Skip to main content

Cooperative Luddite Rebellion and asymmetric food poisoning among the year’s best unpublished board games

Finalists for the 2023 Cardboard Edison showcase what may become tabletop’s next big hits.

Screenshot from The King of Ludd's entry video for the 2023 Cardboard Edison Awards
Image credit: Yoni Goldstein

Cardboard Edison has announced the finalists for the 2023 Cardboard Edison award, naming 17 unpublished board games whose design and potential stood out amongst hundreds of other submitted ideas. These finalists will be playtested by a panel of judges to determine the eventual recipient.

The shortlist arose from 249 submitted designs, according to a press release from Cardboard Edison’s co-founders Suzanne and Chris Zinsli. The married couple began the industry award in 2016 as a way to recognise design talent often left forgotten by the more traditional publishing route. The Zinslis are professional designers themselves and create a yearly industry best practices guide.

Peeking at the finalists’ entries reveals a surprisingly broad range of complexity, mechanics and themes. Nicholas J. Reese’s Crossword Crossfire seems at first blush to be a simple Battleship-meets-Scrabble mash-up but hides a fair amount of smart tweaks and additions under its veneer. Sabrina Culyba’s Diatoms takes obvious inspiration from the hefty lineage of mosaic builders, but instead of quilts, flowers or stained glass, players harvest multicoloured molecules from algae to create the perfect arrangement.

Wheels runs down the list of 20 board games you need to play in 2023.Watch on YouTube

Leukocytes, designed by Juan Pablo Vargas Seguel, borrows a smidge of Pandemic’s win state - eliminating diseases - but scopes the entire game board down to the cellular level. Players take on the asymmetrical role of pathogens and the body’s immune system as they battle for control of an organ. Sometimes that’s a patch of skin that’s been exposed by a laceration or the lining of a stomach afflicted with food poisoning.

The Nights of King Ludd is about as different as another board game can be. Designed by Yoni Goldstein, this tuckbox-sized card game casts players as cooperative figures at the dawn of England’s Industrial Revolution as they secretly plot to sabotage the machines pushing the labouring class into mass unemployment and stifling poverty. The game is consciously designed to be difficult to win and only really possible through the sacrifice of other players’ victory conditions - the owner class’ loss is a win for all workers.

All of the finalists’ designs can be viewed on Cardboard Edison’s website, which include video breakdowns from the creator. It’s definitely worth taking a moment to watch the idea for a board game expressed with unfinished and often crude implements but also genuine excitement and pride from their creators. There’s a dexterity game about gods inspiring their adherents, a spatial puzzler about building a city from flotsam as it drifts towards a massive waterfall and a crunchy, modular set collection board game about time travelling agents.

Past award winners include games that have gone on to find serious commercial success, such as the strategic Castell, the more abstract territory control title Animal Kingdom, and more recently the flowery pathway game Umbra Via. The judging panel will consider the final selection through April and May and announce a winner by the end of the month.

Read this next