Does this board game port … Eclipse its competition?
I’ve seen Eclipse at the local board game store, looked up reviews online, and determined that it probably isn’t the best game to try and coax my wife and family into playing. The game is massive, intricate, and can certainly be difficult. From what I can tell, the iPad port of Eclipse does not omit anything from its board game counterpart, and adds an interactive tutorial and some graphical touches only possible in its new digital environment.
Eclipse is a far cry from board games like Ticket to Ride. It is a 4x Space Strategy game. The four “X”s stand for: explore, expand, exploit and exterminate. 4x may as well serve as a descriptor for the amount of decisions one must make in comparison to a more simple board game. Each turn, the player has the choice of expanding their occupied territory, influencing and colonizing territory, researching new abilities and modifications, building ships, modifying ships, and attacking other units. For a new player, it is easy to become mired in analysis, although the ever present threat of bankrupting your civilization helps to limit one’s choices.
Despite the abundance of far-reaching decisions and the length of play sessions, Eclipse feels like a well-paced game. This isn’t to say that the game is packed to the gills with action, but more aggressive players will see combat early on, and many decisions will have ramifications within the next few turns. Turns also play out quickly once the required decisions have been made, and combat in the iPad version is snappy.
Regarding the game’s interface, Eclipse does a good job of condensing a board to work on an iPad screen. Research tracks and fleet upgrades are moved off screen to limit the clutter. At times I wish that the game had used a different metaphor for research choices, the options themselves are fine but moving the digital chips between empty slots on an array doesn’t quite feel right. Of course this is a digital adaptation of a board game, so carryovers from the original format will always be present. Eclipse also makes significant effort to present relevant information to the player. Most desired information points are either shown at all times, or just a single click away in the interface- once you do get the hang of the game this is quite useful.
Eclipse is a robust and engaging board game. I can’t say that it is an outstanding space game, though. Despite the pervasive theme and artwork, Eclipse is a strictly two dimensional game. It doesn’t evoke the same sense of openness as a title like Sins of a Solar Empire, and the way that everything is compartmentalized makes it feel closer to a land-based 4x game. This is the nature of board games, of course, and I realize how silly it must sound to voice this complaint. I just can’t help but feel that if I’m going to play an electronic space 4x game, that I’d like it to be a bit more like Ascendancy or Sins.
That being the case, I do realize the immense time saving value of not having to manage hundreds of chips, cubes and tiles to play a single board game. Eclipse is fascinating from a design perspective. Seemingly simple choices such as arranging warp points between sectors can shape the landscape of a game. The electronic nature of Eclipse for iPad made it possible for me to appreciate this deep, fulfilling board game.
Eclipse is available for $6.99 on the iPad.