Sometimes, board games must go where no game has gone before – to space, that is, because space board games are a hugely popular part of the tabletop hobby. Many of the world’s biggest sci-fi franchises have dedicated (and delightful) board game adaptations, while other designers create unique solar systems of their own. Here’s your stop for all the best space board games, as of 2023.
Something about blasting off to the stars really appeals, as many of the best board games of all time take place in space. Strategy board games are a core part of the genre, and it’s a given that Dune board games fall under this umbrella, but a few additional entries in this list might surprise you (we’re looking at you, social deduction games).
These are the best space board games:
- Terraforming Mars
- Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game
- Twilight Imperium
- Dune: Imperium
- The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
Set on the famous red planet in the 25th century, Terraforming Mars is a crunchy strategy board game where players lead various corporations in their quest to make the planet habitable. Everybody wants to turn Mars into a human-friendly haven by adding features like breathable air and comfortable temperatures, but the player who betters humanity’s chances the most will be declared the winner.
This is a game that’s heavy on hand and resource management (oh, and hexes). You’ll need to fund projects and awards to secure your victory, and it’s important to keep your Terraforming Rating high by improving the temperature, oxygen, and ocean situation on Mars.
Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game
If you like hidden roles, bluffing, betrayal, and tense cooperative experiences, Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game is a must-play (if you can find a copy, that is). Even if you haven’t seen the sci-fi series it’s based on, you should play anyway; it’s a fantastic standalone experience. However, lovers of the show will also get plenty of kicks out of the board game’s setting and flavour.
Each player acts as a different character from the show, each with their own unique abilities. At least one person in every game is also secretly a Cylon, who is determined to bring down humanity from the inside. While the human crew members are working hard to manage Cylon attacks, fuel shortages, and ship morale, an increasing number of Cylons are sneaking aboard, trying to ensure the crew never reach Earth.
Space is a ripe setting for strategy games, and Twilight Imperium is one of the heavier options for hardcore players. The stakes are also enormous, as each player controls a unique faction, each vying for total control of the galaxy. There are multiple ways to play, and plenty of different ways to win. When it comes to replay value, Twilight Imperium is the galactic cat’s pyjamas.
Politics means everything in this game, as many turns will focus on conquering planets or bartering with allies. Relationships, point-scoring goals, and the galaxy itself will evolve as you play.
While there are plenty of Dune board games to choose from, we think Dune: Imperium stands out as the cream of the Arrakis crop. It’s a midweight game in terms of complexity that isn’t going to take an entire day to play; if your group wants to move past beginner board games and loves the latest Dune movie, this is a solid choice.
Dune: Imperium is one part worker placement and one part deck-building game (pay a brief visit to our board game types guide if you need these defined). One to four players compete to control the planet Arrakis. Everyone starts with the same deck of cards, which you’ll be using to send Agents out to do your bidding. As the game progresses, you can add new cards to your deck that help you pursue a more specific strategy. You’ll also need to manage your Persuasion and Swords, which help you grow your deck and survive conflicts.
The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
If you’re after a fully cooperative space experience, we’d recommend picking up The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine. This trick-taking card game turns your group into a budding crew of astronauts, who are sent on uncertain (and increasingly dangerous) missions to uncover a legendary ninth planet.
Trick-taking is a pretty simple concept: each player has a hand of cards, and they take turns playing individual cards into a central pile. If you want your mission to be a success, your group will need to coordinate so the right player wins the trick – and this is only done by playing the highest value card in a suit (colours, or the rocket cards).
This would be simple if your communication wasn’t heavily restricted; there are very few opportunities to be frank with each other, and for most of the game you can’t talk about what cards are in your hand.