This year’s Tabletop Awards have been revealed, celebrating this year’s highlights across the tabletop industry - from the games we’ve been playing to the talented designers, artists and teams behind them.
The Tabletop Awards 2023, presented by Misty Mountain Gaming, are the second in our now annual awards event, following 2022’s inaugural winners. From established names at the peak of their game to those emerging creators you should be watching, the Tabletop Awards look to recognise the very best the hobby has to offer across board games, tabletop RPGs, card games and more.
The Tabletop Awards are voted on by over two dozen jury members, including journalists, content creators, designers, publishers, artists and other professionals from across the tabletop industry. You can view this year’s full jury panel here.
We received hundreds of nominations for this year’s awards, with an incredible level of quality across every category. It was our judges’ difficult decision to decide on a shortlist of finalists before voting on their overall winner in each category. You can see the full list of our 2023 finalists here; they represent a list of this year’s standout games and creators in their own right.
This year’s categories see the return of our game awards across a number of genres, as well as recognition for designers and publishers both established and emerging. Plus, we have introduced a brand new category celebrating the work of artists in games with best Art.
Without much further ado, let’s reveal the winners!
Opening our awards is the first of two Rising Star awards, Rising Star: Publisher. Both Rising Star categories look to spotlight a tabletop publisher with two or fewer releases to date, whether that’s in board games, RPGs, card games or a combination.
While they may be relatively new to the industry, Rising Star: Publisher looks to celebrate emerging talent and achievement - whether that’s with their debut release or sophomore game. Be sure to watch all of our finalists and our winner - they’re guaranteed to continue creating outstanding work.
This year’s Rising Star: Publisher winner is Hot Banana Games, the emerging publisher dedicated to creating and publishing Asian-themed games by Asian game designers and illustrators. As well as creating outstanding game experiences, Pauline and Marie work to champion authentic Asian representation on the tabletop, raising awareness of Asian culture to develop greater understanding and appreciation among players.
Hot Banana Games’ first board game, Steam Up: A Feast of Dim Sum, is a sumptuous celebration of the Chinese cuisine. Players control one of the 12 Chinese zodiac, each with unique powers, as they collect layers of Dim Sum layered in stackable steamers on a rotating table. With gorgeous food components and gameplay that will leave you drooling for your next restaurant meal, it’s a triumph of design, production and theme.
Having already achieved such fast success with Steam Up, Hot Banana Games is already looking to continue its remarkable work in representation and game design with its next game Moon Bunny, based on Asian folklore.
Our second Rising Star category is Rising Star: Designer. This award recognises an emerging designer who has already made a notable impact. These are the must-watch creators of the future, showcasing the finest talent, creativity and vision that the tabletop industry has to offer.
2023’s Rising Star: Designer is Cassi Mothwin. Mothwin is the designer of GM-less token-driven game Clean Spirit, a rules-light, character-centric tabletop RPG that explores the emotions and relationships of players’ characters as they clean the space around them and discover things they thought were lost. Her second game, The Sticker Game, is an absurd solo game in which players use any stickers they have lying around to chart their characters’ adventures in another universe, responding to dozens of short audio tracks that serve as their prompts.
Championing deep and meaningful play experiences that veer from spooky to hilarious, Cassi always puts the experience of the player first - making her a talented designer you should be paying close attention to in the years to come.
Following our Rising Star awards, it’s time to name 2023’s Publisher of the Year. In contrast with our Rising Star winners, this is a publisher with a number of titles already under its belt, which continues to produce excellent work. Whether in board games, RPGs, card games or something else, these publishers help to bring designers’ work to players, enhancing outstanding gameplay with top-notch production, development and more.
2023’s Publisher of the Year is Restoration Games. Founded by Justin Jacobson and Rob Daviau, Restoration Games set out under the banner of “every game deserves another turn”. That has translated into its caring, considerate work to revive games from decades past, digging out both forgotten gems and underappreciated designs to give them a modern makeover.
Most notably, this has led to Unmatched, Restoration’s superb battle game between folk legends and pop-culture icons, as well as the nostalgic awe of games like Return to Dark Tower. Its latest game, Thunder Road: Vendetta, refuels back the Mad Max-ian car-combat game for another death race.
Finding the balance between modern innovation and timeless quality, Restoration continues to create new games that have fast become classics in their own right.
Accompanying Publisher of the Year is our award for Designer of the Year. This award looks to celebrate those individuals behind the heart of any game: its gameplay. With a number of published designs to their name, these designers continue to push the experience of players forward - whether that’s through groundbreaking new ideas, immaculately polished rules or simply just offering an incredible time with friends and family. From meaningful explorations of complex themes to taking familiar ideas in fresh directions, these designers each excel in defining and redefining what games can be.
This year’s Designer of the Year award goes to David Thompson and Trevor Benjamin, the powerhouse design duo behind the critically acclaimed Undaunted series and General Orders: World War II.
From deck-building to worker-placement, Thompson and Benjamin’s games combine modern, exciting mechanics with an understanding of military history to provide entertaining, accessible and thoughtful gaming experiences. This year alone, their work on the air-combat game Undaunted: Battle of Britain, the solo card game Witchcraft! and worker-placement wargame General Orders: World War II have all launched to acclaim.
Our next category is a first for the Tabletop Awards. Best Art looks to recognise the work of illustrators, artists and graphic designers in elevating gameplay with phenomenal visuals. While immersing players in a theme, setting or period, game artwork must also complement the players’ experience, walking a fine line between visual opulence and utility to ensure games look stunning while remaining just as playable and accessible for every person around the table.
The first-ever winner of Best Art is tarot-based board game Sefirot. At the game's visual helm are Eli Baum and Viv Tanner, who channelled their passion for detail and meticulous research into crafting its distinct aesthetic.
Eschewing the familiar motifs of traditional tarot, the deck delves into the mysteries of the fictitious ancient island of Dioscoria, infusing each card with symbolism and narrative depth inspired by esoteric tales and Viennese art nouveau. Whether it's the celestial patterns of the Starfield or the mystical pathways of the Tree of Life, every element is designed to enhance both the gameplay and the visual experience.
The creation process behind Sefirot was one of collaboration, exploration and a desire to challenge orthodox notions of both board game and tarot card design. Countless hours of reference collection and artistic brainstorming went into ensuring that each visual element, from the colour palettes to the card illustrations, offers a novel and coherent perspective while staying true to its mystical roots.
The award for Best Ongoing Card Game recognises an individual release in a card game with regular releases and expansions, whether it’s a collectible card game, TCG, living card game or expandable card game.
The winner of 2023’s Best Ongoing Card Game award is Disney Lorcana: The First Chapter, the debut set for the brand-new TCG. Launched over the summer after months of anticipation, Lorcana combines the mighty movie roster of the House of Mouse with the tight competitive gameplay of a trading card game.
The First Chapter showed that Lorcana was a TCG worth paying to past the star power of its characters, with gameplay that applied smart twists to familiar TCG ideas while keeping things wholly accessible for a new audience of players.
The First Chapter has already been followed by second set Rise of the Floodborn, which has helped cement Lorcana as a breakthrough TCG deserving of its place alongside the Big Three. With gameplay smarts and that irresistible Disney magic, it’s less the biggest TCG of the year and more the biggest TCG in decades.
Our next game category is Best Roleplaying Game. This award celebrates an outstanding tabletop RPG release from 2023 - whether that’s a standalone game or supplement for an ongoing system or title. Ranging from bombastic fantasy adventures and sci-fi epics through to intimate explorations driven by insightful characters and emotional depth, these roleplaying games run the gamut of systems, themes and player experiences - but each is deserving of recognition in its own way.
2023’s winner of Best Roleplaying Game is groundbreaking story game Women are Werewolves.
Women are Werewolves puts players in the role of non-binary characters in a family that believes women - and only women - transform into werewolves under a full moon. Driven by prompts drawn from a deck of gorgeous tarot-sized cards, Women are Werewolves looks to explores the relationships of its characters - and by extension its players - to gendered spaces and family customs, as they explore whether the family’s superstition is true and their non-binary characters’ place in both the family and its mythology.
Insightful as it is accessible, Women are Werewolves combines the familiar folklore of werewolves with its cathartic and meaningful gameplay, for both Queer and non-Queer players alike. Inspired and important, it is worthy of recognition wide and far.
Our last jury-voted award for 2023 is Best Board Game. This award celebrates an outstanding board game experience released during the last 12 months. From sprawling dungeon-crawlers and ambitious simulations to tight half-hour games that beg to be played time after time, there’s never a shortage of outstanding titles created by designers, artists, publishers and more that span the wide that board games can offer.
The 2023 Tabletop Award for Best Board Game goes to Sky Team, the highly original co-op board game that places its two players in the cockpit of a commercial airliner coming into land. Sky Team offers a thrillingly unique theme that combines with tight, captivating gameplay for one of the most original cooperative board games in years.
The two players - as pilot and co-pilot - must use their individual pools of dice to activate controls in the cockpit, preparing the plane for landing against its falling altitude, closing distance and the added challenge of other air traffic and weather conditions from wind to ice.
Unable to speak during each round, the players must silently work together to ensure they spend their dice wisely, with Sky Team’s simple rules blossoming into tricky dilemmas and dramatic moments. As the pilots race to keep the plane balanced, maintain its speed and manage flaps and landing gear, Sky Team’s clever gameplay feels as engrossing as a realistic simulation without being anywhere near as complex.
Immersive and unique, Sky Team soars high - a worthy winner of this year’s Tabletop Award for Best Board Game.
Our final category for this year’s Tabletop Awards is People’s Choice. Unlike our other categories decided by our panel of industry judges, the People’s Choice award is voted for by members of the public.
Any tabletop game release during 2023 is eligible; this year we received thousands of votes for dozens of games, spanning board games, tabletop RPGs and more. But there could only be one winner!
Fabula Ultima is the winner of this year’s Tabletop Award for People’s Choice.
Heavily influenced by JRPGs such as Final Fantasy, Fabula Ultima is a love letter to classic video game roleplaying in tabletop RPG form. Rather than simply being Final Fantasy with the serial numbers filed off, Fabula Ultima uses its clear inspirations as somewhere to start rather than an end point.
Its character creation system and support for a variety of settings span possible genres from natural fantasy to high fantasy, tied together by its use of a flexible dice system that rolls two dice against the required trait, resulting in a simple but adaptable flow to exploration and combat alike.
Behind all of this is Fabula Ultima’s centring of its players’ characters as the heart of any quest, using the bonds between party members - whether through harmony or opposition - to drive deeper relationships and rich potential for character-driven narrative.
Fabula Ultima is more than a shallow pretender to its influences. This is a heartfelt, thoughtful tribute that takes everything players love about series like Final Fantasy and brings them to the tabletop in a way that’s both inspired and inspiring by itself. As likely to be beloved by its own fans as its creators are clearly fans of others, Fabula Ultima deserves to be named this year’s winner of People’s Choice!
Congratulations again to all of our winners and thanks again to all of our nominees and finalists, our panel of industry judges, and those who voted for People’s Choice - as well as our sponsor Misty Mountain Gaming for its support.
We’ll be back next year to celebrate even more of the industry - until then, please check out all of those who won and were shortlisted. They’re all worthy of your time and attention.
Tabletop Awards 2023 winners
Finalists arranged in alphabetical order
Rising Star: Publisher
Hot Banana Games
Steam Up: A Feast of Dim Sum
Finalists: Birdwood Games, Crossed Paths Press, Hegemonic Project Games, Metis Creative, Prismatic Wasteland, The Wanderer's Tome
Rising Star: Designer
Clean Spirit, The Sticker Game
Finalists: Ash Azeez, DeAngelo Murillo, Fleur Sciortino & Chelsea Sciortino, Fleit Detrik, Lottie and Jack Hazell, Seb Pines, Sinta Posadas, Varnavas Timotheou
Publisher of the Year
Unmatched, Thunder Road: Vendetta, Return to Dark Tower, Downforce
Finalists: 9th Level Games, Good Luck Press, Osprey Games, Snowbright Studio
Designer of the Year
David Thompson & Trevor Benjamin
General Orders: World War II, Undaunted, War Chest
Finalists: Brigitte Winter, John D. Clair, Vangelis Bagiartakis, Will Jobst
- Designer: Georg Hobmeier
- Artists: Eli Baum & Viv Tanner
- Publisher: Causa Creations
Finalists: Barkeep on the Borderlands, Flabbergasted!, Forever Home, Historica Arcanum: Herald of Rain, Queen by Midnight, Salvage Union
Best Ongoing Card Game
Disney Lorcana: The First Chapter
- Designers: Ryan Miller & Steve Warner
- Artists: Various
- Publisher: Ravensburger
Finalists: Flesh and Blood: Bright Lights, Magic: The Gathering - The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, Pokémon Trading Card Game – Scarlet & Violet - 151
Best Roleplaying Game
Women Are Werewolves
- Designers: C.A.S. Taylor & Yeonsoo Julian Kim
- Artist: Amber Lewis
- Publisher: 9th Level Games
Finalists: Animon Story, Barkeep on the Borderlands, Blade Runner: The Roleplaying Game, Fabula Ultima, Fox Curio’s Floating Bookshop, Ink, My Mother’s Kitchen, This Discord Has Ghosts In It
Best Board Game
- Designer: Luc Rémond
- Artists: Eric Hibbeler, Adrien Rives
- Publisher: Scorpion Masqué
Finalists: Hegemony: Lead Your Class to Victory, Queen by Midnight
- Designer: Emanuele Galletto
- Artists: Moryo, Catty Trinh, Christian Benavides, Lorenzo Magalotti, Susu Nohohara, ExtantLily, Emanuele Galletto, Ben Henry, Sascha Naderer, Lorc
- Publisher: Need Games