Space-themed board games that are out of this world

Encounter alien life and terraform Mars.

Like a great film or television show, the best games are often a form of escapism from everyday life. And there’s no better way to escape than into the actual stars—the unexplored frontier of outer space. There are games for all types of players, from intergalactic conquest to terraforming the red planet of Mars to choosing alien factions and fighting over territory.

We’ve chosen some of our favorites, for the space lovers and science fiction nerds.

Best overall: Indie Boards and Cards Terraforming Mars Board Game, Multicolor

For Up To Five Players

Raise the temperature and oxygen levels. Amazon

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This sprawling board game arguably inspired the influx of Mars themed games in the past few years. Play as a corporation, with the shared goal of terraforming the surface of Mars through raising the surface temperature, creating oceans, raising the oxygen level, and building cities. Play in any style you want—build titanium mines or power plants, construct satellite stations on Ganymede, set up immigrant cities and havens.

Best deck-builder: Race for the Galaxy Card Game

For Up To Four Players

Explore, develop, and conquer planets. Amazon

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This two to four player, deck-building game centers on building a galactic civilization. Cards represent technical or social developments, and players secretly choose one of five phases—Explore, Develop, Settle, Consume, or Produce—at the start of each round, dictating gameplay. Whoever has the most victory points at the end wins!

Best classic: Fantasy Flight Games CE01 Cosmic Encounter, Multicolor

Play For Up To Two Hours

An iconic space alien title from the 70s. Amazon

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In Cosmic Encounter, the galaxy is filled with alien lifeforms, mysterious advanced technology, and planets to explore. Choose one of fifty possible alien leaders—each of which has separate lore and powers, resulting in incredibly varied play styles—and race to colonize your opponents’ planets. Form alliances and use competitive strategies to win.

Longest playtime Twilight Imperium – 4th Edition

A True Saga

A sizable space opera. Amazon

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This game puts the opera in space opera—with more than 1,000 pieces, seventeen possible factions, and four to six hours of playtime. Compete against your friends to gain control of a galactic empire through economic, political, and militaristic strategy—pass laws, claim planets, trade, and negotiate. Every faction requires a different play style, making this epic game very repayable.

Best sense of humor: Czech Games Galaxy Trucker

Tons Of Fun

Play as a swanky space junk hauler. Amazon

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For an excellent space game with a great sense of humor, look no further. Galaxy Trucker has you play as a space sewage corporation, hiring galaxy truckers—folks who can haul stuff across the galaxy. Construct your space ship, pilot it through the cosmos, and watch it break down—or have a run-in with pirates—as you encounter challenges and obstacles.