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Cody Carlson
\"Star Trek: Fleet Captains\" by WizKids

Have you ever wanted to manage a galactic empire? How about interact with strange, new, alien races. Or perhaps you'd just like to command vast starfleets in epic space battles.

There are a host of science-fiction board game titles out there — some great, some not. The following is a list of my top five board games with a science-fiction/space opera theme.

1. Battleship Galaxiesfrom Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast is perfect if you're a space combat junkie. “Battleship Galaxies” offers a variety of spaceships, large and small, in the deadly fight between humanity and an evil alien race known as the Wretcheridians. A riff on the old “You sank my battleship!” motif, players must roll dice that hit only within letter and number grid coordinates. Players may also complement their ships with special weapons and crew members for combat bonuses. This two- to four-player game definitely is not your mother's “Battleship.”

2. Eclipse,” released in the USA by Asmondee, is a wonderful game of resource management and stellar expansion. “Eclipse” incorporates the familiar 4X dynamic (Explore, Expand, Exterminate, Exploit) usually reserved for computer games. The “board” is a series of revealed hexes that offer new worlds to colonize. Though players can build and customize spaceships, combat takes a backseat to resource allocation and researching technology. For two to six players, “Eclipse” demands a delicate balance of prudent economics, shrewd diplomacy and a warrior's cunning.

3. Earlier this year I reviewed WizKids' Star Trek: Fleet Captains,” and it remains a favorite among my gaming circle. Based on the Star Trek TV and movie series, this two- to four-player game just feels like a "Star Trek" adventure as the USS Enterprise and host of other Star Fleet vessels must battle the Klingons for a new region of unexplored space. Players must overcome random events from the series and can place characters like Mr. Spock or Data aboard their ships as crew for persistent bonuses. Fans of "Star Trek" will not be disappointed with this wonderful board game adaptation.

4. Another brilliant TV-series inspired board game is Fantasy Flight Games' “Battlestar Galactica.” Based upon the 2004 reboot of the original series, players must fight off repeated Cylon attacks as they make their way toward the mythical star Kobol. There's just one other problem: one or more of the players is secretly a Cylon traitor and is sabotaging their route. For three to six players, “Battlestar Galactica” is a tense and paranoid search to stop the traitor among you before the ship is destroyed. This is a great game even for those unfamiliar with the TV series.

5. Perhaps my favorite science-fiction game, however, is “Twilight Imperium,” also by Fantasy Flight Games. “Twilight Imperium” is an epic, sprawling game of alien races competing for control of the galaxy after the fall of a galactic empire. Players must build massive space fleets, manage resources of dozens of worlds, research incredible technologies and engage in interstellar trade. Similar in some respects to “Eclipse,” “Twilight Imperium” is geared much more toward conflict and combat and offers a larger political scope. Players also must work together to pass or reject binding resolutions. This three- to six-player game also offers players the chance to build “War Suns,” massive weapons platforms reminiscent of the Death Star from “Star Wars.” For sheer epic scope, “Twilight Imperium” cannot be beat.

Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and currently teaches at Salt Lake Community College. He is also the codeveloper of the popular History Challenge iPhone/iPad apps. Email: [email protected]