The last piece hit on 2023 titles for relative newbies. The ones here are meant for tabletop vets, folks looking to add some meat to their collection, whether that’s with heavy euros, challenging co-op adventures, or a blend of them all. If you’ve a board game lover on your list, one of these 2023 titles might be just what they’re looking for.
That said, many of these board games go in and out of stock frequently, so if one catches your eye, add it to your Noble Knight Want List. Then, you’ll get an email next time it shows up so you can snag it, the best surprise shopping has to offer.
The venerable hidden movement genre (Scotland Yard, anyone?) has been going through a renaissance, with last year’s Sniper Elite: The Board Game and this year’s City of the Great Machine both offering great deceptive experiences. Beast is another, transforming one player into a murderous, hiding monster that the others must chase and catch.
What gives Beast its boost is the pre-round drafting, where all players, Beast included, choose and pass cards. This gives both sides a tantalizing idea of what might happen in the round, turning random guessing into tactical counters. As playing those cards determines what you can do, the hunters must work together, as getting stuck on your own with the wrong card makes you an easy meal.
Weaving theme and mechanics together, Beast is at its best when a skilled group delivers a tight woodland dance.
Finally, a chance to play as capitalists! Hegemony takes faction asymmetry to modern political systems, letting you and up to three others manage society to see who comes out on top. Only one player runs the rich and powerful, though, with the State, the Middle Class, and the Working Class all getting a chance to succeed.
What makes Hegemony work is its commitment to the theme, with every faction needing to work with the others to win. Capitalists need to balance employment and middle class satisfaction, while the working class can go on strike to get what they want. The State runs around between them all, striving to keep everyone balanced. With interaction everywhere, this euro game is both dense and, with a bit of committed role-playing, delightful. If you’re given the Capitalist’s chair, I highly recommend a monocle to complete the effect.
Just trust me.
If Hegemony gives you a competitive current day economy to manage, Voidfall does the same . . . in space! Chock full of scenarios, ships, and civilizations, Voidfall spins out a new galaxy every game, tasking players with achieving their goals while fending off invasions from the titular Voidborn. You’ll have some chances to fight each other too, if that’s your bag, but deterministic combat takes the focus off the blasting and puts it more on the building.
Voidfall at once rewards preparation and mocks analysis paralysis, with new round events and player-driven conflict keeping a mathed-out route to victory from being easy. Instead, you’ll need to plan your production actions for maximum effectiveness, trap enemies with careful maneuvers, and innovate crucial technologies in time to save your civ from certain doom.
If you love the idea of space adventure but loath endless dice-chucking, Voidfall is the afternoon-eating experience you’ve been waiting for.
Age of Innovation (2023)
Ah, Terra Mystica. My first real ‘heavy’ euro, and one that still throws sand in my gears whenever I bring it back to the table. Age of Innovation exists, then, to mock me with its new city-building mechanisms, enhancing the bonuses its predecessor provided for snuggling up close to your enemies. Factions can now be customized, removing the ties to specific terrain types so you can mix and match any blend you’d like. During the game, too, you’ll be able to purchase those innovations, giving your faction new powers and keeping the game fresh play after play.
If you’ve loved Terra Mystica or Gaia Project and want a fresh new edition, Age of Innovation is the one to look for.
When Simone Luciani, designer of Barrage, my favorite dam-based chaos simulator, pitched another title about crazed industrialists competing with one another to suck Uranium juice, it was easy to get excited. Nucleum is exactly as promised, a dense euro that twists Barrage’s in-your-face interaction to expand everyone’s possibilities rather than restrict them. You’ll work together to expand the board, playing off each other’s tracks, scoring milestones by shuttling energy along a tunnel your buddy built, and so on.
Nucleum, though, isn’t a co-op. You’ll want to exploit the other players as much as you can, and the one who best dances with everyone at the table stands a good chance at winning. It’s a big nest of decisions that you’ll likely need several plays to see at its fullest. That’s not a negative, but instead an invitation to keep this deep experience set up on your table for a month or three, enjoying it every time.
15 turn-based minutes until the space station hits atmosphere and explodes. 15 turns to get your (secret) character where they need to be, goals achieved, while screwing up everyone else’s plans. Stationfall ticks on its unpredictable time, with every turn giving you and your other players actions that can move anyone on the station, so long as they haven’t been revealed as a player’s character. Once you flip up your character, nobody can control them directly, and you get a special ability, but now everyone else knows how to keep you from winning.
Like most social deduction games, Stationfall develops a story as players toss characters from airlocks, lock them in the wrong rooms, and wonder whether freeing the telepathic rat was a feint or the real play all along. Stationfall isn’t a party game, but an adventure flush with traitorous tension that rewards players less concerned with winning and more with wild twists, turns, and the tales they tell.
Dune Imperium – Uprising
The venerable Dune: Imperium, a combination worker placement and deck-building dance, spawned a new sorta sequel this year with Dune: Imperium – Uprising, a strong vote for most convoluted title. Uprising, which allows you to add in all the cards from the original Imperium and its two expansions, streamlines the struggle for spice while adding spies and more sandworms.
For me, the most exciting change with Uprising is the new six-player team variant. While the Dune: Imperium series, with its tight spaces and frequent conflict, always had lots of interaction for a worker placement game, adding in tactical teamwork both matches the theme and makes everyone invested in every turn.
If you haven’t tried out this Arrakis adventure and you have any love for euros, Dune: Imperium – Uprising is the perfect place to start.
If only our children could be programmed, right?
Raising Robots invites you to consider that idea as an inventor building up a bot swarm. Like a mechanical Pokémon master, whoever has the greatest robot collection by the game’s end wins, which sounds simple enough, until you start fiddling with the simultaneous action system.
Combining Race for the Galaxy and Wingspan, you’ll all be choosing from an action array simultaneously, adding bots to your tableau and building a big ol’ engine. More powerful actions help other players, making most interactions positive ones. Add in unique inventor abilities, and you have a fast-paced—under two hours, even at six players—but far from simple game, perfect for bot-friendly puzzlers.
Scholars of the South Tigris
Bold themes make for fun board games, and Scholars of the South Tigris picks a great one: journeying around, collecting scrolls, and translating them to glean their knowledge. Scholars continues Garphill Games’s line that began with Raiders of the North Sea, changing up the formula this time with action cards, dice, and bag-building. Every turn, you’ll play an action card on your hand, drop a dice on it, and potentially add more, better dice to your bag. The goal with all that is to collect scrolls, then build an effective translation chain to decipher that wrapped papyrus you found.
Scholars is dense but rewarding, as you’ll almost never have turns that feel dead. Even the rest action to recover your cards lets you generate income, which will (theoretically) grow, a satisfying sign you’re making progress. The dice rolling and translators, drawn from a deck, inject enough randomness to keep things from getting too analytical, letting you sink into the strategy. If you enjoy Garphill Games’s style and want to try a more complex entry, or if you’ve never taken a dive into the series and don’t mind testing your smarts, Scholars of the South Tigris is a thematic adventure worth taking.
Kutná Hora: The City of Silver (2023)
We’ve already covered Hegemony up above, about running a country. Kutná Hora brings things down to the city level, but it’s by no means simpler. You and your guild master pals are overseeing the expansion of the ‘City of Silver’ by selecting card-driven actions allowing you to make mines, grab land, build new guilds, and, most important of all, profit. It’d be easy to let a system like this operate in multiplayer-solitaire fashion, but Kutná Hora matches reality by having your actions affect everyone else.
Say you build a new mine, flooding the market with coal. The price of coal, for everyone, goes down, which might prompt the next player to abandon their mining plans and expand the city instead. New citizens come pouring in, bumping up the value of food, and now player three might want to take advantage. You’re all in the same sandbox, competing for cash and patrician points through public works.
Kutná Hora is a passion project, stuffed with historical details both in its rulebook and its design. Truly interactive euros like this turn game nights into group efforts, with everyone bantering across the table. If the setting, the economic tension, or the idea of collaborative competition has you curious, Kutná Hora is one from 2023 worth checking out.
Marvel Champions: NeXT Evolution (2023)
Marvel Champions, you say? Didn’t that come out years, and a thousand character packs, ago?
Yes, it did, and the game was good then, and, I’ll contend, it’s even better now. Marvel Champions: NeXT Evolution takes two awesome characters, Cable and Domino, and drops them in a five scenario campaign against Juggernaut and Mister Sinister. Like all Marvel Champions campaigns, there’s difficulty levels and deck-building aplenty, letting you tinker to your heart’s content in this co-op card game.
What makes NeXT Evolution worth it, beyond Domino, who’s just the coolest, is the new player side schemes introduced here. Marvel Champions already rewarded strategic pre-battle setups, and now that you can enact your own long-term plans, the gameplay goes deeper than ever. If you’re wanting a living card game willing to burn your brain while giving you one unique hero after another, Marvel Champions is an easy recommend. There’s no need to get everything, just pick your favorite characters (like Domino), a campaign or two, and go save the galaxy.
Warhammer 40,000: Tenth Edition
The standard-bearer of miniature wargaming again deserves your attention in 2023, releasing a huge rules overhaul with its 10th Edition. Warhammer 40,000 is venerable yet ever-changing, with Games Workshop unafraid to modernize rules, release new game modes, and continue the ongoing story of its bleak, engrossing universe.
Getting into 40k has never been easier—a line, I’m sure, that’s been said many times before, equally true then as it is now—because of two core elements: Combat Patrols, which let you jump into a new army without the expense and, frankly, work to build and paint a zillion Tyranids (still the best faction). You and a partner, or several, can send these smaller squads against one another in fast-paced skirmishes in a quick afternoon, letting you get a feel for various factions and deciding what marauding horde you’d like to play with next.
Tenth edition also smoothes out the rules, adding companion apps and streamlined index cards for your units, making it easier to track abilities and understand what your opponent’s big bads might do to your soon-to-be-slaughtered space marines. This means less time flipping through codexes and more time chucking dice, waging war for the God-Emperor.
If you’ve ever had an interest in Warhammer: 40,000, now is a great time to dive in, with plenty of painting, matches to play, and tournaments at your local store (Noble Knight hosts Warhammer nights every Wednesday!).
Upping the Game (2023)
2023’s titles for board game lovers cover a broad range, from space to scrolls, superheroes to alternate history. That’s the beauty of boardgaming: no matter your interest or experience level, there’s something awesome out there.
Next up, we’ll take a look at 2023’s big wargaming releases to close out our holiday gift guides. Thanks for reading, and may the dice roll ever in your favor.