Wednesday, 27 February 2013

My 10 greatest sci-fi board games of all time

I'm sure many of you have seen the recent blog post: 10 Greatest Science Fiction Board Games of All Time over on the Forgotten DM blog. There's been quite a few people talking about it and lots of people disagreeing with his list. I feel there really no point in me taking apart his list or arguing over why certain games should or should not be on it, instead I figure it would be better to just make my own. So here's my 10 greatest sci-fi board games of all time (in no particular order).

1. Risk Legacy. This is a fantastic game. It did something no game before it has done and so far no game after has done. You literally modify your game permanently as you play through. You rip up cards, you write on your board, you put stickers on things. Added to that cool factor this is a very solid version of Risk. With a new victory point system games of Risk Legacy are done and over with quickly. We were often able to fit in two or more games in one night.

2. Eclipse. This one is still a newcomer to the scene but it's already found it's place at the top of many gamers 4x list. Eclipse is the perfect mix of simplicity and depth. It's a version of Twilight Imperium that can be played in a couple of hours. What it lacks in options it makes up for in gameplay and speed. Since getting this one I haven't touched any of my older 4x games and I don't really expect to go back to them any time soon. Added to that they just released an expansion to Eclipse adding ever more options and strategies.

3. Race for the Galaxy is a non-collectible card game and one of the best ones out there, sci-fi or not. It started as a re-theme of San Juan but has grown into a very solid game of it's own. It combines role selection with resource management and traditional card mechanics. It plays just as well with two players as with six. Fair warning though, there is a bit of a learning curve with this one. The cards use a ton of unique symbols to show what they do and these take a bit for people to pick up.

4. Star Wars X-Wing Miniature Game this is probably the most fun game I've played so far in 2013. Another newcomer to the market, it's quickly growing in popularity. X-Wing is basically a Star Wars re-them and re-write of the classic Wings of War dog fighting game. It combines simple to learn mechanics with a hidden movement system and amazing pre-painted models. There have been complaints about the price per model on this one but I find that this is actually one of the cheaper miniature battle games out there, especially when compared to Games Workshop or Privateer Press.

5. Star Fleet Battles this one has been around since the 70s and is still supported and played. Sure there have been some new iterations released. Mostly ones that make the game simpler and quicker. Games like Klingon Armada, Federation Commander and Call To Arms: Star Fleet. I figure if we are looking at best games of all time, I think the original deserves the credit here. SFB did hidden movement of ships long before Wings of War and X-wing and it added having to allocate your energy each turn to that. Having to decide just how much to allocate to shields, engines, phasers, scanners and more will always stick with me.

6. Alien Frontiers was one of the first games to come out that combined dice and Eurogame mechanics. Like games like Kingsburg, you start each turn by rolling a set of dice. Then the dice become your workers and the game becomes a worker placement game. Alien Frontiers uses this mechanic excellently with each die representing a ship and the numbers rolled determining where each ship can land each turn. Add that to a variety of way to earn victory points and a short play time and you've got a winner.

7. Starfarers of Catan. I've loved this one since the first time I played it. It takes some of the best parts of Catan and tosses them up in Space. The great thing about this one though is that it isn't just Catan in space. There's so much more going on here. You build and upgrade a space fleet. You visit different planets. You can meet and negotiate with a variety of aliens. You have to deal with ancient races and space pirates. Added to this is one of the most unique and cool board game pieces yet. A plastic ship that you snap upgrades onto to show the status of your flee. The ship is also your randomizer  you shake it an coloured balls fall to the bottom of it to determine your speed and if you have an event every turn..

8. Battlestar Gallactica Here's one where I agree with the Forgotten DM. This is a great game. I see a lot of people who compare it to Shadows Over Camelot and I'm not sure that's totally fair. Shadows is a co-op game where there might be a traitor in your midst. To me Galactica is a team game because you know at least one person is a cylon and it's the humans vs. them. Half way through there's a great balancing mechanic that looks at who's winning and then adjusts the teams accordingly. Other than that it's a good game all around though a bit hard to explain to newcomers.

9. Space Hulk I don't know what it is but I love this game. I loved this game since it came in that box there on the left. I collected all of the Games Workshop 3D Roleplay games and Space Hulk was always my favorite. Awesome looking models combined with the epic Warhammer 40,000 universe and fluff combined with quick to learn but difficult to master rules. Things like the way blips work still seem brilliant to me and it seems like every mini game after it had rules for Overwatch.

10. Twilight Imperium Another one that's on the Forgotten DMs list. I know up above I said that Eclipse has replaced this one for me, and it has. That doesn't mean that TI needs to be dropped from the best games of all time though. This one is a beast, but it's the board game that does space exploration in the most detailed way. It's the closest you will get to playing Masters of Orion on your kitchen table. One caveat  you have to have the first expansion for his one to belong on this list. Shattered Empires makes this good game great.

EDIT - by the gawds how the heck did I forget Battletech!?! Sorry Catan you are off the list and replaced by 100 tons of awesomeness.

7. Battletech I have no idea how I forgot this one the first time around. I loved this game. I need to get back into this game. It's been around almost as long as I've been gaming and is still supported and played. Battletech is an amazing game of giant robot combat. It's crunchy, strategic and highly scalable. There's what seems like a near infinite amount of supliments out there ranging from new factions, new mechs, rules for tanks, jets and more. What's really cool is that behind it all is a great world of fiction rivaling the denseness of even the Warhammer universe. I still feel shame for forgetting this the first time around.


  1. I like your list. although I haven't played all the game on it.
    I agree Battlestar Galactica has a real cool mid game balancing dynamic.
    Race for the Galaxy: didn't really grab me.
    Twilight Imperium: - OMG there should be a warning label on the box about how insanely LONG this game takes to play.

    Here's a few that I would add for my list:
    Car Wars:
    - both the dice game and the card game

    Star Trek Tactical Combat Simulator:
    -sure its a scaled down version of star fleet battles, but I remember having some great "epic" battles

    -only played a few times but it had my pulse racing as we see the population of earth collapse around us.

    Renegade Legion: Centurion; Blood & Steel
    -another one I only played a few times (and many many moons ago) but a fun future tank battle game

    Battleship Galaxies:
    -quick, fun, and a box full of cool spaceship mini's

    and is it sad that I really want to get Star Trek Catan even though I already have Catan. (how different can it really be)

    also have to add Star Munchkin; a game with too many puny groans to not mention.

    1. Car Wars is a really good call. The thing is that I own it but I never actually played it. So I would have put it on the list as hearsay.

      Star Trek III Combat Sim - another pretty good call, I figured already having SFB on the list meant I didn't need something as similar.

      Pandemic - this was on the original list. The thing is that I don't see it as Sci-Fi, to me it's a modern what if game. There's nothing high tech about it at all.

      Regengade Legion as well as the follow up Silent death - this like Car wars I never actually played myself.

      Battleship Galaxies - I almost put this one on instead of Starfarers of Catan. Great game. Needed the planned expansions though and was sadly killed by Hasbro before they were released.

      I'm not a big fan of the Munchkin games. If I did a top 10 fantasy games list it the original would probably be on there though, just for how many people I know that love it and for how many people it was a gateway game.

      OMG I just realized I forgot Battletech - that replaces Starfarers Easliy. I may need to do an edit.

  2. Nice list... and I must say you got quite a few of my own choices too!

    But of course - I HAVE TO ASK - How big of a chance is there, that my game "Burning Suns" ... ... will be on your list in a year? :D

    Have a good one...
    Best regards Emil

    1. Send me a review copy and we'll see ;)

      This is the first I've heard of it, thanks for giving me the heads up about it. Very interesting with all the bits that hold dice. Something I haven't seen before. I'll keep my eyes open for it this year.

  3. No Galaxy Trucker?

    1. A few people have asked me about this. The thing is that I know two players who absolutely hate the game. They will not play it and will actually not show up to a game night that includes the game. It's not for players who like to take things slow and think things out, players who freeze up when faced with real-time mechanics.

      This is the same reason I didn't include Space Alert even though I had it on my best games I played in 2012 list.