Welcome to my top ten game of 2023. As with last year this is my top ten games that I played for the first time this year and aren’t necessarily games that were released this year…….in fact, only two were actually released this year! Check me out keeping up with the new hotness!
So, last year was a pretty great one for me in terms of new games with a whopping four of my top ten actually making it into my top ten games of all time at one time (three are still there). This year my top two games have that honour, so far.
If I’ve already reviewed an entry I’ll add a link to it at the bottom if you want to read more of me waffling on about them. If I’ve not reviewed them, keep checking back because there may be reviews coming for them in the future.
10. Twilight Inscription
Twilight Imperium is one of my favourite games so when this was announced in the year of the games 25th anniversary it was met with……scepticism to say the least. It’s an ambitious task making a flip/roll and write out of one of the biggest games out there but I really think designer James Kniffen has largely managed to pull it off. It does a good job at getting all the TI elements in and while it misses out on the high interaction factor of its bigger brother, it certainly delivers on the scale of the original and is a fun combo-tastic entry into the verb and write family. Oh and those orange chalk pens are really cool.
9. Cantaloop Book 3: Against All Odds
Part one of this fun “point and click” style puzzle game series made last year's list with ease. There was a bit of a dip in quality with the second part. It was still fun, but a bit of a let down. But with the final part in this trilogy they’ve managed to bring it home in style with some fun, clever puzzles, and a genuinely emotional end to the story. If the second part knocked your confidence in the series then this is a fantastic return to form and well worth your time.
8. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion
It's a small box Gloomhaven (well small by Gloomhaven standards anyway) but it certainly doesn’t seem to skimp on that experience. Utilising a book instead of tiles for a map and using a genius five scenario tutorial system to ease you into the game. It’s full of a branching story, side quests, city missions and you can level up your character and get cool new abilities. The story so far is pretty fun and we've lovingly named the villain Roland Rat (there’s my obscure TV. reference for the list.) Even though it’s a smaller version it still packs a big punch of a game that we keep wanting to come back to.
A last minute(ish) addition to the list this one. There was a point a couple of years ago, and it’s largely true still, that you couldn’t scroll through your Instagram feed without seeing at least two posts about Obsession. Having now played it I can see why it gets the love that it does. It’s a great thematic game and it gives you lots of fun decisions to make as you try and juggle renovating a house while still trying to throw an epic party. It also serves as a good lesson in staff management if any future employers are interested.
6. Mille Fiore
The box doesn’t exactly draw you in and scream “this is a fun game” but, if you can get people sat down for a game It won’t be long before they’ve also got hearts of glass. Come for those lovely “glass” tokens, stay for the fun tactical gameplay. It’s a great flip and write / point salad cross with loads of interactivity. Above all else the board looks fantastic as those beautiful coloured glass tokens start to fill it up.
5. Undaunted: Battle of Britain
This is Undaunted Series first foray into a different theatre and for me it’s a massive success. They’ve managed to modify the system to capture the mechanics of planes in flight and still kept the undaunted systems' beautiful simplicity and tactical gameplay. It’s another triumphant entry into the system and it makes me excited to see what other theatres they’re going to explore in the future. Speaking of the future I can’t wait to see how they handle the future in Undaunted 2200: Callisto.
Full Review here
4. Bantam West
You just know a game is great when after one play you’re already considering selling its closest counterpart. I’ll also admit now that I think if I’d had played this a couple more times before I made this list then this could have been my number two
Back in February 2022 I reviewed Western Legends, a fun sandbox game that lets you run round the old west Robbing banks, digging for gold and being an outlaw….or a Marshall, depending on how boring your feeling. I still stand by everything I said in that review and it’s still a great game……….however. The folks over at Bantam Planet must have decided that it wasn't quite sand boxy enough and set about making a game that took Western Legends and turned it up to eleven. It’s got so many things you can do that it could easily have been overwhelming, yet, it never felt that way. In fact they were just more things that you were excited to try and on the plus side were also helpful to your game. I love how balanced it felt. All four of us chose different strategies and there were only a couple of points in the final scores. One player had very little money throughout the game and hadn’t upgraded his movement, which could easily serve as a detriment in most games but here it was barely an issue. I’ve only played this once at the time of writing but if this one game is anything to go by then I may have to consider selling my copy of Western Legends.
I’ve only played this twice physically but I’ve played it countless times on BGA and man is this addictive! Just as I finish one game I immediately want to rack it up and go again. Is it perfect?, no, and when I get round to reviewing it I’ll even point out some of those flaws. Regardless of those, I still love this game even after all my plays. I love how the race element ramps up as the game goes on, the tension as you hope no one else takes your cards and those almost sweat-inducing moments as two people are close to victory and nervously wait on a wing and a prayer for those cards you need.
“Nobody tosses a dwarf!” Unless of course you’re tossing him into the number two spot of a top ten. A relatively simple game of bidding, drafting and set collection but it’s so endlessly replayable. The coin upgrade system is such a fun way to change up what could easily have been a simple bidding system since you're now choosing between getting the cards you want and upgrading your coins to give you more choices later in the game. It’s not the most thematic of games but the sheer number of ways to build your dwarf army to obtain victory will have you wanting to try different strategies and combinations every time and that’s what makes this ridiculously addictive.
So this may technically be cheating because I first played this game at the end of last year, but it was after the cut off for last year's list so I’m still counting it.
Not ones to rest on their laurels, designers David Thompson and Trevor Benjamin took a simple, fun game system and turned it into a legacy game which kept everything great about the previous instalments and gave us this rich, strategic experience that I just kept wanting to jump back into. At the time of writing I’m almost through my second run through and I'm still just as excited to get back to it as I was the first time. I’m loving how things are evolving differently from my first play through and I can’t wait to see how it’s going to end.
I called this as being my number one game right at the beginning of the year and honestly it would have taken a lot to beat it. It’s by far my favourite of the Undaunted games and has rightfully shot up into my top ten games of all time.