What happens when three or four hostile alien space fleets converge in the middle of an asteroid field and decide to blow up everything in sight? The answer might look something like Z-Man Games' latest science fiction offering, Battle Beyond Space.
Battle Beyond Space is a board game that pits three to four players in a battle royale scenario of space combat. Players choose one of four races: the stalwart Earthers, the frog-like Dreckach, the long-necked Vonyan or the vexing Valkyries. Each fleet consists of three fighter squadrons of six fighters each, and two heavier capital ships.
Each player shuffles movement cards that are drawn every round. Fighters must move the number of spaces on the drawn card, an action that can sometimes lead to crashing into an asteroid or another ship. Once moved, the fighters fire a set range ahead of them. Any enemy ship in line of sight and range is eliminated and claimed by the moving player as a victory point. Capital ships move and fight in a similar fashion, though they generally have more options. No dice are used in combat.
Each race also gets one random special ability card for each game that gives them a unique advantage over their enemies. Some of these cards allow greater range, the ability to shoot through asteroids or protective force fields.
I really wasn't expecting to enjoy Battle Beyond Space as much as I did. A quick read-through of the rules left me feeling that this light war game left players with few strategic options. Game play, however, made a believer out of me. This is an extremely light war game, to be sure, but there is a real chess-like quality to how pieces are moved and which units need to be sacrificed for the greater good. One must constantly think one or two moves ahead, though the luck of the draw can always mitigate an otherwise fine strategy.
There were some real nail-biting moments in the games I played with my group, and everyone was impressed with the game's pace and relatively simple combat engine. The special ability cards also add a really fun dimension to the game, though some are much better that others and can lead to minor balancing issues.
If you're looking for a fun space combat game with a science-fiction theme that plays in less than an hour, you just may want to give Z-Man Games' Battle Beyond Space a look.
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 co-developer of the History Challenge iPhone/iPad apps. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org