Sawbuck Gamer

New Dawn For The Galaxy

Gimme Some Space

Eclipse: New Dawn For The Galaxy sends players on an outer-space piece-keeping mission.

By Jason Reich • June 3, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

The iPad is a powerful piece of hardware, and yet I use mine primarily to push virtual wooden bits around non-existent tables. Board games are a perfect fit for the device, and one of the latest to hit the App Store is Eclipse: New Dawn For The Galaxy. The tabletop strategy game was a hit when it first appeared in 2011, and it has made a spectacular leap to the iPad.

Eclipse casts players as alien species who compete, as such species are wont to do, for control of the galaxy. The final frontier is represented by a playing field of hexagons, most of which contain planets that generate one of three resources: money, materials and science. Each turn, players can choose to reveal and conquer a new sector, build ships for battle, or research new technologies that provide bonuses like additional income or an edge in combat. But even in deep space, cash is king. How quickly your empire expands and how much you can do on each turn is determined by how much moolah you have. Eclipse follows a satisfying arc, as players gradually shift from tentative exploration and economy building to all-out space war as neighboring territories bump up against each other. The player with the most points after nine rounds rules the galaxy with an iron fist, or a squishy tentacle, depending on your chosen race.

On the iPad, Eclipse is one of the best table-to-tablet translations I’ve ever played. The designers have simplified what could have been an overwhelming amount of information with trays that slide on and off the screen with a tap. The ever-expanding playing field is clean and easy to understand without being drab, and the game is full of nice touches, like the different ship designs for each of the alien races. (Much of the art is from the original game.) One frustration: The online multiplayer is inconsistent. Glitches are common, and players are prone to drop out at random. Still, Eclipse delivers a complex and engrossing strategy game that looks fantastic on the iPad, even if it lacks the crazy dining-room-table sprawl of the original.

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13 Responses to “Gimme Some Space”

  1. DrFlimFlam says:

    I’m so excited to live in a great time for board games. Their availability on the iPad is a great way to ramp up without delving too deeply into a rulebook that takes two passes to understand.

  2. Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

    I’ve had my eye on eclipse for a while now, in boardgame form, though. I think it may be my first 4X boardgame if i choose to get it, but that probably won’t be for a while now.

    But yeah, boardgames! I sort of love the idea of the ipad serving as a boardgame emulator, but not enough for me to buy one. It’s also pretty neat to be able to demo games, and make sure you’re playing with correct rules and all that. But really for me a huge draw of tabletop games is the actual physicality of the thing. Not only being in the same room with your buds playing a games but sitting around facing each other moving bits of cardboard and wood around is immensely satisfying for some reason. The fact that a lot of modern games take advantage of this face to face aspect is totally awesome. 

    So yeah, if you like this game on ipad consider buying a physical copy! 

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      I can see games with scorekeeping being a little easier to play on a device, whereas something like Elder Sign is fun to play becuase you HAVE the dice.

      • Chalkdust says:

        There are a few board games out there for which I’d appreciate a ‘rulebook’ app, just to keep track of everything.  Arkham Horror, for example.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          I found some programs that people made for space alert that automates the resolve phase of the game, but it’ pretty annoying to have to enter all of the cards that were played manually, and it’s really not that hard to do the resolve phase by hand. Plus there’s a lot of fun tension when going around the table and seeing what actually happened slowly unfold. 

          That said, a simple score tracking app would be pretty cool to have for some games.

      • Eco1970 says:

        Elder Sign is the only boardgame I have where I prefer the iPhone/iLad version. I think it’s be ause it’s a great solo game on the iDevices.

      • boardgameguy says:

        i agree with @drflimflam:disqus that any game that is primarily based around dice (Elder Sign, Roll Through the Ages, King of Tokyo, etc) isn’t going to translate well since half the fun is rolling the clunky things around.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          It allows for proper tension and the extension of suspense. Was a big hit this weekend at the first ever FlimFlam Festival.

  3. EmperorNortonI says:

    Has anyone in the commentariat played this?  I grew up on MOO, and am vaguely curious how it compares.  Obviously, I could go look on boardgamegeek or something, but it’s much more fun to talk to y’all here.

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      I’ve only played it a few times, and it’s not my typical style of game, but overall I’d say it’s… enjoyable? It’s a little hard to say.

      I’ve only played with four players; with just the base game, the game seems geared towards a lot of confrontation with other players. It also seems like it would be fairly easy to knock someone out of the game early if they don’t build up their military or they start with some weak discoveries.

      I do like upgrading my ships and maneuvering them on the board. There are a lot of interesting decisions to make in the game, I’ll give it that, but it also takes a long time to reach some of those decisions.

      I think the game has better rules than some of the other games I’ve played with my group, and I think it’s a well-made game overall, but it’s not the kind of game that I’d be into playing very often.

  4. CNightwing says:

    I’ve played the boardgame, and IMO the base game’s ship design had some fatal flaws, in particular there was one technology that left your opponents with no design choices at all if they ever faced you. It was easy to see how to make a nice little rock-paper-scissors system too, so, disappointing :/

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      You’re talking about the missiles, right? They’re an interesting part to have, but without the point defense rules they’re also weirdly lopsided. I’ve made use of them in some, shall we say, last-ditch tactics, but to be frank I’m not big on (or good at) the heavy military focus of the game. The expansion adds a little more in terms of player-versus-environment combat, but my group’s only played with it once so far.

  5. Effigy_Power says:

    This looks great. Alas, thanks to tablet racism, I won’t enjoy that.