It seems that the entire board game community has gone crazy for Eclipse: New Dawn For The Galaxy.
I can see why. The game’s an excellent example of what’s possible when you combine exploration and worker placement. There’s a lot of moving parts to be found within the game, but it all works together so well to make it an incredibly appealing game. It also helps that Eclipse is nowhere near as intimidating as it looks.
Players will spend a total of nine rounds vying to collect victory points. Points are collected in many various ways: combat, exploration, upgrades, and building structures. Before you even think about doing any of these, however, you’ll need to make sure you have the resources to take an action. There’s a total of three resources available: money allows you to take actions, science represents what you can research, and materials allow you to build. Each of the four options have their own subset of decision making: is it worth it to engage in combat? What should I research? Do I risk exploring and starve my resources? Do I take a risk and build a structure while leaving myself open to enemy attack? Oh, and remember: you’ll need to make sure you can afford every action you take with enough money.
If this sounds like a lot to handle, you’re not alone. But if there’s ever a game where someone can just go “let me play so I can understand,” this is it. Despite the hundreds of pieces, countless options, and dozens of decisions that need to be made, Eclipse: New Dawn For The Galaxy plays comfortably. Once things get moving, everything just clicks. Naturally, you’ll need plenty of time to comprehend the nuances of the game and which strategies are most effective, but at least you won’t be completely gimped by not understanding what’s going on.
There’s a certain sense of randomness to the game that makes it highly re-playable. There’s two reasons for this: various races available for play and the randomness of space exploration. Before beginning the game, you’ll need to set-up your player mat. The mat itself is dependent on the race you’re playing as. While humans all share the same skills and stats, the more “advanced” alien races each offer a different play style. Not only do these styles spice games up, but they’re also far more fun than the human alternatives. Different skills and play styles mean each game is guaranteed to be different. Aliens found in the game’s expansion, Rise of the Ancients spice things up even more, but that’s a topic for another day.
Despite all the good things Eclipse does, there are some frustrations. Due to the complete random nature of the game, there’s times where you’ll be stuck with little to no options every now and then. While exploring through space and colonizing new sectors is key to winning, sometimes that’s not really an option. Enemy ships occupy select clusters, making your efforts in that sector that much harder. If you get boned by a bunch of enemy ships in neighboring regions, then you’re pretty boned. At the opposite end of the spectrum, players can draw the perfect exploration tiles, allowing them to easily snowball out of control. While the game does a good job of ensuring everyone has a chance by the end of a round (and you’ll be surprised by just how close some games are), I feel like it could have done a better job of balancing out the sense of randomness. There’s nothing more depressing than seeing others spend their resources and pimp out their ships while you sit helplessly performing one or two actions a turn.
Regardless of its fault, Eclipse: New Dawn For The Galaxy is still a highly enjoyable board game. It’s MSRP is a bit steep at $99.99, but several online retailers will offer it at a much more affordable price. Set aside a couple hours, grab some friends, and explore through space.