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From the Eclipse rulebook, page 21:

Influencing hexes: If a hex has no population after all battles have been resolved and you have at least one Ship there, remove the previous controller’s Influence Disc (returning it to his Influence Track). After this, you may place your own Influence Disc there. Also, if your Ship is in a hex without an Influence Disc after the Combat Phase, you may place a disc there.

A literal interpretation of the last sentence means that just having a ship in a hex allows one to stake a claim with an Influence Disc. Obviously, this would apply for the following two combat-related situations:

  • Defeating ancients or the GCDS, leaving behind an unclaimed hex.
  • Two opposing armies fighting over an uncontrolled hex, leaving behind an unclaimed hex.

However, this also opens up a third intriguing possibility:

  • Moving a ship into an unclaimed and uncontested hex, later claiming it without needing an Influence action.

Is this third interpretation legal, or are hexes claimed in this step limited only to ships which actually did something during the Combat Phase?

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2 Answers 2

You interpreted the rules correctly. The rules state:

if your Ship is in a hex without an Influence Disc after the Combat Phase, you may place a disc there.

Which does not require that you actually participate in combat, just that you have a ship in a hex without any influence disks. So you are allowed to claim an influence disk free hex by ending your turn with a ship in that hex.

This forum post at Board Game Geek discusses the same question.

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It is an incorrect interpretation of the rules, these rules only apply to hexes where combat has taken place.

That said, if you move your ship into a controlled hex and you didn't fight any other ships there you still are in combat. If that hex was populated you get a shot at destroying the population. If there's no population left the influence disc is removed and you are able to claim it by placing an influence disc.

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Do you have anything to back up your claim? I disagree with your answer and can't find any way to interpret the rules except for allowing people to fly ships onto empty hexes and claim them after combat is over. if your Ship is in a hex without an Influence Disc after the Combat Phase, you may place a disc there. The combat phase happens even if there is no combat. This to me sounds like you are allowed to claim empty regions by just ending a turn with a ship in them. –  Matt Nov 12 '12 at 17:55
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