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Essen Spiel 2023 Most Anticipated Board Games - A Retrospective: Were They Any Good?

All games featured here are the reviewer's copy (or were not bought at all!). See our review policy here

In October 2023 I drew up a list of 14 games I was most excited about seeing, playing, buying or demoing at Essen 2023. I though that now, a few months later, it would be interesting to re-visit this list, to see which games lived up to the hype.

Essen Spiel 2023 Most Anticipated Board Games - A Retrospective: Were They Any Good?

The White Castle - I bought this game. I love this game. I will never get rid of this game.

My copy is signed and I adore the design team behind this game. It plays incredibly smoothly offers so much "game" in under an hour, and always leaves me wanting to play again. A joyous, condensed, combo filled euro. Worthy of the hype.

Nokosu Dice - I played this game at the con with a friends copy. I wanted to buy this game, but this game sold out very quickly and seems to still be unavailable anywhere.

How do so many publisher's get their stock levels at conventions so wrong? I doubt the hype for this game will ever be as big as it was for Essen 2023 and they turned up with around 500 copies it seemed. Oh, well. I bought Sail instead and I am happy.

Planta Nubo - I did not buy this game. I did not demo or play this game.

The game was over priced (or so I thought) at the convention at $50 euro (if memory serves correct) which seemed a little over priced to me. I planned to buy it afterwards when the prices calmed down. It's currently not readily available, with only two sites that I can currently see selling, and it's listed at £78 with shipping, so maybe I should have just bought it at Essen. Whoops.

Portals - I bought this game. I am unsure about this game. I may sell this game.

It certainly looks nice, and the components won me over when I went to the stand at Essen, so I bought it with minimal knowledge of the game play. I have since only played it a few times and each time I was left underwhelmed. It's fine, a 7/10 maybe. I will keep it for a little bit more, play a few more times and then make my mind up. I think I believed my own hype! Lesson learned... maybe.

ito - I bought this game. I love this game. I will never get rid of this game.

I have played it since with so many different groups and it has only fallen flat with one person so far. My wife. Mostly as I am less than tolerant with her strange (to me) clues! But it is so fun, and if you enjoy Wavelength or are looking for a simple party game that encourages fun conversations around a simple set up, get this. It's wonderful.

Furnace: Interbellum - I bought this game. I have not played this game yet. I doubt I will ever get rid of it.

I have played Furnace a few times since I got the expansion, just not with people who know the base game well, so I did not feel comfortable adding the expansion. I hope to fix this soon. I am confident this will make a game I love even better.

Cascadia: Landmarks - I did not buy this game. I did not demo or play this game.

Again, it seemed over priced at £30 at the convection. Although the price has not come down since. Although someone at the con said to me, they did not want to add complexity to Cascadia as they like it because it is light and simple. And they have other games for times they want a more crunchy game experience. That resonated with me. My appetite for this waned.

Sea Salt & Paper: Extra Salt - I bought this game. It's ok. I won't get rid of it.

It's just a few cards. No need to get rid of it. It has a tiny footprint and its ok. It has some interesting new cards, but I am unsure if the game needs that. It affects the probability of other cards being drawn. That bugs me a little. Felt like a cash grab on a popular game.

From the Moon - I did not buy this game. It was not available to purchase. Just demo. I did not demo it.

I ran out of time. It looks amazing and I hope I get a chance to play it this year.

Essen Spiel 2023 Most Anticipated Board Games - A Retrospective: Were They Any Good?
Artist - Gilles Warmoes

Nekojima - I bought this game. I like this game. I won't get rid of this game.

It's fun. But like many dexterity games, can be annoying. The idea is to build up your pieces to get a nice impressive tower. Most the time you fail, and they all fall down. It's annoying, even in competitive mode as you want a big impressive tower more than the win. And you rarely get that. Perhaps a tiny bit too hard for my clumsy hands. But, it looks ace and is fun for a game or two here and there, and it scratches an itch for me in a sector of games I do not have many other options.

Papertown - I bought this game.  I like this game. I may get rid of this game.

It is very simple, and looks fun. And has some interesting options. But choices seem a little limited and the graphic design, with the angle of the tiles does make me feel a bit wonky as I look at it. Its a solid 7. Do I need to keep the 7's? Probably not. Will it grow in ratings after more plays? Probably not. More plays needed.

Redwood - I did not buy this game. I did not play or demo this. But have previously demo'd.

I ran out of time, but really want to play it soon. It looks fantastic and I have heard good things.

Sail - I bought this game. I love this game. I won't ever get rid of this game.

It's so good. And I am over missing out of Nokosu Dice now. Mostly! It has a lovely arc to it, and different levels you can play on. The theme is a lot more present and interesting than I thought and I love how the game has levels to work through. You play your way into this game over multiple games and build a winning strategy. It feels great to do this. It is a bit like The Mind in this way. A little bit. Just you have to do that over multiple plays, rather than rounds. So, it takes some patience, but it totally delivers if you give it the chance to breath.

Sea Dragons - I did not buy this game. I did not play or demo it.

Again, this sold like hot cakes and each day I went to the booth. Each day they ran out. Again, I doubt the buzz for this will ever be as big again and I fear many people will move on to look for other things. I myself would love to get my hands on a copy if I could. The buzz has not waned for me, yet.

So, there you go. Some hits. Some misses. Some I will keep for ever. Some I may sell. Some I missed out on. Some I still want to get. A classic convention story I would imagine. I cannot wait for the next one!

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I could have brought the White Castle the other day. I brought somehting else instead…..I should have brought the White Castle haha

Jim Gamer
Jim Gamer
Jan 22
Replying to

Look forward to hearing more! And playing soon. I hope b


Ok I have both Redwood & Planta Nubo waiting to be played so come on over! And bring The White Castle with you 😁

Jim Gamer
Jim Gamer
Jan 22
Replying to

That sounds like a very good (and convenient) solution!

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