Eclipse Aliens Gone Wild
I’ve now played Eclipse 25 times … I played a few teaching games in the last month.
So, a few words about the various Aliens, rated on the Fudge Scale for both Fun and Viability (chance of winning).
Human ( Fair / Fair ) — As the default race, I’m calibrating the ratings to humans. Humans can easily defeat aliens, in particular starbases and 3 movement are not to be sneezed at. The 2:1 trade ratio does allow some aggression, but mainly benefits you when things go bad … which isn’t a great way to win.
Planta (Mediocre / Mediocre) — The Planta’s fungal expansion is a one trick pony. You can do well, especially in a passive environment. But people quickly learn to pound the Planta. Their ship design (lack of initiative, mainly) is crippling. I must admit, though, that I haven’t played them in a 6+ player game recently (since the expansion showed up). In this case, the large number of tiles may help, but the warp tiles probably keep them from being as isolated as they like.
Draco (Fair / Good) — Draco’s early expansion (& Co-existance with ancients) lets them take prime spots, at the cost of early discovery tiles and VPs earned from pounding out on aliens. (This may be mitigated in the expansion, as they can’t coexist with Alien Cruisers). The Draco can safely explore Sector I and claim it on turn one, then another on turn two, for a nice steady growth. This can force neighbors to explore Sector I/II, lest they get cut off. (Avoiding Sector III isn’t a great strategy, but it does mean if you get poor Sector III tiles early you can still colonize a great system).
Orion (Good / Good) — Let’s admit it, combat is fun. The Orions can snowball. One upgrade (such as Improved Hull) and they can stomp Aliens out of the gate, and their ship design is impressive. To be sure, the Alien Dreadnought from the expansion keeps them from threatening the Galactic Center as early, but they are a force to be reckoned with.
Hydran (Good / Fair) — My latest game had the Hydran’s get the sector III tile with a double pink world (one improved). Drawing that is a good strategy. The expansion (with the rare technologies) helps Hydran’s out immensely, as it’s practically impossible to shut them out of finishing a track. And, with some decent early world draws, finishing two or three becomes possible. Without the expansion, I think they are Poor, but I’m not sure. Having lots of cool technologies to research makes (IMO) the Hydran’s fun, because they get to decide which route to follow.
Mechanema (? / ?) — Honestly I’ve only played them once and I don’t have strong feelings about them yet.
Epsilon Eridani (Mediocre – Great / Mediocre) — EE’s rating depends on your point of view. You’ll (effectively) get 1-2 less actions per turn (because of your two disc shortage). That’s a tough disadvantage … warchest or not. But it’s a hell of a challenge. Winning with EE against experienced players requires pressing every advantage and a bit of luck, which IMO makes them a fun race.
The Expansion Races
Magellen (Superb / Great) — My most controversial claim is that the Magellan race(s) are the best across a wide range of setups. They can’t go toe to toe with the combat races, but they’ve got many advantages. Most subtly, their starting technology provides a useful turn 1 upgrade that helps them tactically bankrupt and will almost never need to be undone. Their extra mileage out of discovery tiles (and a free tile) work wonders. On the fun side, they aren’t locked into any one strategy and (more so than most races) roll with what they get. Flexibility means they are more likely to pleasantly surprise you that most races.
The Exiles (Good / Poor) — I like playing the exiles, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to win with them. Orbitals are, for the most part, a trap. And they are a trap the Exiles are forced into. I suspect the best way to use them is just go for an interceptor heavy fleet and take advantage of your other technology, the cloaking device.
The Rho-Indri (Fair* / Great) — As I mentioned, combat is fun. The R-I have great ships, and a massive fleet movement. Their Fair fun rating is actually wildly variable. More so than the Orions, their early snowball determines if you run rampant and get lots to do, or just crawl along. That’s true of every race, to be sure (an early disaster is a challenge) but when your combat victory not only determines your early VPs and fleet strength but Economy, that may be too many eggs in one basket. When they lose, the syndicate is often dead last, and not just by a bit. But they win a large percentage of games.
The Lyrans (Poor / Fair) — I don’t enjoy their turtling, but I’ve seen it work. The Lyrans get a wide variety of special powers from their shrines, from wormhole generators to an extra disc. But they are (IMO) a reactive race, painting a pleasant target and challenge others to come get them. I suppose they could be viewed as a challenge, like Epsilon Eridani. But I don’t enjoy them.