This could be long.
Eclipse is a new board game I have. It is for 2-6 players and the running time is about 30 minutes/player. It is a sci-fi 4x (def’n to follow) game that ostensibly mixes traditional Euro gameplay with an American board game style theme.
The big American style elements are the sci-fi 4x theme, direct player-to-player combat, variable player roles and movement. The Euro style elements are an underlying economic engine, an action economy, and the victory conditions. The analogy breaks down since there really isn’t a clean divide between game styles.
4x – Exploration, Expansion, Exploitation and Extermination. This was a popular theme in many video games from Civilization to MOO. In board games the best example is Twilight Imperium, but that is a game firmly in the American style camp. (In talking about Eclipse I’m going to refer back to the 4x’s a lot. I’ll also add advancement and trade to the mix.)
You play a race that was once part of a giant peaceful galactic federation. Now that has broken down. It is every race for themselves and elements of the federation and even more ancient prizes lie out to be discovered.
You play 9 rounds. At the end of the 9th round, the player with the most victory points wins. Very Euro.
You earn victory points by working towards the 4x goals:
Exploration: No direct VPs, but essential to many other tracks.
Expand: VPs per space you control, VPs per Discovery made and kept
Exploit: VPs for specially built structures
Extermination: VPs for being in combat, more for winning. Negative VPs for breaking trade relations.
Trade: VPs for setting up trade.
Advancement: VPs for excelling at technology acquisition
Trade and Extermination are mutually limiting. Your total VPs earned in this set must be no more than a set amount. (e.g. 5 combat elements or 5 trade elements or 3 combat and 2 trade, etc).
Discovered space is hexes. Undiscovered space is empty table. Each hex contains a spot to mark who controls it (Expansion), its VP value for control, resources within that can be Exploited, additional one time bonuses for first expansion into the space, and potentially enemy ships.
The hexes also contain controls to show adjacency to other hexes. (wormholes). Simply being beside another hex isn’t enough to allow them to be adjacent, the wormholes must also line up.
At the start of the game there is only one discovered hex per player plus one central hex around which they are deployed.
The Eclipse turn happens in four phases. The last two are upkeep and cleanup. I’ll get to those later. The 2nd is combat. I’ll get to that later. The first is actions.
There are 6 actions in Eclipse and 2 pseudo-actions. Each time is is a players action (I’ll do action economy later) they do one action and may optionally to one of both pseudo-actions.
Explore: Reveal an unexplored area of space. Put all the neat stuff on it. (Correlates to the 4x Explore idea). If the area is open, you may immediately Expand into it as well.
Influence: Manage the action economy. Also plays into the Expansion idea.
Research: Learn a new technology. Basically this supports Advancement, but also plays a role in Extermination since it contains many combat improvements.
Upgrade: Improve your ships. Extermination or Resisting Extermination. Moving faster can also aid Exploration.
Build: Build Ships (Extermination), Orbital stations (Exploitation) or Monoliths (Exploitation)
Move: Move your ships. Required for Exploration, Expansion and Extermination.
Colonize: Move population to controlled areas. (Exploitation)
Diplomatic Relations: Establish Trade.
The Player Board and the Action Economy
Lots of the game is played in front of each player on their player board. There is a section to track your trade relations and VPs won through combat. There is a section to track your tech acquisitions. There is a section to build your spaceships on.
Then there is the storage track, the three population tracks and the influence track. These interrelate with the game board to form the action economy.
There are three population tracks. Initially they are filled with cubes. As you colonize (Exploit) the board, you move cubes onto the game board. The more cubes you move from a track the more you earn of the related resource. Getting each track as empty as possible is good, but that would be tough, so you will focus on emptying the tracks that fit your strategy.
The tracks are materials (used to build spaceships, monoliths and orbitals), science (used to acquire technology), and money (used to pay upkeep in the upkeep phase). In the upkeep phase you earn an amount according to how empty the track is and show that on your storage bank. When you build, research or pay upkeep you empty your storage bank by the appropriate amount. (I’m fudging the details here so this isn’t quite correct.)
The more resources in your storage bank the better. So neither the population tracks or the storage bank are really managed, but the influence track is.
The influence track also starts full. Every disk you remove increases the amount of upkeep you need to pay based on money earned on your money population track. So removing disks means that first you need to build up the appropriate infrastructure.
Disks are removed for two reasons. Each hex you control (Expand) takes a disk. Plus every action you take in a turn uses up a disk that turn. So you can always take as many actions as you like, but you need to be able to support the total used disks through both Expansion and actions in a turn.
OK. So when ships belonging to two people are in the same hex they fight. It is too complicated to explain here. But you roll dice and it generates hits and enough hits blows up a ship.
Ships come in four sizes – small and fast, medium, big and slow, and starbase (big and immobile). You build ships with the build action. You move them with the move action. You earn improvements to your ships with the research action. You put those improvements into effect with the upgrade action. A large number of the six actions can be used to support combat.
But combat isn’t strictly necessary. You could play defensively or with a lot of trade. But you’ll still need ships to not make yourself a target.
At the end of combat you get random tokens for being in the battle and destroying other ships (whether you win or lose). Each token as a VP value on it. You get to keep only one of the token you earn.
(I realized that I really short changed this area. Combat in Eclipse looks cool. Ship building looks tres cool. I’m eager to try that out.)
And that is that.