Hapsburg Eclipse was a game that I primarily played because it was created as the sister game of Ottoman Sunset. They’re both from the States of Siege series by Victory Point Games, and as such are solitaire war games that are easily playable and also rewarding and fun. Ottoman Sunset covers (unsurprisingly) the decline of the Ottoman Empire, and Hapsburg Eclipse covers the collapse of the Hapsburg rule in Austria – and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at large.
This game is very much the same as Ottoman Sunset but with minor differences in the auxiliary actions you can take and the geographical features of some of the tracks. The deep rooted similarity is primarily so that you can play the two games together, either as a single larger solo game or as a two player coop, each of which has it’s own extra set of rules to make transferring and expending of resources balanced.
Hapsburg Eclipse felt like it was much more focused on staving off the hordes from the Eastern Front (Polish and Carpathian) whilst trying to keep your allies in check and happy. The Italians have a hard time encroaching very far, and the Balkans are in a similar boat when they finally get onto the board. That’s actually pretty nice because it means you’re able to keep your focus in one specific area and also do a little bit more to tackle the fighting abroad, as well as internally.
Hapsburg Eclipse has a special loyalty track on the board that measures the loyalty of the Austrian allies; Hungary, Croatia, and the Czechs. Each and every card that is pulled will have a ‘trigger’ section that will call you to test the loyalty of one or more of your allies. You roll a die and try to get above their target value printed on the counter. if you roll equal to or below then their loyalty degrades closer to revolution. This extra phase is crucial to your success in the game. Whenever a country goes into revolt you receive a -1 DRM on given tracks that are printed on the map board. It’s punishing. So keep your allies in line! I spent a lot of my actions trying to keep the Czech support high so that I could conduct effective Offensives against the Polish and Carpathian fronts, and I guarantee that I’m not alone in that experience.
The Great War
It could have been just luck of the draw I suppose but when I played Hapsburg Eclipse for the first time I felt like I fought in so many off board battles. When I played Ottoman Sunset I fought a battle or two and then lost the game when the Royal Navy charged down the straits and took Constantinople (lay those sea mines!). But in Hapsburg, I rolled almost every single major battle in the game, and watching those battles turn up in victories and defeats boxes was pretty sobering. At times, I felt like I was making great progress in the war, and then a long string of crushing defeats would even up those numbers.
It was actually kind of sobering at times, all of those piles of counters felt more like the bodies of the fallen. Between that and the infighting with your allies, and the onslaught of the tracks, it’s really easy to see in what ways the Axis powers bit off way more than they could chew at the onset of the War. Hapsburg Eclipse has a small ‘progress of the war’ track which is basically a time track, but even that visual and written reminder of what stage the war is at really brings home the WWI theme.
I should get this, right?
If you’re a solitaire gamer with WWI interest then absolutely. If you’re looking for a deeply educational game (almost 1/2 the card face is taken up with historical goodness) then you should definitely get this. If you have Ottoman Sunset and want to combine them, then you probably should get it. I haven’t done that yet, but I’m going to soon so look out for a word on that later.
I feel like I enjoyed Ottoman Sunset more, but on reflection I think I like this one just as much. Even writing this review the intricacies that make it different also make it unique. I enjoy the scale of this game, and the tension of each decision. Every failed Offensive is an action wasted and you feel sucker punched at not having done better. I love it. If I’m playing a solitaire game it had better either give me a real challenge, or tell a great story. The States of Siege series does both, the historical narrative is excellent on the cards and it’s hard as all get out.
Watch out for a word or two on multiplayer coop and doubled up solo variants coming soon.