We’re living in the midst of a science fiction board game Renaissance. Gone are the days where we were forced to choose between the bland (or nonexistent) settings of Monopoly, Sorry, or Clue. Now there are games in every genre and theme, including science fiction. Why settle for owning hotels when you could own alien colonies? Why play Colonel Mustard with a candlestick when you can play an android assassin with a blaster? Science fiction board games are great ways to explore galaxies, build cool space ships, and save worlds with your friends. (They’re also great ways to dominate said friends and prove your galactic superiority. Different strokes for different folks.)
Cosmic Encounter by Fantasy Flight Games
Cosmic Encounter has been around for over two decades, with the occasional tweak and update from publishers to improve the addictive core mechanics. Gather some friends to take each other on as different alien species with a wide variety of game-altering abilities. One example might be The Loser, who wins every battle they “lose.” The goal of the game is to use combat cards to conquer the most planets in your friends’ home systems while defending your own from invasion. The core gameplay is easy to learn, but the game changes every time based on which alien species are in play. A fast-paced, high-stakes science fiction board game anyone can enjoy.
Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game by Fantasy Flight Games
If you’ve seen the show (specifically, the remake), you know what to expect: Desperate humans working together to solve problems and make it to planet Kobol while Cylons (scary robots that sometimes masquerade as humans) try to sabotage their plans. Players play human characters from the show with different abilities and specialties, from piloting fighter ships to fixing damage to the main ship. Cylon enemies will routinely attack and cause problems, naturally. But the real fun in this game comes from when players are designated as Cylon saboteurs, with the goal of ensuring their fellow players lose, ideally without being detected as the traitor. A science fiction board game to rival the greatness of the show, Battlestar Galactica will make you paranoid in all the best ways.
Race for the Galaxy by Rio Grande Games
A card strategy game without needing to sink money into booster packs, Race for the Galaxy features decks of cards representing planets, technologies, and social developments, which players must compete with each other to acquire. This is a game about using resources and technology to be able to afford better resources and technology as the game progresses, ultimately leading to more victory points. Players choose a role such as settle, explore, or produce, which leads to different beneficial outcomes. If you’ve ever wanted to be a galactic tycoon, this is the game you’re looking for.
Ascending Empires by Z-Man Games
For those looking for some physical skill to their science fiction board games, Ascending Empires is an interesting choice. Players must conquer an uncharted system of planets and battle to keep control of the planets they’ve discovered. You can win by mining for resources, building up colonies, or simply blowing up your friends’ ships and cities, all for delicious victory points. What makes Ascending Empires interesting, however, is the fact that you must flick your ships across the board in order to travel across space. Want to explore a planet? Flick your puck-shaped ship straight at it and hope you don’t end up in the middle of empty space, or worse, off the board (causing you to lose your turn). Want to battle your friend’s ship? Flick your ship close enough to be in range of attack, ideally without smashing into the other ship and blowing the both of them up. Give this one a look if you’d like a little more chaos on your board.
Twilight Imperium by Fantasy Flight Games
If you love grand strategy and have a lot of time on your hands, check out Twilight Imperium. Take on the role of an alien empire and conquer the galaxy through military strength, diplomacy, trade, or all three. Think of it as Game of Thrones in space, because you’ll need to be cunning and ruthless to win the throne. The rules are complex, and the gameplay lasts a very long time, but rewards those who take the time to learn the rules with satisfying depth and core gameplay. This is one of the most epic science fiction board games on the list, so if sprawling alien empires are your jam, clear your schedule and give this one a try!
Space Alert by Rio Grande Games
Insanity in game form, Space Alert is a unique cooperative board game where players have to protect their spaceship from alien attackers and meteorites before they’re able to warp away from danger. Listen to a 30-minute audio recording of events occurring in real time, and plan your character’s actions while working with your friends so you don’t trip each other up. Use guns, engines, and shields to keep the ship in one piece until the timer runs out, but make sure you’ve got all your bases covered, and don’t have three people doing the same action. When the tape stops, you see how you fared. Usually, it’s complete chaos, with two people managing the one-person gun, nobody working the engine, and someone turning on shields after being attacked. Space Alert is always good for a quick game and a laugh despite the high-stress gameplay.
Pandemic by Z-Man Games
A well-known science fiction board game in which players take on the roles of scientists, doctors, and military specialists trying to stop plagues from spreading across the globe. Like Space Alert, it is cooperative and high-stress, as you watch North America be consumed by the blue plague while the red plague is slowly blowing up over Asia and yellow is biding its time in Riyadh, just waiting to bubble over to the surrounding cities. At least you’ve cured black! Always great fun, Pandemic is good for a high-stakes game session any time you want to save the world with science instead of huge space ships.
Android: Netrunner by Fantasy Flight Games
A two-player cyberpunk game pitting hackers against futuristic corporations, Android: Netrunner is a card game for when you only have one other person to play with. Take on the role of a “runner” (hacker) or a corporation protecting its data. Runners win by hacking into the corporation’s network and stealing their secret agendas, and corporations win by scoring agenda cards. Decks are sold in fixed, non-random sets, so you don’t have to buy randomized booster packs and hope for the best! Check this one out if you’re just looking for something to play with one friend or a significant other.
Star Trek Catan by Mayfair Games
Star Trek is, of course, the first thing most people think when someone talks about science fiction. And Settlers of Catan has become a staple “gateway board game” between Monopoly and, say, Ascending Empires. Therefore, if you’re looking to get some friends or family into epic science fiction board games without wanting to overwhelm them, Star Trek Catan might be a good place to start. Like regular Catan, you have to build, trade, and settle resource tiles, this time in the form of planets. The rules are simple, the gameplay is classic, and it just might inspire your parents to eventually try playing other entries in your epic board game collection.
Galaxy Trucker by Czech Games
One of the most fun science fiction board games out there, Galaxy Trucker has players build space ships and fly deliveries through hostile space. You draw random parts to build your ship, and you only have a limited time to do it, so you need to make quick decisions and hope those asteroids don’t hit the weak points! You’ll find yourself getting attached to your personalized ship, and cry out in frustration when raiders exploit its flawed design. You want to make more money than other players, but you might just be happy surviving the trip! Galaxy Trucker is a great science fiction board game for those who like the thought of making their own ship without having to use it to take over the galaxy.