I’ve been playing wargames since I was a kid. Historical wargames have always been a favorite of mine, but I’ve really enjoyed sci-fi wargames since the designer isn’t obligated to take into account historical accuracy. Instead, the designer can concentrate on having fun gameplay and interesting scenarios.
The games in this list were really difficult to come up with, since I’ve enjoyed so many sci-fi wargames over the years and it took a lot of soul searching to come up with the final list. It was even more difficult to determine the ranking.
Bear in mind that these are my favorites as of 2020. I try at least one new game a week and it’s possible my favorites may be completely different next year.
Without further ado, here’s my 10 favorite sci-fi wargames of 2020:
10) SPI Battlefleet Mars: Space Combat in the 21st Century (1977) makes this list even though I’ve only played it twice. It’s a game about an insurgency against the Earth based corporation Ares. My friend brought the game over and I lost the first game since I was still learning the rules, but won the second game. This can be played either strategically or tactically. I played the strategic game, which uses percentages to figure out mass combat. This game also has lots of politics. Normally, I don’t like politics in games but it worked really well here. One of the most notable features of this game is the board. The planets move in orbit each turn and the distance between them is different each turn. This is one of the most interesting wargames I’ve ever played since it has politics, space combat, agents/spies, orbital mechanics and ship building. I keep thinking about this game, even though I’ve only played it twice. That’s a clear sign of a great game.
9) Task Force Games Intruder (1980) is a microgame that’s obviously highly influenced by Alien the Movie. The intruder is an alien that can mutant into a more powerful being. It’s movement along with the movement of lab animals is controlled by random die rolls. Intruder is essentially a game of cat and mouse where the mouse is also trying to eat the cat. This game is great fun to play and it was reimplemented by Hidden Intruder and was obviously the inspiration of other games such as Invasive Species. Buy Intruder with this paid link: https://amzn.to/3fIRstF
8) Decision Games Phobos Rising! (2016) is the most revolutionary microgame ever made, because it’s both a Euro and a wargame. I adore this game, but be forewarned. You have to like BOTH Euros and wargames or this game isn’t for you. It’s a solitaire game where you command a group of insurgents who begin the game with limited equipment and attempt to secure key facilities on Mars. If you complete all 4 missions in the campaign game, the Free Mars revolution begins and will be continued in the future game Free Mars (which will be a reimplementation of Battlefleet Mars according to rumor). During the game, you recruit new cadre, get new gear and vehicles, fight security forces, create temporary autonomous zones and attempt to complete your mission before you run out of cards.
7) Lock ‘n Load Publishing All Things Zombie (2009) is probably the best zombie wargame I’ve ever played. It can be played solitaire, cooperatively or competitively. In the solitaire and cooperative games, you play against hordes of zombies. The competitive game is played between groups of survivors. Zombies are generated whenever a loud noise such as a gunshot occurs or when a building is entered for the first time. There are quite a few scenarios and this game is pure fun. I’ve even made some custom scenarios after I completed all the built-in ones. This game has been reimplemented by All Things Zombies Reloaded. Buy All Things Zombie Reloaded with this paid link: https://amzn.to/2yzxiS5
6) Fantasy Games Unlimited Tyrannosaurus Wrecks (1985) is a game where the players are hunters who go back to Earth in time machines to hunt dinosaurs. They are armed with energy weapons that have a limited number of charges and one or more special items. The dangers they face are numerous including being attacked by a dinosaur, volcanic eruptions, flowing lava, earthquakes, poisonous plants, quicksand, poisonous snakes, giant reptiles, dragon flies, various water animals and being stranded millions of years in the past. In addition to this, the taxidermists on Earth are very picky and the more shots it took to kill a dinosaur the less they will pay. If this wasn’t frightening enough, your energy rifle is not water-proof and any time you get it wet its maximum range decreases. It’s a really exciting game with a lot of depth, but the counters are not die cut and you have to cut them out. Buy Tyrannosaurus Wrecks with this paid link: https://amzn.to/2YPg65G
5) Tiny Battle Publishing Neuschwabenland (2015) is a game where the Germans created a secret base known as Base 211. The survivors of a German patrol told of hostile 2-meter tall worm-like aliens and tripods. The Germans mobilized to deal with the alien infestation and gather information about them. There are 6 unique scenarios that are progressively more difficult and form an interesting storyline. This game is good when played 2 players, but I prefer it solitaire, because the alien player does not get to pick equipment like the German player does. Overall, it’s heaps of fun to play.
4) Steve Jackson Games Ogre is a classic microgame where one player plays a bunch of small tanks and armored vehicles and has to take down a super-giant vehicle known as the Ogre. There are actually three versions of this game: the microgame, full size board game and the miniatures game. All three versions are utterly fantastic and this game has survived the test of time. Ogre the miniatures game is the only sci-fi miniatures game that I like better than Warhammer 40k. Buy Ogre with this paid link: https://amzn.to/3dKZTTt
3) SPI The Creature That Ate Sheboygan is an old microgame from the late 1970’s where a monster emerges from Lake Michigan and attacks the city of Sheboygan, WI. The monster player gets to choose from a Godzilla-looking creature, giant robot, giant spider, giant sea monster, giant flying turtle or a giant gorilla. In addition, he can customize what abilities it has. The human player gets to customize his army that will be fighting the creature. This could possibly be the most fun beer and pretzel wargame ever made. Some of the newer generation may not like the crude components, but if they can get past that they’ll fall in love with this game. Buy The Creature That Ate Sheboygan with this paid link: https://amzn.to/2WEjwpa
2) Avalon Hill Starship Troopers (1976) is a game based on the original Robert Heinlein novel. The human forces get to fight against the alien skinnies or the alien arachnids. What’s really cool about this game is the arachnid player has tunnels that the humans must try to find and there is plenty of hidden movement. This game is very faithful to the original book and holds it’s own even to this day. It’s not a good candidate for solitaire play though, since there are hidden tunnels and movement. As a two-player game, it is utterly fantastic though. Buy Starship Troopers with this paid link: https://amzn.to/2xRBYSN
1) Leading Edge Games Aliens the board game (1989) is based on the original movie and has the entire cast of characters. There are three unique scenarios that play out faithfully to the movie. They are the reactor room, operations and air ducts and Ripley verse the Alien Queen. In addition, there is an expansion for this game that I haven’t fully explored yet. The base game is challenging, but really feels like you are fighting it out on LV-426. Leading Edge Games also produced optional miniatures for this game, which looked great and covered the entire cast of characters and aliens. I recommend this game to everyone, but it’s getting really hard to find a used copy.
Thanks for taking the time to read my article. Please let us know what your favorite sci-fi wargames are.
GDW published Imperium and it is a great and challenging game featuring a Terran Empire vs the Imperium. The counters and map are excellent and the mechanics are fun.
I’ve always wanted to try that one.
Freedom in the Galaxy, ’nuff said 😉
That one has a good following.
Stellar Conquest (Metagaming/AH)