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Top Five Space Themed Board Games


The last few weeks have seen unprecedented images from the new James Webb telescope. A few days ago NASA smashed a spaceship into an asteroid to see how it deflects it, and Jupiter is at its brightest and closest for 63 years. We are now just awaiting the launch of the Artemis rocket. It has been a busy few weeks.

Now that we are approaching Space Week, the Zatu bloggers looked across their game collections and found plenty of space-themed games. Here are just five that celebrate mankind’s fascination with the realms outside of our planet.

Stellar - Nathan Coombs

Renegade Games is a recent release that showcases the wonders of the heavens. Forget cold damp overcast skies with the inevitable UK light pollution. Instead, from the comfort of the dining room two players can play a set-collecting card game over a total of twelve rounds. On each turn, a player will select a card and choose to place it either into their telescope montage or within the “notebook” area. Each card has a wonderful depiction of a heavenly body. There are five types; planets, moons, black holes, asteroids, interstellar clouds with a sixth suite (satellites) used a wild. Rules govern the position of these card types such that the second or third cards of that suite must be adjacent to existing cards and all cards must sit within a pre-formed photo montage.

Cards that are laid into the notebook are placed with consecutive numbers and form a multiplier along with the cards within the montage. Stellar is about collecting and positioning cards within the main display and notebook to maximise scoring opportunities.

The depictions and artwork of the planets are beautiful. The gameplay and considerations with each move are surprisingly “crunchy”. Each card has additional educational facts that are sure to interest any inquiring mind. Stellar is an excellent two-player, 20-minute battle of wits that fills the table with a vista of our night sky. It is definitely one to try.

Nemesis - Fred Cronin

Over the years, countless films have been made about space, and none more iconic than Alien. After all, “In space no one can hear you scream” has to be one of the most iconic quotes of all time, right? Thankfully, for fans of space and the Alien franchise, Awaken Realms have got you sorted, with their 2018 release Nemesis. During the game, players each pick a character and get dealt two objectives, one corporate and one personal. Then, they explore the eerie corridors of the Nemesis, searching rooms for items as they try to fulfil their objectives. Each time a player moves they make a noise roll, placing markers in the corridors as they go. If they make too much noise they risk an Intruder encounter, as the racket will possible alert one of the deadly aliens on board to their location.

The beauty of Nemesis is that objectives are kept secret. This means that two players who are helping one another could both be out to kill each other. While there is no way to directly harm another character, players can actively or passively sabotage their crewmates by closing doors, damaging the ship’s engines, or by simply interrupting their actions. This complex gameplay is what makes Nemesis one of my all-time favourite games. While there are other official ‘Alien’ games on the market, they struggle to live up to Nemesis.

Awaken Realms have also recently released Nemesis: Lockdown, a standalone expansion set on Mars. If you’re a fan of the original and want more terrifying gameplay, this is perfect as it introduces new mechanics such as Power and a new alien threat to try and survive. If you’re looking for a space-themed game, you can’t go wrong with Nemesis.

Distant Suns - Neil Proctor

When we do start to venture further and further into space, navigation will be key. Who knows what we will encounter out there, maybe worlds like our own, aliens, black holes and amazing treasures the likes of which we can’t yet imagine. Thankfully a game was released this year that can help us prepare for the great journey and that game is Distant Suns.

This game falls into the “something and write” genre where the something is unique as it is “choose”. On your turn, you get to place a two-sided marker on the central board which then tells you what you can draw, and also what the other players must draw on their maps. This clever twist on the roll/ flip & write really puts the power into the active player's hands and allows you to not only choose what will really benefit you, but also what you think the other players don’t really want. Of course, when it is the other player's turn to be the active player they can do the same to you.

You are trying to score the most points by covering alien spaces, gathering treasures, drawing large groups of certain shapes, placing other shapes around black holes and landing on new worlds. Because of the variety in set up of the game the shapes you are drawing on your maps will be different every time and there are so many ways of scoring it could almost fall into the point salad genre.

The artwork by Vincent Dutrait is vibrant and as this is a Iello production the quality of all of the components is amazing. The game plays in about 20 to 25 minutes and when you finish you will want to play straight again to try to improve your score. The pad of maps you receive is massive so no laminating is required (unless you really like to).

I highly recommend Distant Suns to any space fans out there.

Space Base - Rob Wright

You couldn’t have a feature on space themed games without talking about one of the best engine builders ever – Space Base.

In Space Base, which plays up to five from the box, players are commanders of a… space base. Each space base has 12 slots, corresponding to all the possible scores on two six-sided dice, which are occupied by spaceships that will give player different things when activated – credits (for spending), resources (for upping your base credits as you spend everything when you buy new ships) and victory points (which make victory prizes). On a player’s turn, they roll the two dice and either score them separately to activate two slots or combine them to activate one slot (usually giving you more stuff). The player can then purchase either a ship from 3 rows of increasingly tasty but more expensive options to fill your slots or a space colony that blocks that slot but gives you lots of VP.

Here’s where things get interesting though. The ship that was in the slot then goes off on a mission (probably five years, probably to boldly go). This entails flipping the card around and sliding it under the commander’s board with the red option showing. What this means is that when another player rolls this number, this ship’s things will activate – and these ships can stack. Things can escalate pretty quickly from here.

The great thing about Space Base is that no one is left – when it’s your turn, you’re looking at what you can afford to buy and what will help you get those sweet, sweet VPs. When it’s another player’s turn, you’re looking out for activating your ships to get those sweet, sweet points. It’s easy to pick up, easy on the eye and that perfect balance of accessible and deep that makes it appealing to newbies and MLGs alike.

Twilight Imperium 4th Edition - Jon Wellard

The first game that I think of when it comes to Space themed games is Twilight Imperium 4. It’s long, grandiose and a truly epic experience. It may be a game that you need to set aside a whole day for but it really is worth it and does not feel as long as you’d think because of how engaging it is. The epitome of a 4x game (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate), Twilight Imperium really takes you on a journey.

Firstly, you pick your own unique faction with abilities and upgradable technology cards which all feel vastly different. Once you have selected your faction, you will be given your home planets which will give you different income (both resources and influence) which you will need throughout the game. From that point, you will explore and take over new planets, build more ships, develop new technologies and start completing personal and public objectives in order to start earning victory points.

The way the game is so long but keeps you as the player so engaged comes down to the way that it deals with player actions. Everyone picks a strategy card at the beginning of the phase which they can use as one of their actions, however, everyone else at the table is able to do a less effective version of the action. I have always found that simultaneous actions help to keep a game engaging. The other actions are all simple and quick which helps the game move at a swift pace. All of this combined means that you really don’t notice how long you have been playing the game for.

There is far too much in Twilight Imperium to cover in such a short summary, but if you're looking for a game that really encapsulates the Space theme and genre then look no further. If you can commit the time and the space to it, then this will be an experience that you will never forget.

There you have it - five space-themed games. Some are grand epic games that have boxes and gameplay the size of galaxies. Other are more modest affairs with the footprint of a small asteroid. All are great games and are highly recommended additions to any gaming table.