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PBS science staple NOVA inspired this board game designed (in part) by an astronaut

Alexa devices can play the parts of mission control and announcer

Natural science often serves as a source of inspiration for children, poets and researchers, alike. It has also apparently steered the design of Lunar Outpost, the latest board game from Ravensburger, who say they looked to the legacy of American public television programme NOVA for its adventures on the moon.

Lunar Outpost is a collaborative board game focused on constructing a state-of-the-art forward base on Earth’s solitary satellite. The group will first need to mine the necessary material from beneath the rocky surface and thus use those raw elements to build habitable modules, such as a solar array or machine shop, on an ever expanding complex.

The game starts with a central base from which a habitat colony, manufacturing facility and research centre will spawn. These new hubs unlock new abilities and mechanics, creating an increasingly complex game state as the group advances towards their goal. A training mission mode serves as a tutorial, easing new groups and fledgling gamers into the action.

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Colonising the moon will prove a little harder than just showing up with a bunch of drills. The crew will face constant hazards, from oxygen leaks and malfunctioning equipment to meteorite bombardments and other astral threats. Ravensburger claims the designers took an unorthodox step towards ensuring their depiction of space cleaved towards accuracy - they hired actual NASA astronaut Dan Tani as a consultant.

"It was a pleasure to work with the Ravensburger team on the Lunar Outpost game. This game conveys the excitement, planning and intricacies involved in building something as complex as a lunar base,” Tani said in a press release. “I was impressed with the technical, visual, and even interpersonal fidelity that the game makers insisted upon. I’m proud to be involved with this game and hope that our future lunar architects and explorers get their start on this game board!"

Play groups can use an Alexa-capable device to shoulder some of the game’s facilitator duties. The Amazon-branded virtual assistant will apparently be able to keep track of certain in-game goals and act as “mission control”, announcing special events and phases. Those hesitant to invite the device further into their lives can instead use an included deck of cards to perform the same job.

NOVA first aired in 1974 and has remained a central pillar of PBS broadcasting as the network expanded its reach to over 100 other countries as of 2022. This author particularly remembers it being a staple of after-school material in a home too rural for satellite or cable access. Its programming focuses on popular science topics but also hosts interviews with experts and more topical coverage, such as th COVID-19 pandemic and the rapid progression of global warming.

Lunar Outpost is currently available to pre-order through Amazon (little surprise, given the Alexa integration) and will hit store shelves in June of this year.

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