10 Great Sci-Fi Board Games

Ah, the cold unforgiving steel of game mechanics… MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Board games are a lot like the Terminator. Bear with me…

Any given board game consists of two key attributes: mechanics and fluff. Mechanics refers to the system or rules that enable gameplay, ranging from the simplicity of a coin toss to the complexity of an Avalon Hill war game.

Fluff, however, refers to a given game's thematic elements -- the setting, characters, artwork, writing and everything else that brings the cold, mathematical precision of the gaming system to life.

So you can think of game mechanics as a T-800's robotic endoskeleton and fluff as all the pink, muscly Arnold Schwarzenegger stuff on the outside: The game "works" just fine without it, but normal humans have a harder time relating to it -- much less selling it guns and ammo when it walks into a shop.

The fluff makes it fun, enabling us to achieve a flow state within the system of rules. We pour our consciousness into a self-contained universe that presents a manageable challenge, immediate feedback and a sense of control. Board games are pretty trippy when you think of them like that -- more like a mind-twisting plot element in a Phillip K. Dick novel than an afternoon-killer in a cardboard box.

So let us explore 10 board games in which engaging mechanics underlie equally engrossing science fiction fluff. I'm sure we left off some of your favorites, but hopefully you'll be able to balance your rage with a new discovery or two.

Author's Note: I originally wrote this article for HowStuffWorks.com back in July of 2015. It became something of a lost article for a while, but now it can at last see the light of publication. I didn't update it, however, so please forgive the exclusion of your favorite new sci-fi games that didn't exist yet. The ones on this list, however, are all still great.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.