Our Ten Most Anticipated Board Games in 2023
2022 was another year where we saw significant delays in global shipping. Most notably as a result of a container and vessel shortage as the supply chain slowly recovers from COVID. Further COVID lockdowns in China then impacted manufacturing, assembly, and shipping. All of this is to say that many of the games we were most looking forward to like Aeon Trespass: Odyssey, Frosthaven, Avatar Legends TTRPG, and Frostpunk are still caught up in the process of shipping, leaving us still waiting eagerly for their arrival.
This year, we’re going to exclude these titles from our list and focus upcoming titles are expected to be delivered in 2023, rather than ones that were delayed into it.
Artisans of Splendent Vale
Artisans of Splendent Vale is a new cooperative adventure game from Renegade Game Studios and game designer Nikki Valens known for their work on Eldritch Horror and the second edition of Mansions of Madness. This cooperative legacy game plays like a dungeon crawler: chucking dice, exploring new areas, and battling monsters, but it forgoes familiar character archetypes like knights, rogues, and mages in favor of artisans and trade workers. The four non-binary characters to choose from are Javi (he/him) the Artificer, Ramani (they/them or she/her) the Apothecary, Soraya (she/her) the Mason, and Farah (ze/zir) the Tailor. Each of the four characters has their own story book, abilities, and skill tree that looks not unlike the sphere grid from Final Fantasy X.
In most narrative campaigns, there’s a single campaign book that one player will read to the rest of the group from. As much as I enjoy narrative games, it can be disengaging for players to stop and listen to another person ready rather than doing it themselves. Artisans changes this by having a different storybook for each of the four characters. During story sections, each player will be able to follow along in their own character’s copy of the book. What makes this interesting is that characters have varying story entries based on their trade. Ramani might notice some rare plants off to the side of the road they can craft a health potion from while the rest of the party is discussing which direction they want to go in. Since Artisans can be played with two to four players, this means the story beats and items you encounter will vary greatly depending on who players choose.
Unlike all the other games on this list, we’ve already received our copy from Renegade and are hard at work on putting together our review that we’ll have for you soon.
The Dark Quarter
The Dark Quarter caught my attention right away. I’m a sucker for horror themes, even the Lovecraftian which has been so overused in the gaming industry. I get even more excited when a game designer explores a more unique setting and Lucky Duck Games hit the nail on the head with The Dark Quarter.
Their newest adventure is set during the 80s in an alternate version of New Orleans where monsters, hexes, and magic are common. Players take on the role of private investigators for the Beaumont Agency, investigating dark cases involving the supernatural and the occult.
The game is experienced through a series of app-driven scenarios linked together by a campaign. There’s an understandable resistance to games that require apps given that for any reason they could stop being supported. However, I’ve grown to be a big proponent of them. I certainly want to keep required apps away from most board games, but when the focus of a game is on the characters, stories, and an immersive experience, I feel it helps to have an app with a soundtrack, voice overs, and handles elements of the game that could otherwise disrupt strong story telling. App-owned admin makes it so much easier for new players to jump into the experience without lengthy or complex rules explanations. I’ve introduced many a friend to the hobby this way.
Similar storytelling games have been effective but were made for broader audiences. The Dark Quarter is made for more mature audiences and leans hard into noir tropes, dealing with mature themes, disturbing crimes, and deeply flawed investigators. Player decisions impact outcomes in a way the supports branching narratives, changing case outcomes, theoretically improving The Dark Quarter‘s replay value. It’s currently slated to be delivered in October so we’ll need to wait until then to find out more.
The Fox Experiment
The Fox Experiment is Elizabeth Hargrave’s next game, coming off the massive success of her last award-winning title, Wingspan. Published by Pandasaurus Games (Dinosaur Island, Brew), The Fox Experiment was successfully backed ion Kickstarter in November 2022, and is anticipated to deliver to backers in July of this year, followed by a broader retail release.
The Fox Experiment is all about breeding domesticated foxes through five generations, or rounds. In each generation, players select two fox parents and attempt to breed them by rolling trait dice to see which traits are passed down. Players earn points for fulfilling contracts (pleasing patrons), completing studies on the foxes, and gaining points for having the friendliest fox.
Only time will tell whether Hargrave’s newest game can live up to the high bar set by Wingspan, but I’m greatly intrigued by the roll and write elements present in The Fox Experiment and can’t wait to get my hands on this one.
The next game on our list is another nature themed game, but this one takes the game into a fresh and innovative direction. Redwood explores the life of a wildlife photographer by putting players into the role of wildlife photographers seeking to capture the marvel of the wilderness around them.
Photographers will use acrylic templates to determine and measure how they move around the board depicting a variety of nature biomes. After moving, photographers use a clear template to determine what’s in frame of their camera lens. Templates have varying distances and widths, giving players a range of tools at their disposal to capture the best photos possible. The flora and fauna on the board act as the subject of the photo, while the background is determined by the biomes the photographer is aiming at. Together, they create a photographic composition that earns players points based on their personal objectives. I love the theme and the artwork for this one. I feel like this one has great potential, but the templates might make it a very fiddly game.
Kickstarter backers are currently expecting Redwood to be delivered in July with a retail edition to follow soon afterwards.
As one might be able to guess from the title and/or artwork, Robomon is a Pokémon–inspired monster catching and battling game for one to two players. This is a lengthy campaign game that could not be playing off my nostalgia more if game designer Gabe Barret tried.
But the premise of Robomon is a bit darker than the artwork and cute robo-animals would imply. The description from the game designer reads:
“After a series of wars and climate events, most of the world’s animals went extinct. RoboMon were invented to piece the environment and ecosystems back together. But it wasn’t long before people figured out they could be reprogrammed for some pretty sweet robot battles.
You pick things up 50 years after the world has been put back together. Take on the role of a brand new Robomon trainer exploring the world and attempting to become a fully licensed Robomon Ranger and the greatest trainer on the planet.”
It’s a fair bit darker than the initial Pokémon world my generation was introduced to but I can’t wait to see how this one turns out. The artwork is perfectly reminiscent of the 2d era of Gameboy Pokémon. The towns and shops function just like the franchises it took inspiration from so this should be a very intuitive experience for players comfortable with the genre. To say this is an ambitious project is an understatement but Gabe Barret has put great care into ensuring the save system, rulebook, and adventure book are easy to use. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s a fantastic system that’s will make this an easy game to dive into.
For people hesitant about diving into the big box right away, Barret also created Robomon: Gramp’s Island Adventure which is a lower cost entry point into the game system that acts as a pseudo-prequel narrative. Gramp’s Island Adventure also includes rules and components for a 1v1 Robomon battling mode for added gameplay options.
Slay The Spire: The Board Game
I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing Slay the Spire, especially the many custom characters that can be found on Steam’s Workshop (The Bug Knight, The Servant, The Cursed, and The Hierophant). I followed the development of the board game adaptation from Contention Games as soon as it was announced. If for no other reason, I enjoy cooperative games and I love the idea of playing Slay the Spire with friends.
The board game edition will maintain the core game experience by separating plays into each of the three tower Acts and allowing players to choose between The Ironclad, The Silent, The Defect, and The Watcher characters, each with their own unique deck, miniature, and player mats. As players successfully complete runs, they will earn the ability to increase Slay the Spire’s difficulty with the Ascension functions, providing more challenging events and fights.
Slay The Spire: The Board Game will use double sided cards in sleeves with art backing as a way to solve for the upgradable cards. Rather than print a basic and upgraded version of each card, Contention Games is printing all player cards as double sided, with one side acting as the ability’s upgraded version. Whenever a player earns or purchases an upgrade, they simply take the card out of the sleeve, flip it to the reverse side and re-insert it into the sleeve to have access to the upgraded version.
I think this is a strong design approach to solving for a game that would otherwise require an absurd number of cards. However, my greatest concern with the existing design is the amount of admin and fiddling with components required could slow down the experience. Slay The Spire: The Board Game is expected to deliver by the end of 2023, and as soon as it arrives, we’ll be busy going for the heart of the spire.
Mindclash Games is known for its complex and brain-burning Euro games like Trickerion: Legends of Illusion and Anachrony. While I’m a big fan of Trickerion, I rarely get to enjoy it because it’s such a difficult game to teach to new players. I was immediately intrigued by Mindclash Games’ newest release, Septima, because it brings all of the great artwork and design elements they’re so well known for while focusing on a design that’s more accessible and easier to teach than the rest of their catalog.
Septima is a competitive game where each player controls the leader of a coven, attempting to prove their worth and become the successor to the High Witch, Septima. Players compete by healing townsfolk, brewing potions, learning charms, and most importantly, protecting their coven brothers and sisters from the witch trials. Septima keeps the game rolling with simultaneous action selection. This means that all players simultaneously choose their actions from a selection of nine possibilities before the beginning of a turn. If multiple players choose the same action, all those players earn a bonus, but such a powerful action draws the attention of Witch Hunters and townsfolk, putting them at risk of being discovered. Being discovered by Witch Hunters and townsfolk means losing coven members to other players, undoing a player’s hard work.
It’s not uncommon for a Mindclash game to last several hours filled with head scratching challenging choices. Between the reduced setup time, simple to teach rules, and simultaneous action selection, Septima is said to offer a classic Mindclash experience in less than two hours, even with a full table of four players. It’s certainly a new direction for Mindclash and I hope that this is the first step in their games becoming more common place in people’s collections. Barring any delays, Septima is expected to reach backers’ doorsteps in May with a retail release not long after.
Sleeping Gods: Distant Skies
Sleeping Gods from Red Raven Games came out in 2021 and was an immediate hit. For several months, it was quite difficult to find it in stores, or a copy that wasn’t grossly marked up on the second hand market. Even though I am partial to 7th Continent, I found the original Sleeping Gods to be an excellent game.
Sleeping Gods: Distant Skies is the spiritual successor to the previous edition. Distant Skies will reimplement many of the same systems from its predecessor and explore new areas of the same world, but there’s no requirement to having played the original one before players can enjoy this. The original game allowed players to explore the vast open world of Sleeping Gods by ship. Distant Skies, as the title might suggest, grants players the ability to explore the world by air, reaching far beyond the reach of the seas. Sleeping Gods: Distant Skies also introduces individual character miniatures. Upon landing in certain areas, the crew members can depart the plane and explore the land on foot. All manner of caverns and hillsides will be accessible to our adventurers on the hunt for relics. With more relics to find and locations to explore, this is sure to be the expansive excursion players are hoping for.
Sleeping Gods: Distant Skies is estimated to be delivered in August 2023.
Tainted Grail: Kings of Ruin
We at WTMG are massive fans of Awaken Realms. We’re big fans of Nemesis, Etherfields, and of course, Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon. Despite how messy unintuitive their rulebooks tend to be, Awaken Realms does a phenomenal job creating immersive worlds and narrative experiences. After the success of Tainted Grail, Awaken Realms is expanding on their world with a standalone expansion. Rather than continue to explore the world of Avalon, Kings of Ruin sends players into the heart of the Wyrd and the world that was pushed beyond the mountains to the west after Arthur conquered the continent.
Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon had some elements of RPG grind, requiring players to collect resources in a time sensitive manner to keep the Menhirs lit to explore the world safely. For many players, that resource gathering negatively impacted the overall experience. They’ll be happy to know that in Kings of Ruin the system has been updated to require significantly less resource gathering. Hopefully the removal of this element will help Kings of Ruin reach a broader audience.
Tainted Grail: The Kings of Ruin is expected to deliver by the end of 2023.
The Elder Scrolls: Betrayal of the Second Era
Kingdom Death: Monster Gambler’s Chest
Yet again, Kingdom Death: Monster‘s Gambler’s Chest has found its way on this list. Over the years, there’ve been many delivery dates communicated, but it has yet to arrive. The last time we wrote this list, it was scheduled to be delivered in November or December of ’22. Instead of being delivered to backers in November, printing began on the cards, miniatures, and rulebooks. It’s a big step in the process and promises that the fulfillment is one step closer. The estimated delivery is now set for Q2/early Q3 2023. Here’s hoping this is the last time Gambler’s Chest lands itself on this list.