Friday, April 26, 2024

Have you played...Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy?

 A BIG 4X, in just a few hours...

The Galactic Center Defense System (GCDS) dominates the 
heart of the universe.

...although, for your first game a 'few' might still be 5-6!

First impressions

I'm going to presume that if you are here, you already have some knowledge of what Eclipse is, and perhaps how it plays. If not, turn to the usual sources like boardgamegeek or YouTube for more info! I'm just going to share some thoughts in this post.

After one, four player game (using the symmetrical human factions recommended for starting players), I came away with the following impressions:
  • With experience you could get this down to a 3 - 4 hour game, which is apparently fast for a game of this type (when compared to other games like Twilight Imperium.)
  • The player turn itself is simple - you have a limited number of actions to choose from, and what each does is straightforward.
  • The 'create your own' ships and fleet system of blueprints and upgrades works well, and offers some cool choices.
  • The game comes with storage trays for everything. This makes setup, play, and take down relatively easy (and even fun, as you can pass the trays around in game.)
  • The random draw each turn of new tech, increasing discounts for purchases as you buy, and the variety of tech, make that whole system exciting and integral to your approach.
  • Exploring and uncovering the galaxy is fun (but can be challenging depending on the cards you draw.)
  • Most turns have interesting decisions based on managing your economy and resources, alliances/ enemies. 
  • The feeling of 'down time' between turns is reduced as you have lots to consider and plan with your tech, fleet upgrades and more.
...are there potential issues? Sure.
  • Analysis paralysis can add to every turn for some players (like any game.)
  • If you pull some unlucky sectors/ tiles when you explore you can have a rocky start or be hemmed in. Depending on your approach to life that might be a huge downer, or simply a challenge to be overcome and a new path you need to adjust to.
  • If you like deterministic combat, the die rolls for conflict might frustrate you as you fail to land a hit roll after roll. 
  • If both sides in the combat are having a run of bad luck, the back-and-forth rolling might be frustrating for those in combat and the other players.
In this post I'll pick up on just three of my comments above and explore a bit further:
  1. Storage
  2. Economy
  3. Ship design 


A feature of E: SDG that gets near universal acclaim (in the reviews I've seen) is the integrated storage system. Designed by Game Trayz, each player receives a 'Species Tray' to accompany their choice of playable race. This stores all the game components that the player needs in one easy-to-use tray...

The species tray for the black faction (bottom center),
showing the resource trackers.

  • Influence disks
  • Influence cubes
  • Species specific miniatures (18)
  • Starting sector hex
  • Turn summary tile
  • Ambassador tiles
  • Colony ship tiles (3)
More importantly, beyond being storage, these trays are an integral part of the game. If they were just a simple storage solution that would still be great for setup and take down, but you also use the trays every turn to track your resources and income. A simple track around the outside of the tray, combined with wheels on the lid from which you remove cubes, reveals these essential numbers to you (and your competitors...)

No less important in terms of convenience and gameplay are the Tech tray and Upgrade tray. The former accommodates the randomly-drawn tech tiles that appear each turn (of which you will have 114 in a bag). The latter holds all 282 (!) tiles that you will use to upgrade your ship blueprints on your species board.

Upgrade tray (top) and tech tray

At the beginning of each turn, you will draw a random assortment of tech tiles from a cloth bag, and then add them to the tech tray, making them available to research. In the draw, you might pick out rare technologies, which are added to the bottom of the tray. The upgrade tray holds every single upgrade tile, so if you decide to do the upgrade action, you can take the tray and choose a tile of the type you have researched.

Economy management

Every action you take on your turn will cost you. This is represented by moving a disk on your player sheet to the action you want to take. When you do so, a new cost is revealed from beneath the disk you moved, and that cost must be paid at the end of the turn. Do more - pay more! It is simple, easy to understand, but thought-provoking. I can do a lot of cool stuff, but should I, and what should I do?

In the image below (right at the beginning of the game), the red player has taken a few actions. They have moved their disks from the bottom right to the left of their player board. This has revealed increasing costs for faction upkeep (the number in the yellow circle). If this round was to end now, he'd have to pay a total of 2, or face bankruptcy.

Red player board, showing disks (bottom)

Starship and fleet design

Every player has access to the same selection of ship types/ hulls (fighter, cruiser, dreadnaught, starbase). 

The fun comes from upgrading the blueprints for each with any combination you like of weapons, power sources, targeting computers, hulls, and more. Your imagination will be limited by keeping within power limits (which you can also upgrade) but sparked by the realities of the dangerous other factions that surround you. 

  • Has your neighbour upgraded his fleet to have thick hulls? How could you arm yourself to deal with that? 
  • Do you create lots of cheap, fast, fighters with low-powered weapons and hope to overpower him with hits? Or create one or two super-powerful dreadnaughts?
  • Do you pursue researching the more lethal military technologies that will give you extra proficiency in combat? Or, keep things simple and save your research for other valuable tech?
  • How fast should you make your ships? Faster ships will strike first, but upgrading their propulsion systems is another tech to research. You could focus instead on armour or weapons...or should you try to strike a balance.
Don't be surprised to see your neighbours looking over at your player board...

White player ship blueprints, with upgrades

This is almost a whole mini-game in itself!

As I hope you can see, there is plenty to dig into. My group was unanimous in agreeing that we would be happy to play again. When we do, we'll give the alien races a spin!

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