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I've just played my first games of Eclipse, and I kind of like it, but it hase some features that kinda bug me.

First of all - player elimination. For the first two games, I got crushed around round 5-6. Worse still, I was not eradicated, so I got to sit at the table feeling bored and frustrated, being able to do nothing of meaning but still not being able to leave and play something else. I know this is typical for Amerithrash games, but I would like to at least mitigate this effect in some way, or at least make the game shorter.

Second of all - randomness everywhere! In this game, you've got two enemies. The other players, and the game's random elements. Not only do you have to learn how to play and what to do in the first place, you learn how to work your way around the bad tile/technology draws AND you have to fight your opponents! This means you need at least a few games followed by a good analysis to start playing at least somewhat correctly.

Those two elements make a killer combo. The random tile draw mechanism just helps you make a bad decision or provides hurdles to get through before you can get to the realisation of your plans/hunting down other players. In both my games I put a loop around my own neck, but that would be fine - if it wouldnt mean sitting at the table for another hour doing nothing.

While I like the game, I like the theme, I like the action economy and almost simultaneous actions, the technology and ship building, but I cant imagine showing it to my playgroup. A game that needs at least 4 plays to get a real hang of it, while each of them takes at least 2-3 hours and makes someone miserable for half of that time WONT see enough table time to our group to like it.

I really like most parts of the game:

  • Space theme
  • Tile placement
  • Fleet production and battles with other players using it
  • Resource/economy management
  • Some sort of tech upgrades for military/economy
  • Actions tied to economy with increasing costs per action (another example of a game using this mechanic would be the Expansion to Attack!) and players doing only one action at once to prevent huge downtimes.
  • I like that military conquest is not only way to win the game, and usually its not enough to win by itself.

What can I do to get the play experience of the elements mentioned above without discouraging my playgroup at the game introduction stage? How do I get all the cool stuff from eclipse without getting the steep learning curve and hard knocks during learning the game?

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This question, alas, isn't a good fit for B&CG. As it stands, this is a recommendation question, a.k.a. "give me a bunch of ideas." The highest-voted answer won't be the "best" one, it'll just be the most popular, and the answers can never be complete - there will always be new games released in the future. –  Paul Marshall Nov 12 '13 at 4:27
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@Paul Marshall I thought this through, and I disagree. This is a VERY specific recommendation question, with little subcejtive matter. A game being similar to eclipse is possible to define strictly and I can do that in the question if you like. The list of such games is not quite so long, else I would find them easily on BGG. And as for including new games - well, if I ask "how to do X in Java" on stackoverflow, nobody is worried about a new Java version that might change the correct answer. I have a concrete problem im trying to find a solution for,s so stack exchange looks like a good fit –  K.L. Nov 12 '13 at 8:58
    
@K.L. Sorry, this question is subjective. How do you define similar? Broadly, Puerto Rico is similar, but not space-themed. Is Twilight Imperium similar because it has a hex tile setup? If you found a game that's similar enough, wouldn't it be because it is random? By the way, randomness is a good thing in a game like this. It levels the game a little. It means that those who don't have the same knowledge/strategy strengths still have a chance with a little luck. –  ghoppe Nov 12 '13 at 15:27
    
@ghoppe totally disagree with the last part. Being unexperienced just means you dont know how to handle bad luck and how to use luck with tile draws. An expert on the other hand knows how to cope with bad tiles and how to use the advantages given by good tile draws. The randomness just makes it harder for the beginner instead of levelling the game. As for your objections to my question, see the edit. –  K.L. Nov 12 '13 at 18:01
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In light of the edit, I've reopened this. –  ire_and_curses Nov 13 '13 at 14:59

2 Answers 2

Full disclosure: I have never played eclipse.

From what you describe about what you like and what you don't like I have some suggestions to make this game shorter and easier to learn.

House rules to the rescue!

I would start by making the game semi random. In really though draw based games where I am struggling with a multifaceted mechanic, I remove some of the facets so that I can focus on learning how to play with the others. In this case I would say eliminate an amount of 'bad' tiles/cards to perhaps focus on one facet of the game's strategy.

A game that does this flawlessly(where I got the idea) is Fluxx. With each 'flavor' of Fluxx there are new keepers and other cards added that are not core to the game. By removing them you can get the hang of the game and then incorporate the new content, modifying your strategy as you go.

This strategy often comes with a minimum of two benefits: it makes it easier to play at the outset and it also will usually unbalance the game and thus shorten time to a win condition.

If you don't like the idea of playing with fewer tiles or removing some of the bad ones, set up a limited number of times that you can 're-draw' if you truly think the card you drew is going to ruin you.(Think bennies from Savage Worlds)

This allows you to keep most of the balance and length of the game, but allow for exceptions with new players who are struggling to learn the strategy that may be totally destroyed by one bad draw because they had no idea that horrible thing could happen and thus never planned for it..

I would also enforce a team play situation: You can not win if player X has lost the game. In another answer I made this same suggestion. Play with 'conditional' alliances until there are only two players left, then it is all out war. This has the benefit of freeing up at least two players to play something else while the game goes on.

By eliminating some of the randomness and by enforcing 'conditional' alliances, you will see that the games will become shorter and the mechanics can be focused on. Eventually when everyone has a handle on the most basic strategy, you can include all the games original content little by little.

This also adds the benefit of making the game a bit 'new' each time you play and can make it a bit more interesting to learn.

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Make it fun!

Our group turns it into a social event. Playing casually, we don't "gang up" or try hard to get eliminations, but we do try to win. Even so, eliminations are pretty rare and randomness is fun. Finally, if the game is too long for you, play another game.

As everyone gets more skilled, you can make it more and more competitive.

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