Space is the final frontier. It’s also a fantastic setting for a variety of board games! Sure, you’ve got the usual suspects with licensed film and television characters, but plenty of non-branded games occupy the field as well.
Many of these games follow a familiar pattern of space exploration and combat, but the best of the best get there through replayability and execution. From serious to silly, space offers all types of pleasure and entertainment. Send a probe to scan these ten space board games, then pick up the game of your choice for your next gathering of friends.
The original space faction game has been entertaining playgroups since 1977. This game is mostly political, designed for 3-5 players, with alliance-forming and the potential for multiple players to win together. Players vie to colonize planets controlled by other players, using stylized spaceship tokens rather than detailed miniatures that appear in newer and fancier games.
Fighting can get you to your goals, but often it is better to negotiate or enlist the help of other players. And then there are secret alien powers, which players can unleash to alter the game rules and throw off the strategies opposing players hoped would lead them to victory. The variable rules and myriad combinations of alien powers mean the game is both replayable and totally unpredictable. If you enjoy lighthearted space battles and surprise twists that keep everyone guessing and winning strategies in flux, check out this classic of the genre.
Star Wars: X-Wing
Here we have the best part of Star Wars — space battles between rebel X-wings and Imperial TIE fighters — condensed into 30-45 minutes of fantastic two-player action. You don’t have to be a Star Wars lover to enjoy this game, but true aficionados can go very deep with additional pieces. The base game contains all the miniature ships you need for quick battles out of the box, but there are entire series of expansions with more collectible miniatures to expand the game to an epic scale.
While there are many, many Star Wars-branded board games designed for two players or groups, X-Wing offers pure fun and lots of replayability without trying to encompass the entirety of the universe.
Star Trek: Ascendancy
Star Trek: Ascendancy gives you the opportunity to play as the Federation, Klingon, or Romulan as you explore the galaxy we’ve all come to know and love from the many television series. Specifically for three players — a sweet spot that many other games on this list accommodate but not as well as with larger playgroups — the game unfolds over three hours as each civilization charts its course through famous planets while furthering their interests.
The gameplay follows a familiar pattern across space games: you take turns developing technology, building ships, exploring planets, and eventually fighting your rivals. While that can get overwhelming for new players, the familiar Star Trek lore can help ease players into the game. But if that sounds too simple for you, take a look at the next game on the list.
Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
What if you want complex political wrangling between factions, but you also want to build a space armada to blow up opposing fighters? Do you have a handful of friends and 6-8 hours to set aside together for a single game? Many space games attempt to create the fully immersive experience of interrelated politics, trade, and warfare. Twilight Imperium is the most successful, but also the most complex.
The Fourth Edition base game features 17 distinct playable factions for games of 3-6 players, the recent Prophecy of Kings expansion adds 7 new factions (for a total of 24) and support for 7- and 8-player games, all while somehow reducing the time to play one game by an hour or two. Twilight Imperium offers the most complex and immersive space board game experience, with massive replay value from the modular hex-style board and numerous quirky interactions between factions.
Terraforming Mars offers a fun hybrid of cooperative and competitive board games while eschewing battles for scientific advancement. In a game for two to four players, everyone is pursuing the same goal: improve the atmosphere of Mars to support human life. You plant forests and seed oceans, scoring points as you increase the Martian temperature and oxygen levels. Multiple expansions add extra challenges, like improving the situation on Venus too. If you enjoy scoring lots of points (winners approach 100 points) while performing science, this is the game for you.
Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game
Let the comforting, resolute visage of Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) guide your space board gaming experience with this fun tabletop cooperative game based on the popular series, Battlestar Galactica. Cylons have developed machines that resemble humans, and they are on your ship. The exciting “traitor” mechanic turns loyal players into Cylon agents during the course of the game, making the game less cooperative than it seems. Nobody will know who the traitors are until the end of the game unless you can unravel the secret allegiances. Often games of this length (2+ hours) end with anticlimax, but not with the traitor reveals at the end of this one.
This fully cooperative game from the designer of Codenames accommodates 1-5 players and comes with its own soundtrack. The players are the crew of a spaceship who must work together in real-time to protect their vessel during missions. Each mission lasts ten minutes (with accompanying musical tracks) and presents the crew with an assortment of astronomical perils, from opposing ships to space monsters to saboteurs to ship malfunctions. Expect to fail a few missions — this one is a challenge for puzzle lovers and truly demands cooperation among all players.
Firefly: The Game
Fans of the Joss Whedon show Firefly will find a lot of resonance in this board game adaptation. Travel the galaxy and avoid the police while picking up points toward game objectives by picking up parcels to deliver across the universe. The basic game flow feels similar to other mission-based space games, but the Firefly western theme keeps this game fresh. And of course, if you love Firefly the show, you’ll get extra enjoyment spending time with your favorite characters again.
Xia: Legends Of A Drift System
If you want a more open-ended style of space exploration and you’d rather play for two hours or less, check out Xia: Legends of a Drift System. This sandbox-style game allows players to have fun without worrying too much about what the other players are doing. Rather than a power struggle between eternal factions, Xia features lowly ship captains setting out to become famous around the galaxy. In a nice twist on the force-style good-vs-evil setup, Xia lets you choose between legal and illegal missions, both of which can earn plenty of fame if you roll your dice correctly.
Build your own ship for custom missions in the lighthearted and fun take on space logistics. Unlike other games with marquee names and top-of-the-line vessels, in Galaxy Trucker, you have to build your ship out of scrap pieces of sewer pipe, which you fashion to your needs. Do you want a fast ship? Tons of weapons? Ability to sustain damage? You’ll have to compete against the other players — the game supports 2- to 4-person play — and the timer to collect your materials. Once your ships are built, it’s time to truck. After the ships traverse the map, you get to build again with more components. Perfect your technique over three rounds of zany fun!