10 Great Sci-Fi Board Games


Build your 4X interstellar empire… Image via Amazon.com

Truly epic science fiction often concerns the rise and fall of interstellar empires, and in the gaming world this often takes the form of 4X strategy: eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. Cheerful, eh?

4X games are often complex in nature, filled with technology trees, detailed empire management and the strategic acquisition of resource-rich territories -- true black holes of time and space for the dedicated gamer. It's no wonder that computer games like "Master of Orion" and "Sid Meier's Civilization" stand as some of the foremost examples of the genre, unloading much of the game mechanics on the programing.

But board games also make an important contribution to 4X gaming, and the most popular modern example of this is Touko Tahkokallio's "Eclipse." Amid an expanding galaxy of hexagonal tiles (and hours of gameplay), up to six players command competing interstellar civilizations as they pursue multiple pathways to greatness.

Gameplay ends after the 9th round of play, and whoever has the most victory points reigns supreme. However, since civilizations earn victory points for numerous accomplishments, there are several pathways to dominance -- and each civilization benefits from key advantages.

So while the powerfull-armed Orion Hegemony will likely stick to military expansion, the cybernetic Hydran Progress will likely devote its energy to technological innovation in an attempt to rule the known galaxy.

Author's Note: It was a tough job deciding on 10 game titles for this article, and I know a few favorites didn't make the cut. If you're interested, other beloved sci-fi board games include "Twilight Imperium," "Star Realms," "Galaxy Trucker," "Alien Frontiers," "The Resistance," "Xia" and "Star Wars: Imperial Assault." Plus, who knows what the future will deliver to our gaming tables?

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.