Board games are great way to prove your intellectual superiority to your friends. But aren't they even better when they involve a sprawling science fiction premise? It's no fun to wave fake money in your friend's faces at the end of Monopoly when what you could be doing is waving the most powerful starship. If you're going to bother conquering Earth as it is in Risk, why not conquer Earth as it will be in 2210? Clue is fun and all, but you could be solving a murder while also dealing with the conflict between your robot coding and your fascination with humans.
Here are 10 of the greatest board games with high-tech and futuristic premises.
10. U.S. Patent No. 1
Who doesn't want to play a game that combines the excitement of time travel with the fascinating world of patent law? In U.S. Patent No.1, players race to be the first to put together a time machine. Once that's built, you use the machine to get the first patent. Not the first patent on a time machine, but you travel back in time to the day the United States opened the patent office and you get the first ever patent. It's the only game on this list that ends with you winning by getting to be the first to fill out paperwork.
9. Risk 2210 A.D.
In 2002, Risk 2210 A.D. won the Origins Award for Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game of 2001, and it's pretty easy to see why. The game combines the an already classic board game with a futuristic conceit. How often have you thought that what Risk was missing was the chance to occupy the moon? Or the sea? For added hilarity, you can conquer the Southern Anarchist Control Zone in Antarctica. The game adds complexity to the original Risk by adding commanders, who have access to decks with cards with special attacks and strategies. So if you've ever wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on Australia, get a Nuclear Commander and go for it.
Pandemic, its second edition, and its expansion are interesting because players don't compete against each other, they work together to beat the game. The game starts with global extinction pending as four diseases threaten to wipe out different regions. Each player is randomly assigned a role, with different skills and strengths, and the players all have to work together to save the world.
7. Galaxy Trucker
In the future, not everyone can have a glamorous job. Some people have to haul materials for a sewage company. The game has three rounds, and each round has three stages: ship building, checking everyone's ships, and the actual race. A lot of the fun in Galaxy Trucker comes from your attachment to your newly built ship. First, you curse your friend if they get the component you want. Then you curse your own stupidity when you discover that you incorrectly attached a component, and it falls off. Then you curse when your ship gets hit by an asteroid. The purpose of the game is to have the most money at the end, but a lot of the time, you'll just be thinking about making to the end of the round, much less the game.
6. Cosmic Encounter
Cosmic Encounter falls into a pretty common category for science fiction board games: galactic conquest. Every player starts with a five-planet home system with the goal of occupying five bases in other systems. In each turn, they are dealt a card indicating which other system they have to attack. Players negotiate alliances and make deals to try to get to their goal. So far, pretty typical. What makes this game really stand out is that players get an "alien power," which is basically a special characteristic of their race that allows them to bend a critical game rule.
Android is a cyberpunk noir game. The goal is to solve a murder, Clue-style. Or the goal is to figure out the conspiracy also taking place. Or the goal is to resolve your character's personal problems. Or a combination of the three. The winner is the player who has the most "Victory Points" at the end, which are determined by success in the categories above. So, for example, if another player is obsessed with solving the murder, you can focus on some other problem and still win. As for the cyberpunk elements, the game takes place in "New Angeles," which is pretty much future Los Angeles with a space elevator, and "Heinlein," a moon colony. It also allows a player to not only be a standard noir-ish characters (crooked cop, bounty hunter, P.I.) but also an android having trouble with his code or a psychic clone.
4. Star Trek: Fleet Captains
This is a game that allows players to live out their fantasies of commanding a Federation fleet or a Klingon fleet. Each player starts out at opposite sides of a brand new, unexplored sector of space, and moves through it hoping to uncover planets with resources and not ones with hostile lifeforms. Eventually, of course, players will end up pitting the Enterprise against a Bird of Prey, but even that battle may not determine a winner.
Who doesn't want to play a game where the premise is that a bored supercomputer has decided to race a robot against those of other bored supercomputers? A lot of game play is based on the idea that, as a computer and a robot, the player isn't making up-to-the-minute decisions. Instead, at the start of each round, each player reveals five commands it has given to his robot. With those locked in, players could end up watching in horror as their robots collide and end up right in the path of the obstacles they were trying to avoid.
2. Twilight Imperium (3rd Edition)
Word of warning: this game is long. And complex. And long. However, if you and your friends stick it out, Twilight Imperium is a really satisfying galactic-conquest game. The game takes place in a galaxy suffering from a power vacuum, since the fall of the previous ruling race. Players each represent a race trying to take that throne. But the goals here are not just militaristic conquest ones, but can be diplomatic or trade related. Depending on the cards a player's dealt, he can be trying to get enough resources to upgrade his planet's technology, while another player is trying to get a certain law passed.
1. Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game
Anyone else remember playing Mafia when they were kids? A small number of players were "the Mafia," and each night they murdered someone, and during the day, everyone tried to figure out who they were and murder them right back? Well, Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game is like that on steroids. The humans are working together to solve crises and reach Kobol, and the undercover Cylons are trying to sabotage that. Of course, unlike Mafia, even if the humans find and airlock the Cylons, they just resurrect on a Basestar. Then, instead of sabotage, they just try to blow the fleet out of the sky. Humans win by making it to Kobol, while Cylons win by destroying the Galactica or getting the humans to run out of resources. In that respect, the ending of the game is much more logical than that of the show.