Friday, 10 June 2016
My pal and sometime writing confederate Alex has been slowly getting into boardgames. A couple of months back he, his partner Scott, and their flatmate Alisha came over to the house and played a few games. They loved Riff Raff and Push It. They liked Kodama. They liked games so much they came again a couple of weeks later and we played Castles of Mad King Ludwig (which they loved), then last night Alex and Alisha came over for a mooted game of Eclipse.
I did say at the start of the night this would be a beast, and offered an alternative buffet of mini-games (me and the boys have been enjoying Pharaoh's Gulo Gulo quite a bit). But they were keen, so I set about trying to explain the epic space opera. My explaining of games has come on a modicum, probably helped by writing them up for GamesNightGuru, but Eclipse is such a mo'fo in that department that by the time I finished - glossing over what technologies were and missing out some of the finer points of combat - I was already quite tired, and beginning to pine for the mummy's curse*.
We began exploring and a pattern seemed to emerge quickly: Alex either bumped into the Ancients or found discovery tiles, but hardly any planets to bung down his population and get his income up. Alisha did better in the economy department, and I was somewhere in-between the two; eyeing up that central hex and trying to develop Andrew's wasp strategy of many little interceptors that get to shoot first.
Alex was first to fight - I rolled for the ancients, and apologetically blew him to smithereens. Then I checked the rules and saw that you're allowed to retreat, which I either never knew or (more likely) had forgotten. We allowed Alex to retreat instead. Alisha also found herself on the end of a kicking as well, as the ancients proved surprisingly obdurate. I was first to defeat them, and started to mass my forces around the central hex.
As Alex continued to struggle, Alisha's game began to take on ominous form. Shrugging off the early defeat, she went in again and claimed the hex, getting a discovery tile that bumped her economy in the process. Then she got another one, and then another. In all, four of her discovery tiles boosted her three economies: money twice, and technology and building once each! Meanwhile I got the shitty tile that allows you get the cheapest technology free. Thanks for the neutron bomb, ancient and mystical mysterons!
If it sounds like I'm blaming a forthcoming defeat on poor tools, that's because I am.
But Alisha used her income well, building some big bad dreadnoughts that terrifyingly had, bar rolling a one, automatic hits for two damage each time...
She surged into the centre hex and obliterated the bad guys. I followed her in, using my superior 6* hull to sustain her abuse and then counter with maximum damage - I claimed the centre hex! However, Alisha merely rebuilt and sailed into my poorly defended neighborhoods to wipe me out. Meanwhile, Alex watched forlornly from the far side of the galaxy and could not be enticed to attack either of us. It seemed he would be a distant third place...
At midnight we finally wrapped up. I apologized for the game taking such an age but they both enjoyed it. It was, apparently, a quick 3 and half hours! In fact Alex said it "felt quicker than Kodama" which, to be fair, is going some.
For me, I was kind of exhausted for the last half hour or so and I didn't go to bed thinking, Oooh, so good to play Eclipse again. But as often happens when I play a new game, I woke up in a more positive frame of mind about it. Part of my fatigue was trying to elucidate everyone as we went, and part of it was the heat.
And the scores? As we anticipated, Alisha - who has won most, almost all, of our contests in these evenings - won. But it couldn't have been any closer.
*the mechanic in Gulo Gulo is taking balls out of a bowl. That's the mummy's curse.