I got this with a gift certificate and a nice fat discount last Christmas at the Source. The box is big, heavy, and filled with goodies. Eclipse is a 4X game, meaning it focuses on exploration, expansion of empires, exploiting resources, and exterminating rivals.
Gameplay is not for the faint of heart--make no mistake this is a longer, extremely detail-oriented game, but it's a ton of fun. You pick a race and build the game board (laying down hex tiles) as you explore the universe. You have the option of attacking or building alliances and you've got to manage the resources you've acquired. Ultimately though, you will end up battling your foes using space armadas you've amassed and outfit with the latest tech.
It takes a full evening (4 hours or so) to learn properly. But the setting is immersive and the rules are extremely well orchestrated. This is precisely the 4X space game you've been pining for!
ALIENS...with action figures
The short, short version is it's basically an action figure skirmish game with a refined rule set. I can see this being adapted for just about any army-guy kinda' game you can imagine. Oh, and the dude who made this enormous game board included LASER POINTERS because line of sight is CRITICAL to gameplay. That's gameplay cranked to 11, my friends.
Star Command (touch screen video game)
I've been a booster for my share of Kickstarters over the last couple of years, but none had more promise in it's premise than Star Command. Boy did it deliver! The developers, Warballoon Games, rendered the game as a low-res pixel-y, nostalgia-fest, but don't rely on looks alone to win over players.
At it's core, Star Command is essentially a Star Trek-style exploration and space combat game that hearkens back to classics like X-Com and my beloved Star Control. You meet a variety of interesting and colorful alien species, make friends with some, do your best to vaporize others.
You pick a ship type, name it, even pick it's color combination. Along the way, you upgrade using tokens you win in battle. The ships starts out pretty much empty and you add engineering, science, command, and weapons modules. You also hire crew and build up their skills for better performance.
Don't have great shields? Better make sure your redshirts are good at phaser-to-phaser combat, because your aft is getting boarded. Oh and be sure to outfit your ship with more than one type of weapon or you're bringing a knife to a disruptor fight.
In short, Star Command is awesome. It's everything a wannabe starship captain could want. I should mention that the game was overdue in development, but new content is on the way, as well as playability on PC and Mac platforms other than Android and IOS. (I play on my Galaxy phone set).
So those are a few of my favorites from this year. What games did you enjoy in 2013?