Eclipse — Thing of the Other Thing (part 2)
My big games of the Gathering included two games of Eclipse, including the new Shadows of the Rift expansion.
I’m not turning down Eclipse, and right when I got home I ordered this (and the first ship pack) from Amazon, who deliver on Sundays now, so it arrived today. The bad news news is that this is not a varietal expansion. You do get new races and a few new tiles, but (for the most part) every new thing has a new system or rules. The good news is that you don’t have to include them all. If you just add the Octantis race, you do need to add the new rules for mutagens, and if you add the
Mumble Mumble I forget their name (Edit — Shapers of Dorado. Dorado? Honestly, the name raises more questions than it answers) then you need to add in time travel. But you can play the Pyxis straight up. There’s also a rift, which is another Throneworld that may or may not appear, and I haven’t even read the rules for that.
If you want to, you can play a nine player game of Eclipse with 9 unique races, fully qualified player order (not just 1st then clockwise or widdershins), rifts, wormholes, genetic engineering, time travel, developments, discoveries, alliances and the whole meggilah. I do think I should try to do this at least once.
But Eclipse is starting to teeter under its weight. Easy enough, we just removed developments and the rift (and alliances, as we were only playing 4-5 players) from our games. Now (with experienced players), it’s still a pretty fast game although setup and tear-down is a bear and I’ve finally admitted that my box will never close fully and Joe R. clued me in as to where he gets the Velcro stuff he uses to keep his boxes closed. It’s surprisingly cheap.
But let’s break down this expansion. First the rule-free parts (the “variety” stuff)
- The Pyxis nanobot race are fun. Their actions are all mixed up. They don’t have an “upgrade 2” action, but they have a “Research 1 and upgrade 1” action. The combinations are mainly useful, but sometimes you’d wish you could upgrade multiple things in a single action. Also, their ability to snap their ships together and apart like Lego bricks (spend to turn 2 interceptors into 1 cruiser, or vice versa, all the way up the food chain) works amazingly well to let you move ships. Or if you have radically different build outs you can move in, wait for your opponent to upgrade and then switch ship types! (Good if you have a high computer ship or a “needs to roll sixes” ship with more weapons). I haven’t even used the Death Moons which are super star-bases that can move and score VPs by existing, but can only be built by combining two DNs.
- The rift cannon rare technology (and rift turret) are stone-cold brilliant additions to the game. Rift cannons add pink dice that don’t roll 1-6, but just roll hits (and self-inflicted hits!) directly. Which means that the player who gets that can ignore computers and shields completely. This is wonderfully unbalancing as one player may be going heavy computers, which makes another go heavy shields, and then the rift cannon shows up and suddenly all those upgrades are pointless. In a large game, this can be huge. Honestly, I want Rift Cannon technology to show up more often, and I may make a second one for my set.
- The Soliton Cannon rare tech (and turrets) do 3 hits, which isn’t nearly as game changing as rift cannons, but given improved hull a 3 damage cannon is much better than a two (if you can afford the power).
- The combined 4 power and -1 to hit shield (rare tech) is a nice addition.
- (The rules suggest that if you combine this expansion you only play with 12 rare techs. Rather than pick them, I just suggested a modification that you roll a die when a rare tech shows up and on a five or six it is discarded).
- New discoveries, tiles, GCDS (Throneworld defenders) and developments are nice. (The rift tiles add rules, but there are just some new tiles).
So, you could play with no new rules (well, the new rules for the cannons are new, but incredibly minor) and you’d get good value. What about the new systems?
- The new “bonus VP” counters — These have symbols (not numbers) and are revealed when drawn, and you can keep 1 symbol and 1 number per combat. (Redraw symbols until you get the right number of numbers). This is technically a new rule, but again its very minor (but not minor enough that we got it right the first time). But this rule also means that people who do early combats are likely to get a little boost reward (maybe an extra build or upgrade or move or die re-roll). I approve of this, and it will be in all my games going forward.
- The mutagen system isn’t bad. It introduces a 4th currency (Green) and the Octantis earn 2 green/turn and have five options of what to buy with it. These typically improve their race (get an extra build, or move, or purchase, or upgrade, or a discount on some object, or improve your trade ratio) or provide bonus VPs. My complaint with this (I’ve now seen three games with Octantis played) is that you really have to watch the opponents player mat to see what they are up to. (Yes, this is true for research and ship designs, but the honestly quite attractive chromosomes used for genetic upgrades are hard to read).
- The time distortion system (for the other race) again isn’t as difficult as I’d imagined. You can either send things into the future (at which point they re-appear wherever you like), or pull them from the future. If you pull them from the future, you have to buy the thing you get now 1-3 turns later. So, in many ways, Time Distortion is basically like interest rates on credit cards. Get it now, pay later!
- For both races, my feeling (with new players) would be to discard any discovery (etc) that used that mechanic unless all the players were familiar with the system.
- I glanced over the Rift system, but honestly I didn’t grok it yet. More later.
Anyway, there’s really no decision or not. If you like Eclipse, you’ll like this. Yes, there are new systems, but you can ignore them to your hearts content. Really the only issue is storage. I’m honestly considering getting an Ox Box to hold my game.
Rating — Pretty much whatever you rate Eclipse as. For me, Enthusiastic. (And I really should buy those cube holders, what’s another $20 to pimp my game?)
I’ll probably update my Eclipse thoughts at some point.
Admin Note — I’ve added an Eclipse category, so now you can just find everything instead of having to type out the word Eclipse in the search bar! I know, progress, right?