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Friday Night Unplugged #14.2: Eclipse: The Rayne Debacle

Eclipse Cover

Welcome again to Friday Night Unplugged as we jump back into the world of Eclipse: A New Dawn for the Galaxy for the second week running.  Last week we looked at the mechanics and fundementals of Eclipse and this week we’re diving straight into the play report for one of our latest games of Eclipse.

Quick Recap:

Eclipse is a 2-6 player space exploration and empire building game. Players take it in turns to perform actions (each adding to the amount of money they pay out at the end of each round). Players have 9 rounds of play to craft their empire. War, science, exploration, politics there are many ways to increase your Empire (and thus earn more Victory Points).

Each player can perform as many of the following actions as they want. If they can’t pay for the upkeep at the end of the turn however, they are forced into bankruptcy.

  • Explore new sectors
  • Influence pre-discovered sectors
  • Research science technologies
  • Build ships
  • Upgrade ship hardware
  • Move ships

Setup

I’m joined by Fi and Josh as usual for a 3 player game. Each of us is playing as a different human sector so the start game is a level playing field. We’ve all chosen our colours and renamed our groups.

Red: Fi – The Imperium of Ming
Blue: Josh – The Smurfs
White: Lewis – The Rayne Confederate

The starter tiles are set and we’re ready to go.

EclipseStart

Round One: Starting with Fi and the Imperium of Ming, the first round sees a rush of exploration activity. Fi’s Imperium discovers and claims a planet producing raw materials. Josh’s The Smurfs expand their reach in two different directions and set their influence over two sectors, populating a money-producing planet. My first attempt at exploration is met with the spawning of an Ancient ship guarding the new sector, too powerful for me to take on. My second attempt is a little luckier, netting me a “misc” planet which I choose to turn into another money producer.

Victory Points (from sectors and other bonuses): Fi gains 6, Josh gets 6 and Lewis receives 4.

Round Two: I start the round by exploring for new territory only to spring up a sector with materials and science-producing planets guarded by another Ancient. Josh and Fi continue the trend of lucky draws, claiming two more sectors each and with them, a ton of victory points. I’m left nursing the wounds created by drawing two more sectors with Ancients guarding them. As of the turn’s end I’m completely surrounded. I did manage to grab a few smaller sectors which, while producing materials, only helped to slightly boost my VP.

Board State at the end of round 2.

Board State at the end of round 2.

Victory Points: Fi now has 7, Josh has 11 and Lewis trails with 6.

Round 3: Josh starts this round with a fresh Explore action and then populates 2 money planets. Fi continues to expand the Imperium’s fleet by spending some of her hard-earned materials to buy a dreadnought class ship. I follow suit and build a pair of cruisers to fight my way out of the corner I’m stuck in while Josh passes the turn. Lastly I explore into blank space and decide not to claim it. The turn ends with Josh and Fi forming a political alliance. They swap representative tokens and add them to their victory points.

Victory Points: Fi sits with 10, Josh has 11 and Lewis is catching up with 9.

Round 4: Fi takes a research action. She chooses to research the Fusion Source Tech to build better engines for her ships. I explore and choose not to influence yet another blank region of space. Josh starts his headway into scientific research and pays for Advanced Labs allowing him to populate specially marked planets. Fi chooses to pass her turn from here. Josh and The Smurfs explore into new territory only to disturb a duo of lingering Ancient Ships. I finish the round by spending the last of my materials to build a third Cruiser.

Board state at the end of turn 4.

Board state at the end of turn 4, slowly taking up more space.

Victory Points: Fi 10, Josh 12, Lewis 9.

The midpoint status quo: From here, each of our actions is more important than before. We’ve had enough space to work around each other so far but if we wish to avoid exploring deeper (and more dangerous) space we’ll start treading on each other’s toes. The threat of the various ships starting to appear on the board is enough to make most of us think twice about invading and stealing opposing sectors. The amount of sectors we’ve claimed is also starting to take a toll, limiting the number of actions we can afford each turn to balance out resources. Right now anything could happen, with no one player taking a clear path of action.

Round 5: I know which way I’m going. If I’m to escape from my current surrounding of ships I need some serious fire-power  I choose to start the round by upgrading my ships with extra ion cannons. Josh continues what seems to be a theme for him and researches the wormhole generator tech for easier cross sector travel. Fi spends the rest of her actions this round exploring and claiming new sectors in her quest for more victory points. I send my cruisers swooping into action against an Ancient ship on the outskirts of my reach. I lose one of them but the other barely scrapes through as the Ancient is destroyed. The round finishes with the formation of The First Great and Bountiful Galactic Alliance – it was either that or risk all-out war.

Victory Points: Fi has 19, Josh has 13 and Lewis has slipped into second place with 15.

Round 6: This round is short and sweet. We’re all struggling to balance our income thanks to the loss of several ships or lack of decent planet draws, thus limiting our actions. Josh spends the turn researching Phase Shields and Artifact Key technology, fully throwing himself into the plausible victory-through-science route. I quickly buy up the Antimatter Canon technology before any of the Dreadnoughts can get a combat boost and get lucky with a few explore actions allowing me to increase my monetary and material income. Fi’s Imperium explores and claims a new sector which, lucky for her, contains a money-producing planet.

Close up of the board towards the last 3 turns. The midpoint of the 3 way alliance sits on the left with borders clearly defined.

Close-up of the board towards the last 3 turns. The midpoint of the 3-way alliance sits on the left with borders clearly defined.

Victory Points: No points gained during round 6 so Fi’s still on 19, Josh on 13, and Lewis has 15.

Round 7: Fi has settled into her game plan of simply out-exploring myself and Josh. She spends this turn exploring two sectors to be greeted with an Ancient ship in one and an empty sector in the last. The Smurfs commanded by Josh continue down the path of science and research both the Adv Robotics and Orbital Technologies. I start by claiming the sector the previously defeated Ancient held, earning myself a Monolith tech discovery – monoliths can be built to earn extra VP. Finishing the round, I explore a pair of sectors once the others have passed to claim another two material-based planets and one money.

Victory Points: Fi static at 19, Josh on the rise with 16 but Lewis steaming ahead, also on 19.

Round 8: This is where the game gets serious. Money becomes less of an issue but the number of influence disks (used to represent actions and placed on sectors when claiming them) remaining on the board are. Josh builds another dreadnought one sector away from the heavily armed Galactic Central Point, as we call it. Fi explores and claims a single sector and I spend the turn building monoliths, earning 3VP extra for each one I control. Josh leads The Smurfs into combat with the Galactic Central station and loses both his dreadnoughts to the onslaught of fire, thanks to a few duff dice rolls.

The Galactic Central Point sits triumphantly after fending off a dual dreadnought attack from The Smurfs.

The Galactic Central Point sits triumphantly after fending off a dual dreadnought attack from The Smurfs.

Victory Points: Fi has 20, Josh has 16 while Lewis is suddenly miles ahead with 28.

Round 9: The final (not too) dramatic round of this game of Eclipse. Josh has been hoarding his science resource for the past few turns. Over his next four actions he buys out four different technologies just to earn the VPs associated with the sheer amount he’s already purchased. Fi explores and claims a sector as her final action and I spend the remainder of this turn draining my materials to build another two monoliths.

End Game:

Lewis: I come out ahead thanks to an onslaught of late game monolith-building, scoring a tidy 36 points.

Fi: The Imperium of Ming sidles up alongside after a relatively smooth game just exploring sectors. The early alliance with The Smurfs allowed her to explore freely without worrying about invasion. Fi scores 24 points.

Josh: Knowledge is power! At least for The Smurfs. Sadly, Josh came in last but his frantic research and control of technology in the Eclipse galaxy allowed him to pull a respectable 21 points.

My own Player card coming into Round 7.

My own player card coming into Round 7. The Brown marker represents Materials, Pink Science and Orange Money. On the left we have ambassadors from Fi and Josh’s factions.

Final Thoughts:

Eclipse is without a doubt one of the largest and most impressive games we’ve played as a group so far. The sheer scale of the board during play means unless you have a big table you’ll be playing on the floor. It has lots of bits to move around and place, lots of ships to scoot across the map and so much depth to remember. It’s also one of the games we’ve probably been most split by as a group. While we all agree on its potential and a few of its downfalls now, at first we didn’t and that’s something to bear in mind.

Josh doesn’t like games with lots of pieces to manage yet learnt to appreciate the humble cube .I don’t usually like massive eurogames yet fell in love with the economic management of Eclipse. Fi doesn’t usually like space games but now enjoys guiding her fledgeling race through the stages of exploration.

This large card controls the ebb and flow of Technology while also marking turns. New Technology is added to it each round randomly.

This large card controls the ebb and flow of Technology while also marking turns. New Technology is added to it each round randomly.

Eclipse’s scale and large amount of variables to consider creates a game that can be daunting to new players. Of the 4-5 games we played with three players, the average game length has been around two to two-and-a-half hours. I can only see this getting longer with more players involved. Of course, with 4+ players Eclipse becomes a totally different game to the 3 player game you read above. The slow stable growth becomes a race for sectors, alliances have to be formed and some have to be broken as each player fights tooth and nail for every upgrade, sector and Victory Point.

In summary, Eclipse is a visually impressive and tactically complicated game that captures the feeling and troubles of guiding an Empire through the depths of space perfectly. You can buy it from Travelling Man for £62.99.

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