The 6 best space-themed board games

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by Anne Loreto Cruz

Space-themed board games are not only great for fostering a love for space exploration and healthy competition between players, but they can also be beneficial for your brain. A 2019 study found that playing strategic board games could help improve cognitive function, as well as alleviate symptoms of anxiety and ADHD. The best space-themed board games should keep you entertained for hours with compelling challenges and storylines while inspiring you with images and scenarios from the final frontier.

If you have a regular game night, you’ll want to look for a board game that can be played again and again without getting boring. It also makes more sense to invest in a complex game if you plan on playing with the same group, so you don’t have to go through the arduous process of explaining the rules each time. Some games are based on existing franchises, like Star Wars and Star Trek, but players don’t necessarily need to have seen the source films or shows to understand and enjoy the game. There are also games that combine a popular franchise with an existing game that's familiar and easy to learn, like Monopoly or Catan.

Another factor to consider is the amount of space you have available to play. Larger boards won’t fit on a small coffee table, and some games may come with a lot of small pieces. If you're low on space and want a game that's easy to learn, choose one of the simpler options on this list.

Ready to explore the universe's endless possibilities on your next game night? Here are six of the best board games for space enthusiasts.

1. A Mars-themed game that's beloved by board game enthusiasts

  • Players: 1-5
  • Play time: 2-3 hours
  • Ages: 12+

If you’re looking for a game that perfectly encapsulates the wonder and challenges of exploring space, Terraforming Mars is the perfect choice. Players work together to make the red planet more inhabitable for human life by increasing the temperature, oxygen, and water levels. While the players have a common goal, there’s only one winner at the end of the game. Reviewers especially love the artwork that accurately depicts the surface of Mars. This game has a near-perfect 4.8-star overall rating on Amazon with more than 2,300 ratings, and fans say it feels fresh with each play-through. There are also five different expansions that introduce new maps, events, and goals.

One reviewer wrote: “I am a board gamer, but my girlfriend and my roommate are not... Or should I say they WERE not, until I unleashed this upon them. Now we have regular game nights MORE than once a week... I've created a monster. It is a little complex for people brand new to gaming and requires some trips to the internet for rule clarifications, but this game is FUN. It has the feeling of Axis and Allies in that the first couple of turns can really tell the tale of how the 2+ hour game will turn out, but we haven't reached that point YET. For the price, I've definitely gotten my money's worth, which is more than I can say about most of the games I own.”

2. This popular strategy game that's perfect for Star Wars collectors

  • Players: 2-4
  • Play time: 3-4 hours
  • Ages: 14+

Star Wars: Rebellion is a classic strategy game similar to Axis and Allies, where players choose sides between the Galactic Empire or the Rebel Alliance and command their troops to defeat the enemy. This game takes a while to set up, as it comes with more than 150 miniature figures, including Star Wars ships, troops, and bases. Games can also take three to four hours, so this option requires some time and patience to finish. However, it's a great option for true fans, since characters like Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia make cameo appearances to influence the game with special character cards. If you’re looking for a family-friendly game that’s at a more casual pace, there’s also Star Wars Monopoly, which is easy to learn and doesn't come with quite so many small pieces.

One reviewer wrote: “This is the best game of its type out right now. Think Axis and Allies in the Star Wars Universe, and you get an idea. It is two players generally, but can work with 4 if you work in teams. Each side has a unique objective to win; The Empire is hunting the galaxy to find and destroy the hidden rebel base, while the Rebels are attempting to free planets, and gain influence to their cause. If they succeed before the Empire discovers their base, they win. It's a race against time, as each system won by the Rebels draws them nearer to victory, but the Empire has a full arsenal of weapons, ships, and soldiers and even a Death Star at their disposal to track down and eliminate the Rebellion once and for all. This is an epic cinematic game that takes the fight to a planetary scale. If you love strategy games and are a Star Wars fan, it is a must have.”

3. A competitive board game inspired by the sci-fi TV show Firefly

  • Players: 2-4
  • Play time: 2 hours
  • Ages: 13+

Gale Force Nine Firefly: The Game is a great board game even if you aren’t a die-hard fan of the Joss Whedon television series. Players race against each other to complete space missions and build their team of crew mates while avoiding suspicion of Alliance authorities and marauders. Games can last about two hours each, and beginners will probably take longer to adjust to the game’s complicated ruleset. But after the first few play-throughs you’ll want to race through the galaxy with this game again and again. There aren’t a ton of pieces, but the board does take up a significant amount of table space.

One reviewer wrote: “Even if you don't know anything about Firefly, this is a fun game, but having watched the series will add some humor and understanding of the details. We've only played the basic story thus far, but have really enjoyed it. Slogging through the setup and directions the first time takes about an hour, so expect to take a bit of time to really understand how to play before you actually get to the game itself. It's extremely high quality, as well; the board and parts are beautifully designed and I don't worry at all about anything breaking or falling apart easily. There's lots of color and I marvel at the creativity and cleverness of the designers/creators of this game. Everything is thought through very well, and the directions are specific and informative. We haven't yet encountered a question that wasn't answered through the instructions. Very well done and a really fun game to play.”

4. A fun exploration game that lets you build your own spaceship

  • Players: 2-4
  • Play time: 60-90 minutes
  • Ages: 14+

This chaotic space-themed game from the makers of Codenames is great for guaranteed laughs during game night. Players are given a short amount of time to scrape together their space trucks and haul goods to different areas of the map, encountering obstacles that put their truck in harm’s way. While there is a small amount of strategy involved in building your truck with the game’s components, reviewers say Galaxy Trucker is less about making the perfect ship and more about triaging materials and trying to outlast other players. This game is great for more casual sessions since play time is relatively short, and the board is simple to set up.

One reviewer wrote: “I played Galaxy Trucker over Thanksgiving with some high school buddies and it was the most fun I've had playing a board game in a long time. Probably not for everyone - I can only imagine the frustration a player who prefers simple games would have with their spaceship getting split in half by a wayward meteorite - but this is one of those few games where the experience of playing it really does matter more than who wins.”

5. A classic space-themed game for the whole family

  • Players: 2-8
  • Play time: 2-3 hours
  • Ages: 8+

SolarQuest is the perfect nostalgia game for those who played it in the ‘80s. The rules and objectives are similar to Monopoly, but instead of city blocks, players collect planets. This edition of SolarQuest is an updated one that can be played two different ways: there’s an easier version that is accessible for younger kids and beginners, and a more advanced one that requires players to pay close attention to their fuel usage in addition to becoming space moguls. This game is great for families and players who’ve grown bored of standard board games, but aren’t quite ready to jump into more intense strategy games like Terraforming Mars.

One reviewer wrote: “This was one of my favorite board games as a kid, but there were definitely issues with the original rules and components. The Deluxe Edition has fixed these issues, and added new elements to make the game even more enjoyable. It's an educational game, so players can learn about the neighboring worlds in our Solar System. The game can be played with fuel monitoring, adding a resource management element to the game. At its core, Solar Quest is like Monopoly, but set in the Solar system instead of Atlantic City. All in all, this is a good, mid-level game. It's not as complex as games you might find in your local gaming store and not as basic as the games you find in the toy aisles of the average department store.”

6. A cool version of Catan for Star Trek fans

  • Players: 3-4
  • Play time: 75-90 minutes
  • Ages: 10+

Star Trek Catan is perfect for fans of either (or both) of the two popular franchises. Just like in other Catan games, players compete against one another to explore and settle different territories while negotiating with and thwarting their adversaries. The game pieces are miniature replicas of the fleet from Star Trek, and support cards have vivid artwork depicting the show’s classic characters. Reviewers love how the character cards add a fun twist to traditional Catan gameplay, and the themes of exploring the final frontier make it enjoyable even if you’ve never seen the show or films.

One reviewer wrote: “We went out on a limb and bought this for my mom for Christmas. She likes Catan but not as much as we do however she loves Star Trek. This gift has been a huge hit and we have played it every week since then (8 weeks in a row!) It is the best Catan addition we have purchased so far. It is its own game but they mixed it up enough that it feels like a new game. We really love it and highly recommend it!”

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