It’s been a whirwind of a few weeks, but I’m now back home after having braved the crowds at Gen Con! I saw some old friends, escaped some rooms, ate at some food trucks, and played a lot of games. As is tradition, I didn’t get anywhere near completeing my list of games to demo, but I still managed to fill a second checked bag with games I absolutely do not have room for in my Kallax.

My 2023 Gen Con haul
My 2023 Gen Con haul

My favorite new games

I’m restricting this list just to games that released since last year’s Gen Con, and that I played at this year’s Gen Con. I’ll have some notes a bit further down on games that don’t quite fit both of those criteria.

1. Aurum

Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
Links: BoardGameGeek

My favorite game of the con was one I bought day 1 without a demo, because the concept (trick-taking game where you’re not allowed to follow suit) and the art style (a bit on the occult side) gripped me enough, and I was willing to risk the $15. It’s a bit mind-bending—the sort of game that you can be playing in minutes, but where you immediately feel like there’s another level to the game that you haven’t grasped yet. If you like trick-taking games at all, this feels like an instant classic. If you feel like you have too many trick-taking games on your shelf already (there sure have been a lot of them over the last few years), then, well, I think I’d still ecourage you to spend the $15, because there’s a strong chance this one could displace one of the older ones.

2. Tiger and Dragon

Publisher: Oink Games
Links: BoardGameGeek

Every year I have to check out the new Oink hotness, and I’m rarely disappointed. This one’s a bit pricier than most of their games, and it comes in a bigger box, but I love the tiles, and the game is quick and dynamic enough that I feel like I could lose hours just playing it over and over again. It plays like an abstract card or domino game. One player leads a tile of a particular rank, and other players in turn order have an opportunity to play a tile of the same rank, taking control and giving them an opportunity to lead a new tile. The first player to empty their hand goes out and scores points based on the last tile they played. Very quick to pick up, and there do seem to be many levels of bluffing or taking risks by strategically passing.

3. Mission Control: Critical Orbit

Publisher: 3WS Games
Links: BoardGameGeek

This is another one that hooked me just from the concept: an asymmetric, cooperative, real-time roll-and-write about saving an astronaut in a malfunctioning space ship. One player takes on the role of the astronaut, solving a complex tile-laying puzzle. Three others play three different roll-and-write games that unlock new pieces for the astronaut’s puzzle or enable them to relax some constraints on their solution. If the astronaut solves their puzzle within the alloted 20 minutes, the team wins. I suspect most readers will already have a sense from this description of whether they’d like to own a copy, but I do have one caveat: I do think the Crisis Command exapnsion will eventually be necessary for replayability. It adds alternate roll-and-writes for all three terrestrial players, so players don’t get stuck solving the same puzzles every time.

Honorable Mention: High Score

Publisher: Kosmos
Links: BoardGameGeek

This one’s technically a few years old, but the English edition just arrived in the US this year. It’s a yahtzee-ish game designed by the incredibly prolific Reiner Knizia. Each round, players roll a set of seven dice according to a different set of rules, trying to get the highest score, then gets victory points based on their rank relative to otehr players. That’s pretty much it! There’s not a whole lot to it, but if you’ve got a group that likes slinging a big ol' handful of dice around, this is a fun, if not totally cerebral, time.

Games I bought but haven’t played yet

I did pick up a few games that I haven’t played just yet, but I’m excited to give them a try! Some were aesthetic decisions, some a bit more informed by reading reviews/design diaries/etc.

Everdell Farshore

Publisher: Starling Games
Links: BoardGameGeek

I’ve felt for a long time that I should probably own Everdell, but it was never a huge priority because it’s not a game I think I’d play very often (especially compared to smaller, cheaper games). And over the years, I’ve continuted to feel this way while Starling games has continued to release new expansions for the base game. But now, enter Farshore, a new standalone Everdell game that’s designed to be a self-contained Everdell experience, taking the best elements from the base game and all of its expansions, streamlining some of the rules, and adding a few new small bits to mix it up a little. It’s like Everdell remastered. Easy buy.


Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
Links: BoardGameGeek

I think I passed by the Pandasaurus booth 2 or 3 times, each time admiring Emerge but resolving not to buy it until I had a chance to play it, no matter how enticing the art was or how well it looked like it’d fit my table. I reasoned that I’m not the type of board gamer who will buy a game just because it’s pretty.

Dear reader, I’m exactly that kind of board gamer. On the 4th or so visit, I grabbed a copy, and I have no regrets. If it turns out I don’t like it, I’ll find it a new home.

Beacon Patrol

Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
Links: BoardGameGeek

It’s cooperative Carcassonne with cute, cozy art style. I don’t think I need to say much more.

Games I wish I’d tried out (and still want to!)

There’s never enough time for all the demos! All in all, I missed out on ~25 games this year, but here’s the ones I’ll be actively seeking out over the coming months.

Sky Team

Publisher: Le Scorpion Masqué
Links: BoardGameGeek

Based on the amount of buzz I was hearing, I’d call Sky Team the darling of the con this year1. Its daily allocation sold out in minutes each day, and the line to demo it was consistently long enough that I wasn’t willing to spend that time. But I did look over a couple people’s shoulders, and the game looks unique and challenging. I’d be excited to give it a try.


Publisher: Pegasus Spiele
Links: BoardGameGeek

The board game won the 2023 Spiel des Jahres, and the video game won my heart. It’s a cozy, puzzly, tile-laying game, and I’d love to see how the board game compares.

Penny Black

Publisher: Buffalo Games
Links: BoardGameGeek

While I’m not a philatelist myself, I do love a good set collection game, and this one is pretty. On the other hand, it’s a genre that’s well-represented on my shelf, so I’d be hesitant to buy it unless I feel like it cleanly replaces something else, or fills another niche.


Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Links: BoardGameGeek

This is one that I might pick up without playing (if I’d had the space to spare in my suitcase, I might have bought it at Gen Con). It’s a small collection of independent but thematically linked single-session RPG adventures, with an app as the GM and professional voice acting. It’s intriguing enough that I don’t want to spoil any part of the first encounter before I play it for real.

Last Night

Publisher: Grey Fox Games
Links: BoardGameGeek

4X games have a high bar to clear for me to enjoy them (much less buy them), but there’s enough buzz about this one (which sold out at the convention) that I’m willing to give it a try. It’s got a cool theme (several alien societies competing for access to the last star in a dying galaxy), and the publisher describes it as “fast-paced”, which addresses one of my biggets concerns about the genre. Given my reservations, definitely trying before I buy, though.

Thunder Road: Vendetta

Publisher: Restoration Games
Links: BoardGameGeek

I have no idea whether I’d enjoy this game, so we’re definitely in “try before I buy” territory here. But the game radiates cool. The visual design of the box and components are incredible, really capturing the Mad Max feel. My lizard brain wants to get a copy of the Maximum Chrome edition with the foiled box and all the special pack-ins, but fortunately for my wallet I think I can hold off until I can actually get a sense of whether I actually want to play it with any regularity.

Kickstarters I’m excited for

A short, unordered list of the games I checked out that aren’t available yet. I’m not 100% sure I’m jumping on all of these, but I’ll definitely be looking up early reviews and play videos when they launch.


Publisher: Flatout Games
Links: BoardGameGeek // mailing list signup

Full disclosure here: I know the designer, David Iezzi. I haven’t played Nocturne yet (that I know of!), but I’ve played enough of David’s other prototypes to have high confidence in his ability to design a fun game. All that aside, the idea of a spatial bidding game3 is unique and intrguing: I can honestly say I don’t have anything like it on my shelf at the moment. It’s expected to hit Kickstarter later this year and to ship next year.


Publisher: Brookspun Games
Links: BoardGameGeek // mailing list signup

All I had to read was “worker placement with mancala movement across interconnected, asymmetric rondels” and I was hooked. I’m definitely excited to see this one develop. Kickstarter is expected to launch later this year.

Ahoy! A Whale of an Expansion!

Publisher: Leder Games
Links: BoardGameGeek (base game) // backerkit launch page

I love the base game precisly because it occupies a rare space of being designed well for 3 players. Adding more different types of factions seems excellent.

Publisher of the year

I feel like most years I end up with one publisher that has an exceptional number of games I’m interested in, and this year it was Pandasaurus Games. Three of their games have already made lists above, I bought a fourth (District Noir) in addition to those, and there was yet a fifth (Sea, Salt, and Paper) that was generating enough buzz to be interesting. And though it’s not directly related to the games themselves, I have to give some credit to the folks at their booth for how well they managed the line given the sheer number of popular games they had there. Just excellent work, and a model for how other other exhibitors should set things up in the future.

Other games of note


Publisher: Oink Games
Links: BoardGameGeek

This was the big Oink game of last year, but I missed it due to Covid. It’s been on my list since then, but I never got around to picking it up. Well, I finally played it while hanging around with some friends after the con closed on Sunday, and it’s fantastic. My new favorite Oink game, and I’m considering getting two copies (one to keep at home and one to have on me at all times when traveling). Don’t sleep on SCOUT.

Waffle Time

Publisher: AEG
Links: BoardGameGeek

A pretty classic public drafting, tile laying, set collection game. It was fun, quick, on the puzzly side (which I love), and had very little player interaction (the drafting mechanic excludes choices from other players, and there’s some endgame scoring conditions that players race to). But I really want to call this out because I hear this is the designer’s (Maxime Demeyere’s) first published game, and it’s a great first entry—I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Hickory Dickory

Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Links: BoardGameGeek

Another impressive debut by a new designer (Sawyer West). This is a neat twist on a classic worker placement game, because the turn order and movement options are all driven by the hands of the gorgeous clock that makes up most of the board. It’s cutthroat enough and potentially AP-inducing enough that I don’t think it’ll come off the shelf as often as some other games in the genre, but I enjoyed the core puzzle enough that I think it has earned a spot there. At the risk of sounding a bit like a broken record, I’d have picked it up at Gen Con if I’d had the luggage space.

Forbidden Jungle

Publisher: Gamewright
Links: BoardGameGeek

Not gonna lie, I didn’t have high hopes for this one after Forbidden Sky. I thought perhaps the depths of the series had been fully plumbed. But after playing it, I was pleasantly surprised! The difficulty seemed to scale well as the game went on, and while we did frequently pause to reevaluate between turns, it felt more like satisfying puzzle solving and less like analysis paralysis. I think this replaces Forbidden Desert on my shelf.

  1. well, it had less buzz than Lorcana, but that was perhaps for other reasons2 ↩︎

  2. $ $ $ $ $ ↩︎

  3. players bid on tiles by placing tokens on a tile adjacent to the high bid, meaning you can snake around in interesting ways ↩︎