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Eclipse

I've continued to attend board-game night at Hobbytown in Nanuet NY on Thursday nights. I haven't blogged about each night, so this is a bit of a catch-up post. Here are some of the games I've played and enjoyed.

Ra: a relatively simple game with engaging mechanics. The game is heavy on Egyptian symbolism, though I don't think it's a game they actually played 3000 years ago. It's a basically a tile-acquisition game, with an occasional auction for key tiles.

Alien Frontiers: You compete with other players for resources needed to colonize a planet. This sounds similar to Settlers of Catan, but the resemblance is superficial at best. The different territories on the planet grant special abilities; other abilities are granted by various cards.

Arkadia: I liked this one so much that after playing it once, I purchased a used copy since it's no longer bring printed. Part of the reason is that the gameplay involves so little printed text that I could play it without wearing my reading glasses. It's also fun: you're one of up to four competing families trying to get the most credit for building a plaza. Like Settlers of Catan, once you place a game component, it stays where you put it: worker, building, or castle tower. Simple rules, engaging strategy.

The game I'm going to spend the most time on is Eclipse. I bought a copy at Hobbytown last week. It cost about $100! But you get quite a bit for the money; the game has about 300 pieces and comes with the bags needed to store them. We spent a half-hour just separating the pieces from the sprue when we realized that there was no way we could play a game of this complexity that night. We spent the rest of the evening playing 7 Wonders, with the understanding that I'd read the rules and be ready to introduce them to the game the following week.

Last Thursday we played it for the first time. It was a hit! In the words of one gamer, "I like Mage Knight, but I love Eclipse." For the first time, I was asked to bring the game for the next board-game night (two weeks from now; the store is closed on Thanksgiving) so we could play it again.

Eclipse is a 4X game: explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate. It's played on a grid of randomly-selected hexes, which are only revealed when a player moves into that space. After the player has dealt with any Ancient Enemies in the hex, they can expend their colonies onto worlds there. Or you can build up your own ships and start attacking the hexes that belong to other players.

In terms of complexity, of the games I've played it ranks third; Arkham Horror is the most complex board game, followed by Mage Knight. For some reason, it turned out to take the longest to teach; it took me 90 minutes to explain the rules to my fellow players. However, part of that time was taken by setting up the game, which can take a while if you've never played the game before.

Eclipse is also the first board game I've seen for which there's a substantial market for accessories: I've ordered Plano boxes and GMT trays to organize the pieces, and population trays to help keep pieces from sliding around while playing the game.

Eclipse is clearly an investment in time and money, but it looks like an investment that pays off. I look forward to playing it in the future, and purchasing the expansion when it comes out next month.

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