Eclipse is a 4X strategy board game for 2 to 6 players. Players take on the roles of humans or aliens fighting for control over a galaxy, expanding their empires, forging alliances, exploring new planets, and researching technologies. The goal of the game is to receive the most points. Points are gained from various sources - exploration, combat, research, diplomacy, and more.
The game lasts nine rounds, each round has four phases – action, combat, upkeep, and cleanup. In the action phase players exchange turns performing one action until they’ve all passed. They can explore, influence, research, upgrade, build, or move. The combat phase consists of dice rolling to resolve any battles. The upkeep phase makes the players pay upkeep and receive their generated resources (science, money, and materials). In the cleanup phase the players have their influence and colony spaceships refreshed and they get to see new technologies become available for research.
Pro Design encourages replayability
You will never play the same game of Eclipse due to randomness of the tiles you and your opponents draw, the various strategies you can use, and the seven possible player races.
The map will be different every time. The gameboard is made of multiple hexagonal tiles and it’s built out as the game progresses when players choose the “explore” action. There are three decks of hexes, the one you draw from depends on the direction you’re exploring in. For example. if you move away from the galaxy center, then you draw from the third-level hex pile, which contains less goodies than the second and first level tiles. The closer you go to the center, the bigger are your chances for loot. If you don’t like the tile you draw, you can discard it, but this’ll still make you lose an action.
Pro Amazing blend of Euro and Ameritrash mechanics
Eclipse is a "best of both worlds" mix of two different boardgaming genres. The game has a strong theme, player combat, unique factions, and some elements of luck that define the American style while still having plenty of the European-like resource gathering, individual development, and possibilities of no player conflict.
Pro Allows for many different playstyles
There are many possible ways to get points and win the game. Some players choose to take the militaristic approach and win by defeating the other players in combat, others choose to stray away from trouble and gain points by developing technologies. You can also earn points from exploration, colonization, diplomacy, and more.
Players can choose to play a human (Terran) faction or choose one of the six unique alien races. All six Terran factions share traits, but the aliens differ from one another. Race-specific traits give bonuses in specific actions, for example, trading for different rates, more movement flexibility, science or colonization bonuses, etc.
Pro Customizable battleships
Unlike other similar games, Eclipse offers players an innovative battleship customization feature. At the start everyone’s ships are basically the same, they can move, shoot, and have one health point. After you’ve amassed some of the “materials” and “science” resources, you can start upgrading them to different types and adding new components either in empty spaces or by overwriting existing ones.
There are many types of components – reactors, weapons, shields, hull, targeting computers, and engines. By mixing these you can create any ship you want, be it a well-balanced one or something completely ridiculous. You can make your ships into flying tanks able to sustain tons of damage and slowly chunk away the enemy, or instant death machines able to one-shot anything.
Pro Surprisingly simple
Eclipse looks a lot harder than it actually is. The structure of the game is quite straightforward, and the combat is easy to understand.
The game lasts nine rounds, each round has four phases – action, combat, upkeep, and cleanup. Most of the game is spent in the action phase, where players exchange turns performing one action until they’ve all passed. At the cost of an influence disc you can explore, influence, research, upgrade, build, or move. You can do as many actions as you want, but you’ll have to pay upkeep for every influence disc after the first one in the upkeep phase.
The combat phase consists of dice rolling to resolve any battles, be it player vs player or player vs NPC. Combat is initiated if two characters are on the same hex during combat phase. It is done by rolling a six-sided dice. Every 6 is a guaranteed hit, ever 1 is a miss. Whether the rest of the numbers deal damage is influenced by characteristics and equipment of battleships, which can also decide which ship attacks first, how many dice are rolled per ship, and how much victory-point tiles will the participants be able to draw after combat.
Pro Satisfying to see progression
At the start all players are spread out on their own tiles one tile away from the galaxy center. As the game progresses they take actions and discover new tiles around them with planets to colonize that get filled up with the respective player’s colors. Moments later the players are overlooking a big, colorful gameboard filled with colonies and battleships of all sizes.
Con Luck-based combat
The combat is based on rolling dice and drawing tiles after the combat is over. While the luck element of rolling dice is sort of taken care of because of the customizable battleships, the tile drawing part can be very unfair. Basically, once the battle is finished both parties draw a number of tiles that depends on the amount of destroyed ships. These tiles all have different victory point values, but you can only claim one. What this means is that you can lose a battle and still claim more victory points than your opponent from the single tile you draw.
Con Not very accessible to new players
The game isn’t too difficult, but it’s a long game that requires a lot of explaining and a lot of setup, which can be a huge turn-off for beginners. Running over the rules and the various situations will take around 20 minutes, and you will still need to explain a lot during the game itself because there’s a lot of stuff that requires managing. New players will have a noticeable disadvantage.
Con Art style won’t suit everyone
Eclipse has a sci-fi space theme that features aliens, technologies, spaceships, and everything in between. Since this is a pretty popular theme almost anywhere, be it books, games, or movies, to some people this might appear generic, bland, and kind of uninteresting.
Con Can easily make a mess
Even the tiniest shuffle of the gameboard will displace the tiny cubes and influence discs used to keep track of resources and actions. This is not only annoying but can also mess up the game because someone might place the cubes back incorrectly and give themselves an advantage.
Con Long setup and takedown times
Eclipse is already a relatively long game, but a lot of extra time is required just to prepare the game and to tidy everything up after you’re done. This is mostly since there is no official way to store the huge number of components. Setting up for the first time can easily take around 30 minutes, and if you don’t have some sort of convenient storage then it can still take 20-30 minutes for the next matches.
After you’ve set up and played your game, you still must calculate in approximately 10 minutes just to put everything back in its place.