I've now been able to play 2 games of Eclipse, and I can tell it definitely feels like Master of Orion! This game, which is currently #12 on lists of boardgamegeek, is not a board game for everyone, but for those who like it it's really excellent! It may be a bit too heavy to be casual fun game, especially because of it's setup time - but it's still really lightweight to be a game it represents. There are plentys of reviews of the game if you google for such, so I'll mention about the game basics only briefly.
The game is very well designed and has very neat mechanics, like moving population and influence tokens from your control sheet to the map, and exposed spaces show you how much it costs to maintain your empire and how much you produce money, science and materials.
You pay influence for each action and each sector (map hex) you control. This is an excellent and balancing factor, and if you can't get enough money you can't expand more. You can buy some pricey techs that give you more money and influence, but at the same time other players may spend the money on techs that boost their fleets and production. While the investment is likely to pay off, it may make you vulnerable for a while.
Eclipse game situation on the map - Science-oriented Hydran progress watches galactic core being taken by Descendants or Draco who have been spreading like crazy. It's time to build up some military!
So what about Master of Orion?
There's a lot of things familiar from MoO. First, it's also a 4X (eXpand, eXplore, eXploit, eXterminate) game in space with aliens. You've got familiar resource types - I just realized there's no food, but I never missed that!. Instead of finetuning production in each system, you have some influence about what to settle and which populations to place to wildcard slots.
You have 3 different technology trees (although it's encouraged to research them in order but not required), ship blueprints for 3 different ship classes plus a starbase, you've got ancients inhabiting the better systems (something between antareans and monsters) and guardian of the most wanted system. And you'll make science, resource and artifact discoveries from many systems. There's simple diplomacy and penalty of attacking a player with whom you have a pact.
Ships have hull (hitpoint) components, computers, guns and first-strike missiles (and yes, the traditional missileboat tactics is there, but in later game), ship classes have their own initiatives and can retreat if there's a place to retreat.
While in MoO2 it was fun to set up the productions how you wanted in the beginning, after getting a few techs and habiting several systems it become cumbersome, and autobuild was never worth it. There's several such things that have been streamlined in Eclipse, and there's really little in the original PC game I miss in the board game.
If none of the races (or players) in the game is especially military-like, it's much possible that there's very little pvp combat except at very late game. This is what's happened twice now, first with rookies playing humans and then Hydrans (researchers), Mechans (builders - they can build ships fast though!) and Descendants of Draco (well, descendants of ancients who were able to gain a huge advantage because of finding habiting ancient systems very fast - but lost still to my Hydrans!). Draco was the strongest faction and conquered the core, but no-one wanted to connect to the other factions via wormholes when exploring, so the only way to contact other players was through galactic core - until I researched Wormhole generator, which won me the game as I was able to attack lightly protected Draco systems.
Hydran control sheet with very successful cruiser build that helped me conquer an enemy system on the last round; A real glass cannon that wouldn't have survived against few improved hull units!
Ancients aren't that hard to beat, and the core guardian isn't too difficult after developing your fleet and/or tech for a few rounds - but luck can always turn it's back. Researching is decisions - it takes actions, researching from bottom to down gives you a great selection of tech, reduces total cost and gives you finally victory points, but it may harm your other game, especially when there are some really wanted inventions available that you would have to buy at full or almost full cost.
I do not yet have enough experience to rate this game, but I've really liked what I've played so far. I'm still far from promised "1/2h per player" limit, and I don't see it impossible, but I often think more carefully than that and am afraid I won't reach that limit very fast. On the other hand, I have spent ages playing MoO2, so my play in it was quite routinized.
I really enjoy this game; I missed the preorder and now I'll have to wait months to get it... hopefully it's still available somewhere! I'll play my friend's game until I can buy my own from FLGS.
Another note - I think development of Eclipse started at pretty much same time than I began development of from Epsilon to Orion. While the game shares genre, their focus and theme is very different - fortunately. If e2o would have been a 4X game I would probably have buried it now, Eclipse IS that good! But from Epsilon to Orion is a game that focuses on combats of (mostly) small fleets and the initial participants are Americans and new Soviets in a retro feel. While Ecipse focuses on galactic power play in politics and handles combats quickly, e2o focuses on the combat and handles the galactic politics in various small details. For those interested, e2o is still in it's late phases of development and how it's going to be released is still not sure.