2023 is shaping up to be a big year in terms of upcoming board games and tabletop RPGs. Ranging from sprawling fantasy adventures to sci-fi space operas, there should be plenty to keep you busy in the next few months.
Because it can be a little overwhelming to keep track of all those new releases (there are more than a few), we've narrowed it down to a handful of upcoming board games and tabletop RPGs that are set to become the year's most talked-about launches. These have the capacity to top lists of the best board games and best tabletop RPGs when they hit shelves, so it's worth keeping a close eye on them as 2023 progresses.
Of all the games due to arrive in 2023, Frosthaven is easily the one I'm most excited about. It capitalizes on everything great about fantasy RPGs: new lands to explore, bizarre monsters to fight, and memorable choices that will define the world around you.
But before we get started, just a quick note on some of these picks: yes, a handful are already with Kickstarter backers. But we've based this guide on when the projects will arrive at mainstream retail, so that's why a few familiar names appear in this whistle-stop tour of upcoming board games and tabletop RPGs.
Upcoming board games and tabletop RPGs
This is the big one, and it's undoubtedly one of 2023's most high-profile board games for adults. As a sequel to the absurdly popular Gloomhaven, this fantasy RPG is on countless wishlists. In fact, it managed to become the single most successful board game Kickstarter ever back in 2020.
Set in the frozen wastes of the north, you take control of mercenaries seeking to rescue and grow a settlement beset on all sides by mysterious threats. And because it's the only outpost this far away from civilization, you're all these beleaguered villagers have to rely on. No pressure.
Much like the original game, Frosthaven's plot takes place over 100+ scenarios that feature branching storylines. Your choices will permanently change the world around you as a result, but not in a hand-wavy sort of way. Instead, this series is known for making you destroy certain game components when you're done with them… as well as permanently altering the map with stickers that reflect your progress.
When combined with Gloomhaven's elegant, diceless combat system, it's about as ambitious as board gaming can get.
For decades, 'Warhammer' meant one of two things: 40K or classic elves, dwarves, and orcs from Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Although it was less well-known, the latter actually came first and inspired tabletop armies for decades. Then it blew up.
We mean that quite literally. In 2015, publisher Games Workshop decided that it was time for something new. The Warhammer world was subsequently destroyed in-universe and remade, doing away with rank upon rank of soldiers for more focused skirmishes (e.g. Age of Sigmar). And that's how it's been ever since… until now. Even though Age of Sigmar is sticking around, 'The Old World' promises to bring back the classic setting and mass-battle gameplay that went along with it.
There isn't much information about the project yet, and no miniatures have been shown off, but we know that it takes place a few hundred years before the world's destruction. It'll also feature classic forces like The Empire, Wood Elves, Orcs, Bretonnians, High Elves, and Tomb Kings along with factions we haven't seen much of before - Cathay and Kislev. This means it's very nostalgic for long-time players, so we can't wait to dive in.
D&D's current edition launched in 2014 with a starter set that introduced players to the game's best bits; ancient treasure for the taking, mysterious ruins to explore, and monsters prowling the depths. Called 'Lost Mines of Phandelver', this storyline is the best example of classic pen-and-paper questing… but because of size constraints, it was a little undercooked here and there.
That's about to change. 2023 sees this adventure getting a full-blown book of its own, and there's plenty of room to expand it. The villain is a good example. Known as 'the Black Spider', he was something of a non-entity that loomed over the plot but didn't actually appear until the final showdown. Wizards of the Coast could really dig into his motivations here and give him more (or any, if we're being honest) personality.
Your base throughout this story, the town of Phandalin, is also ripe for expansion. It was many adventurers' home away from home at the start of their heroic career, so being able to revisit it will get us right in the feels. Similarly, the surrounding area is crying out for added depth. A lot was alluded to, but never fully investigated.
Basically? There's plenty that can be done with this addition to Dungeons and Dragons books, and we're psyched about it.
Judging by the fact that two games based on Star Wars appear in this list, it's clearly the year of a galaxy far, far away. And crucially, this one cuts through the crap to get you playing as soon as possible. Considering how dense some rulebooks can be, you won't find us complaining.
From what we've heard so far, it goes about things a little differently; unlike many of the best card games, you're constructing a deck over the course of the game. Because there are plenty of approaches to choose from, you can really make it your own.
This is The Deckbuilding Game in a nutshell - easy to learn, but with hidden depth. According to designer Caleb Grace in an interview with Polygon, "what inspired me to do Star Wars was this idea that I can make a game that just gets to the table really fast [where] people can get into it and find deep strategy - but there isn’t that high bar for learning." Sounds like music to our ears.
Even the development team is enough justification to get excited. It's coming from the studio behind The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, and those folks are masters of their craft.
If you love Stranger Things, The Goonies, It, or other stories where a plucky band of kids fight evil with nothing but their wits and BMX bikes, this is the game for you. It revels in all those tropes whilst allowing you to embark on your own adventure.
Although it isn't a replacement for the original game per se, Second Edition does streamline and tighten things up in general. More collaborative storytelling opportunities are promised, for example, along with the ability for Gamemasters to create 'compelling' monsters. To translate, it's the same system we already know and love… but better.
Seeing as its Kickstarter campaign was funded in under an hour, it seems as if plenty of other folks agree that it's worth having on your radar.
This new wargame was apparently inspired by '80s Saturday morning cartoons, and you don't need to say much more than that to get our attention.
Rather than trying to recreate large-scale battles, Shatterpoint zooms in on small groups of heroes or villains from The Clone Wars animated series. That immediately sets it apart from other Star Wars wargames, but the fact it features constantly evolving objectives as well (forcing you to think on your feet) gives us overtones of Warhammer Underworlds: Gnarlwood. This was one of our favorite games from 2022, so we're more than happy to drink from that well again.
Plus, it's developed by Atomic Mass Games - the team responsible for Star Wars Legion and X-Wing. (Two of the most popular Star Wars board games.) Because that studio has so much experience with miniature games and beloved IPs, we've got complete faith that Shatterpoint is going to be awesome.