Friday, May 24, 2024

The Fandomentals’ Best Board Games of 2023

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2023 saw plenty of cool new games in the board game world and we wanted to showcase our favorites! There have been tons of great games as new publishers enter the market and existing ones began to expand their catalogs. While we’re itching to get started on our 2024 coverage, we want to give the past year one last hurrah. Below we have Seher, Dan, Bea, and Brody’s favorite games with a game for every kind of player.

Seher’s Picks

Deep Dive

Publisher: AEG


Deep Dive is one of my (Seher) favorite games that I’ve played of all time. It’s vibrant, entertaining, and always surprising. Players have three penguins in their waddle and must dive into five different depths in hunt for food while avoiding predators by flipping tiles. If they flip a tile with a predator then the penguin is stuck. Once all three penguins are stuck, the player can retrieve the waddle and start over. Fortunately when that happens, one penguin is allowed to take food with them. The game ends once all the tiles in one of the depths has been flipped and players score based on completed sets of pink, green, and yellow fish.

As a fan of vibrantly colored board games, Deep Dive was a perfect addition to my own collection of board games, and I keep pulling it out to play over and over again with friends.

Waffle Time

Publisher: AEG

MSRP: $39.99

Speaking of games that I keep pulling out, Waffle Time might just be my most played game. Not only have I played it every time I’ve played board games since getting it in September, but I play it multiple times each time that I play board games. Designed by Maxime Demeyere, players must draft waffle toppings to create the best waffle. However, toppings can only be placed next to one another and you must think ahead on how you’ll place them to get victory points and combos.

Some games, I do really well. Others, I fail and get maybe a handful of syrups (which give you more points). Overall though, every game is a ton of fun and considering my friends are all competitive, we get really into playing. I have a feeling I’ll keep playing the game until the very end. Sorry to my other games, I don’t know you anymore.

Bea’s Pick

Express Route

Publisher: The op

MSRP: $39.99

Bea’s pick for the year asks an age old question – do you understand the difficulty of transporting packages across the United States? Express Route is a collaborative game that tests your ability to problem solve and strategize in the hopes of keeping a shipping system running smoothly. It’s made for up to 4 players, but I was easily able to manage the game in solitaire mode. It takes a little bit of set up to fully understand the game, but once one person learns it it seems likely that others could jump in easily. The objective of the game is to successfully deliver eight packages across the country without exceeding shipping demand or running out of event cards. The game can be played casually or with set up scenarios for a situation that’s a little trickier. 

The board, cards, and tokens are well crafted and well designed. It was faster than I expected it to be, but that might be because it was just me. It’s fun, interesting, and very replayable. I really enjoyed the experience and will definitely play it with larger groups of people. It’s a learning experience for all.

Brody’s Picks

Sky Team

Publisher: Scorpion Masqué

MSRP: $29.99

This has been one of my favorite 2 player games. It’s a cooperative game of being pilot and co-pilot and landing your airplane at different airports around the world. You will be rolling dice and taking turns placing your dice to take actions. Many times the value of your dice plus the value of your partner’s dice need to equal a certain number to be able to do the action you want, so you are trying to place dice early or later to give your partner some clues. You will be using your dice to determine your speed, the axis of the airplane, you will also need to activate all the landing gear to land safely. There are other airplanes out there, and you will need to radio them to land safely. Each airport has a different setup and different requirements to land safely. It’s a very stressful game for some, but it just feels so good to work together and make a safe landing. If you want to try a 2 player only co-operative game, this is it.

The White Castle

Publisher: Devir Games

MSRP: $39.99

A true solid euro game that can be played in an hour. This game includes resource management, worker placement, and dice placement to make actions. Player send out members of their clan to tend to the gardens, defend the castle, or work on progressing up on the social ladder of nobility. In this game each player takes a total of 9 turns, so make them count. You will be choosing dice from a bridge, and the color of the dice will determine the action you take at the location you use it for. You will be trying to move your meeples onto garden cards, moving soldiers to take the warrior action or moving them to take the courtier action. You will soon find some combos within your actions and be able to do more with your precious turns. Dice placement spots will narrow as the game goes on, limiting your actions. With just nine turns you will need to do the most on each turn, and make each decision count. Again, if you need a fast playing euro game, this one might just be what you’ve been looking for.

Dan’s Picks


Publisher: Leder Games

MSRP: $40.00

Pirate games have been an institution of the board game industry for decades. The maps, the treasure hunting, and the strategy all lend themselves well to tabletop games. And let’s face it: pirates are cool. But many pirate games go BIG in their attempts to capture the feel of the swashbuckling Seven Seas. What I loved about Leder’s Ahoy! is that it’s able to make you really get the feel of being a pirate with a game that’s easy to learn but with plenty of depth. The factions of the game are unique and interesting without being quite as complex as Root‘s, and the management of trade and territory is logical and quick to pickup. And it’s all tied together with some of the best art Kyle Ferrin has done for a Leder game.

Freelancers: A Crossroads Game

Publisher: Plaid Hat Games

MSRP: $59.95

I love Freelancers because it’s a real breath of fresh air for someone like me who loves storytelling game but can’t always find the time to play multiple sessions of one game. It’s a sort of running joke among players of Gloomhaven and similar titles that they’ve spent three years getting halfway through. Freelancers solves that problem by keeping the games quick and self contained, filled with all the fun story and adventure you’d expect but in a big box game but done in a way that won’t wear you or your party out. It’s also got whip smart writing and some great voice acting to help weave the story as well as a truly unique aesthetic that grabs you immediately.

Images courtesy of their respective owners

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