In 2023, my total plays are somewhere around the 500 count, across 114 different games, 54 of which were new to me! But how many were released in 2023? 28 of those were published (according to Boardgamegeek in 2023). There's two lists or maybe three lists here, the best new to me game in 2023, the best new release in 2023, and of course, the worst game of 2023! It's been really difficult to have an order of preference for these, so I'm putting 5 under each category. Let's start with the best new release of 2023!
Out of 28 games published in 2023 that I've played, I'm throwing in an early exception to the rule and including an expansion!
Ark Nova Marine Worlds is for me an essential addition to Ark Nova and either fixes every issue I had with the base game or just add that extra sprinkling of goodness that I don't know why you wouldnt include it. The addition of sea creatures adds just a sprinkling of engine building. Coupled with the new action cards, there's more than enough here to compliment the base game without fundamentally changing anything. And that centre card row is now never static, keeping the game moving and forcing players to take the card action in case the card they want dissappears. Although it's a double-edged sword as the card market can easily be completely wiped if there are that many waves!
Next up is Legacy of Yu, a purely solo completely resettable campaign, that I was a little bit hestiant about but we were going away essentially to a cabin with minimal internet connection, I picked this up from Kienda on a "I need a solo game for next week" and it is my favourite solo gaming experience to date. There's this efficiency puzzle and okay fairly light story that holds it all together, but the gameplay tickes so many boxes for me, it was a game I set up on day one and didn't pack away until the last day of our holiday. It was a joy, and I'd go back on holiday again just to take Legacy of Yu with me! I'm hoping to get a second playthrough of the campaign in shortly..
And finally, After Us, the racing game you didn't know was a racing game. Well it’s not really a racing game, but it sort of is. It's a simultaneous resource management game in which you are racing to 80 points. There's just something immensely satisfying about the whole experience that means for a 45 minute experience there's that little bit of deck building, sense of a race that keeps everyone engaged and a sense of customisation as you add apes to your tribe.
Other honourable mentiones include Bord, The A.R.T project, and Arborea (although with just one play, it's hard to judge). However, Earth doesn’t make an appearance on any of these categories!
But my favourite games I've played in 2023, is there any cross-over? Well, Ark Nova Marine worlds crosses over into one of those that I've enjoyed most in 2023. But if I was to pick just three?
Revive from aporta games was the first game that came to mind, for its ease of teach and level of depth that just brings me back again and again. I'm yet to even try the additional bits and pieces included in the game and have just been playing effectively the base game, but there's satisfying gameplay loop of play cards, recover cards and repeat and the resources are somewhat perfectly balanced so that you are forced to pick a path or two and you're unlikely to gather masses of resources, its extremely tight. All in all, this is one of my gaming highlights of 2023, if not my favourite game of 2023. Revive was released at the end of 2022, however, was seemingly unavailable until early 2023, so could possibly be considered until 2023 line up.
War of the ring continues to shine and reveal itself with each and every play, and it continues to be top of my gaming highlights and enjoyable experiences. Yes, the rulebook is seemingly terrible. In a 50-page rulebook that says "see later," you know you're in for a rough time! And I'd highly recommend anyone wanting to try War of the Ring, watch the tutorial series on youtube rather than subjecting yourself to learning from the rulebook. However, War of the Ring isn't perfect, the miniatures are shocking in terms of quality, and it's a game I'd never want to teach just because there's so many systems and nuances to the rules here that even after 25 games, I still find myself referring to the rulebook for.
Then I'm stuck between Carnegie or Hegemony, having played Carnegie alot more than Hegemony last year. I'm sliding ever so slightly to Carnegie, but the experience of sitting down to delve into the game that is Hegemony that brings together so many elements with different player roles, for a very unique and rewarding experience. But I've only played it three times, and only played two of the factions. Where as Carnegie, I feel I've now played some 45 times and feel like it offers such a great decision space and management system that, I can't not love this game. So much so that after initially backing the Kickstarter, not being able to get my copy to the table, I sold it. I since tracked down another copy with the view of trying to get it regulary to the table, but it may just be a Boardgamearena and convention game.
Other honourable mentions include Bunny Kingdom, Teotihuacan, a feast for Odin, Clans of Caledonian, Legacy of Yu, Brass Birmingham, and Akropolis.
Now it's for the list you were really waiting for! The worst games of 2023..
Borders, a game sold as a learning experience, in which you learn about different countries in Europe. With its slightly funky rules for countries becoming other countries, meaning Europe won't look like Europe and a rulebook that refers to checking a website that has no updates. It was a mismatch of promising lots of gameplay and gameplay modes, but it's so hastily put together that it isn't worth the time.
Hegemony in the Late Han Dystany, now we're talking about a game from a company that was sending me 15-20 messages a day for a review, and when I refused to be entirely positive turned to insults. However, theres so many contradictions in the rulebook, interchangeable wording, and your actions are determined by rolling various amounts of Dice, without any ability to mitgate rolls. Meaning you could be stuck doing the same action round after round, but apparently that's okay?
Up next is Legions Fantasy, a game in which you're going head to head to fight it out in a fantasy area that's 17 by 17, and each unit moves a maximum of 2 spaces a turn. You're in for the long game! Oh, and all different units are represented by the same type of token. And this problably wins the award for the worst rulebook "action phase, this is where players take actions." No further explanation. So good luck deciphering those rules! Oh don't worry the company say the rules are designed for TCG players who should have no problem (allegedly) with the rules.
Other honourable mentions include; Clap Clap City (think cards of humanity but you're clapping!), Home escape Home (a escape room game thats reliant on a website that doesn't work!), Take 4 (just play 6 Nimmt).
On reflection, alot of the review games I have been sent, have been okay to terrible and probably multiple could fall into the above category. And I'm concerned for those that have backed games based on the overwhelming positive reviews from other content creators, who either were playing a completely different game or felt the need to be positive. Having experienced myself this year, insults from publishers because I refused to write an entirely positive review, I can see why others may have written reviews as such.
But here's to 2024 and all its gaming! I've reduced my review intake and focusing on playing games, which as we're midway through January has been a great start so far. I've a handful (about 7) of review games to get through and will be limiting myself to 2 a month and only to those companies who appreciate my time, review and recognise the effort taken.
Were there any surprises ? Did you expect other games to feature higher up? Or maybe games to feature in other categories?