Five Thousand Words about Eclipse
As always, my random thoughts about Eclipse. In non-condensed form. When thinking about Eclipse, a chess aphorism kept popping into my head.
The threat is mightier than the execution. In Eclipse, you often want to be in a position to attack everyone. But you certainly don’t want to attack everyone. Even if you romp all over the board for the first five turns, you will likely be beaten back. But being flexible means you just build up a solid position and then find a point of weakness (either a player’s position, or a few aliens, a great technology) and then pounce. This sort of thinking is rampant in Eclipse, see (for example), the strategy guide on Virtual Fleets.
Another chess thought I’ve been coming back to is Jeremy Silman’s discussion of Imbalances. There are lots of aspects to a position, and you will be ahead on some of them and behind on others. You can try to push your advantages and shore up weaknesses, but you only have so many actions. If you are losing, you need to mix things up … take on another negative to get a new positive. Eclipse has lots of factors — topology, technology, resources, fleet placement, alliances, pinned pieces, the counter mix limit, upkeep costs. Except in a small game where you can steamroll someone, you’ll have positive and negatives. Be aware of them.
Explore — The early game
The first turn (or two) is exploring. An exception can be made for grabbing a really juicy advance right off the bat (Advanced Robotics) a delay can be made. The reason for early exploration is two-fold … you need more resources but you also want to control when and where you meet the neighbors.
Typically you explore Sector III, because those tiles are limited. There are only 6 Stage I spaces, and only twelve Stage II (minus the number of players). Those stages are limited by space, but Stage III is limited by tiles. So, unsurprisingly, everyone should rush out to stage III and claim as many as possible, even if you can’t claim them all. There are a few reasons:
- Deny them to your opponents
- Discovery Tiles
- Resources for new systems
- Linking up
Linking up to form diplomatic relations is understood, but another reason to link up is to be able to fight later. Having a position where you only connect to your opponents is nice and defensible. The problem for you is that it’s nice and defensible for everyone else. This is worth delving into.
Tempo, Trenches and Plasma Missiles
After your first game of Eclipse (or even just perusing the BGG forums) you’ll hear one thing over and over. Plasma Missiles. Complaining about Plasma Missiles strikes me like Complaining about pawn promotion. Now that’s overpowered. Once the pawn promotes, you’ve already lost. The promotion just indicates you were in a losing position earlier. My first few games of Eclipse felt like this, but not because of missiles. The problem was tempo. Everyone grows, expands, researches, upgrades, takes out some Aliens and (one player) conquers the GCDS (which I just call the Throneworld). Then a bit of jockeying for position, then the 9th turn attack.
That’s ok (especially when learning the game) but anticlimactic. Eclipse is as much a Race as Race for the Galaxy. Whoever gets the Throneworld has a decent edge. If everyone only connects there (which isn’t terribly far fetched in a smaller game) then things can go static quickly. If two opponents attack me in the same space, they have to fight first, they pin each other, and it just gets ugly. They each have incentive to let the other person whale on me, then attack the next turn.
So they hesitate. If this happens, Eclipse will rapidly bore you.
And this situation can be easily diagnosed pretty early. Given a choice, I’ll make sure that one of my Sector III hexes points towards the Stage II hex I don’t normally connect into. This threatens to explore into Ring II and rob my opponent of a crucial hex. If they explore there they may very well connect up (so as to form diplomatic relations) and tempowise I’m ok.
Remember, the Sector III hexes aren’t great (long term). You want to explore them, but not necessarily keep them. If there are two available cube slots, that’s fine. An alien isn’t bad (some VP and a discovery tile). I love the discovery tiles with no worlds. You claim it, take the discovery, and then tactically bankrupt ASAP. (If you find two of them, you can influence to remove the discs the same turn or bankrupt, depending on details).
But in the long term, having influence discs on too many Ring III hexes will slow you down. The point is to explore them. Not hoard them. So when exploring, I make it a point to also use the exploration to try and prevent choke points. I may try to prevent too many connections with my neighbor, but I’ll try and make one.
Later (sometimes as early as T1, and sometimes not until T3) I’ll try to arrange connections on Sectors II and III. The point is to control fluidity.
In Eclipse, Defense trumps offense. Lets say you have two medium fleets. Say, 4 ships. We each spend equal actions to build and upgrade them. But if you attack me, you have to spend 2 actions moving. If I know I’m defending (and where) I can build starbases instead of interceptors, which are much better (5 slots instead of 4, and no need for a drive, better innate initiative). If we’re fighting 8 vs 8, I get even more actions. If we mutual and rebuild, you’ll have to spend those movement actions again.
On top of that, defender wins initiative ties, which are fairly common.
Which means that if you need to attack someone, you want a fluid position. But even that’s not enough. Assume we’ve got a long open border. If I attack you, you can just build up wherever I go (assuming available minerals). So I need to have a decent advantage (say, technological, or fleet wise) to attack. Or, the borders have to be fluid enough so that you are under multiple threats from multiple players.
Which brings us to trench warfare. If the galaxy stabilizes so that people only connect on the first ring, then defense is going to dominate. You can just plop down 4 starbase on your chokepoint and (if everyone is technically equal) that’s that. You can’t gang up on a leader. The game will end.
Similarly, if you get cut off, you are going to have to go through one player, and they can defend. Sure, you can defend too, but if you are cut off odds are you have a smaller chunk of resources. So, unless I’m sure I’m going to be ahead, I don’t want to risk getting cut off in the early game.
That’s what the explore phase is all about. Well, that and snapping up discoveries.
Discovery tiles are two points (if nothing else), but on turn 1 they can also provide you a significant resource boost, which can snowball. If you turned in all 1st turn discovery tiles, you’d be wrong sometimes, but probably not too wrong. As the game goes on, you’ll need a specific reason to keep the tiles. Going through the types:
- Money/Science/Material — Obviously keep it if you are suffering a shortage, and if you have a surplus then take the points. (I’m not sure if it’s possible to have a surplus on science).
- Ancient Technology — Taking a random technology saves you an action (if you were going to get it anyway) and gets you a point if you were going to run that track. And it gets you a few points of science (or improves your discount). So already it can be worth 1 obvious point. Add in denying a technology, and it’s often right to use.
- Ancient Cruiser — This is 5 material and half an action (or so). The only downside is if this cruiser is on the wrong end of the galaxy (don’t ignore those fleet limits!)
- Ship parts — Brutal, although they only work for one ship type. (Remember that you can’t move them around once placed). The drive and super shields (-2) are problematic because you often don’t have energy for them in the early game. If I can’t place them down immediately I’m tempted to just take the points. The uber-power source isn’t that useful (unless you have technologies that absorb power). It’s usually 2VP. Shard Hulls, Ion Missles and usually useful. The turrets depend on the point of the game.
I’ve seen ship designs with multiple ancient parts (usually HULL + WEAPON + DRIVE) and they do intimidate, but you can only have 4 cruisers and 2 dreadnoughts. I suspect the 6 points would be better. Probably 4VP and one upgrade is best. Despite my original “Ship parts are the best early discovery” thought, I’m not so sure.
One final point of exploring. It’s painful, but sometimes it’s right to lose the action and not place a hex. In particular, a low resource hex that will close you in (or a double Alien hex you aren’t in a position to face quickly).
Expand & Exploit — The midgame
Once things settle down, mop up aliens around you. These give you points, access to good hexes and more discoveries. Also, building up your fleet annoys your neighbors. It’s entirely possible to take an Alien on T2 (build a cruiser, research improved hull, upgrade your figher and cruiser, and move). But the odds aren’t great. If you get a lucky tile by all means go for it, but typically I’m aiming for taking my Ring I aliens (should I get them) on T3. If that goes swimmingly, the Throneworld often falls on turn 4. An early setback means that someone else will take the throneworld, though.
By this point you should have an idea who is winning. It’s not just VPs; look for imbalances:
- Production (Mineral, Sciences, Money)
- VPs from Discoveries
- Upkeep (if we have the exact same production, but I use one less disc than you, I’ve got an upkeep advantage)
If you are winning, then by all means grab the throneworld and make it a chokepoint. If you aren’t, don’t let that happen (the chokepoint part, anyway).
The game of Maneuvering
Eclipse can bog down into trench warfare, but in the midgame (which is roughly Turns 2-7 or 3-8) its surprisingly fluid. There are races to set and claim rings II and I, fighting aliens and the throneworld, and even attacks. Because of the superiority of defense, directly attacking a neighbor can be a problem. Once you achieve a manuevering advantage, things change. How can you do that?
- Your opponent runs out of mineral. Now he can’t build where you attack.
- Your opponent passes. He can build, but at only one ship/action it’s expensive. This also applies to an unpassed opponent who has a high upkeep.
- If you have decent drives, you may be able to move to two or more systems. Even if your opponent can build a matching fleet in each system, splitting battles results in devastating loss for your opponent (particularly if you have Neutron Bombs, which is a cheap technology). This isn’t something you can do wily-nily in a large, multiplayer game, but if someone is threatening to run away with it, this works as a nice check. After all once the war goes to the trenches, you can’t complain about an entrenched defender.
- You can pin your opponent’s fleet. This may sacrifice a few ships, but if you wipe out a few systems it’s a big deal. (See http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/750685/pre-emptive-strike-how-to-win-the-war-with-weake)
In the middlegame you often have a tempo battle to race into the throneworld. Once a player parks a fleet there, they get the initiative advantage. But you may find that your best bet is to outwait your opponent. Make neutral moves (technologies, upgrades) and wait until the last action or two to attack. If an opponent is threatened on multiple fronts, they may leave an opening, or be unable to defend.
In this way, the threat of an attack can be more powerful than an early (first action in a turn) assault. If you find yourself defending a sitzkrieg and can’t hold out (you have to pass soon), consider building a picket force on edge worlds or attacking with a small (expendable) force directly. Better to lose a few ships than lose a few ships and a system.
Action Density — Why DNs are worth 3 interceptors.
One aspect of Eclipse that took a few games to get around is that you want good action density. Money (and actions) can be saved up between turns, but it’s not linear. If I can afford $10 a turn, then taking one less action this turn and one more next turn usually costs me a dollar or so. Saving two actions now for two later costs me several dollars. So this means you should look for ways to smooth the number of actions between turns. If you don’t have a great action now, but upgrading would be OK, consider doing it now rather than later. If you don’t have a great technology, but have spare minerals, build the fleet now, then upgrade them next turn. This isn’t hard an fast. Saving an action and spending one extra is often fine. Saving 3-4 won’t net you 3-4 next turn. Maybe 2. So plan ahead.
The cost of actions is part of the defender’s advantage — you want to make actions count. Maneuvering is difficult when each move action only lets you shove two ships (3 if Terran) with your croupier stick. (Man, I need a croupier stick). That’s a real advantage for Dreadnoughts. If you have 18 mineral, you can build and invade with 6 interceptors … at a cost of 6 actions (5 if you have nanobots or are Terran, 4 if you are both). Building and invading with two Dreadnoughts costs only 2 actions (and only 16 mineral). Even if the 6 interceptors are better, that may be worth it.
So a DN, particularly a fully up-to-date one, is a potent threat. You only get two of them, so you have to decide where to point them. This also means that if your opponent has one sitting around (particularly in a neutral space, such as after defeating an alien, but not claiming it), it may be worth an interceptor to pin. It’s almost certainly worth slapping down interceptors (or starbases) on routes if it can move a great distance.
With the countermix limit, and the threat of pinning, and the cost of moving, sometimes it’s worth it to kamikaze a DN (etc). On Turn 7 I shove it into a not-great odds battle. If I win, great. If I lose (assuming I’m mineral rich), I now have a “Virtual” DN to use as defense wherever I need it, or to build and attack in any corner of the galaxy. This doesn’t come up often, but be aware that a virtual fleet is a powerful threat and (more importantly) if someone has 4 uber cruisers, but all built up and several hexes away … then they aren’t your problem.
Why we can’t be friends — Diplomacy and the Traitor
I’ll make trade alliances early on with anyone. Everyone. “How do you deal with them later on?” Simple — if they are weak, I attack them. Traitor Schmaitor. 2VPs can be overcome through one hex and a decent draw of reputation tiles, and then if I rampage through them some more I’m in the bonus. If they are strong, I defend against them and hope that my defense plus the traitor penalty is enough of a deterrent. If we’re roughly even I maintain flexibilty (having some actions and minerals ready to defend) and go after softer targets.
In my first few games everyone made an alliance or two and then nobody broke it, because they didn’t want to be the traitor. But look at the logic:
- The early alliance gets you critical resources and a potential VP. If you dont take it, you are falling (a bit) behind.
- The late alliance costs you potential VP (because the ambassador takes up a slot. The ideal situation would be to have your opponent break it and then grab a bunch of his VP. But he shouldn’t do that.
- Everyone is the same boat as you. They all want to break their alliance.
So me? I want to break my alliance first. If nobody else break their alliance (say), I’ll get a good stab out of it. If I get a 3 VP out of it (not unreasonable, and after a decent battle 2VPs for the tile and 2VPs for a hex isn’t hard) and nothing else then I’m up over everyone. I have 4 VP – 2VP, and then have 1 VP. I’m especially up over my trading partner.
You still need to have a good move to be a traitor. Those don’t come along every day. But be receptive to them when they show up. And don’t ignore your defenses. Nations don’t have friends, they have partners of convenience.
(Also amusing, being the traitor with A while having an alliance with B. Now B has to worry about you attacking them at no cost, while if B attacks you, you aren’t the traitor anymore).
Having heard all this. Will you be my trading partner? It’s still a good deal. 3-4 turns (usually) of extra money, minerals or science? Your choice. Just don’t expect it to keep the borders secure, or to serve as a reason to skimp on upgrading.
In the end game, ships aren’t worth points. Hexes are worth points. Battles are worth points. (Of course, battles you lose probably aren’t worth much). A new technology is often worth points. But not ships. Or cash on hand. Unsurprisingly, that means the last turn usually has everyone fighting a monstrous battle. (The typical exception? The throneworld owner if it’s a chokepoint … he doesn’t want to attack out for fear of inviting reprisals, but nobody dares attack his entrenched position).
There’s really not much to say about this. You want to be in the position of exterminator, not the bug. If your opponent has a few out position ships, pin them and fight there instead of fighitng on your turf. Much less embarrasing to lose. Prior to the endgame, taking (or just bombing) an enemy system shifts the front away from you. That’s where you want it. If you are being attacked, take a few extra actions (even those that threaten bankruptcy) to keep the pressure on. If you manage to win all your battles but have to remove a system or two, that’s no worse than having them destroyed, and you denied some VPs to your opponents. And if you lose a system, well, then you didn’t go bankrupt, did you?
The endgame is also a good time to take an early move action to pin ships that might invade. (Early on is great if you can win or threaten to win the battle, but sacrficing ships on T9 is practically free).
Blinding Yourself with Science — The Technologies
I suspect new players try to grab a few too many technologies, and spread out a bit much. Getting one track complete (with maybe the odd needed technology to shore up a problem) costs 8 actions (7 if you start with a technology) and doesn’t require much science investment if you get them roughly in order (~40 science over 8 turns). Still, you want them sooner rather than later. Also, getting a roughly even spread of technologies and spending out every turn isn’t necessarily the way to go. Consider saving up for a turn or two (or converting) to grab one big game changer, especially if you are behind.
Don’t overdo it on ship upgrades. You can’t ignore them completely, but those effectively cost 2-3 actions each. Worse yet is to buy the ‘intermediate’ technology, upgrade, then buy the advanced technology and upgrade again. Sometimes you have to, but specialize. Often I prefer to have one (or maybe two) classes of ships that I focus on, only upgrading the rest when I have spare action. This saves a few actions.
Gauss Shields (GS)/ Improved Hull (IH) — Either (or both) of these let you quickly upgrade your cruiser to be a match for an ancient, with two cruisers being a likely win. Most races can buy these on T1 without needing to trade. Not that you should, necessarily. But it’s an option. IH gets a slight nod because it also works against neighbors without computers (wheras the GS doesn’t matter). The more advanced shields are nice, and sometimes needed to counter heavy computer based designs, but they are situational.
Weapons — You are going to need a better weapon. There’s usually a race for Plasma Cannons (orange dice). Plasma Missiles (PM) are well known. Anti-Matter Cannons (AMC) aren’t much better than Plasma Cannons (since they cost so much more, and require a power upgrade). Both of those aren’t incremental upgrades … they are game changers. PMs give you initiative. AMCs obsoletes many IH-based designs, which are a common early build. AMCs secondary advantage — they free up space for more defense or computers.
Power — Unless you go the PM route, you will either need to upgrade your power or be limited to a basic drive + PC or one advance. Typically these ships have IH/GS to take up space. The nice thing about an early power upgrade is that you can spend two spare actions improving your sources and then be ready to take advantage of many different upgrades. Nice and flexible, but you sacrifice immeadiate threats.
Drives — The advanced drives help initiative, and give multi-hex movement. The movement lets you do two things. It practically forces your opponents to put at least a token defense on their border systems. (Do you really want to defend your home system? Knowing that you now don’t get the initiative bonus). It also means you don’t have to worry so much about having non-adjacent chokepoints (against different opponents). This is highly situational. In a fluid map, these are great. In a “Ring 1 choked” map, these are inferior to computers (with the caveat that this initiative bonus doesn’t take up a slot like a computer, just energy). Putting even fusion drives (2 hexes) on Dreadnoughts can force all of your opponents to react.
Computers — The non-basic computers give you initiative and a bonus to hit. The problem? Without a power source that’s bonus to hit is only an Ion Cannon. There’s an interesting coordination problem. If you and your neighbor’s neighbor both have good computers, he’ll want to research shields. But if only one of you have computers, shields are wasted space against the other. Ah, the upgrading conundrum. PMs + Positron Computers will decimate fleets, but what do you expect from two of the most expensive technologies in the game? Don’t whine about the promoted pawn….
Neutron Bombs — The bombs turn a single interceptor into a system threatening genocide. All for no upgrade cost. A great buy.
Starbases — Great ships, you’ll probably want this, maybe not right away. Rules Note — You can build multiples per hex. But once you’ve build them, they are stuck. So I try not to build more than 2, and keep the rest unbuilt for emergencies.
Advanced Mining/Economy/Research — These are great to buy on a turn where you aren’t expanding, to shore up your resources. I’ll usually get the one that’s on my main track (unless it doesn’t really help). Don’t grab this if it delays your game changing technology, but usually a decent buy.
The “Disc Gainers” Advanced Robots (AR) & Quantum Grid (QG) — AR is a fantastic early buy that will pay off almost immediately, and may be worth trading the last few points of science. The extra action lets you expand, or stockpile a bit of extra money each turn (to convert or make a deep run of actions). QG provides a huge “Sitzkrieg” advantage and lets you delay. It can be a gamechanger, or just an economic boost, depending on your targets defensive setup. However, Quantum Grid’s cost (16/8) makes it tough to get early. (I’ve seen T6, though, which gives it a decent payout).
Nanobots — Saves a few actions, if you are producing heavy minerals. However, in the early game you are often better served by buying two cruisers (or CR + INT) instead of 3x interceptors. Discounts are always nice.
Orbitals — In my opinion, you have to be truly hurting to justify purchasing these. If you got a bunch of one-world systems, I suggest building two cruisers (instead of orbitals) and taking a better system, then influencing/tactically bankrupting your old system.
Monolith — Unlike resources, VPs can’t often be created out of thin air. Monolith technology is a potent threat, but remember that your two monoliths have to contend against your opponents two dreadnoughts, which cost less.
Artifact Key — In the late game, you can often use this as a ‘free’ research. You spend ~10 Science to get 10 science (if you have two keys … and you start with one). Or you can convert 10 Science to 10 Mineral. And you get a VP or two. If you have 3 or more keys, this should be an automatic purchase.
Wormhole Generator (WG) — This should be a game changer, but I’ve found that it often isn’t. On T8 or T9 it does let you threaten your opponent, but typically they can just use the defender’s advantage to build a few random ships once you invade. And in Sector III, even the ‘half-connection’ requirement may be problematic. But, in any case, around T5 (if not earlier) you should look to see how you and your neighbors can use this, and whether they are on the bottom (“Nano”) track, since only people who hit that heavily are likley to buy it. The WG is a potent threat against someone who has loaded up a chokepoint, which is yet another argument in favor of virtual fleets.
Loving the Alien — The Races
The Terran Factions — The Terrans start of with balanced home systems, decent reserves. Their racial benefits are trading at 2:1 (instead of 3:1 or worse) and a 3rd movement action. Humans shine in midgame (and later) offense, and can suffer poor tile draws pretty well. They take a bit of finesse to play well, but they aren’t bad at all. If they are the enemy, you can play your normal game, but watch out if they get drives. You’ll want to build some interceptors because they can make audacious attacks.
Descendants of Draco — The Draconians can spread fast, through ancient ships, but they can never get access to their discoveries. Still, those are great sectors. The explore two, keep one power is excellent, and means your sector III worlds should be prime. But expect all of the aliens you don’t protect to be destroyed, and you’ll be down a few discoveries. Draco, in particular, should expand into good systems, grab easy discoveries, build cruisers in Sector I, then on turn 3 or four move into the throneworld, research a key technology and upgrade. They convert their extra resources (and discovery or two). If they are the enemy, then you’ll need a bit extra oomph, since you’ll have to fight aliens after you crush them. Sometimes. But usually when that happens the aliens aren’t that much of a deal.
Eridani Empire — The empire’s huge stash of money 3 starting technologies may not be enough to overcome the two-action disc deficit. Various strategies are being bandied about but I don’t have a good grasp on them. I’m going to try and play them soon, but I suspect they are just weak. Only pick them if you are going first, and even then, consider humans. If they are the enemy, hope they spread out too thin? Also, they are a prime target for sitzkriegs, since they’ll have to pass an action or two earlier, so you can build up near them and invade late in the turn.
Orion Hegemony — In my opinion, the best race. The Orion advantage is tempo, tempo, tempo. They start with a cruiser that’s roughly equivalent to an Alien and have the equivalent of 4 upgrade actions on their ships (not to mention a bit of extra power). You can consider exploring Sector II or I early on, and if you find a (single) alien building a second cruiser and attacking. (It’s probably still best to start with Sector III, just to keep those out of other hands). The Orions are legitimate threats against the Throneworld a turn earlier, which is a bonus discovery and a ton of resources (for as long as they keep it). In addition, the get a 5th VP slot. Even if you do get beat down later on, you’ll have a chunk of VP. If they are the enemy, do not let them get a chokepoint on you, and connect to them where their starting cruiser isn’t.
Planta — The Planta start out great. Those hyperthyroidal weeds will claim an extra large chunk of the galaxy and (with any luck) a few extra discoveries. Their ship designs are functionally better than most (at the beginning), effectively starting with a slighlty improved power source and computers! Don’t take marginal systems, or you’ll be spread too thin. But the Planta have several issues that make the endgame problematic for them. Their ship designs don’t improve well, and have terrible initiative. Planta often get Plasma Missiles to compensate the initiative. They’ll often be a target of choice (since they get an extra VP per hex) and opportunity (weak ships). So consider investing a bit more in ship upgrades. And don’t forget Planta’s annoying ability to take a turn to explore Sector I and then your neighbor’s Sector I. That can really ruin their day. (And a rules note — everyone has Neutron Bombs against the Planta! Don’t expect them to remember for you!) If they are the enemy, wait for their initial burst of energy to flag and then hit them hard.
Hydran Progress — Despite BGG’s love for the Progress, I consider them merely OK. The “Two research per action” can be great, but it can be a trap. They only have 3 VP slots and an ambassador, so if you betray them (or Vice versa) they might wind up losing a point (if they draw a low tile) instead of breaking even. As a progress player, I’d be sorely tempted to expand normally, save up my science, then buy a game changing technology ASAP. That’s probably how they should be played, and I’ll admit they could do quite well with that. That’s not how I’ve seen them played to date. Further research required.
Mechanima — The third build is OK. The third upgrade is pretty good, actually. The cheaper building costs aren’t bad, but are offset by your mineral poor starting position. Get some minerals, stat!
Random Tactics and Advice
- Take full advantage of Tactical Bankruptcy (if you would go negative on money, you can pick up disks). Unless you get great tiles, this should be a turn 1 plan (except for Eridani …. hm, another problem they have).
- If you are playing with people like me, it’s a race to hit the Throneworld. Consider moving in as the first action of that turn. (Note — not if you are connected on Sector I). Remember you can move/build then upgrade.
- A preemptive pass for first player is fine if you saving up for one key technology. Passing and praying? OK if you need a bit of luck. If people keep doing that to you, then build up a fleet next to the person passing, or start a sitzkrieg. I don’t typically mind being last, but in that case save up for a gamechanger. Still, it can hurt.
Eclipse, on the first play, strikes a lot of people as empty. You explore for a few turns, build up your defenses, then it explodes in an orgy on turn 9. But, viewed as a race for the throneworld (and technologies), Eclipse has a surprisingly short opening and endgame, and is roughly 7 turns of mid-game. That’s a great ratio. Yes, when people lose they tend to lose hard, and you can be shoved out of the game by some bad tile draws or a horrific few rolls of dice. But for a 2-3 hour game it’s not horrible. There are decisions to be made, risks to be balanced, and trade offs to be assessed. As our group has played more the games have seen more early attacking, the traitor tile shifting around, maneuvers, sacrificial attacks, move-upgrade attacks, and forking plays. The galaxy’s topology changes the game. It’s not a perfect game, but it has decisions all the way through.