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After several months of dedication to Lords of Waterdeep and Puerto Rico – two ridiculously fun games by the way – we finally got around to playing Eclipse – New dawn for the galaxy. My incessant babbling about this game to my friends may have put the expectation-bar a bit high so I was very excited to see if it lived up to all the hype.

Before I write any further I should mention that this review could be severely biased by our group’s tendency to love heavy, cutthroat, territory-holding games mixed with euro-style strategy and resource management. Eclipse was able to provide us with all this and more….

Rules

Even though the rulebook is 32 pages long it is not a difficult game to learn. I used about 15 minutes for the introduction and the rest of the rules followed as we played. It seemed as if people caught up on the rules pretty fast and I reckon there will be no problems for our next session.

How the game played

I guess this first session was a textbook example of how NOT to play Eclipse. Being three players we picked the alien species: Planta, Orion Hegemony, and Hydran Progress. At the beginning we played pretty randomly and seemed to had lost focus on the race’s special abilities. Instead of expanding like a true weed, Planta used all his resources on building an armada in fear of a Hegemony attack that never came. Hegemony started out good and was able to establish a large and strong fleet but in the end he never got to use it on his opponents (ironically he won the game with 6 VPs). The Hydrans minded their own business but were not, for some reason, capable of researching enough technologies (most likely due to economic reasons).

So in retrospect it is easy to see that it is essential to have a plan from the beginning and, of course, exploit the race’s special abilities to the fullest. Playing Planta again I would definitely expand outwards and at the same time try to close the boarders to my opponents. Hegemony should gather sufficient VPs through war, either against ancients or more profitably the other races. The Hydrans should primarily focus on technologies in order to gather as many VPs as possible and maybe also wage war with its upgraded ships.

Strategies

From our first session there is definitely room for improvements. Here are some of the tactics I would try to implement in my following games:

  1. At the start of the game decide which approach you want to take, i.e. war, technology, expanding, etc.
  2. Focus and exploit the race’s special abilities.
  3. Expand outwards and build monoliths in protected areas in the last rounds.
  4. Build orbits if you lack a certain resource.
  5. If you do not want war try to close of the boarders fronting your enemies, thereby you force your opponents to research the expensive Wormhole Gener if they really want to get you (if you are lucky they may pick the other opponents instead).

What do we think?

BEST GAME EVER. We all loved it. It had all the aspects we love in a board game: strategy, war, resource management, nice board, clever mechanics, I could go on. Personally I love the game mechanic with the influence discs and population cubes. Also the modular board is ingenious especially the detail with the wormholes. The fact that you can change and upgrade your ships is also a very cool mechanic. All in all this is one of the greatest games I have played and I can certainly recommend it to any serious board gamer that like heavy sci-fi games that are deep on the strategy and love in your face action.

Ratings

Theme: 9/10

Game mechanics: 10/10

Luck factor: 8/10

Replayability: 9/10

Fun factor: 10/10

Overall: A solid 9/10

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I have never been a big fan of card games. My expectations for Dominion were therefore quite low, also considering all the great reviews this game had received.

Dominion was supposed to be a warm-up game. A quick 30 minutes before continuing to the highlight of the evening: Shogun. Three hours later we were still at it with heaps of Supply cards left. Either something was wrong or we were extremely slow learners. After reading the rulebook it was clear that we had made three rookie mistakes: 1) We had used all 25 Kingdom cards, 2) all the Supply cards (4p game), 3) and hadn’t figured out that the Copper cards were free. Now the three hours made sense.

Despite the misinterpretation of the rules we could all agree on one thing: this was a great game, possibly replacing Shogun as our new favourite (ratings will be given in the near future).

Like any first gaming session strategic play was more or less absent and replaced by random tactics. Actually I would say we played pretty poorly. All of us, some more than others, were competing in obtaining as many action cards as possible (or so it seemed) meanwhile neglecting to collect Treasure and Victory cards. In retrospect this was really stupid (but fun) since the amount of Victory cards will determine the winner. One of us, Svendsen, played pretty decent and won the game even though I suspect he has spent his previous evenings reading up on strategy moves on the internet (something I always refrain from doing since it is unfair to the other players).

The take-home message from this first session is obviously: read the rulebook thoroughly before playing!

Author SwedishViking

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