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Top 5 Best Space Board Games

Star Realms Cards

Hello readers. Recently a few of us, inspired by the Perseverance Rover landing, wrote about games set on Mars. The red planet has inspired some great games, but it's not the only celestial object to capture the imagination of designers.

Space has served as the setting for a variety of interesting games over the years, some educational, many more fantastical. Games like Twilight Imperium, Eclipse, and Cosmic Encounter imagine alien factions in distant galaxies, focusing on exploration, area control and conquest.

Exploration is a theme commonly explored in this type of game. Race for the Galaxy, Galaxy Trucker, and Gaia Project are alternatives for players preferring less conflict. For those who like sandbox-style games, Xia: Legends of a Drift System and Star Wars Outer Rim stand out.

If you like space as a setting, or theme, for your games, you're spoilt for choice. Some of the team will put forward thoughts on their favourites below, but first, I'll briefly highlight a favourite of mine. Read on to find out our top 5 space board games.

Star Realms - Carl

Player Count: 2 | Complexity: Light | Play Time 20 Min | Released: 2014

Star Realms is amongst my favourite two-player games. It's a fast-paced deck-building game, with a quick setup time, that can be taught in minutes. Star Realms puts you at the head of a fledging armada. Your aim is to strengthen that armada with new ships and bases, building a platform from which to attack your opponent. Each successful attack will reduce your opponent's authority, reduce their authority to zero and victory is yours!

Like many deck-building games, each player begins with an identical deck of cards. Throughout the game, players purchase new cards to improve their deck. Purchasable cards align to one of four factions, each with its own play style and abilities. Each card provides a combination of Combat, Trade, and Authority values. In addition, many cards have bonuses that trigger if you play multiple cards from the same faction during your turn. Star Realms is a game of balance and optimisation, as much as anything else. Every purchase has the potential to shift the effectiveness of your deck in one direction. Each game is different, and to succeed you will need to manage your deck wisely.

Stellar - Nathan

Player Count: 2 | Complexity: Light | Play Time 30 Min | Released: 2020

As we sit in comfort at home watching amazing images beamed back across the solar system, so we get the same wonder as the early scientists who first saw Jupiter’s red spot or the rings of Saturn through their new telescopes. However, Winter in the UK is often wet, cloudy and cold. This makes star gazing is a challenging pastime. What better way to experience the glories of space with space board games like Stellar, from Renegade Games. This is a two-player card game that involves set collection and card placement. Most games take about 20 to 30 minutes. Whilst the game is about scoring the most points, whether you win or lose, you still have a lovely snapshot of space at the end of the game.

Players take turns drawing cards and placing them either into their “notebook” area or “telescope”. The cards are grouped according to the celestial bodies; planets, moons, black holes, asteroids and interstellar clouds. A sixth suite, satellites, can be used as a wildcard. Two cards are drawn each turn and the first card determines what might be taken for the second. Within twelve rounds your telescope is complete and the game ends. You are left with a beautiful photo montage of the night sky. The artwork of the planets is exquisite.

But this game is not just about the beauty above us. There is a clever card placement mechanic at work. Your positioning of cards in your notebook will give additional points through multipliers, majorities and diversity. The goal is to create runs of consecutive numbers of that card type. This, coupled with a simple set of rules governing card placement on the telescope, makes this game surprisingly strategic.

Five words to describe Stellar; quick, strategic, fun, educational and beautiful.

Ultra Tiny Epic Galaxies - Hannah

Player Count: 1 - 5 | Complexity: Light/Medium | Play Time 30-45 Min | Released: 2019

Gamelyn Games have made their mark-making great games that take up very little shelf space. Smaller games will invariably last longer as they take up less valuable real estate. The Tiny Epic series is small, but the Ultra Tiny Epic series is the size of a cigarette pack. Not only is it mega small, but it also includes the Satellites and the Super Weapons expansions!

The game is dice chucking, although those dice are teeny tiny. They aren’t small enough to cause big problems with picking them up or anything, but I wouldn’t want to play somewhere that the dice could fall on the floor and get lost. The aim of the game is to conquer planets (cards) for points and upgrade your Empire for points and ships and extra dice. You conquer planets by moving your ships through the track to the end and gain the card action for your Empire. Place ships onto the surface of a planet to take advantage of the action on the card without conquering the planet. You cannot move to the conquer track from the surface though, so you need to make sure you time your ship movement carefully.

Although the actions you can take on your turn are determined by what you throw, there are ways to mitigate luck for those anti-luckers out there. You can re-roll, you can also discard two dice to get exactly the face you want too. So you don’t feel at the mercy of Lady Luck, it feels more strategic than that. If you want a box so small you’ll be able to put it in your pocket but want a much more satisfying game than anything else that size, then pick up Ultra Tiny Epic Galaxies, you’ll not be disappointed.

Cosmic Encounter Duel - Gavin

Player Count: 2 | Complexity: Light/Medium | Play Time 30 Min | Released: 2020

Space board games? Let's go! My unpopular opinion is that Cosmic Encounter Duel is in some ways better than it’s big sibling. While the two-player count is off-putting to some. It increases the chances of getting it to the table for me. Let’s be honest, Cosmic Encounter is great fun, but there are a lot of fiddly rules along with asymmetrical powers. Teaching one other person is easier than teaching three.

I’d also argue the phases in Cosmic Encounter Duel are easier to follow. In a battle for planets, players will secretly choose how many ships to send into battle, a plan card and whether they are going to take on offensive or defensive strategy. At the reveal, any attacks that are unblocked immediately destroy ships and send them to the void.

If ships still remain on both sides after the initial laser fight, players reveal their plans to bolster their attack number and may play reinforcements. They may also bring into any envoy or character abilities they have. When the dust settles the person with the most clout takes the planet. Win five planets and win a seat at the Cosmic Citizenship Council for your race.

Cosmic Encounter Duel packs a lot of fun into its relatively small box. The destiny deck which guides you through special rules for each battle creates variety and again helps to smooth out the fiddly edges of big Cosmic Encounter. While this doesn’t have the negotiation and backstabbing of the older game, I don’t miss it. Duel gives me a less bloated, easier to teach space battle with none of the zany craziness taken out. There, I said it; I prefer Cosmic Encounter Duel to Cosmic Encounter.

Space Base - Rachel

Player Count: 2 - 5 | Complexity: Light | Play Time 60 Min| Released: 2018

Humanity has branched into space. There are space bases across the skies. You and the other players are Commodores in command of a small fleet of ships and battling to become Admiral. The person with the most influence will get the coveted position. Collect ships and colonies on your game board to acquire credits, income and victory points.

This engine-building game relies on dice rolls. Rolling two six-sided dice activates the effects on the relevant ship card. At first glance, it may seem very similar to the classic game Machi Koro, but Space Base has a twist. Dice usually mean that the game relies heavily on chance, but that has been dealt with. You get to activate your deployed ship effects when someone else rolls. On top of that, you can decide if you want to use the scores on the dice separately or combine them to achieve a high scoring ship. When you buy ships, you can pick them based on the strength of the effect or the likelihood of their roll coming up. There are varying tactics you can employ meaning that, despite the dice, the game depends on your choices, not just luck.

Every game we have played so far has been very fast-paced. It can be slow to start as you gain credits and ships, working out which effects are going to benefit you the most. But not unlike a rocket launch, there is a lot of build-ups and then the actions blast off. Keep a careful eye on what the other players are doing! It may seem like no one has any victory points and then suddenly someone is declaring themselves the winner. Things move quickly in space. Blast off with Space Base!

Moonrakers box

Moonrakers - Thom

Player Count: 1 - 5 | Complexity: Light | Play Time 60 - 120 Min | Released: 2020

I’ve talked about Moonrakers before, just after I first played it last year. Since then, I’m only thinking more highly of it. It is an odd-sounding mash-up of deck builder and negotiating game. The aim of the game is to become the new high commander president in chief of the Moonrakers. You’ll be doing this by buying up new components and crew for your ship. These will give you some special abilities or maybe allow you to modify your deck of resources.

The main way of scoring points is by completing missions, but these are generally quite difficult to complete alone so the game allows you to recruit the other players to help you. You can negotiate on how the spoils are divided up if you manage to come back alive. It’s worth saying, this isn’t a co-operative game. You are very much trying to out-negotiate your opponents to make sure you get exactly what you need while making sure they come up short.

As well as the missions you can also get some private objectives. These could have you looking for certain types of upgrades or trying to recruit certain types of crew members. The crew members themselves will grant you special abilities every time you draw them into your hand.

There is an interesting mechanic that gets thrown in when you’re playing solo or at lower player counts. There is a dummy merchant player that you can buy cards from for a single-use to help you complete your missions instead of negotiating. While it’s not as fun as the negotiation, it does keep the game working at 2 players.

This is a very unique game. From the way it looks to the mash-up of mechanics, there is nothing out there quite like Moonrakers.