Starfield is finally here and we can’t wait to get into it. Finally, a brand new Bethesda game (their biggest one yet to boot), boasting a vast galaxy to explore and so much stuff to see, you’ll probably lose yourself in the game for weeks on end.
But, what if you could bring that spacefaring experience to your table and experience board games like Starfield together with your friends? That’s what we’re set to explore today, as we go through some of the most exciting space exploration board games this side of the Milky Way.
How We Chose the Games
It comes as no surprise that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of space-themed board games around. After all, exploring the final frontier has been a staple of sci-fi since its earliest days. This is why we’re so excited to get our hands on Starfield.
Most sci-fi board games deal with space conquest and colonization, which really aren’t the themes that Starfield is about. Instead, we focused on the games that let you explore space and have awesome adventures in galaxies far, far away, while occasionally setting your phasers to stun and engaging the galaxy at warp speed.
While not as immersive as video games such as Starfield, these board games will still give you that sense of awe as you travel across space, so let’s warp right into the list.
Best Board Games Like Starfield
- Xia: Legends of a Drift System
- ISS Vanguard
- Space Alert
- The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
- Wild Space
- Circadians: First Light
- Galaxy Trucker
Xia: Legends of a Drift System
|Number of players:||3 to 5|
|Playing time:||60 – 180 minutes|
Xia: Legends of a Drift System is a galaxy in a box. A really big box that’s full of opportunities. You’ll start this adventure as a greenhorn captain piloting a dinky spaceship, traveling through the galaxy in search of adventure, wealth, and glory.
And you can do basically anything that you desire. Well, anything that’s within the bounds of the game’s mechanics, anyway. Still, you’ll be able to tailor your spacefaring experience to your liking. Xia is a sandbox game, which means there’s not a singular path to victory and you’ll have a different experience every time you play.
The whole point of the game is adapting to the ever-changing board state and customizing your ship to become the best at what YOU want to do in this game. You can be a trader, an explorer, a fighter who engages in dogfights, or an adventurer who’s always on the hunt for the next mission. Both the game and its board change depending on how your group plays.
Oh, and every ship is completely different and has its own backstory and lore, making Xia a delicious and crunchy space waffle to chew on.
- Immersive sandbox experience
- Huge replayability
- All the starship minis
- Not for fans of confrontation-free games
|Number of players:||1 to 4|
|Playing time:||90 – 120 minutes|
Space adventures are all about the people and the stories they create. This is what Awaken Realms focused on when creating ISS Vanguard. It is a massive game that truly gives you that feeling of epicness when it comes to the exploration of space and intergalactic adventures. Of course, high-quality components and tons of minis are a given, considering who’s the publisher.
ISS Vanguard is a story of the first human-led intergalactic voyage. Following the crash of an alien spaceship on Earth, you explore various planets in search of answers. It’s a fully cooperative game where each of the players gets a dedicated role on the spaceship, from engineering to running the science department. There are even some light RPG elements, so it’s not just action and space fights.
The exploration is done storybook-style, similar to Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion, but with many branching paths. Although expensive, ISS Vanguard offers nearly 60 hours of content. It’s like getting a boxset of a TV show, except you are the one telling all those stories.
- Immersive story-focused game
- High-quality components
- Lots of content
- Fairly pricey
|Number of players:||1 to 5|
|Playing time:||30 minutes|
Before he made the smash hit party game Codenames, Czech designer Vlaada Chvatil designed one of the most iconic and tough co-op games. In Space Alert, you’re all working together to pilot Sitting Duck, a starship that hyperjumps into uncharted territories.
Each round is 10 minutes long and plays in real-time. While the soundtrack plays in the background, you’ll need to respond to different threats and issues on the ship by programming the actions of your astronaut. You might get attacked by space pirates or aliens, run into an asteroid field, or even get invaded by intruders. Oh, and don’t forget to move the mouse on the ship’s computer to turn off its screensaver.
Space Alert is a true nail-biting experience, showing that space travel isn’t always a breeze. It definitely isn’t for everyone, as it can become almost panic-inducing, but for the folks that “click” with this game, it’ll be one of the best space board games they have ever played.
- Unique experience
- Tough, but fair co-op game
- Lots of humor
- Very stressful
The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
|Number of players:||2 to 5|
|Playing time:||20 minutes|
The Kennerspiel des Jahres award for 2020 winner, The Crew, showed us that a deck of cards can absolutely provide a satisfying space adventure full of tension and camaraderie.
The Quest for Planet Nine is a cooperative, trick-taking game. Each round, your goal is to complete certain tasks, typically getting specific cards into the hands of certain players around the table. The trick (ha!) is that you cannot say your cards out loud, so the players have to work with limited to no communication and set up tricks for each other to meet the mission conditions.
Over the course of 50 missions, the difficulty increases, but you’ll also be introduced to new rules and twists on the basic premise. You even get to record your victories (and close calls) in a little captain’s logbook. Who would’ve known a game like Starfield could fit into a deck of cards?
- Quick and easy to learn
- 50 missions out of the box
- Highly portable
- Pretty abstract
|Number of players:||1 to 5|
|Playing time:||15 – 40 minutes|
Lions and tigers and bears in space, oh my! Well, more like monkeys, lizards, and bears, but you get the point. Wild Space from Pandasaurus Games takes you to the edge of the known universe as the captain of a discovery ship. Your mission – explore new horizons and uncover their mysteries.
Aside from the evocative and adorable art that adorns all the components, Wild Space is more of an abstract affair, mechanics-wise. While you do move your ship around and recruit intergalactic species to join your crew, you do so by trying to create card combos and then playing out those cards. You’ll need to plan your actions properly, but you can also just gather the coolest-looking crew for your ship.
It’s a surprisingly easy game to learn, with a weight rating of just 2 out of 5 on BoardGameGeek. Wild Space might not be a sprawling game that you dedicate your whole game night to, but it’s still a clever little puzzle that’s suitable for players of different profiles and ages.
- Unique art style
- Breezy, easy to learn
- Surprisingly deep system
- Too simple for some players
Circadians: First Light
|Number of players:||1 to 4|
|Playing time:||60 – 90 minutes|
Circadians: First Light managed to fly under our radar when it came out in 2019. Don’t repeat our mistake, dear reader, as this is easily one of the most interesting space board games you’ll get to play.
The game combines some of the most interesting elements of modern board gaming. It’s part worker placement game, part dice game, but mostly a title all about establishing contact with an extraterrestrial race. Circadians takes you to the alien planet Ryh, where you’ll send out your crew to interact with the aliens through various actions, and the best researcher and communicator will be declared the winner.
What’s really special about it is that it doesn’t involve any combat. You’re leading a group of researchers, after all. Don’t be fooled! It’s still tough as nails and will seriously melt your brain trying to figure out the best way to win. Circadians: First Light has a few expansions and also works great as a solo gaming experience.
- Really interesting theme
- Excellent solo variant
- Deep mechanics
- Learning the rules can be cumbersome
|Number of players:||2 to 4|
|Playing time:||20 – 30 minutes|
One of the core aspects of the Starfield experience is the ability to build spaceships. Galaxy Trucker gives you that experience in tabletop form. Yes, this is another Vlaada Chvatil game on this list. The man is just that prolific when it comes to space exploration in a board gaming format.
You’ll start your intergalactic adventure with a blank board and tons of square-shaped possibilities. Pick a tile, flip it, and connect it to an existing part of your ship. Your ship will need cargo space, shields, lasers, and crew to manage it all. It can also fall apart at a minute’s notice, so your spacefaring can come to a halt within the first minutes of your flight.
What makes this game so hilarious and fun is the fact that the shipbuilding portion is played in real-time. Everybody at the table is fighting to grab the best pieces while also running against the sand timer. Galaxy Trucker, especially with its shiny new second edition, is just good, hectic fun. So long as you don’t mind relying on your luck a lot, as it can get very random.
- Hilarious real-time gameplay
- Very replayable
- Great value
- Can be too random for some players
Final Thoughts on Space Board Games
As we mentioned earlier, space has always been an interesting topic for board games, and these days, the selection couldn’t be more diverse. There are games for people who prefer quick rounds of real-time and cooperative games, but there are also massive, sprawling adventure games that’ll take you weeks to fully explore.
Whether you’re looking for board games that are exactly like Starfield, as in give you that free-roaming sandbox feel, or just want to have a good time exploring the final frontier, all of the games on our list are a great choice.
Galaxy Trucker is one of the most popular space-themed board games where you can build your own spaceship. Not only that, but you can also fly it onto missions where you’ll experience “delightful” scenarios like getting shot by space pirates, smacking headfirst into an asteroid, and losing your crew to a haunted spaceship. It’s great, and it’s one of the board games most like Starfield on our list.
ISS Vanguard has certain survival elements. You’re trying to complete your intergalactic journey and discover many planets, but at the same time, you’re managing different systems on your ship and trying to stay in one piece.
While NASA never directly worked with or was associated with making board games, the 2020 Apollo board game was directly inspired by various moon missions NASA conducted in the late 20th century.