"Too late, too late" will be the cry…
…when the man with the bargains has passed you by.
This report is from my memory of a game played a little over a week ago, so we'll see how many details I can muster. After our last game, my brother-in-law expressed an interest in exposing his teenaged
mutant ninja children to Eclipse, as the resource management aspect reminded him of Civilization. So we got a four-player game together with myself (playing Green), him (Red) and my nieces, ages sixteen (Blue) and thirteen (Black).
We were at his house, so I couldn't set the game up ahead of time, which slows things down quite a bit as you can't explain anything very well while setting up or answer any of the questions which naturally arise when first encountering all the components. It was close to 7:30pm (on a school night!) when we finally got started. I knew we wouldn't have time for a full game given bedtimes, so we decided to cap it at wherever we were by around 9:30. I'm surprised to say that we got through round five not much later than that, probably owing to relatively quick turn times for everyone (me especially) excepting Black.
I must say that for being under the recommended age for Eclipse, Black really did fairly well. She grasped the economy concept without much difficulty and made some good decisions overall on how to spend her actions. She (and by extension, we) got a bit bogged down from her waiting until her turn came around to consider her options (which I don't think is an age thing as much as her personality; she's very bright but sometimes easily distracted).
Here's how it played out. Duplicates of many available techs meant that there was never a huge risk of any them running out suddenly. Consequently, Research actions throughout the whole game were of secondary consideration to Exploring Building/Moving/etc. I don't think any of us researched more than two or three deep into any of our research tracks. The first couple of rounds were mostly exploratory, with everyone but me linking up their hexes to each other and to the center. Whether accidentally or intentionally, however, they did not link wormholes much at all for a very disjointed, non-navigable space. The Wormhole Generator tech was available for most of the game, but it's expensive in a shortened game and nobody bought it (same thing for Plasma Missiles).
Each player in the connected mass (Blue, Black, and Red) had at least one or two ancient ships resulting from explores, and these comprised the majority of combat. Black was the first to engage hers (with a dreadnaught and interceptor, I believe) but a string very unlucky rolls combined with no computers meant that a few hits from the ancient ship wiped out her first ships (she came back later in the game and destroyed it, though). Blue played a very conservative game, never losing any ships and taking out the ancient ships she fought. In the end though, her conservatism meant that she didn't accrue some of the victory points from player combat that Red and I did later in the game.
Red built a cruiser and a dreadnaught in addition to his starting interceptor. This he lost to an ancient ship - which might not have happened had he reminded me of its high initiative. I was willing to give him the ship back for the error, but he decided not to modify the outcome. He upgraded his blueprints with extra hull points primarily (I believe he had both Improved and Shard Hull on his dread). Experience has taught me that computers are more important however, both for the initiative boost and attack modifier. I'd researched one of several available Positron Computers early on, adding them to my cruisers' base +1 for a combined +3 attack modifier.
Not wanting to get too aggressive with new players just yet, I turtled somewhat in my explores. As a result, I was completely cut off from everything else until very late in the game. Although I found no additional money planets the whole game, I used three wild planets as money production and was able to get my three extra influence discs by researching their corresponding technologies. Mid-game (toward the end of our game), my fleet consisted of two cruisers and an interceptor, all outfitted with lots of computers. I suspected that Red and I might get into it, and sure enough, on the last turn we both headed for an ancient ship found recently between our territories.
Red brought his heavily-armored cruiser and dreadnaught into the hex, thinking them a fair match for my three nearby ships. However, he hadn't taken into account my virtual fleet; I spent materials to build two additional cruisers, then moved all four cruisers into the hex along with my interceptor. This he destroyed before my many computers burned down his armor and destroyed him. Having had no resource storage to muster a larger fleet; Red's defeat there was an eventuality.
I'd like to pause a moment here to laud the cruiser, which has really become the go-to ship choice for my fleets (at least when playing Terran). Their one spare power means I can upgrade them without losing other built-in functionality or spending time/resources Researching/Upgrading power sources. And I can build two for not much more than the cost of a single Dreadnaught. I'm sure as our games and strategies get more sophisticated, so will my fleet considerations, but for now cruisers are a nice, versatile middleweight.
Had we continued playing I'd probably have wreaked some havoc in Red's naked space (I'd researched Neutron Bombs), then moved to take the center. It was bedtime, however, so we ended the game there. I believe the scores were: Black 14, Blue 15, Red 17, and me with ~22 for the win. My earlier explores had netted several un-guarded discoveries, several of which I used as victory points. Those, combined with combat draws and control of that final, contested hex pushed me into the lead.
Everyone said they had fun and were very interested in the differences between Terrans and aliens, wanting to try playing as them next time. So hopefully I'll get to play with them again soon (and maybe even add in some parts from Rise of the Ancients, which I received for Christmas)!