Hello everybody! Time for a WRITTEN review! Let’s hop to it!
This is the third big box expansion for Eclipse (there are also quite a few promos). Rise of the Ancients introduced a ton of new modules, tiles, and races, much of which Shadow of the Rift expands upon. Ship Pack One was primarily a box of plastic goodies, but it did have a few new tiles, and a great new turn order variant (and Shadow of the Rift includes tokens for the new races to use that variant as well).
The first thing I noticed when I opened Shadow of the Rift is that though all 3 expansions have had a $50 MSRP, there is a major dearth of plastic this time. I’m guessing they think you have enough basic ships, since these races are all in already-used colors, as well. I imagine that we’re not far off from Ship Pack Two, which means excluding new basic ships here makes logistical sense – but it makes the price tag a little harder to swallow.
Additionally, most of the new stuff is a continuation of what we saw in Rise of the Ancients. There are Development and Rare Tech tiles again, along with new Discoveries and Exploration Hexes. There are also new Special Reputation tiles, and the new Exploration Hexes have Anomalies and Deep Warp Portals (see the rules here). I’ll give my opinion of each module individually, in order of preference:
Special Reputation Tiles. I see no reason not to always toss these in. They don’t disrupt the game flow, and you need not worry about them until you find one in the bag. Yes, they add more luck, but more than that, they add more fun. It’s way more exciting to pull from the Reputation bag now, and even more rewarding to do it early.
New Discoveries, Rare Techs, and Developments. We always play with Rare Techs and Developments, as well as with all the Discoveries mixed, so I am happy to have more. The rules say you should maybe limit the number of Rare Techs in the bag, but I’m crazy enough to use them all. The thing I don’t like is that all three modules have several items that are tied to the abilities of the new races, and in each case, they are somewhat clunky when that race is not in play. It’s also too much of a hassle to take out those select few items when not using the new races, except I guess the Developments. Overall, I’m positive – I love the new cannons and other Ship Parts. For example, there is a new Transition Drive that moves you 3, requires no energy, but lowers your initiative.
New Races. There are 3 new races, one of which is duplicated on both player boards. The Octantis have access to Evolutions, which are basically small upgrades that are drawn randomly out of a bag and cost a new fourth resource, Mutagen, which this race produces. These are okay, but I feel like you spend a lot of the game piddling around with your upgrades rather than just starting with a cool bonus and trying to take full advantage of it. They seem a little underpowered, but I could be wrong.
The Shapers of Draco also have a bag of upgrades, which allow them to do essentially take actions early and pay for them later, or pay for things early and receive them later. If early actions are not paid for on time, the Shapers lose VP tokens and they also gain VP if they do fulfill payments. However, it seems like ignoring payment is an extremely valid strategy, especially in lower player counts. Being able to get Positron Computer, Tachyon Source, or Tachyon Drive turn 1 is definitely worth the VP penalty, after you’ve looted all around and left your opponents in the dust. Of course, the tiles are randomly drawn, but the Shapers (and the Octantis) can use Colony Ships to draw out different techs. I don’t think this race is overpowered, but the base game rules say not to use Planta or Hydra for 2 player games – I would add Shapers to that. It’s too powerful for them to have those early ship upgrades if they only have one opponent to attack. However, it’s much more fun to play than Octantis, simply because, like most races, you get that exciting feeling of having something super powerful that other players don’t have, right away.
The last new race is the Pyxis Unity, which is one of those races that makes you gasp and shout in excitement when you just look at their p
layer board. They have only one resource for everything, do several actions in combination, and perhaps most interestingly, can combine two ships of one type into one of the next type, or go backwards from 1 ship to two of the weaker type, for only one resource. They also have super-cool Deathmoons instead of Starbases. And unlike the Octantis and the Shapers, they have no bag of tiles or any other convoluted aspect to their play – their player board is just full of awesome tweaks that makes them exude cool. I’m most eager to play with them again; I was less impressed with the other two races. And of course, all you need to play them (since there are no ships here) is the board and some tokens – most of the contents of this expansion were the tiles for the other two races.
New Exploration Tiles. It took several read-throughs for me to even understand how Anomalies and Deep Warp Portals (which are not related Warp Portals from Rise of the Ancients – confused yet?) even work. We’re reaching critical mass here with Eclipse, and too me, the weird tiles are the least interesting way to complicate the game. If we’re going to keep adding tons of extra stuff, I want simple, interesting twists, not something this complex. I have a box of Eclipse stuff I won’t ever use because getting everything back in the base game box is now a joke. It’s got the 7-9 player stuff, for example, and now it’s got these. If I’m going to include weird tiles, I’ll most likely start with the Ancient Home Worlds.
However, I should definitely mention that the weirder Exploration Hexes are not the only ones in the box. There are a few more basic Hexes that simply have a new spot which is an “Advanced Wild” spot, meaning if you have Advanced Economy/Mining/Labs (any of them!), you can put an appropriate population cube on that spot. This is what I’m talking about! Simple, new twists on the game. I love these.
Conclusion. So is Shadow of the Rift worth the purchase? I don’t know. I freaking love Eclipse, and parts of this expansion are extremely cool. There’s no question in my mind that you should get Rise of the Ancients first. Ship Pack One is mostly chrome, and I tend to just use the basic ships anyway, because some of the new ones are too big for the hexes. So, if you’ve fully explored Rise of the Ancients and are still eager for more, I think you’re going to have a lot of fun with this expansion. Two of the three races I really enjoy, and others may disagree with me about the third. There’s also a lot of the same “more good stuff” that Rise of the Ancients had with the Discoveries, Developments and Rare Techs, and the Special Reputation Tiles are an auto-include. Honestly, we don’t use nearly everything in Rise of the Ancients, either, and I’d probably be totally sweet on this expansion if the MSRP was $35-40. So if you’re a major Eclipse fan, I think this is one to get – but be prepared for the fact that you aren’t getting the same bang-for-your-$50 that you got from Rise of the Ancients.
3 out of 5