I play a lot of board games. I love sci-fi. Where the two of these passions best overlap is a board game called Race for the Galaxy.
This is my favorite game.
It’s not hard to play, with simple buying and phase choice mechanics. It’s quick to set up, doesn’t take up a ton of table space, and plays in about half an hour to an hour per game. But what really sets it apart for me is the imaginative flavor lying just below the surface.
Through the course of a game of Race for the Galaxy, you’ll colonize planets and build “developments” which is a catch-all category for non-planets. They’ll convey certain sterile, numerical bonuses to production, military power, or victory points. But the naming and theming of how these bonuses interact with them is utterly brilliant.
You can colonize a 3-point “yellow” world (boring), but here that’s a Damaged Alien Factory. And you need military force to take it. Just from those clues, you can picture marines in bio-hazard suits fighting back automated defenses left running centuries ago, barely sputtering out laser blasts in a mindless attempt to keep out foes that have long since gone extinct.
Or you can build a Research Lab. Doesn’t sound that interesting until you check and see that the bonuses you’re getting are a bonus income from genetic materials and resources from alien worlds. So what this lab is doing is studying alien genomes to advance genetic engineering (at a tidy profit, no doubt).
You can play the game at face value and find it perfectly enjoyable, I’m sure. But I can’t help putting myself in the role of my little empire and telling a story. I’m sure I’ve lost games because instead of the optimal play, I was trying to find more primitive species to uplift or ensure the military dominance of my little band.
And if you need a lighter-weight version of the game because you, or someone you play games with, prefers that, the dice version Roll for the Galaxy is also extremely fun.
With most games, if you play enough, you’re bound to get sick of it (*side-eye at Dominion and Settlers of Catan*). But I’ll never get enough of Race for the Galaxy.
If you’re looking for something new to bring to the table for a lock-down game night with the family, and try one or both of them out, let me know what you think!
Side bonus: if you love them, there’s tons of expandability for both versions.
Looking to give it a try? No obligation, just making it easy to find in case my enthusiasm rubbed off on you! And if you want to try it out before buying, the online versions I’ve linked below have options for free play.