Hapsburg Eclipse Review

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Overview:

The story:

Hapsburg Eclipse is a solitaire States of Siege game set in Eastern Europe during World War I from 1914-1918.

What do you get for your money?

In the box you will find two 11″x 17″ maps, one paper and one mounted jigsaw map. Also, you’ll get 66 game pieces, 50 event cards, 2 six-side dice and the rules.

How do you play the game?

In Hapsburg Eclipse, you, the player, control the leadership of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. You have to try to keep the Hapsburg Monarchy in their seat by preventing five different front units from advancing into Vienna, managing loyalties of three ethnicities and managing the Austro-Hungarian National Will.

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There’s a map of Austria Hungary with their surrounding countries. There are five tracks that represent different fronts, like the Carpathian, the Polish and the Italian front. Some fronts are active at the beginning of the game, others become active during the game. Whenever a front unit reaches Vienna, you lose the game.

In addition, you’ll find three National loyalty tracks in the bottom left corner of the map, namely the Czech, the Croat and the Hungarian loyalty track. At the beginning of the game, all nationalities are loyal to the monarchy, but during the game this will change. Whenever all three nationalities are in revolt, you also lose the game.

Another important track, located in the upper left corner of the map, is the National Will track. The National Will has a value from minus five to five. You start the game with a National Will of zero and during the game this value will change. You win or lose battles, the allies will conquer strategic sites and nationalities will revolt against you. This causes the value to shift from positive, if you have the upper hand, to negative, when the allies have the upper hand. Whenever the National Will value becomes less than minus five, you lose the game. So, as you can see, there are three ways to lose the game.

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However, there is only one way to win the game. There are fifty event cards, belonging to three epochs, and every turn you draw and resolve an event card. Only when you’ve successfully resolved all fifty event cards, you win the game.

The event cards drive the game. You start the game with the Morning Epoch cards and during the game, when you draw certain cards, the War status changes and the Mid-day and Dusk Epoch cards will be added to the deck. Every turn you will draw one card and resolve it.

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First, you resolve the effect the event. You might have to fight a battle, add a front, change the battle value of a front or you might receive some helpful tokens, like the Radio Intercept or Mackensen tokens.

Battles are very important in this game. Win them and your National Will goes up, lose them and it goes down. Every battle has a battle value and when you have to resolve a battle you have to roll a die. When you roll higher than that value, you win. Roll lower, you lose. And whenever your roll equals the battle value, it’s a stalemate.

You can get several tokens throughout the game. The Radio Intercept tokens prevent fronts from moving towards Vienna. With one Meckensen token you can roll two dice during an offensive and choose one you like.

After you’ve resolved the effects of an event, you’ll have to move the indicated armies if that front is active. At the beginning of the game, you start with an active Polish front and an active Carpathian front. Whenever you have to advance an army, you have to move its marker towards Vienna. Along the different tracks, you’ll find strategic sites that can be controlled by the allies when they are on or past that site. The National Will is negatively affected when these sites are controlled by the allies.

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The next thing you’ll have to do is to check the loyalty of one or more nationalities. The event card will tell you which nationality, sometimes randomly, is triggered. Every nationality has a National Identity Rating and during a check you have to roll a die. Whenever you roll equal or higher than that rating, the marker must be moved one space to the left, towards a revolt. A revolting nation always has a negative effect on your action in a certain region.

Now it’s your turn to fight back. Every card tells you how many action you are able to execute that turn. You can launch an offensive against an enemy front. Then you’ll have to roll a die and if the result is greater than the battle value of that front, your offensive is successful and you can move the front one spot back, away from Vienna.

There are three off-map theaters, namely Western, Naval and Eastern/Near Eastern, and for two resources you can allocate resources, +1 die roll modifiers, to these theaters. Whenever you have to fight a battle is one of those theaters you have a better chance to win.

You can also try to improve the National Loyalty of a the Hungarians, Croats or Czechs. Roll equal or higher than the National Identity Rating and the marker is moved to the right, more loyal.

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Lastly, you can repair the Premysl Fortress, an important strategic site at the Carpathian front, for two actions. Well, it’s not really the last action you can perform. You can buy one more action if you permanently remove a Resource token, +1 DRM, from the game.

These were your possible actions. Now you have to resolve the Kaiserschlacht phase. This phase is triggered by a card in the Dawn Epoch deck, so during first couple of turn you won’t have to deal with it. During this phase you basically have to fight an extra battle.

After the Kaiserschlacht, there’s the Fortress reduction phase. Whenever the Carpathian front is beyond the fortress, the strength of the fortress is reduced by one. The fortress has three levels. After that, the fortress is destroyed and the allies gain control over it.

And finally you determine the National Will. Go through these phases fifty times without triggering a loss condition and you win the game and the Austro-Hungarian monarchy survives.

Review:

Gameplay:

The game revolves around the event cards and your dice. The cards tell you what to do and what to adjust and every roll of the die can change the game outcome significantly.

The order of the cards is very important. There are three cards that tell you to advance your War status, one in the Morning deck, two in the Mid-day deck. If you’re lucky and you draw these cards late in the Morning and Mid-day you are able to set up a decent defence. You are able to gain all the helpful markers, there are less active fronts and maybe you’re able to put some +1 DRMs in some theaters.

When you aren’t so lucky and you have to advance the War Status multiple times early in the game, you will be at the mercy of your dice. More front are active and you have the feeling that it would be so much nicer if you had a couple more actions than you have right now. One bad roll and you could be in big trouble.

Fighting battles at the beginning of your turn is not that interesting. You just have to roll a die and hope for a win.

The choices you’ll have to make in the action phase are very interesting. When do I use the German Aid markers? Which front do focus on and which nationality must definitely not go into revolt at this time in the game? There is a lot of push your luck in Hapsburg Eclipse. You sometimes just hope that the next card doesn’t order you to advance the Polish front, for instance, so you can focus on the Italian front this turn. The more you play the game, the more you get to know the cards and the better you can judge what’s is the right thing to do at what point in the game.

Although, you can make all the right choices, if the dice work against you at critical moments in the game, you are pretty much screwed.

The mechanism in this game are pretty simple. You move the markers and then roll a die for almost anything you want to do. There are some things you can do or hand in to give yourself a better chance, but there are just as many things that have a negative effect on your die roll. The fact that almost all things are handled with a roll of the die, makes this game pretty easy to learn and play. I do find that it’s pretty hard to win, it’s tight.

I never managed to play this game within the suggested playing time of thirty minutes. My games were closer to an hour, sometimes even one and a half hour. The bookkeeping will take much of your time and if you want to read all the flavour text on the cards, which I very much recommend, the game definitely takes longer than half an hour.   

Theme:

This game can be pretty thematic if you want it to be. When you read the flavour text and you learn why you have to fight a certain battle or why certain fronts advance on Vienna, the game can be quit thematic. It has a nice narrative.

However, when you treat it as a fast paced, dice rolling, war game the theme is quickly sacrificed and only the mechanisms remain.

Looks:

Hapsburg Eclipse looks pretty clean. There are very little to no illustrations on the tokens and cards. The map is very clear, the different armies advancing on Vienna looks nice. The revolt tokens could have been more prominent. Now I sometimes forget the fact that I’ve have to subtract 1 from my die roll.

Quality of the game parts:

The quality of the game parts is pretty good. The cards are just OK, but the laser-cut tokens are very nice. The playing pieces are nice and sturdy. You have to wipe off the soot the first time(s) you play the game and it smells a bit funny, but I’m fine with that.

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I prefer the paper map over the mounted one. So, I always use the paper one. A board that consists of puzzle pieces never gets my approval actually. It’s never a tight fit and that makes sliding the pieces more difficult.

Fun:

Hapsburg Eclipse is a fun, solo, war game. I find it quit difficult to be really successful in the game, the dice aren’t always my friends. I like the narrative, but I’ve noticed that the more I play the game, the less I pay attention to the ‘story’.

There is a lot of bookkeeping in this game and that is not very fun, but the more you play it the the better bookkeeper you’ll be and the faster it goes.

This game is very tense. You have to divide your energy and actions between the different fronts, the loyalty of the different nationalities and your national will. However you can only do one or two things a turn, so there is always the danger that you draw just that card that orders you to advance exactly the front that slipped your attention. This tension excites me.

So it’s a tense game, a game that’s not easy to beat and it has a nice narrative. All very good characteristics for a solo game. However, without the narrative, the historic background, it’s just a game of pushing some pieces, rolling a die and checking if it’s higher or lower than some value. Fun for now, but is it going to be fun in the long term, I don’t now..

 

 

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