Hapsburg Eclipse is a solitaire game published by Victory Point Games (below VPG) and is part of the State of Siege series set in Eastern Europe during the First World War, 1914-1918.
The game is sold in two versions, ziplock and boxed. The difference, of course, other than the type of "wrapping", is the addition, for the boxed version, of a map mounted divided into five pieces in the shape of the puzzle that will be stuck with one another to form the full map.
In addition to this map inside the box we find the map sheet, 66 counters, 50 event cards, two small six-sided dice and the inevitable rulebook.
I found the quality of the materials excellent, the counters are convenient to handle and pleasant to the touch. They have the laser cutting and this type of cut can dirty hands, for this the VPG has provided inside the package also a 'handkerchief' useful to remove the excess residue from the die to avoid the risk of soiling also map and papers. A small price to pay to enjoy counter so beautiful (although I found some of the press a bit 'decentralized', see photo).
In HE player must control the 'Austro-Hungarian Empire in the shoes of the Habsburgs, the family that ruled the empire at that time, preventing the progress of the five fronts in Vienna, the center of the map, managing also outbreaks of revolt of the three ethnic groups within the empire (Hungarians, Czechs and Croats) and keeping up the national sentiment against us (this to avoid having to abdicate before the end of the war, equivalent to an immediate defeat)
The map shows a part of Eastern Europe with the Empire and Vienna in the center of it. We have then five routes that converge on Vienna representing the five fronts: the Polish front, the Carpathians, the Italian front, Balkan and Romanian. The war fronts are not all active at the beginning of the conflict but will 'trigger' with the passing years. As soon as one of the sides will reach Vienna the game will end with a defeat of the player.
Bottom left of the map accommodate three lines that indicate the level of loyalty to the nation by the three ethnic Hungarian, Croatian and Czech. At the beginning of the game are all loyal to the monarchy but with the passage of time loyalty will decrease bringing even riots. If all three nationalities will be in revolt at the same time we will have lost the game.
Another important path to check is in the upper left, the level of internal loyalty to the nation. The National Will has values rom minus five to plus five, that value will change of course during the game winning or losing battles, losing control of strategic cities or undergoing uprisings. All these events will cause shifts the special indicator that, reaching the level of less than five, will mark our own immediate defeat.
So in summary, there are three ways to lose the game:
- one of the fronts enemies reaches Vienna;
- the three ethnic groups come into internal revolt;
- National Will reach a value of -5.
Instead, there is only one way to win. The game features 50 event cards, belonging to 3 different times, and at every turn we draw one and solve all of the events in it, in the correct order. Only after discarding all fifty cards, we will have won the game.
The cards drive the game. Earlier, we split the cards into three distinct clusters for the three different periods (Morning, Mid-day, and Dusk), starting to play with the light blue deck. During the game we will advance the marker War through stage four, two of which we will ask you to add to the deck into play the remaining two decks.
As we said, at every turn we had to draw a card and solve its events ordered from top to bottom.
First of all we will have to resolve the event "Effect" which may include the resolution of a battle, the addition of a war front, changing a value of a battle front or receive aid as the Radio Intercept or General Mackensen.
Battles are a focal point in the game. Winning will move the marker of the National Will toward the positive side, losing toward downside (is slightly more complicated than that, but I'll talk about it later). Each battle has a value of battle, then we're going to resolve it by rolling a die. If the result is higher than the value of battle we win, if the result is lower we will have lost, a tie will result in a stalemate. We will have to place the token of the battles inside one of the three spaces on the map based on the result obtained.
During the game we will get different token. The Radio Intercept prevents the progress of a front towards Vienna, while a Mackensen we will have the chance to pull two data and choose one of two results.
After resolving the effect of an event will move on to the part called "Advance", we will advance the fronts indicated by the card, if active, to Vienna. In the different paths are placed some strategic sites, indicated by one or two flags, these will be 'controlled' by the Allies once the forehead will have reached or exceeded. It's important to keep as far away fronts from these sites because, once under the control of the enemy, will be part of the final count of each round to determine how much and toward which sides we'll move the National Will token.
Continuing with the actions we will have to check the loyalty of our internal ethnic groups. The card indicates on which and how many ethnic groups to control (sometimes the indication is to choose a check randomly rolling a die).
The check is very similar to the battle, we will have to roll a die and hope that the result is less than the figure shown on the token of nationality on which we are doing the monitoring. In this case we are not going to move the token, in the case instead of the result equal to or greater than, the token moves to the left, ie towards the box indicating the uprising.
If after a check, one of the token should be inside the box, we will have to consider the ethnic uprising in revolt and place a corresponding marker in the space usually found alongside the path in front of the most 'near' politically and geographically. This will also bring negative effects towards us (usually a -1 die result when we try to reject one of the fronts).
Finally comes our turn, indicated by the word "Actions" on the card and then the number of actions that we perform during our turn.
We will have a number of actions to choose from. We launch an offensive versus one of the fronts to try to dismiss it. In this case we will have to roll a die, if the result is greater than the value of the battle of that front we can move the marker on a step back on the path, and away from Vienna.
We also have the possibility to improve the loyalty of Hungarians, Croats or Czechs. Getting a result equal to or greater than the number indicated by the marker we can move the token to the right, towards greater loyalty.
There are three fronts called 'off-map': Western, Eastern and Naval. Spending two actions we can buy a +1 modifier to be placed in one of three fronts at our option to increase our chances of winning a battle.
Finally we can also repair, always spending two actions, the fortress of Premysl that is on the track of the Carpathians. Premysl begins with a state of 3/3 and its power will decrease every turn, but only when the front will exceed the fortress itself. When counting for the National Will the two flags present on Premysl will not be part of the count until the fortress will be standing, once destroyed, we have to add +2 to strategic sites in the hands of the Allies.
The number of shares is not necessarily the one indicated by the map because we can 'buy' an action in more than spending a + 1DRM in our possession and present in one of the theaters of war off-map.
After spending all the points we have to solve the Action phase Kaiserschlacht, but we will have to consider only after being activated by a specific card inside the last bunch. Basically it comes to fighting a battle extra.
After the phase Kaiserschlacht we had to solve the reduction phase of the fortress in the manner described just above and then finish the round with the resolution of the National Will, we have to subtract the sum of the number of battles won, battles lost plus the number of strategic sites in enemy controlled. The result will indicate how much and in which direction to move the marker of our National Will.
Through these phases to 50 times (ie the total number of cards) without triggering a state of defeat, we will have won the game which manages to survive the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and the Habsburg family.
Positive note for the effort of the designer to classify and describe the different conditions of victory and defeat. We can calculate the VP (if you win) and points defeat (of course in case of defeat), read on a table in which 'situation' and we are going to read in the rulebook is a brief description of the events (there are about 10 Final different situations).
The game is a card driven and with a good deal of uncertainty due to the sequence of cards drawn and the roll of the dice. If we have the misfortune to draw cards that activate the movement of the War Status, one after another we will have little time to set a good defense (read to have aids Radio Intercept and Mackensen), we will be under siege from all sides and at the mercy the outcome of the dice.
The actions that we can carry on during our turn are interesting and confront us with important choices. It is the right time to use the aid? SU which face should I focus my two attacks? Or better utilizzar two actions to place a help in one of three areas off-map? Risk revolt or I can wait another turn?
Unfortunately all of these choices may be undermined by the unfortunate shooting dice. I found the 'randomness of the game too high, in some situations the edge of frustration. In a few situations the game lasted 10 minutes (to defeat fifth card having lost two battles that have lowered the National Will to -6 in three shifts).
The mechanism of the game is still very easy to learn and apply, it is mostly moving indicators and throw the dice, there are some actions that we can do to improve our chances of winning but the things that can have a negative effect on the roll are really too much.
The game is discreetly themed, each card refers to an event actually happened and presents a precise description of the events. Will we then immerse ourselves in the First World War easily reading all the cards (which can take a long time). We can also completely avoid the theme of the game, in this way we will face a war game tied fast to the roll of the dice where the theme will leave room only to the mechanics of the game, pure and simple.
That's funny? Yes, it is fun and also fairly difficult, especially if you do not have a good feeling with the dice. If we'll not be able to pay attention to the issue, but only to the mechanics of the game, if we fail to put ourselves in the Habsburg family in command of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then we'll have only a game where we have to move the pieces, throw the dice and check that their score is higher or lower than a given value. Fun for a while, but can be fun in the long run?