2023 has come and gone, but we decided to take one last look at the year. Tony and Brandon have already given their favorite games from the year in their annual top 10 list. But the rest of the BGQ team wanted a chance to chime in with their favorite games. So below, are what each of us thinks are the best board games from 2023 (With a few extras from Tony and Brandon). Do you have a favorite game from last year? Let us know in the comments below.
The Best Board Games of 2023
Chosen by Dylan
When Horseless Carriage was announced, I was quite skeptical. I still pre-ordered it because it was from Splotter. While their games tend to be more interactive and based on the announcement, Horseless Carriage seemed to be less interactive. In some regards that is true, it will punish you from the beginning for every wrong decision you make. It makes staring at your factory so agonizing as you attempt to sell cars with the right specs. And that is without factoring in the sales market has some competition behind it. It may have more appeal to a wider audience compared to most other Splotters because the factory part can feel pretty heads-down. But the angst that everyone individually faces can create conversations while one person puts their hands behind their head. And there are a few aspects of helping other people so you can benefit as well.
Chosen by Bailey
Lacuna is the snappiest abstract I’ve ever played. It’s quick, yet doesn’t lose depth due to its speed or length. Being able to distill the drama of a Chess or Go match into something explosive, dramatic, and often hilarious is something short of a miracle. Having the privilege to sit across from your opponent and see exactly what they need, and exactly where they could place, and setting up a perfect block, only to realize you missed a blindspot and now they took two other pieces they needed and now they’re surrounded by those flowers you were looking at too?! HOW?! I cannot recommend this game enough to anyone who appreciates abstracts and punchy two-player experiences.
Chosen by Michelle
Earth has given me hope in tableau builders again, and its theme embedded in trying to develop our own version of the planet’s extraordinary ability to sustain itself gives it that extra appeal. The game setup can look intimidating to a first time player but after the conclusion of my first play of this game I was eager to learn more about what I could have done better or what other card combinations were possible. I’m a big fan of the other mechanics included with the engine-building feel, like planning out the physical grid of your tableau for added effects and the opportunity for all other players to benefit from the active player’s action. The result of these mashed mechanics is actually an elegant and thoughtfully-built game with a gorgeous look.
Chosen by Tony:
As I’ve already given my favorite games in our end-of-the-year Top 10 Board Games from 2023 list (the same with Brandon below), I’ll pivot here and instead go with the best “new to me” game for 2023. And for that, it’s definitely FlickFleet. I’ve always been a fan of dexterity games, and Flick Fleet grabbed me from my first play. The rules are simple (flick dice at other ships to try and destroy them), however underneath that simple veneer lies the beat heart of a game with a lot of tactical depth. There are a variety of ships, each with their own specific abilities. Perhaps you’ll want the destroyer that embodies the term “glass cannon”, or maybe you are more of a carrier type of person—ready to drop flighter squadrons around the battle field. FlickFleet is a quick playing skirmish game that I’ve enjoyed with both my family and gamers on game night. It’s also a game i’ve billed as “how have I waited this long to try this”. For fans of dexterity games, its worth picking up.
Chosen by James:
I was really conflicted between Tanares Adventures, Thunder Road Vendetta, and MotU but Masters of the Universe won out due a combination of flexibility (co-op and competitive play), relatively short set up and play time, and overall fun factor. Having played this solo, two-player, and with a full complement of five also pushed it over the top. This game is a nostalgic skirmish through the colorful world of He-Man, Skelelor, and the rest of the Masters of the Universe. The power system where the hero using abilities hands power cubes to the Controller player creates tension as your cool ability is going to allow the villian to do something horrible back to you. I love how characters level up and how different the characters play. Every game has memorable moments that had people laughing or cheering. The minis are great, easy to paint, and look fantastic when finished. Overall, Clash for Eternia is an accessible and gorgeous dice chucker that made me feel like a kid again.
Chosen by Brandon
Never did I ever think that I would fall for a fantasy boss battler. The second printing of Oathsworn was released in fall 2023 and it occupied my table for the entire twenty-one scenario campaign. Paced between detailed storytelling and epic fights, Oathsworn eclipsed the fantasy campaign genre and became an easy keeper despite its massive three boxes. I highly recommend using the app to enhance the story, as narrated by actor James Cosmo, whose timbre elevates the immersion. Add in the detailed miniatures, the battleflow card system, the companion option for easier character maintenance, and a branching storyline, and there’s a lot to rave about here. This was a gaming highlight for me last year and I can’t wait to choose four brand new characters and mix it up by making different decisions the next time through.
Chosen by Alex and Andrew
I’ll be the reviewer who is going to make the obvious choice and go with Ticket to Ride Legacy. Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau have proven three times over that they know how to put together an incredible legacy experience, and combining that know-how into a Ticket to Ride game resulted in a must-buy for me. Through our plays of the legacy campaign, we felt like there was just enough mechanics added to keep things fresh, while not overloading the game with rules bloat. All the reveals were truly surprising and interesting, and some of the new twists on traditional Ticket to Ride rules were welcome additions. It’s cleverly designed in such a way that we can play through again with our friends, without any added advantage to us. It’s a game that might not satisfy the crunchiest of Euro fans, but deserves space on your shelf and table if you’re into the legacy game experience or love Ticket to Ride (or both, like me!)
Chosen by Brian B
Yes, this was originally released in 2021; however, it was reprinted with a new expansion, Titans of the First Age, in 2023. I was able to late back this game and it exceeded my already high expectations. It is a 4x (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) game that is a) cooperative and b) has players facing two different AI opponents, who will not only fight players, but each other. Uprising has quickly become one of my favorite cooperative games. The cooperation is unique—you cannot occupy the same space or combine forces to fight enemies together; however, you have a pool of shared quests and a shared market to buy upgrades. In addition, if one of the players has less VPs than one of the AI opponents, ALL players lose. This game, as well as Oathsworn, already covered by Brandon, were my two gems of 2023.
1-4 Players • Ages 14+ • 120+ minutes
Chosen by Jason
One benefit to attending a convention with friends is exposure to games you missed. Try as you might, it can be hard laying eyes on everything. Even when you make a list ahead of time, things might slip off the radar, get missed or not even be on display. Forest Shuffle was my pleasant surprise from this summer. An engine building, point salad card game ticked enough boxes for me that I would’ve ventured back into the hall to buy a copy if it hadn’t been so crowded. It’s pretty easy to learn and play, with the only downsides being reading the card text can take away from the speed of play and current availability for purchase. If you are curious about it, you can play on BGA (not the most ideal) or get lucky finding it in retail.
Chosen by Brian W
I’m a big fan of Restoration Games as of late and this last year they dropped another great nostalgia bomb with Thunder Road: Vendetta. They improved upon the original game and ruleset making the new version again easy to master which makes this game fast to the table and easy to teach. It’s still a post-apocalypse/Mad Max racing game that is essentially still a beer and pretzel dice chucker. But there are now expansions (or just get the Maximum Chrome version) that add new racers, hazards, maps, crew leaders, and a card system that replaces the movement dice. All the expansions can be played simultaneously or mixed and matched as players see fit. Overall, it’s a much-improved version that is a blast to play and was an easy pick for me as the best game of 2023.
Chosen by Emma
The A.R.T. Project is maddeningly tricky, but worth taking the time to master. I didn’t play a whole lot of new games in 2023, but this co-op about working as a team to stop art thieves made a big impression on me. We came at it from so many different angles before we were able to consistently succeed, but it was worth the effort. With a variety of maps, each presenting new challenges and complications, as well as a solo mode filled with it’s own difficulties, I’ve gotten a lot of bang out of this game.
Chosen by Matt
Pitting random characters from legend and history against each other in a cage match has a lot of appeal. Robin Hood against King Arthur and Merlin, Dracula battling with Harry Houdini. Plenty of fun. It doesn’t hurt that the card-based dueling system excels at making each character feel unique. But as I’m more likely to be playing games either solo or with 3+ players, I didn’t really get a chance to pull Unmatched out as often as I’d have liked. Thankfully, Unmatched Adventures came along to fill out the player count options and add a new gameplay mode into the mix. This co-op version lets you round up an eclectic team of heroes to take down a villain and its minions. So, now you can have Bruce Lee, Nikola Tesla, and the T-Rex from Jurassic Park go up against the Martian Invader, with the Blob, Skunk Ape, and Ant Queen thrown in.
Chosen by George
The biggest game for me in 2023 was the launch of Warhammer 40K 10th edition. While I am usually a huge Warhammer Age of Sigmar player, the 10th edition of 40k brought a lot of what I like from Age of Sigmar over into the 40k ruleset. Streamlined stats, easy to understand strategems, and embedding leader models into my line units for special effects on the battlefield really drew me into the game more. With the last edition (9th) I felt like there was just too much going on to feel comfortable to try 40k out. Not to mention the new combat patrol sets that allow you to play a faction right out the box against someone else’s combat patrol, making learning the base rules for 40k less daunting and more approachable for newer players. Definitely the time to jump in and try out Warhammer if you haven’t before.
Chosen by Spencer
Another year of gaming is behind us, so which up-and-coming designer made the hottest new game last year? What’s that? Reiner Knizia slightly updated a 30 year old game? Better luck next year, noobs. Zoo Vadis is essentially a pure negotiation game in which players are attempting to collect the most points as they advance their animals to the star exhibit. This game has everything I love about negotiation games—creative scheming, multi-way deals, temporary alliances, and potential betrayals. The table talk is nonstop and pimping out your unique and awesome animal ability puts the experience over the top every time. In this new version, peacocks act as a neutral third party that can be maneuvered to gain votes and block other players from advancing. Don’t forget the Knizia signature touch: if you don’t make it to the star exhibit, you can’t win the game. This game is fast, fun, intense, and handles up to 7 players with ease.
Chosen by Chris
I enjoyed a great many of the games this year and a few were in the running for my pick but the one I’m going with is Apiary from new designer Connie Vogelmann and Stonemaier Games. While I don’t find there to necessarily be anything revolutionary in the design, the way all the parts come together make for a complete and satisfying mix of several tried and true mechanisms. The manner in which workers age and interact with locations creates interesting decisions and adds tension to nearly all of the game’s turns since going to spots where other players have workers improves their team of space bees. It’s a rare Euro design in which player interaction is actually one of the main features and even more so than in a typical “block the space” worker placement style. The theme is bizarre, but the bee-ness of it does come through (the space-ness less so). I’m not sure if this would have outlasted other heavy hitters on my list that I just haven’t yet played enough yet (Tamashii: Chronicle of Ascend and Nucleum come to mind), but for now Apiary takes the honeycomb-shaped trophy as my Game of the Year.
Chosen by Tahsin
Anyone who enjoys medium weight Euros and hasn’t taken a look at recent SWAF (Sorry We Are French) publications must be hiding under a rock. The recent titles released from this company really set a bar for game publications as a whole. Zhanguo: The First Empire is essentially a second edition of the game ZhanGuo from heavy games publisher What’s Your Game? Which has had a rocky couple of years since their flagship Kickstarter for Madeira has gone MIA. With this new edition, the game has been revitalized and changed enough to keep players deeply engaged. It’s an easy recommendation and one of the few games from this year that really stands out for me.
Chosen by April
When I first heard about Lorcana in 2022, I immediately decided it would be the CCG I was going to get my family into. I knew nothing about it, except that it was Disney and Ravensburger wouldn’t dare botch it (would they?). So when the first chapter was released in 2023 I made it a top priority to acquire a couple starter decks (I was one of the lucky ones who got it before it sold out). I brought my decks home, cracked ‘em open, read up on the rules and played with my husband, then taught the kiddos. We had a fun time with it and have since picked up more boosters and the chapter two decks. I even played in my first ever tournament just so I could get some boosters, which was a lot of fun. While the game doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table in terms of CCGs, it feels like a good entry point with an accessible theme and mechanisms. I can’t possibly stay up to date competitively, but I’ll probably continue to buy the decks that catch my interest and the occasional booster pack. And the kids like it, too, so that’s a win in my book!
Chosen by Marcus
Back when picking my most anticipated game of 2023, I settled on a likely little-known “jungle building” game with a vibrant array of cute little animal meeples. Surprisingly, my anticipation and expectations were met, and I felt I have to go with Life of the Amazonia as my top pick for 2023. I may just be a sucker for cute animals (or any animals, really), but I think it ended up delivering mechanically, as well as aesthetically. It may take a few plays to fully understand what you need to be doing and what your options are, but watching your jungle grow throughout the game is just really fun. No matter the outcome, everyone’s unique jungles, teeming with different forms of life are interesting to look at by game’s end. Between four different scoring rule sets and over a dozen unique animals offering their own strategies, your jungle always comes out differently than the game before.