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My Top 10 Games of 2023 - Jim

Updated: Jan 3

The gaming landscape in 2023 has been truly remarkable. This year has seen the release of a few titles that have secured spots in my new top 10 games of all time. Notably, one of my all-time favorite cooperative games and my favouite solo experience of all time also come from this years' top 10. Without further ado, here are my top 10 games of 2023.


For my full reviews on each game click the link in the title of the game.


Unsung Hero Award - Narrowly missing the cut at Number 11

WBG Score: 8.5

Player Count: 1-4

You’ll like this if you like: Iki, Brass: Birmingham

Published by: Sorry We Are French


My Top 10 Games of 2023

This game is a re-release of a title originally introduced in 2014. Despite its 2023 reissue, it appears to have garnered limited attention, possibly due to its substantial weight on BGG or its somewhat lackluster artwork. The reasons are unclear, but this game deserves more recognition because it is truly outstanding. Boasting an abundance of combos to an almost extreme degree, Zhanguo provides numerous captivating scoring possibilities and presents a very intereting perspective on multi-card-use euros. If you enjoy games of this nature, it is certainly worth your consideration and so I anted to include on this list, dispite not quite making the cut, just to shine a light on it.


Best Cooperative Experience - Number 10

WBG Score: 8.5

Player Count: 1-4

You’ll like this if you like: Pandemic, Arkham Horror LCG (Mechanically speaking!).

Published by: CMYK


My Top 10 Games of 2023

The theme of this game is exceptionally intriguing. As you play, you gain a wealth of knowledge about the potential solutions to the climate crisis which when added to the gradually intensifying tension adds to the overall experience. If you appreciate challenging yet ultimately attainable cooperative games, Daybreak has the potential to become one of your all-time favorites. Picture Pandemic with the intensity of a Green Party conference. The game merits awards not only for the extensive research behind it but also for achieving mathematical perfection in its gameplay balance.


Best Two Player - Number 9

WBG Score: 8.5/10

Player Count: 2-4

You’ll like this if you like: Tapestry, 51st State.

Published by: IELLO

Designed by: Rémi Mathieu


My Top 10 Games of 2023

Yet another game that seems to have slipped under the radar a bit. It's puzzling, considering the delightful artwork, accessible box and weight, and the intriguing gameplay that brings something a bit different to the table. Maybe it got overshadowed by the buzz surrounding some larger box games released released around the same time, or the it could be challenges in higher player counts. Regardless, the immense joy I've found while playing this, especially in a two-player setting, makes it well deserving of your attention if you're on the lookout for a compelling two-player game.

Biggest Suprise of the year - Number 8

WBG Score: 8.5

Player Count: 1-4

You’ll like this if you like: Tribes of the Wind,The Red Cathedral, Great Western Trail.

Published by: Devir


My Top 10 Games of 2023

I'm beginning to realize how many games on my top 10 didn't receive the buzz they deserved in 2023. It seems that the abundance of great game released this year might have contributed to this oversight. However, one game that undoubtedly deserves recognition and is likely to stand the test of time is this charming masterpiece from Devir. It immerses you in a captivating competition to establish the most successful circus, set in America at the turn of the 19th century. With its unique theme, seamlessly executed flow, and intriguing strategy that invites multiple plays, this game brings joy in every session and is well worth your consideration.

Best Campaign Game - Number 7 (Not technically a 2023 game!)

WBG Score: 8.5

Player Count: 1-5

You’ll like this if you like: BeastScotland Yard, Fury of Dracula.

Published by: Off the Page Games

Designed by: Jay Cormier, Sen-Foong Lim


My Top 10 Games of 2023

This game is exceptionally clever. It's the ideal choice to bring out during a long weekend or holiday: set it up, play a session, break for lunch, play another round, take a break, and resume the next day. The richness of the campaign experience is truly impressive. The catch-up mechanism between games is remarkably unique, and the actual gameplay itself is brimming with tension, laughter, and captivating strategy. Although the game initially debuted in 2021, I only had the chance to play it early this year, earning it a spot on the list by default. For those who also missed it upon its initial release, I strongly encourage you to explore this if you appreciate sprawling, campaign-based deduction games with twists and turns that promise to delight and captivate you.

Biggest 'Contraversy' of the Year - Number 6

WBG Score: 9/10

Player Count: 1-5

Published by: Stonemaier Games

Designed by: Connie Vogelmann


My Top 10 Games of 2023

When I mention controversy, I'm referring to concerns raised about the pricing strategy at Essen, the mixed reviews the game has received since its launch, and the challenges related to balancing found in the game. I don't have any issues with the aforementioned points. I opted not to purchase at Essen due to what I perceived as inflated prices, and instead, I waited. Mixed reviews for big games are quite common—some are overhyped due to insufficient playtesting, while others may receive overly negative critiques from individuals discontent with certain aspects of the publisher involved, the industry or the game itself.


Regarding balancing issues, yes, there are a few tiles that offer more significant rewards than others, but if that bothers you, you can simply remove them from the game. In my view, the primary balancing factor revolves around one specific Carve tile. Carve tiles are prominently displayed from the start for everyone to see. Every player has an equal opportunity to accumulate the required resources to purchase them. If this one Carve tile is present in your game, and someone manages to obtain it first on the rare occasions it appears (assuming you haven't removed it from the game), credit is due to them for reaching it first.


In reality, it's less of a controversy and more a collection of opinions—a fundamental aspect of this hobby, wouldn't you agree? My personal opinion is that this game is immensely enjoyable. It not only rewards multiple plays but also boasts a visually stunning design that has captivated me since my initial play and fuly deserves its spot on this top ten list.


Best Small Box - Number 5

WBG Score: 8.5

Player Count: 2-4

You’ll like this if you like: Bitoku, KanaGawa,The Red Cathedral.

Published by: Devir

Designed by: Germán P. Millán


My Top 10 Games of 2023

This game might just be an unexpected hit for 2023, flying somewhat under the radar. There hasn't been much buzz surrounding it, with the attention at Essen this year largely captured by The White Castle, perhaps rightfully so. However, since I haven't had the chance to play that game yet, it won't make it onto my list. In contrast, Bamboo secures its spot at the 5th position, thanks to its impeccably designed gameplay that exudes sophistication. Every playthrough has been a delight, and the strategic unfolding of turns in this game is simply glorious. Its appealing aesthetics certainly contribute to its charm. But what sets Bamboo apart from many other games of 2023 is the sheer joy derived from implementing the cascading strategy required for success. Navigating through the intricate process, thinking multiple turns ahead, is a gratifying experience that makes me eager to return to this game time after time.

Most Interesting Theme - Number 4

WBG Score: 9

Player Count: 1-4

You’ll like this if you like: Dune Imperium, Orleans, Tiletum 

Published by: Devir


My Top 10 Games of 2023

I strongly dislike the fact that this game spells "Jerusalem" with an 'I.' I understand the reasoning behind it, but I find it unnecessary. It seems like a case of being clever just for the sake of cleverness, which is the exact opposite of what the game embodies. The game itself streamlines the fundamental mechanics of set collection, hand management, and grid coverage into a mathematical euro delight. While the theme may feel somewhat pasted on, they opted for an interesting and, admittedly, unique one that, in my opinion, complements the mechanics well and aligns with every decision I make during gameplay. The board may appear busy, the art somewhat biblical, and the setting potentially not appealing to everyone based on religious or political beliefs. However, beneath these aspects, the core structure of the game is ingenious, delivering a seamless euro experience that presents meaningful decisions, rewarding players throughout each game.

Best Euro Game - Number 3

WBG Score: 9

Player Count: 1-4

You’ll like this if you like: Brass: Birmingham, Tiletum, Barrage.

Published by: Board&Dice


My Top 10 Games of 2023

This game is the most recent addition to my list, jumping straight in at the number three spot. It comes in a sizable box, packed with components, and the rule book isn't the most user-friendly I have seen recently. And when compared to similar games, it might not reign as the king of its own little hill, but once you peel away those layers, what remains is a highly enjoyable game. If given the space to breathe, it can offer hours of entertainment, and that's just from the first playthrough! Joking aside, contrary to some claims, it doesn't take as long as some say to play, and after a few sessions, I've even found myself wishing the game didn't conclude so quickly, yearning for a few more turns. This realisation tells me two things: one, I need to improve my skills in this game, and two, this game consistently leaves me craving more. The fact that it occupies my thoughts for days after each session is reason enough to earn it such a high position on my list for 2023.

Best 'Dice' Game - Number 2

WBG Score: 9.5

Player Count: 1-4

You’ll like this if you like: Alien Frontiers, Euphoria.

Published by: Garphill Games

Designed by: S J Macdonald


My Top 10 Games of 2023

I've yet to encounter a Garphill game that doesn't captivate me. Each one ingeniously explores unique ways to look at popular mechanics, and the same holds true for Circadians, which employs a captivating dice worker placement mechanism. Although the base game debuted in 2019, it didn't grace my table until 2023 when this expansion landed, and oh my, did it elevate the game to greatness. I initially rated the base game a 9, but this expansion nudges it close to perfection at 9.5 for me. There's an incredibly satisfying feeling to performing well in this game. The mental processes I undergo as I plan my turns each round, and the surge of endorphins when everything unfolds according to plan, are experiences only games like this can deliver. If you revel in orchestrating well-structured turns in complex strategy games with numerous moving parts and variables, this could easily become one of your all-time favorites. For me, it swiftly claimed a spot in my top 5 of all time with the addition of this fantastic expansion.

Best Solo Game - Number 1

WBG Score: 9.5

Player Count: 1

You’ll like this if you like: Hadrian's WallGanz Schon Clever, Robinson Crusoe.

Published by: Garphill Games

Designed by: Shem Phillips


My Top 10 Games of 2023

Occupying both the number one and two spots on my list for 2023, Garphil Games has had a great year for sure. With Legacy of Yu they have crafted a remarkable masterpiece that deserves the umber one spot. What's intriguing about this games position for me is that, despite not being a solo gamer, and currnelty not wanting to play it, it was an easy choice for first place.


After playing through the solo campaign multiple times in a concentrated burst earlier this year, I find myself not craving an immediate return. It's not that I won't play it again; I know I will, and I'll love it. However, I'm content with the extensive time I spent immersed in it—27 games over an almost continuous three-day marathon. I undeniably got my money's worth, and the fact that it currently sits as my number one game of the year despite my current reluctance to replay it says a lot.


The context matters here. Legacy of Yu is a campaign game, and replaying an entire campaign multiple times is a substantial commitment. Three times is already quite a lot for any campaign game. Furthermore, considering that this is a solo game, and I'm not particularly a solo gamer, I initially approached it more for reviewing purposes than personal enjoyment. Yet, I found myself captivated by the process of workig through the campaign. Which I now know pretty much all parts too. I need some time to forget the story!


Looking ahead, I would love to see Garphil explore new avenues with this game—perhaps a sequel, a second campaign expansion, or even a mini-expansion introducing a new chapter. Breathing new life into it would be a welcome prospect because, while the experience is phenomenal, it needs to find a way to remain relevant given its inherent nature of having a full stop

.

Reflecting on those 27 games and comparing them to all the other new games I played this year, Legacy of Yu stands out as the best gaming experience I had in 2023. I strongly encourage anyone with even a slight inclination to try a solo game to give this one a whirl—it won't disappoint.

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