Happy New Year, Explorers! 🥳🎆🥂🎊
2024 will be a big year for This Way!, beginning with the release of the ICE Companion Set in Q1, followed by a huge push for the ICE UNLIMITED campaign on Gamefound in May — which will see the release of the ICE: RELICS expansion, as well as ICE: The Second Edition! We hope to end the year with the shipping of our 2nd game, FOUNDERS.
But 2023 was another major milestone for us with the release of the first edition of ICE, and the campaign for FOUNDERS. It was also yet another great year for games! Without further ado, here is our personal list of the best new boardgames releases of last year (not counting ICE, of course!!). We begin with a quartet of nature-themed games (one of our favorite gaming genres).
Leaf is an exceptionally beautiful and original game, where players take on the spirits of the wind, guiding leaves as they fall from trees onto the forest ground. By connecting the points of various shaped leaves to the ones that are already in play, players can activate various actions — attracting woodland animals, growing mushrooms, gaining sun tokens that grant you great victory points, or leading squirrels up the great tree. The player who contributes most to the health of the forest wins!
We absolutely fell in love with the quality of the game’s components, especially the deluxe version’s wooden leaves and tokens — which makes for an incredibly pleasing table presence (something we at This Way! always appreciate!). We also loved that the game came wrapped in environmentally-friendly paper instead of plastic. Clever mechanics and a beautiful nature theme? What’s not to love?? 🥰
Designer: Tim Eisner | Artist: Angela Rizza | Publisher: Weird City Games
LIFE OF THE AMAZONIA
We knew from Bad Comet’s previous game (Wild: Serengeti) that their latest nature-themed offering would once again come with plenty of amazing animeeples — and Life of the Amazonia did not disappoint!! 😊
In this strategic, meeple-placing game, players are competing to build the most ecologically rich jungle — restoring land, placing animals, and planting fauna to score the most points. We were hugely impressed with the sheer variety of scoring possibilities: the game comes with multiple sets of objectives, which you can ultimately mix and match for a seemingly endless array of options, meaning no two games will ever be alike. Plus, each player also has their own unique animal scoring objective (and corresponding adorable animeeple) to give some fun, asymmetrical flavor. Another big hit from Bad Comet!
Designer: Jamie Bloom | Artist: Sophia Kang | Publisher: Bad Comet
From a forest, to a jungle, and now to the entire planet — we continue to expand the nature theme to one of the biggest boardgame surprises of last year: Earth.
Earth is a card-driven, engine-and-tableau-building game where each player, on their turn, takes one of four main actions. The competing players are then allowed to simultaneously take a lesser-powered version of that action, which means there is never any downtime throughout the game, and your actions will have a huge impact on the game (and the planet)!
Players will be strategically growing their ecosystem card engine with unique flora, fauna, and terrains in a personal 4×4 grid, where placement is key in terms of chaining actions and unlocking the most points. Once again, the sheer variety of cards and scoring possibilities allow for endless possibilities — it’s no wonder Earth became one of the most talked about new games!
Designer: Maxime Tardif | Artist: Conor McGoey | Publisher: Inside Up Games
Now we take the nature theme into the far future, as players take on the role of Rangers protecting the wilderness and mountain valley that you call home. Earthborne Rangers is a customizable, cooperative card-game with a branching, narrative story campaign that consists of a main storyline and several side-stories.
You begin by building a deck that reflects your Ranger’s interests, personal history, and personality. Then, as you explore the open world and your story takes shape, you augment your deck with improved equipment, refined skills, and the memories of your journey.
Like Leaf, the game of Earthborne Rangers was produced in the most eco-friendly method possible, which is something we truly admire as a company. An impressive debut from Earthborne games!
Designers: Andrew Fischer, Brooks Flugaur-Leavitt, Andrew Navaro, Adam Sadler, and Brady Sadler| Artists: Joe Banner, Evan Simonet | Publisher: Earthborne Games
The latest title from Jamey Stegmaier and Stonemaier Games, Expeditions is a narrative sequel to their popular game Scythe, but with all new gameplay. A massive meteorite has crashed near the Tunguska River in Siberia, awakening ancient corruption. Itching for adventure, heroes from the war privately fund expeditions to the site, hoping to find artifacts, overcome challenges, and ultimately achieve glory.
This competitive, card-driven, engine-building game of exploration delivers some of the same unique flavor of the hauntingly beautiful world of Scythe, but features all-new and more faster/streamlined mechanics.
Designer: Jamey Stegmaier | Artist: Jakub Rozalski | Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Whenever a new French game designer comes on to the scene, we tend to take notice — and we were very much impressed with this debut game from designer Rémi Mathieu.
Ancient Knowledge is a strategic card game in which you erect monuments and build artifacts to pass on your knowledge. Time will make your constructions ephemeral, so make the right decision and combine the many cards at your disposal, because all knowledge is doomed to disappear…
It’s up to you to find the best synergy so that you can pass down knowledge before the decline of the emblematic monuments you have constructed, monuments we still find nowadays in the four corners of the globe. From Mexican pyramids to the Sphinx of Giza, passing through the famous cities of Tiwanaku and Babylon, only the cleverest builder will shine through the ages and seize victory. In this game, your only enemy is time.
Designer: Rémi Mathieu | Artists: Pierre Ples, Adrien Rives, Emilien Rotival | Publisher: IELLO
Mindclash is a boardgame company that we always make sure to take notice of, due to their exceptional (and often complex) games. Last year they brought two fantastic new entries to the industry: Septima, a game about witches, and Voidfall. Both are fantastic, but the latter gets the edge due to the creative dream team of designers Dávid Turczi (Anachrony, Nucleum, countless solo modes) & Nigel Buckle (Imperium) with artist extraordinaire Ian O´Toole (On Mars, Rococo, Carnegie) bringing the classic 4x genre of games to Euro-game enthusiasts.
Voidfall combines the tension, player interaction, and deep empire customization of the 4X genre with the resource management, tight decisions, and minimum-luck gameplay of an economic Euro. Variability is ensured not only by multiple playable houses with their own strengths and weaknesses, but also by many different map set-ups for all game modes. Instead of relying on the luck of a die roll, battles in Voidfall are fully deterministic and reward careful preparation and outsmarting your opponents.
This game is truly impressive on ALL levels!
Designers: Dávid Turczi & Nigel Buckle | Artist: Ian O´Toole | Publisher: Mindclash Games
DUNE: IMPERIUM — UPRISING
Anyone that knows us knows how big fans we are of the world of Dune — and though we love the many Dune-based games out there, DUNE: IMPERIUM just gets it so right.
The original deck-building/worker-placement game with a battle mechanic already made our “Best New Boardgame Releases of 2021” list, and this latest entry is both an expansion to the original as well as its own standalone game! It was hard to imagine that this could be any better than the original, but the game has indeed improved in many ways, with the deck building feeling more powerful and the new board even more balanced.
With a slight increase in difficulty (but not enough that people who played the original won’t be able to handle), UPRISING brings a few new features such as Spy tokens (that can be placed and then recalled for powerful new actions), vital Contracts that expand your resources, or you can learn the ways of the Fremen and ride mighty Sandworms into battle!
If you love the world of Dune, or like the mechanic mix of deck-building with worker placement, then we can’t recommend this more!
Designer: Paul Dennen | Artists: Clay Brooks, Derek Herring, Raul Ramos, Nate Storm | Publisher: Dire Wolf
TICKET TO RIDE LEGACY: LEGENDS OF THE WEST
In the 2nd part of our interview with our Head of Communications, Anton Kawasaki, we asked him which gateway game might still give him fond memories, and he mentioned Ticket To Ride — a game that fell out of fashion with him, BUT — he did say “If there was ever a TICKET TO RIDE LEGACY game, though, I would be first in line to buy it…”
Could he have willed this game into existence? 😉
There’s something about Legacy games, that truly elevate the normal boardgaming experience. Some gamers don’t like the idea that there’s just a limited amount of sessions (though most end with a permanent version you can play repeatedly), or they don’t like that you are asked to purposely alter (or destroy) components. But for those in the know, the sheer “experience” of a Legacy is simply like no other — and is absolutely worth it.
Legacy master Rob Daviau returns to add his expertise to this classic game, where players embark on twelve journeys across North America as 19th century pioneers. As usual, this Legacy version contains many surprises and many more mechanics and objectives than you would find in the regular game. To say anything more would be a spoiler!
Designers: Rob Daviau, Matt Leacock, Alan R. Moon | Artists: Cyrille Daujean, Julien Delval | Publisher: Days of Wonder
LOST RUINS OF ARNAK: THE MISSING EXPEDETION
One of our favorite games gets its second expansion — with two new Expedition Leaders (expanding upon the first expansion of the same name), new cards, idols, research tracks, guardians, sites, and more! Plus, a 6-part cooperative campaign for 1 or 2 players!
With The Missing Expedition, the world of Arnak has opened up to so many new possibilities to explore. We simply can’t get enough of this award-winning game!
Designers: Elwen, Mín | Artists: Various | Publisher: Czech Games Edition
It’s no secret that IV Studios is one of our favorite game publishers, and their first game Moonrakers came out with not one, not two, but THREE new expansions in 2023! There was so much new content, that they needed a big box to contain it all. That’s where Titan comes in! Binding Ties offers new rewards for players that ally with each other. The Nomad expansion adds global events, overhauls the Contract system, and adds new prototype Ship Parts to the game. And Overload adds more of everything, as well as IOspheres: a powerful, albeit unstable, energy source that powered a new fleet of ship parts.
Designers: Max Anderson, Zac Dixon, Austin Harrison | Artist: Glenn Thomas | Publisher: IV Games
CANVAS: FINISHING TOUCHES
The clever and beautiful Canvas trilogy is now complete, with Finishing Touches — an expansion that brings a new “wild” scoring element to the game, and new icons. Plus, Frames — whenever you make a painting that meets a certain condition, you can place it within a beautiful stand-up frame to proudly display your masterpiece, while scoring one of the new platinum ribbons. But if a competing player exceeds that condition, they can take the Frame from you and also score. Additionally, this expansion adds asymmetrical player abilities in the form of Signature Style cards featuring famous master painters.
Designers: Jeff Chin, Andrew Nerger | Artist: Luan Huynh | Publisher: Road to Infamy Games
So that’s our Top 12 for 2023!
We know there are a lot of great games that came out this year that we just didn’t get to try, and might have been on this list. Are there any favorites of yours that you think we definitely missed? Let us know on our social media channels.
Thanks to all of the publishers, designers and artists above for their excellent work this year!