Gen Con 2023 is almost upon us. In just a few short weeks, board gamers from all over the world will descend on Indianapolis for Gen Con, the largest board game convention in North America. Just like in past years, hundreds of new board games will make their debut – an overwhelming number. Thankfully Meeple Mountain is here to help you find the gems among the coal.
Our writing team has scoured through the 2023-2024 titles to select our most anticipated games of Gen Con 2023! So without further ado, here are our picks!
I’m a sucker for an excellent asymmetrical game, as evidenced by their dominance of my Top Ten. DEFCON 1 takes this a step further, offering not only asymmetrical factions/powers but completely different gameplay mechanics and styles depending on player count. The previewed components and pieces are gorgeous, and it has been a while since I’ve added a new world domination-type game to my collection. This one is definitely on my watchlist, and I’ll be looking for any first impressions out of Gen Con to consider adding it to my collection.
Publisher: ASYNCRON Games
Designer: Florian Dumont
Many years ago, Tokaido was the game that saw the most table time among my core group. Nowadays, games see the most play when they play well at two players since my primary gaming partner is my husband. Take the art and gameplay of Tokaido but make it tailored to two players and you’ve got my attention. Antoine Bauza is one of my favorite game designers, as my overpacked Kallax shelves prove, and 7 Wonders Duel is, for my money, the absolute pinnacle of two-player game design. I play at least one of Antoine Bauza’s games every single week, so I’m beyond excited to see what he managed to cook up for the world of Tokaido.
Age of Innovation
Terra Mystica sits comfortably at the top of the list of my favorite games of all time. From the iconography to the tight euro gameplay to the depth of strategy, it has remained at the top of my list since my first playthrough of it and will likely stay there forever… that is, unless Helge Ostertag’s newest game, Age of Innovation, manages to dethrone it. Much like Gaia Project, this new game looks to reimplement many of the systems that made Terra Mystica such a huge success. Early chatter seems to indicate it adds much more variability to the factional powers by letting players “craft” their own faction, and if it ends up working as described, that will set my min/max brain on fire. I’m interested to see what new tweaks this game brings to the formula. If any game has a shot at taking down Terra Mystica, it’s this one.
Dead Cells: The Rogue-Lite Board Game
It isn’t shocking to see yet another Antoine Bauza game on this list, but this game also brings in other heavy hitters on the design front. Dead Cells is based on the beloved video game of the same name. I am usually lukewarm on video game adaptations in the board game medium for a multitude of reasons and personal experiences, but this one has me completely bought in on the promise. It’s an all-star design team teaming up with a publisher that has produced some of my favorite games (notably, Decrypto and Turing Machine). Even though I’m burned out by cooperative dungeon crawlers at the moment, this game offers a palatable play time of only 45 minutes, guaranteeing that it fills a sweet spot no other dungeon crawler does for me at the moment. If this all-star team can successfully replicate the gameplay loop that made Dead Cells one of my favorite video games of 2018, this has the potential to be an all-time classic.
Bob Pazehoski, Jr.
3 Ring Circus
Devir has definitely had my attention with 3 Ring Circus. I was hooked from the first moment I spotted the old-timey circus poster art on the cover. Designers Fabio Lopiano and Remo Conzadori have created that fabled opportunity to run away and join the Circus. Players run a troupe that travels the country, hiring acts and building a great show on the talent of towns across the 19th-century United States. I love that this is an area-control game with intermediate scoring phases triggered by Barnum as he moves about the map. There’s just too much charm here to not be excited.
The information is sparse for Chaos Cove, but the major building blocks are enticing: Martin Wallace on the design and Mr Cuddington on the art. The design has been floating around since 2015, so the anticipation is ramping up as the prospect of a finished game draws near. I know nothing of the mechanics, nothing of the player count, nothing of the genre, but I’m brimming with excitement to know more.
Johannes Goupy has been on a roll with some interesting titles. Orichalcum was definitely a solid play (though it wasn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse), and Rauha has gathered some attention. This little game from Bombyx spoke to me for its cardplay. It’s a very simple mechanism: pull a card from a rondel of sorts, then the card dictates which resource pile you pull from. The resources then double back in order to bring the cards into play. It’s the sort of game where the very shuffle and setup makes every play just a bit different, and depending on the players at the table, this one might come with a little tension in a relatively short time frame. The art from Elsa Roman begs a bit of attention, though I would argue the cards are far more arresting than the box cover. I’m ready to give it a shot.
On lists like this I try not to hit a publisher for more than one title, but Bombyx has drawn me in this year. In Knarr, players are collecting sets of Vikings into their crew. The fascinating mechanism, though, is that each collected Viking will trigger the cards of the matching suit already present in the tableau. It sounds like a light but interesting engine-builder. I’ve never seen the artist, Carrion Antoine, before, but what a stunning job of making these cards pop off the (screen) table. I can totally see this being a fun little family number to bust out with the kids on a rainy afternoon…or on a longboat as we prepare to invade our neighbors.
An octopus versus a shark. As the story goes, designer Carl Robinson was watching a nature documentary and was fascinated by the way the octopus plays with its foes. Robinson has built a game in which the cunning and secretive octopus takes on the more bluntly motivated shark. I love that the gameplay is uniquely set in a South African kelp forest and that the players are asymmetrically motivated with different paths to victory. There’s a mix of deck building and dice-bag building with (purportedly) a good bit of mitigation strategy against the luck. All-in-all the title is loaded with intriguing potential. The artwork from Weberson Santiago is sure to give it loads of personality. I’m definitely interested.
Publisher: Wonderbow Games
Designer: Carl Robinson
Call of Duty: The Board Game
It’s not much of a secret around these parts that I’m a sucker for skirmish games and considering I grew up with first-person shooters on the PC, Call of Duty: The Board Game doesn’t need much to get me interested. Arcane Wonders has a library of respectable games and considering some of the preview videos I’ve watched so far, Call of Duty: The Board Game seems to have a lot of good things going. Hidden movement, programming, custom loadouts, and rolling dice. There’s a lot of interesting bits here.
Publisher: Arcane Wonders
Designer: Bryan Pope, Benjamin Pope
Queen by Midnight
Continuing the tradition of violence, Queen by Midnight is clicking all the right buttons for me. It’s a battle royale game using deckbuilding mechanisms along with a clock tower that serves several functions, such as tracking turns and rolling dice. It’s a great concept with greater artwork featuring an all-female cast willing to murder each other to take the throne.
Publisher: Darrington Press
Designer: Kyle Shire
Hellapagos: Big Box
I have yet to play the first one and I heard many great things about Hellapagos, so having a big box version that contains the expansion that many view as “essential” isn’t going to get a big argument out of me. It’s a semi-cooperative game that eventually turns bitter when the food runs out, the water supply is dry, and the rafts aren’t plentiful. Expect plenty of screwage here.
Designer: Laurence Gamelin, Phillippe Gamelin
The first, long awaited expansion for Cascadia! This tile-laying, token-drafting game was a hit when it was first released in 2021 winning multiple Golden Geek and other awards. This expansion adds – you guessed it – landmarks, as well as more unique wildlife scoring cards and habitat tiles which allow you now to play with up to 6 players.
Sankoré: The Pride of Mansa Musa
Merv: Heart of the Silk Road is one of my gaming group’s favorite games. When I heard its designer, Fabio Lopiano, and artist, Ian O’Toole, were teaming up again, I knew I had to get this game. From the description, it sounds like players will have various paths to victory, just like in Merv. Can’t wait to see this one.
My City is a wonderful game, one of the better light gaming experiences I’ve ever had. Part of the magic, I think, is the way it renders transparent the art of game design. Each new chapter tweaks the rules in a way that teaches you, or me at least, something about how games work. I have been looking forward to My Island since it was announced some time last year, and that won’t change until a copy lands on my doorstep.
General Orders: World War II
I am not the biggest fan of worker placement games, with some exceptions, but I am a massive fan of the collected works of Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson, whether separate or together. I have been slowly making my way through a campaign of Undaunted: Stalingrad, the most recent edition of their ongoing series, and it is a masterpiece. These are two designers working at the peak of their craft, and I am beyond excited to get my hands on whatever they cook up.
Around six months ago, Pandasaurus announced District Noir on their Discord channel. The game was published in France in 2022, so the publisher provided a link to the BoardGameArena implementation. Dear reader, I spent days thinking of little besides District Noir. I would pop on and see if anyone was looking for a game. I would tell my friends at work about this great new card game. I have been rabid to get my hands on a copy since then, and soon the wait will be over. Soon. It is a modest, sharp card game where you have to predict what your opponent will do just as much as you have to figure out what you yourself are up to.
Publisher: Pandasaurus Games
Designer: Nobutake Dogen and Nao Shimamura
A two-player cooperative game where you and your co-pilot work together to land plans. It sounds silly. It sounds tense. It sounds panicky. It sounds short. I like all of those things! Early buzz around Sky Team has been positive, and I’m eager to find out what I think.
Publisher: Le Scorpion Masqué
A short little drafting game with great art. What really draws me in is the use of musical notation on the cards, though I suspect the gameplay doesn’t have anything to do with the notes themselves. I love the theme, competing as sirens to attract the most sailors to your rocks. If the gameplay can match the setup, this could be something good.
Publisher: Envy Born Games
Designer: Art Casey
This is the fourth in the Forbidden series by acclaimed designer Matt Leacock. I like Forbidden Island a good bit, and loved Forbidden Desert. I’m very interested to see how he builds upon the system in what looks to be a fun extraterrestrial setting.
IP-themed games can be hit-or-miss and I’m not a huge fan of the slasher horror genre. I do, however, enjoy hidden movement one-vs-all games. On top of that, designer Emerson Matsuuchi has a proven track record of making clean, well-regarded, streamlined designs so this one intrigues me.
Publisher: Trick or Treat Studios
Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi
Once I read the second Designer Diary on BGG for Galactic Cruise, I was intrigued—a game from new designers who list some of their favorite designers (most of whom also reside on my list of faves), artwork by Ian O’Toole, and a listing that seems to land in the weight class of other sci-fi themed heavyweight Euro experiences such as On Mars. If this doesn’t look and sound like a Lacerda-ish experience, I don’t know what is!
Publisher: Kinson Key Games
Designer: TK King, Dennis Northcott, Koltin Thompson
The last time I went to Gen Con and had the chance to learn more about a medium-weight Euro experience from our friends at Board&Dice? Tiletum, my pick for the best game I played in 2022. I’ve really never played a bad Board&Dice game, so Barcelona is high on my list of games to demo at this year’s convention.
Designer: Dani Garcia
Designer Roy Cannaday—a regular member of The Dice Tower—pitched this game as “4X in about an hour.” As I am normally the person most likely to call BS on anyone trying to make such a bold claim, I sat down with Roy and a full table at Dice Tower West last spring and played a complete game of Last Light, which lasted…56 minutes after the teach, at the full eight-player count. Folks, whether you like this game as much as I did isn’t important—I can confirm that this puppy plays quick! I’m very curious to see the final production quality of this design, having played the prototype.
Publisher: Grey Fox Games
Designer: Roy Cannaday
800 Pound Gorilla
I laughed my buns off with Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza. I laughed even harder during my plays of Gimme That!. Designer Dave Campbell and the team at Dolphin Hat Games have a new game inbound: 800-Pound Gorilla. The concept sounds simple—use a spinner to determine the action for a round, and do a bunch of silly stuff with your friends and family. I have a hard time believing 800-Pound Gorilla will be anything other than fantastic fun.
Luthier: The Art of the Instrument
When it comes to theme, it was hard to beat a game like Distilled; while I admit that the gameplay elements felt familiar, I loved the final production and the general sense that I was making booze. Luthier is designer Dave Beck’s second major design and I’m excited to try a demo of this at Gen Con. We know the production is gonna be deluxe and the theme will be implemented well. How about the gameplay?
Kutná Hora: The City of Silver
I really don’t know much about this year’s signature CGE release, but I don’t care. This is true despite the fact that I thought CGE’s 2022 major strategy game releases (Deal with the Devil, Starship Captains) were a bit of a miss. That’s because CGE has (almost) never let me down, and if Kutná Hora: The City of Silver is the path back to glory, I don’t want to miss out. The press sheet on the game is a bit vague, but a mix of economic Eurogame elements, dynamic supply and demand, and the gold standard of value for price with CGE productions tells me that I want to smelt some silver soon!
Publisher: Czech Games Edition
Designer: Ondřej Bystoň, Petr Caslava, and Pavel Jarosch
World Wonders, from Arcane Wonders, is a tile-laying, city-building game with some seriously chunky wooden pieces. Draft buildings to build up your city and increase your population; earning culture and points along the way. Include one of over a dozen distinct wonders to really ramp up the points, and the excitement. Be the first to hit the population limit and win the game.
I checked out a few photos of this game and it looks seriously impressive. The wooden building pieces are silk-screened and some of them actually are composed of multiple individual pieces. World Wonders is definitely one to keep your eye on.
Rome in a Day
Another city-building game? I certainly have a type, and that type is tile-laying. In Rome in a Day players collect tile and building pieces to split into two groups. Then players choose which groups they want, from other players, while keeping what’s left. Do you make a larger group to hide the pieces you want for yourself, or take a chance on letting other players get the best. Afterwards you put all the pieces you have into your kingdom and score based on specific criteria like adjacency and
Rome in a Day reminds me a bit of Isle of Skye in the way you lay out your pieces at the beginning of each round, but mixed with a bit of Kingdomino. Lucky for me I love both of those games, so I can’t wait to try Rome in a Day.
Publisher: Alley Cat Games
Designer: Evgeny Petrov
Back in 2015, Green Couch Games released Best Treehouse Ever, a light card game in which players draft “room” cards to build up the treehouse of their dreams. It was fun, but never really caught on. I’m hoping that Ultimate Treehouse, from Fat Brain Toy Company, will have a better chance. In this game players collect materials with which they’ll build their treehouse, avoid weather conditions, and compete for resources against the other players. You’ll even be able to hire critters to help you do the heavy lifting. Here’s hoping those critters are licensed and bonded!
Publisher: Fat Brain Toy Company
Designer: Kate Hunt
If BoardGameGeek is correct, I own, or have owned, close to 700 board games during my time in the hobby. I regularly sell off games I no longer play to make way for newer games. But there’s about a half dozen games which I’ve really regretted selling. The original Gold West, from Tasty Minstrel which I picked up early in my pursuit of the hobby, is one of those. It had killer art and graphic from Adam P. McIver, really neat wooden camp and stagecoach pieces, a modular board for variety, and was one of the first games I played which featured the mancala mechanic. While I loved it, it was tough to get to the table and it ultimately got the axe. Then it went out of print with the downfall of that publisher and was impossible to find. So I’m thrilled to hear that Trick or Treat Studios is bringing back this underappreciated game, with only a few light touches: a mini-expansion, new board shape (still modular) and a refresh on the artwork. Go West young man, and pick this one up as soon as you see it.
Publisher: Trick or Treat Studios
Designer: J. Alex Kevern
If you know the names Adrian Adamescu and Daryl Andrews, it’s most likely from their smash hit Sagrada, released all the way back in 2017. But both Daryl and Adam have released many more games since then, with Mistwind being one of my most anticipated. In Mistwind players work as traders hoping to expand their routes from the Mistwind Isles out to neighboring nations, by way of their transport whales (did I mention they can fly?). You’ll need to build up your networks in order to meet the needs of your customers, while cleverly using your limited number of actions to best advantage. Strategy game lovers should find lots to enjoy in Mistwind, and the “Save the Whales” set will be thrilled to see whales with great jobs.
In most post-apocalyptic games, players represent the last dregs of humanity, doing their best to hold out hope in a world that has passed them by. In After Us from Pandasaurus Games, that ship has sailed. Humans are gone, and the simians have taken over. Players act as leaders of tribes of apes, hoping to grow their tribe’s strength combining their tribe with gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and more. After Us is a deck building and resource management game with stunning artwork from Vincent Dutrait, and excellent production value.
Meeple Mountain has already covered a number of titles which have previously been released, or will soon be released, at this Gen Con 2023. You can find links to our reviews of those games below.