When comparing Space Alert vs Eclipse, the Slant community recommends Eclipse for most people. In the question“What are the best board games?” Eclipse is ranked 21st while Space Alert is ranked 23rd. The most important reason people chose Eclipse is:
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.
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Pro Each game is unique
The combination of several CD tracks along with variant card combos and action options ensures that no two games will be the same, making the game widely replayable. If you run out of the official CD tracks, then you can also download the Space Alert Mission Generator to get some random scenarios, or you can browse the internet for custom missions.
Space Alert is a cooperative based game, something that is not always the case for board games and can be a refreshing change.
Pro Varying difficulty
Various options can be selected to alter the difficulty level of the game, such as the power of internal and external common threats and serious threats. This makes, for example, the monsters you encounter much stronger, adding a whole new level of required teamwork.
Pro Strong theme
Space Alert has a sci-fi theme to it, and the game executes it perfectly. From the aesthetic look of the game to the actions you take, there’s plenty of science fiction – aliens, spaceships, robots, etc. The soundtrack playing in the background during the planning phase also adds a lot to the immersion. For those that are into more of a science fiction game, Space Alert could easily fit that bill.
Pro Good humor
While slightly morbid, the humor contained in the game and gameplay is quite amusing. The resolution phase is also full of humorous moments as the players watch their actions unfold or fall apart. For example, the tutorial book states that the captain must remember to do the “C” action that represents pressing the spacebar on the ship’s computer to keep the lights on.
Pro 1 - 5 players
Can be played as a single player game, or with up to 4 friends, dividing roles accordingly. If you don’t have a full group of 5 players, then the missing characters are androids, which can be controlled by any player.
Pro Simple rules
The very basics of the game are quite simple. Every player has a role assigned to them – the captain, the communications officer, and the security officer. The players take 12 turns in 10 minutes pre-planning actions while listening to a soundtrack that explains all incoming threats. The action phase is divided into three further parts, each of which has a separate deck of action cards. The soundtrack calls out the threats, the endings of phases, data transfers, and communication disruptions, and you must act accordingly.
After the 10-minute soundtrack is over, all the actions the players planned and coordinated are resolved. If the ship is still alive after that, then the game is won.
Pro Fast gameplay
The game takes around 30 minutes to play through, 10 minutes of which is the intense planning phase with the soundtrack blasting in the background.
Pro No analysis paralysis
Turn speed is dictated by the CD, avoiding some players procrastinating on their turns / keeping the gameplay flowing.
Pro Ranked highly on board game geek
With an average score of 7.5 out of 10 and a rank of 155, Space Alert is a positively reviewed board game.
Pro No alpha-gamer issue
Space Alert effectively evades the popular quarterbacking issue of cooperative board games. There’s simply no way to communicate enough useful information to other players in the 10-minute timeframe, so nobody can control absolutely everything. Everyone must efficiently work together and say what they’ll be doing to take care of the looming threats.
Pro Good components
The components of the game should hold up to multiple plays and regular wear and tear. There are a lot of good quality wooden tokens, and the cards are made of durable cardstock. The gameboard and the tracking boards are also quite thick and should endure well.
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 Steep learning curve
Space Alert is not very beginner friendly, and if you don’t properly understand how the game works when you start it up, then you’ll have visible difficulty keeping up with what’s happening in the frantic 10-minute action phase. You’ll also be dragging down the other players because there really isn’t enough time to explain rules when the game is already in progress.
It’s worth reserving an hour to play through the well-designed tutorial book that slowly introduces the complex aspects, so you’ll be ready for the real deal.
Con Requires CD player with speakers
Space Alert is only playable with the included audio CD or downloadable MP3's, without them the game is impossible to play.
Every action you take highly impacts what happens to the rest of the crew, and one tiny misstep can make the whole plan fall apart, which can be frustrating to some. Teamwork and good communication is completely necessary to win.
Con A lot of setup
Space Alert has a lot of pieces to sort through, cards and decks to shuffle and place on the gameboard. It’s not so bad if you decide to play more than one game, but the actual games are very quick in comparison to the amount of setup/takedown time.
Con Can’t be stopped once in progress
Once you press “play” on the 10-minute soundtrack, there’s no interrupting it – no pauses, no rewinds, etc. It’s important to stay focused, not engage in casual banter, and make sure there are no distractions in the background, which can be difficult to manage sometimes.
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.
The cost of a new copy of Eclipse ranges from $80 to $130 dollars.
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.