I am a big fan of Science-Fiction movies. I love Blade Runner, Star Wars, Interstellar or Gravity to name only a few. So this would probably will come as no surprise that in my favorite hobby – boardgames – there is a lot of space for this theme.
In this article I would like to share my top 3 Space themed boardgames. I am explicitly refraining from the 4x naming convention – 4x being abbreviation for Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate – as some of below proposals does not have all those features. I hope you will provide also your top titles in that category – would be great to see them in comments!
Twilight Imperium by Fantasy Flight Games
One of the best multiplayer games I played. Twilight Imperium – as per the publisher site – is a game of galactic conquest in which three to six players take on the role of one of seventeen factions competing for galactic domination. It can be done through military might, political maneuvering, or economic bargaining. What is important, every faction offers a completely different play experience – so really, you will not get bored with that title for pretty long time.
A truly re-playable game will have a lot of variable elements. At the start of each galactic age, the game board is uniquely and strategically constructed using 51 galaxy tiles that feature everything from lush new planets and supernovas to asteroid fields and gravity rifts. To make the game even more fun we started to use The TI IV Balanced Map Generator.
The whole game of Twilight Imperium is fueled by the strategy cards – which not only gives unique actions but define the players order. But this is not all – at the end of a turn, players gather in a grand council to pass new laws and agendas, shaking up the game in unpredictable ways. And that is where the real fun begins!
Another very interesting element is victory points. At the end of turn players check which public objectives they scored (one is flipped every turn) or secret ones. While the game might seem a pretty military focused one – all those fleets and soldiers – to excel you really need to focus on those victor points objectives.
I played that game three times, each session being a 6-player, 9-10 hours marathon. And I really got hooked by the theme, possible strategies and ways to victory, components quality, replayability. That game really shines – I just hope that some time soon I will have again possibility for such a face-to-face session.
More about game:
Eclipse by Lautapelit.fi
That was one of the biggest surprises in my boardgames history so far. A very positive surprise. Game from the Finish author and publisher about space exploration – planned and designed to the finest detail.
Again, the game places you in control of a vast interstellar civilization, competing for success with its rivals. You will of course explore new star systems, research technologies, and build spaceships with which to wage war. There are many potential paths to victory (great!), so you need to plan your strategy according to the strengths and weaknesses of your species, while paying attention to the other civilizations’ endeavors.
One of the features which I like in Eclipse is constant exploration of the new hexes. That uncertainty is really great feature of the game. Another shining rule is the technology progress – you can upgrade you ships and economy in so many ways. You start with civilizations with different features but if you add to this all those scientific breakthroughs you finish with really asymmetric game, where everybody has its own strengths and weaknesses.
The game is best played with its expansion, which nerfs a bit the all-powerful rockets. It also brings some new interesting civilizations. Last but not least, you can play it in much shorter time then Twilight Imperium 🙂
More about game:
SpaceCorp by GMT Games
Another very nice surprise – a space exploration game from leading wargames publisher – GMT! By one of the greatest solo games designers – John H. Butterfield. Well, that is a mix which gave a great product! Unlike previous two titles, here we have a game which has almost no negative interaction, a lot of exploration and the game-play strictly linked to the real world – Moon, Solar System and then nearby Stars.
So let us provide more info. SpaceCorp: 2025-2300 AD (full name) is a board game in which one to four players explore and develop outer space over three eras. We control the enterprises – located on Earth – through three epochs:
- Mariners – covers exploration and development out to Mars.
- Planeteers – focuses on the whole Solar System
- Starfarers – we send missions to nearby star systems in order to establish interstellar colonies.
There are tons of actions players can take and each era is set on the different board. What is more, the game is based on Ejner Fulsang’s SpaceCorp book, the first of the Galactican Series. As mentioned, the game is created by my favorite solitaire games author – John H. Butterfield – and the solo module for the game is indeed of superb quality.
That title has a really great educational dimension and is straightforward enough – but not easy! – to bring the whole family to the table (just see Family boardgames – weekend with SpaceCorp & SpaceCorp – playing with the whole family). I like the growing complexity from era to era, a great solitaire mode, top quality components and Aliens! We pretty soon will have an expansion to it! Oh yeah, can’t wait for this – corporations with different abilities and primary goals will be a great addition to the base game.
More about game:
Thank you and see you in my another Top 3 article!
From these ones i’ve only played Eclipse And really enjoyed. But i’d like to play Space Corps I’ve bought Twilight Imperium but i dont know what i was thinking cause it’s almost impossible for me to play a game of this lenght with more than 3 players. Anyway, i love to read your posts. Keep up with this good job. Cheers from Brazil.
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Thank you. SpaceCorp is really accessible game and I can strongly recommend it.
Have you ever tried Space Empires:4X? I would love to hear your comparison to the other three titles you mention.
Play Space Empires 4X, and forget the rest. 😉
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Hi! Cheers from Italy! I played Eclipe (1st and 2nd edtion) and Twilight Imperium 4th edition. While I enjoyed all of them, my favourite one is Eclipse 2nd edition, because it has very few dead times and we played in 4 or 5 players in 2,5 h. Exploration, Colonization, Economic development, Technology, Battle: a lot of fun! Some considered it a Hybrid between an Euro game and an American Game, taking the best of both!
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True, Eclipse has really few downtimes! I like all of those games – it is only matter of finding appropriate time for them…
Nice list. My top 3 would be:
SpaceCorp: for the reasons you said. Also, you can tailor the length of the game if you don’t have time for all 3 eras. I got the Ventures expansion, and the new corporations add lots of possibilities.
Outpost: a classic from back in the day; the icon for Data Banks is a 5.5″ floppy disk! It can handle up to 8 (!) players, good for large gatherings. Player interaction is pretty much limited to auction wars for new technology as you race for the game winning VP total. Still, it’s just plain fun building your economic engine.
Race for the Galaxy: engrossing card game. Many people try it but don’t like it because it’s a steep learning curve to know what you should be doing, but it’s exquisite when you get it.
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Very nice suggestions! Thanks for reading the article!