeats of games, but also prevents others from beating you by learning your plan.
    Another tip I have for people is diplomacy. It was a component often overlooked in our group’s earlier games. We quickly discovered the benefits of having a friend to protect you on one side.

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