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Pete's Game Blog #15: Game Day 5/25/14

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After a terribly long hiatus, about 7 weeks during which we had only one gameday (and which I failed to blog about), we finally got the guys together yesterday for a little tabletop merriment. Jon, Trent and I started the day off with a playtest of a developmental game, which I don't think I can report on here because it hasn't been released yet. Bill and Alex arrived an hour late, but then we were ready to go. After some deliberation we chose...


Trust me, the box is heavier than it looks!

Eclipse is a space exploration game published by Asmodee Editions, which has become one of my favorite publishers. They don't publish the highest quantity of top games (Rio Grande Games still holds that distinction) nor the highest quality of games (Fantasy Flight production value is still tops) but unlike most other game companies, I can say this about Asmodee: They don't publish crap. If I see Asmodee on a box, I can pretty much buy it and be confident that I will like it without knowing anything else.

It is hard to describe what Eclipse is, because it does an awful lot. At its basic level, it is an worker placement action based game. Your "workers" cost you money resources, so the crux of the game is to spread your empire and acquire more money generators so you can get more actions. You also need science point generators to get technologies, and mineral generators to get you stuff, most notably the ability to kill vast numbers of enemy people using your world-crushing ships:

Eclipse mobile depopulation units.

The game itself centers around your player mat, which contains disk-shaped influence tokens, which cost money to use, and little cubes representing workers, which provide resources when put to work. At the top of the player mat are the blueprints for your ships, which are configurable with upgrades your researchers develop for you. Below these are your scientific discoveries, which, if you make enough of a particular type, also generate victory points. On the far right and on the bottom is a track that measures your resources accumulated.

A human player card. Other races have special powers.

One of the best things about this game is that there are many paths to victory. In our game, Alex acquired some ancient technology early on, leading him to build bruising dreadnought ships, the largest in the game. Jon, who bordered him, was forced to build many of the cheaper cruisers to keep up with Alex's might. Bill, as he usually does, relied on a non-military exploration and economic strategy. I found ways to cut off my empire from most other players and built up my victory points via development.

What Eclipse looks like in play. The cubes are generating resources, the disks marking territory, and the ships await things to blast.

The game is easily one of my top 10. I am hoping to play it again next week. Perhaps the only issue with it is length. I've never finished a game, but I hope next time is the charm.

Formula D

I bought Formula D recently after a fit of nostalgia, since this is a game that I had last played in the late 1990s. Formula D is the Asmodee Editions reprint of Formula De, by Eurogames, and it's very similar. The gist of the game is depicted in the dice and player mats:

This is what your car looks like on the inside!

The basic rules are very simple. You start in first gear (yellow) and roll that die. Each turn you can gear up once or down twice, rolling the corresponding die, the higher gears offering more speed. First across the finish line wins. "But that sucks!" you say. "Whoever rolls highest will win!" Not so...because Formula D forces you to negotiate turns, like this one:

This nasty little bend requires you to stop three times (the number in yellow at the far left) before exiting the turn. If you idiotically carom through the turns and can't manage this feat, your car takes damage, or blows up. If you look at the player mat above, brakes, tires, suspension, engine, and gearbox points can be spent to prevent you from wrecking your car. But if you're going too fast, not even these will help you. You need to manage the risk of overshooting the turn and the risk of running too slowly to win. It's a roll-and-move game done right, and I absolutely love it.

It's a beautiful game in play too.

Warning: The game can be VERY frustrating. Don't play this if you have anger issues! The farther behind you fall, the more risks you are tempted to take, and the more harrowing your race becomes (just ask Trent!). One bad turn can destroy your race (I missed a turn by ONE movement point, and that was it for me). And slow-but-steady does sometimes win the race, as it did for Bill, who ran the race conservatively early but found himself far in the lead after mistakes by other leaders.

Pete (apologizes for the long hiatus between posts)

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  1. Just Jon's Avatar
    Eclipse is a 4X game overall. It's like Master of Orion in a board game and I love it.

    The biggest downside of the game for me is the sheer amount of table real estate you need to play a proper game. It is so damn fun when you actually have the room to play thoroughly explored map.
  2. Plezercruz's Avatar
    We got lucky and the map fit on my table, but I think next week I'll set it up on the other table because it is wider!
  3. Plezercruz's Avatar
    Some notable rules we got wrong when we last played Eclipse:

    1. When drawing exploration tiles, you can discard your first draw and redraw.

    2. Combat takes place after all actions are finished, not when an action brings ships into contact.

    3. If after combat you have ships in a hex with no enemy presence, you can place an influence disk without an influence action.

    Pete (is sure there are more)