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Eclipse and the Art of Losing

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By now, I’ve become something of a master at losing against the AI in Eclipse. I’d go so far to say that no one loses in such spectacular fashion as I do. Truly, I have elevated it to an art form.

Come with me on my journey of life, loss and obscene, alien faced excess.

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Game 1
After several failed attempts to finish the tutorial game due to the lack of a resume game option for the tutorial, I strike out on my own. Those pasty faced humans all looked so dour, except for the bald guy with the killer mustache who instead looks like a barista in some Brooklyn, hipster haven coffee house. Who wants to be one of those squares when I can be some cool ass alien? As I scrolled through the races, I decided to go with the Eridani Empire, the weird faced guys who get all the cash. They used to be the toast of the galaxy and then fell on hard times. Who can’t relate to that? The allure of those fat stacks of cash coupled with the possibility of bringing a race back from the brink of economic collapse was too much to pass up!

Unfortunately, what I failed to realize is that you don’t get all of that money at the beginning of every round, you just get it at the beginning of the game. After acting out the interstellar version of “The Queen of Versailles” , I was broke. Oh how I spent! I colonized planets, spread influence around like it grew on trees and generally made it rain in my section of the universe. I even had a planet made out of solid vibranium. Vibranuim! Vibranium isn’t even real, so I had to have my scientists invent it and then build me an entire planet out of it. What can I say? Mistakes were made. Here’s a pro tip for you, earthquakes are not fun normally but when on a planet made of vibranium they are super-mega not fun.

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Game 2
Bill said I shouldn’t play as aliens, that I should play a two player game as a human vs a human so that’s what I did. I picked the buttoned up military guy and played against Greenie McCrankypants. Hey look, not as much money, but I can build things and research things. Hey, look, I made some ships. Cool. I wonder what that big round space ship thing in that common space is. I think I’ll send my ship there. What’s up, space station? Why are you shooting at me? Wait, no! GAH!

Ok, so that’s bad. That thing destroys ships. Well, it destroys my ships. Crankypants over there fast tracked plasma missiles so she went on a tear throughout her sectors and amassed victory points like my last game’s player amassed genetically engineered giraffes. Sigh. Back to the drawing board.

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Games 3 – 7
Clearly, mixing up what humans battle what humans has no bearing on what I am able to accomplish, nor does aping my opponents’ moves in the hopes of learning something. At the end of the game, they always have heavily shielded dreadnoughts with plasma missiles that can tear through ancients like tissue paper while I have a nice collection of sectors. They always have like, a billion of everything, except influence. I have so much influence that I can’t influence anything else, despite having the cash to influence things. I end up passing on most rounds and sitting there, impotent. During one game I did bombard some of my enemy’s planets for fun, despite knowing I’d lose which not only makes me a poor loser but a genocidal monster.

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Game 8, Maybe 9, Who the Hell Knows?
At this point, Hipster Bob is the only human I haven’t played, so why the hell not? I manage to balance things out pretty well during the game, getting some lucky ancient discoveries and other good turns. I build some respectable ships that can do OK for themselves. On the last round, I scrape together some money to build a monolith and I place one in a sector in a desperate attempt to not only win, but to move along the important neanderthal arms race. My opponent suffers some last minute financial mismanagement and has to remove influence to pay for his empire. I squeak out an all important, first victory with a meager one point differential.

Point margin be damned, clearly this is a turning point in my career as an Eclipse player. The dark days are now behind me and a glorious age of galactic exploration is ahead of me. Fellow humans, join me on our conquest to rule all of the universes, known and unknown!

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Every Game Since Then
Man, eff those plasma missles.

Clearly, I have no idea what I’m doing. I think that this is a great implementation of what is obviously a pretty complex game, but as someone who has never played it, there are just too many questions that pop up. Like, why do I go long stretches with the only actions available to me the stunted build and move actions? Why do I end up with so much influence that I can’t influence anything else, yet my opponent hovers around the 5 -7 influence range despite having as many sectors as me? Why should I take ancient techs when my opponent ignores them, takes the victory points instead and destroys me every time? Why do all of the humans look like they just tasted something awful?

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I’m not quite ready to give up, but the reality is that losing all of the time is not fun. I don’t mind losing when I’m making progress towards winning but all I’m making progress towards is more losing. On the plus side, I’m free to use alien races because, why the hell not? Losing is losing but at least this way, my ineffective ships will look different.

Brandon

Brandon loves games, which shouldn't be a surprise given where you're reading this. He has written for GameShark, The Escapist and G4, and made them all less relevant as a result.

4 thoughts to “Eclipse and the Art of Losing”

  1. I have played the board game of Eclipse several times and I have played the iOS game 10-20 times at this point. I typically play against 3 normal opponents and usually win. I have a couple of suggestions if you’d like.

    1. Early on play as the humans. They are not better than the aliens but they are harder to screw up. They are more balanced for all aspects of the game and allow you to play a bit before you pick your winning strategy. If you are playing as the Hydran Progress on the other hand and you don’t have tech planets you are in trouble.

    2. I would recommend playing a 4 player game. This will give the AI someone else to target and make some strategies (Such as just playing nice and building your own empire) more viable. Also, at 4 players the diplomacy rules come into effect and they are quite fun and interesting.

    3. Make sure you are very aware of the wormholes when facing new star systems. If you want to play defensively or offensively you can either make sure you have open or closed borders by cleverly placing the systems you get to put down when you explore. I suggest early on trying to limit the number of ways into your empire. I try to keep it to 2 or less ideally. Then you can build Starbases in those systems for some cheap defenses.

    4. You mention issues with influence. This is one thing I learned after watching the AI a couple of times. Early in the game if a system doesn’t have a money planet don’t keep it. Seriously. Your money and influence costs can cripple you early. You need to look for money planets early in the game. If you have a system with purple (tech) and green (materials) but no money that will be great later but early on it is not worth keeping usually.

    5. You also mention having long stretches with only stunted build and move actions. This is a mechanic of the game. In each turn you have the full actions accessible to you until you pass (decide to take no action at all that turn). As soon as you pass you are done with the “Major” actions for that round. However, the round itself isn’t over until everyone passes. So instead, if your turn comes around again, you get “Minor” actions, or what the game calls reactions, that allow you to build or move. This allows you to deal with threats that appear after you have passed. Passing early can be a valid strategy as you then get to go first next turn and have first shot at picking up a tech if you research. However, if you pass too early you will be forced to sit on your hands for a while.

    6. You also ask why the computer takes the points. I am not sure exactly why but I have found in my own games that I often over value the technologies. They sound super cool but much of the time they don’t have a significant effect on the game. Really ask if the technology you are choosing will make a difference. If it will take it. If not the points are always good.

    7. Combat: Don’t go for the middle right away. Clear out some of the local ancient defenders first. Make sure you either have a couple Dreadnoughts with extra hull (a good early research pick) or advanced weapons. Basically, when you attack the middle you want to bring at least as many attacks and hull points as the ancient defense system has. Unless you have missiles then all bets are off.

    8. Missiles: The AI loves missiles. There are basically only 3 ways to deal with missiles. 1. Get missiles yourself and ideally have a higher initiative than your opponent. 2. Build defensive ships. Missiles only fire the first round if you have enough hull + Shields to survive you will always kill a fleet with only missiles. 3. Run, run away. Avoid the player with missiles. This doesn’t work well in a 2 player game. One last notes: Missiles + Starbase = Ultimate defense.

    At this point my reply is almost longer than your post so I should probably shut up. But I just want to say that Eclipse is a great game and this is a great translation of that game to iOS. I hope you are able to figure it out and enjoy it fully.

    1. In terms of ancients awards, the two technologies I think are worth it over points are the three-star hull and the +3 computer. These seem so obviously awesome that I’m surprised the AI passes them up, but hey what do I know? Points all the rest of the time.

      1. Those two are an “always” pick while some of the other alien tech are situational picks. If you are planning to get quad lasers, the power source can make your dreadnaughts extremely scary.

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