Sunday, 12 May 2013

Eclipse: A New Dawn for the Galaxy iPad Review

It has been a great couple of weeks for sci-fi. The release of Star Trek Into Darkness; the announcement of Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game wave 3; Alien Frontiers 4th edition kick-starter campaign; and of course, Eclipse being released on the iPad! Eclipse is an epic 4X board game designed by Touko Tahkokallio. The premis of a 4X game, for those who don't know is eXplore, eXpand eXploit and eXterminate. Eclipse is a highly rated game and has made its way to 5th on Board Game Geek



Eclipse and it's very large box

This game was transferred from cardboard to the iPad by Big Daddy Creations... and they did a great job! Such a great job that I got myself a copy of the board game after a few days of playing the app, as you can see above. So lets look at more depth into the game on the iPad.

Design

Eclipse on the iPad has a well made user interface, one of the best I have seen (admittedly I haven't seen allot). It utilises a 'tray' system allowing you to open trays with relevant information that a player needs to know. As you can see from the photo below the game has allot on information on every player's board so compacting that into a 10inch display in no easy task.

The player board fro the Eridani Empire
The 'tray' system.
Trays for the ships and diplomacy functions are pulled out
The tray system defiantly sets a gold standard for board game apps in the future. Another useful aspect of this is that you can always see the world map. The world map functions well and looks great. They have changed some of the planet colours and the hex layout slightly from the board game. This I believe is a good thing as Bid Daddy Creations has taken liberty to change things in order for it to work better on the iPad.

The world map zoomed in.
There is allot going on.
The only issue I can find with the user interface is sometimes the world map can be hard to distinguish what is going on as there is allot but you can quickly get your head around this. Another way to make the world map easier to read is by turning off the starry background and going with plain blue, however that is a bit boring. All in all they have done a great job with this, so much that if you didn't know it was a board game, you may not even realise.

Gameplay 

The gameplay is great, after all there is a reason it made it to the top 5 on Board Game Geek. At first it seems a little overwhelming, but the primary concept is actually quite simple. In order to take actions you use influence, but this comes at a cost, the more influence you use the higher the cost in money (one of the three resources) you have to pay at the end of the turn. So in order to take more money you need to colonise orange planets. The more colonists you have spread out over the galaxy on orange planets the more money you get. Simple huh. The same applies to the other resources  science which lets you research technologies and materials which lets you build ships, orbitals and monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

When you take actions, spending influence you can only take one action at a time (except free actions like trading resources), then every other player has a turn (up to 6) till its your turn again. When it is your turn again you can take another action or pass. This carries on till everyone has passed. The key actions you can take is; explore another hex connected to a wormhole, then you can place an influence on this hex/sector to control it then claim its resources; change influence of your sectors; research new technology such as ship upgrades; upgrade your ships; build ships; or move your ships around the board. Once everyone has passed ships in the same sectors fight it out!

Combat
In combat you simply roll the dice (well pressing a button) corresponding to the weapons equipped to your ships and you hit on a 6. However you can equip your ships with computers which add bonuses to your ship. For example if you have a +2 computer you will now be hitting on 4/5/6 not just 6. The game has a cool effect when shooting rather than just some dice rolling effect. The space ships are highly upgradeable, better weapons  better computers and shields, better movement rates (drives) and energy. Energy is important because you may have researched allot of neat stuff, but you need the energy to power some of the better weapons, computers, drives etc.

After combat you can take over hexes of those you defeated (assuming you also destroyed their colonies. Then if you can't afford to pay for all the influence you spent that turn you have to declare bankruptcy and remove influence off hexes you can't afford to pay for. This however can sometimes be to your advantage as it doesn't use up a turn like the action 'change influence'. This all lasts for 9 rounds then the game is done.

Simple huh. OK maybe to so much, there is allot going on in this game. I imagine my description did not do it justice but once you get the hang of it, it's allot of fun and plenty of variation to each game to keep you coming back for more. But this all raises one big problem, how do you learn to play it? For me it was simple, I have already played the game so only really needed to learn the user interface which the in built tutorial helped with immensely. However I have heard that this tutorial does not do a great job in teaching you how to play UI aside. There is a inbuilt manual which is reletively logical, but still people seem to complain. So if this is a problem I recommend just downloading the PDF manual. I do recognise this as being a problem with complex games as I downloaded Le Havre, a complex game, on sale a while back and still don't have any clue how to play.

Species 

You have a choice to play with seven different species in this game. They all offer different advantages and disadvantages. This follows some story line of the seven different species forming a galactic council after some war. However the peace is soon to be shattered as you play eclipse. Yep that's the premis of the game, it's alright and there is a pretty cool opening sequence explaining this. Terran (humans) are the most common and everyone can play Terran however the 6 different aliens can only have one player each. Terran are pretty standard offering no special benefits however they have no real disadvantage either, middle of the road. Peoples favorite seem to be the Hydran Progress who have special researching powers and Orion Hegemony who are pretty good in combat. Others are; the Descendants of Draco who are friends with the ancients (ships which occupy some hexes to make occupying them harder); Planta who rock at exploring and are more peaceful than the rest; and Mechanema who are robots who can build stuff on the cheap. However a race that I am enjoying are the Eridani Empire who I describe below. All these races provide a good amount of variation and add to the challenge!

A description shot of one of the races.



AI games vs Online Play vs Pass and Play

First off, I have never played pass and play and probably never will so, no comment. Playing against the AI is fun, there are 3 difficulties, easy, medium and hard and they all presset their challenges  I recommend playing with 3-4 players rather than 5-6 as it can take a while to get round to your turn, despite the AI having relatively fast turns. I find the bigest challenge is trying to play with the Eridani Empire, they start off with allot of money and some good starting research however 2 less initiative than the other races! This is quite challenging and the great starting resources don't seem to make up for it. None the less it makes the Eridani a good challenge!

I am not much of a computer gamer so online play is a bit foreign to me. However I decided I would give it a shot. The online play is pretty good, it has an in-game chat function and there seems to be a few different games to choose between. However my two main concerns are; firstly it can be a bit buggy, however I am sure Bid Daddy Creations is working on this; secondly, people pulling out before the game is finished, which is frustrating as I have never managed to finish a game. My first game I wasn't doing great but I managed to beat this one guy in combat with a bit of luck and he "rage quit", not very sportsman like. So I don't really rate online play to hightly but maybe if I had a better experience I would have preferred it.

Conclusion 

I can honestly say this is a great buy. It is a well made app, it looks great, the user interface is good, the gameplay is superb and it is allot of fun. Watch out however, if your like me you may end up buying the board game as well. Unless of course you already own it in which case you probably know it will be an awesome app. However if you were contemplating one or the other I would recommend geting the cardboard option. There is nothing quite like playing someone across a table (a very large table is needed for eclipse).

All in all it is a great app. Bid Daddy Creation's is working on some of the bugs as you can see here. I am also looking forward to them making the expansion Rise of the Ancients for it, I am tempted to get the cardboard version of this also. So what would I give it?

Overall: 9/10

For more on board games click here. Photos taken with a 50mm f1.4 lens or taken from the Bid Daddy Creations Website.

4 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Let's do it. Although some people may be more keen to carry on with D&D. However they will thank us later when we don't get bogged down in D&D for months on end!

      Delete
  2. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)

    ReplyDelete

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