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10 must-see board games to check out at Gen Con 2023

From excellent publishers to exciting licensed games.

Artwork for Unmatched Adventures: Tales to Amaze.
Image credit: Restoration Games.

Another convention looms on the horizon once again. With so many exciting tabletop titles set to be shown at Gen Con 2023, you might be wondering which board games you should check out at the show.

One of the largest tabletop gaming conventions in the world, Gen Con takes place from August 3rd to 5th in the US city of Indianapolis. The convention serves as an opportunity for some big announcements, previews and demonstrations of tabletop games.

This year’s Gen Con is looking especially exciting, as there are several highly anticipated titles either making their debut or being released for the first time. From tabletop roleplaying games based on beloved franchises to board games from renowned publishers to trading card games that could change the entire industry, there’s a heck of a lot worth getting hyped-up about at Gen Con 2023.

Board games at Gen Con 2023

Dicebreaker will be there at the convention, with the aim of being first on the scene for the latest announcements, giving players insight into upcoming or new releases and maybe even an exclusive look at some tabletop games.

If you’re planning on visiting Gen Con or if you’re curious about what to keep an eye out for coverage wise, here’s an overview of some of the board games to check out at Gen Con 2023.

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1. The Lord of the Rings: Adventure to Mount Doom

Embark on an epic journey and guide iconic characters through Middle-earth

An image of the components for The Lord of the Rings: Adventure Book Game.
Players will be able to guide the likes of Aragorn, Frodo, Sam and Legolas across Middle-earth. Image: Ravensburger.

The Lord of the Rings is seeing a resurgence at the moment. From the Rings of Power TV series to the recent Tales of Middle-earth set for Magic: The Gathering, people are remembering just how much they love the tales of hobbits, elves, dwarves and humans. If you’re also experiencing a LOTR high and want more, you’re in luck because The Lord of the Rings: Adventure to Mount Doom board game is making an appearance at Gen Con.

Part of the Adventure Book Game series published by Ravensburger, which has previously released entries based on The Princess Bride and The Wizard of Oz, this fantasy board game enables players to reenact key moments from across The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Rather than playing as specific characters, the game has players working together to guide the characters from the Fellowship of the Ring along in their quest to save Middle-earth.

Each page of the game book features a new board and objectives - which are, of course, inspired by important moments from The Lord of the Rings - for the players to achieve in order to continue the story.

One aspect of gameplay that’s unique to this entry in the Adventure Book Game series is the Corruption Tracker, which keeps track of how tempted characters are by The One Ring – with the threat of The Eye of Sauron looming over them.


2. Freelancers: A Crossroads Game

The next entry in the Crossroads series takes place in a world after humanity

Creating characters in Freelancers is as straightforward as combining two key characteristics together. Image: Plaid Hat Games.

The Crossroads series of board games is a collection of loosely-connected titles that all share the same core gameplay system, in which players explore locations and make various decisions in response to random events. The most well-known entry in the series is Dead of Winter, the horror board game in which players attempt to survive a zombie apocalypse. Freelancers transports the series to an Earth abandoned by humanity, with players becoming one of the beings left behind.

Freelancers aims to condense the adventure of a tabletop RPG down into a simpler and shorter experience. As one of a collection of unusual freelancers, players will venture across the Earth and through the ruins of humanity in order to complete various jobs. From slaying monsters in abandoned towns to searching for the trash left behind by humans, players will need to complete it all, gather what loot they can and return home – all to do it again the very next day.

Players will be able to create characters by combining aspects of their species and job together, rolling dice to overcome challenges and exploring new environments. Rather than having a games master narrate and run the story, players will be able to use a companion app to tell the narrative for them. Freelancers will come with five campaigns that are designed to be replayable, with many branching paths for players to discover.


3. Unmatched Adventures: Tales to Amaze

Work together to defeat the Mothman and Martians in this co-op miniatures game

An image of card artwork for Unmatched Adventures: Tales to Amaze.
Each of the playable characters in Unmatched Adventures have their own unique decks. Image: Restoration Games.

Unmatched is a series of miniatures board games that build on the concept of “What if ‘A’ fought ‘B’, with some excellent card-driven gameplay?” While the franchise continues to release entries featuring both licensed and public-domain characters, such as King Arthur and Ms Marvel, it’s also expanded to include entirely new gameplay genres. Traditionally competitive, Unmatched is getting its very first co-op board game with Unmatched: Tales to Amaze.

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Inspired by pulpy adventure stories, Tales to Amaze is a co-op game that has players becoming a team of characters – including the legendary scientist, Nikola Tesla – who must prevent either the mysterious Mothman or Martian invaders from carrying out their wicked plans. Players will need to move their miniatures across the board, gradually taking out the villain’s minions until they’re ready to challenge the main antagonist. Using their unique decks of cards, players will be able to attack enemies, anticipating which cards they might need to overcome.

Every character’s deck is built around a particular playstyle, with some being more based around providing support and others designed to deal out heavy hits to opponents. As a co-op game, Tales to Amaze offers a very different experience from previous Unmatched titles, with players being encouraged to strategise and optimise their respective decks to the best of their abilities. For players who prefer co-op games other competitive ones, Tales to Amaze could be the perfect jumping on point for the Unmatched series.


4. Adventure Time: The RPG

Visit the Land of Ooo in a new roleplaying game based on the whimsical cartoon series

Screenshot from Card Wars episode of Adventure Time
The Adventure Time RPG will hopefully embody the colourful, humourous and heartfelt nature of the original cartoon series. | Image credit: Cartoon Network

For many of the Millennial generation, Adventure Time was a defining television show. Originally released on Cartoon Network and created by Pendleton Ward, Adventure Time is a cartoon series about a human boy called Finn and his talking dog companion Jake, who embark on adventures across a strange world called the Land of Ooo. Though Adventure Time has since finished, it is still fondly remembered by its viewers – seemingly enough to warrant a tabletop RPG based on the series.

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Announced in June, Adventure Time: The RPG is an upcoming tabletop game directly inspired by the TV show, with players able to tell their own stories across the Land of Ooo. Set to be published by Cryptozoic and based on a custom-created gameplay system called ‘Yes, And’ , Adventure Time: The RPG will enable players to either create their own unique characters or play as one of several iconic ready-made characters such as Finn and Marceline.

Using the ‘Yes, And’ system, players will be able to roll a set of custom dice to determine the overall outcome of events, but not necessarily the details - as players are encouraged to collaborate on the story-beats together. The rulebook will feature a collection of pre-written adventures for players to experience, with the stories focusing on personal character development instead of any generic plotlines.

A Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for Adventure Time: The RPG will launch in late summer, with the game appearing at Gen Con 2023 if you’re interested in giving it a try yourself.


5. The Last of Us: Escape the Dark

Play as Joel, Ellie and their friends as you try to survive a zombie apocalypse

A layout image of the board for The Last of Us: Escape the Dark.
The art-style for The Last of Us: Escape the Dark captures the bleakness of the video game series. Image: Themeborne.

The Last of Us is a hot franchise at the moment – largely thanks to the recent television adaptation produced by HBO – so it’s unsurprising that we’re seeing a board game based on the video game series about people attempting to survive a zombie-like apocalypse.

The Last of Us: Escape the Dark uses the same system as publisher Themeborne’s other Escape the Dark horror board games, with players working together to survive against a series of dangers by rolling dice on skill checks. The major difference here, besides the attached licence, is that The Last of Us: Escape the Dark looks to dramatically expand on this concept. Players will be exploring a series of locations on their way to their ultimate destination, Jackson, all whilst gathering supplies, upgrading weapons and surviving encounters with dangerous Runners, Clickers and other threats.

As players spend more time in every location, they’ll run the risk of more infected arriving and possibly spreading to the other locations – further heightening the danger. Sometimes the risk is worth taking to acquire that one item or weapon you need, whereas other times you may regret taking the chance. The Last of Us: Escape the Dark appears to lean into the desperate nature of the franchise, with every action having potentially disastrous consequences.


6. Queen by Midnight

Fight for the throne in a new board game from the studio behind Critical Role titles

A layout image for Queen of Midnight board game.
The dice-tower included with this board game doubles as a time-tracker. Image: Darrington Press.

Darrington Press is a publisher with heavy ties to Critical Role, the popular Dungeons & Dragons actual play show. The company has already released a few games – including the Critical Role inspired Uk’otoa - with the next being Queen by Midnight, a deckbuilding game about fighting for the right to rule a fictional kingdom. Featuring a cast of original characters, Queen by Midnight challenges players to use all their wits to outsmart and outplay their opponents, earning them the throne.

As one of several playable princesses, players will need to utilise their unique abilities to win the Rule by Midnight, a trial of combat and wits in which only one princess can win. The battle royale-esque board game has players using their unique playstyles to be the last remaining princess by the stroke of midnight. Throughout the game, players will be rolling dice using a dice clock tower, which will spin to face the active player, count down to midnight and provides cards for players to buy and add to their decks.

Players will need to think carefully as to which cards they want to put into their decks, because they’ll be choosing from nearly 200 cards themed specifically to their princess. An additional 75 cards will be available to purchase at the Bazaar, providing even more options. If you’ve enjoyed Darrington Press’s previously games or just like the sound of this particular title, be sure to look for it at Gen Con.


7. Forbidden Jungle

The next entry in the co-op board game series from the designer of Pandemic

An image of the components for Forbidden Jungle
Players can expect more of the classic tile-sliding action the Forbidden series is known for. Image: Gamewright.

The Forbidden series of board games has offered a more family-friendly alternative to the fast-paced, stressful Pandemic series. Both series are designed by Matt Leacock, but whereas Pandemic is intended to press players into making decisions that often have consequences so far-reaching they need to plan ahead, the Forbidden games are more about the here-and-now; making them better suited to younger audiences and a more relaxed atmosphere.

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Forbidden Jungle is set to be the next entry in the co-op board game series after Island, Desert and Sky. Taking place in a strange jungle located on a mysterious planet, Forbidden Jungle sees players working together to find the portal that will send them back to their home planet. The twist to this entire endeavour is that said portal is hidden within the ruins of an abandoned outpost populated by a horde of venomous monsters. The players will need to carefully move tiles representing the different areas of the outpost in order to find the portal’s location, before connecting it to the required power source.

All the while, the team will need to be dreadfully aware of the alien populace, including the various collections of eggs strewn across the outpost remains. It will undoubtedly take a mixture of good teamwork, cunning and risk-taking for players to pull off the escape attempt. Leacock continues to have a good track record of creating co-op games, so Forbidden Jungle shouldn't be missed.


8. Earth

Develop an entire living environment in a board game about choosing a path to victory

Artwork for the Earth board game
As the name may suggest, every aspect of Earth is themed around the natural world. Image: Inside Up Games.

There’s more than just a whiff of Terraforming Mars about Earth, an upcoming board game from Inside Up Games. From the similarly scientific theme, strategy-focused gameplay and slight elements of asymmetry – where players have differing goals/abilities/resources - Earth feels like it went to the same school as Terraforming Mars, but decided to pursue a different bachelor’s degree. In Earth, players are attempting to score the most points by building up their respective environments using cards.

Players begin the game with an island, climate and ecosystem card. Each card is double-sided, with players able to choose which starting resources and/or abilities they want to have. On their turn, players can choose to perform one of four potential actions, with the active player gaining the main benefit and their opponents acquiring a smaller one. As players progress, they’ll acquire new cards to place on the player-board – all themed around environmental and natural aspects – which they can activate to perform additional actions and/or gain more benefits.

Progression in Earth is marked by players being able to carry out more and more elaborate turns, as their various card tableaus build and develop. Eventually, players will be able to score the points they need in order to ultimately win the game. Players that thrive on titles such as Terraforming Mars, will find a similarly engaging experience with Earth at Gen Con.


9. Disney Lorcana

Recruit a cast of classic Disney characters in this exciting new trading card game

An image of cards from Disney Lorcana.
The Disney Lorcana starter decks will focus on two core characters and the movies associated with them. Image credit: Prototype shown, subject to change.

If you’ve ever wanted to get into a trading card game but you’ve always been intimidated by the likes of Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh!, then Disney Lorcana could be the perfect entry point for you. Featuring a cast of recognisable characters from across Disney animated history, Disney Lorcana has players attempting to be the first to gather 20 lore, a resource that can be acquired by sending characters like Mickey Mouse, Aladdin and Frozen’s Elsa out on quests.

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On a player’s turn they can put cards onto the table – if they have the ink, one of Lorcana’s main resources – or put a card facedown into their ‘inkwell’, converting it into a single ink. Characters can be used to either quest by exhausting them or challenge any of an opponent’s exhausted character cards. Challenging compares the strength and health totals of the cards involved, removing any cards whose health totals are lower than the opposing character’s strength. Players can also play cards to help support their existing characters or give them various other benefits.

Lorcana’s questing mechanic forces players to engage with a risk/reward situation that enables them to get the main resource they need to win, but puts their characters on the firing line for the opposing player to target.

The upcoming Disney TCG certainly isn’t going to revolutionise the genre and - at least looking at its launch set - isn’t nearly as deep as something like Magic: The Gathering. Nevertheless, this might just play to its advantage by getting less experienced players to try a trading card game.


10. Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game

Create your own superhero and save the world in the next official Marvel tabletop RPG

Cover art for the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game
Players could have encounters with the likes of Black Panther, Wolverine and Thor. Image credit: Iban Coello/Marvel

Marvel fans can truly rejoice as the next official tabletop roleplaying game set within the comic book universe is finally arriving. In the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game, players will be able to create their very own superheroes to embark on adventures alongside some notable heroes and villains of the comic book universe. Players will be able to choose from a variety of abilities and/or skills to grant their heroes, making the comic character they’ve always wanted.

Alternatively, players can use one of the prebuilt characters included in the superhero RPG, all of which are based on iconic Marvel characters such as Spider-Man, Black Widow and members of the Fantastic Four. The TRPG will use an original gameplay S616 system that sees players rolling three d6 dice, with the active player needing at least one of their dice to trump a target number given to them by the games master. Should players roll a six on the custom Marvel dice, then they’ll be able to apply some special effects to their action – which can be either positive or negative, depending on their character.

Players won’t just be restricted to creating heroic characters in the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game, as villainous or morally ambiguous characters are also an option. The tabletop RPG will receive its very first adventure with The Cataclysm of Kang, which contains an overarching narrative featuring the villain Kang the Conqueror. If you’ve ever wanted to create your own superhero narratives using Marvel characters, then this is definitely the RPG for you.

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In this article
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Adventure Time: The RPG

Tabletop Game

Disney Lorcana

Tabletop Game

See 5 more
Awaiting cover image

Forbidden Jungle

Tabletop Game

Freelancers

Tabletop Game

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Awaiting cover image

Queen by Midnight

Tabletop Game

The Last of Us: Escape the Dark

Tabletop Game

About the Author
Alex Meehan avatar

Alex Meehan

Senior Staff Writer

After writing for Kotaku UK, Waypoint and Official Xbox Magazine, Alex became a member of the Dicebreaker editorial family. Having been producing news, features, previews and opinion pieces for Dicebreaker for the past three years, Alex has had plenty of opportunity to indulge in her love of meaty strategy board games and gothic RPGS. Besides writing, Alex appears in Dicebreaker’s D&D actual play series Storybreakers and haunts the occasional stream on the Dicebreaker YouTube channel.
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