There are a lot of tabletop titles out there, but how do you know which ones are the best board games? Besides your family classics such as Monopoly and Cluedo, the majority of people aren’t hugely familiar with most board games - especially those released in the last couple of decades or so. However, some of the best board games in 2023 have been published in the past 10 years and are just waiting for players to discover them.
Best Board Games 2023
- Betrayal at House on the Hill
- Team3 Pink/Green
- Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
- Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
- Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition
- Descent: Legends of the Dark
- Undaunted: Stalingrad
- The Quacks of Quedlinburg
- Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Whether you’re looking for something intense and strategic or are seeking a lighter experience, there’s plenty to choose from when it comes to great tabletop titles that are available right now. From the historical to the fantastical to the horrifying, you’ll find more than enough variety when it comes to theme in our list of the best board games. Become an accomplice to Sherlock Holmes, travel across the stars and fight terrifying monsters to save humanity in the best board games you can play in 2023.
Whilst some of the tabletop titles on this list are suitable family board games, others are designed for more mature audiences - there is certainly something for everyone. Begin your journey into tabletop gaming with this selection of some of the best board games you can play right now.
This asymmetrical board game provides an intense strategic experience
The designer of Root, Cole Wehrle, has created an astonishingly good catalogue of board games, but none outshine the glory that is Root. A board game about warring forest creatures, Root may first appear absolutely adorable - the illustrations by Kyle Ferrin are some of the best on the tabletop - but beneath the woodland whimsy it’s incredibly savage. The war for the great wood is a bloody one and only one faction may be victorious, which means a lot of anguish and cruelty needs to happen first.
Players will have a completely different experience depending upon whichever faction they choose to control, with the Marquise de Cat’s building goals being vastly different from the rebellious Woodland Alliance’s desire to establish sympathy across the woodland. While this does make Root a difficult board game to learn - requiring multiple playthroughs to understand how each faction works - it also makes it very rewarding to win. Getting to grips with how to play and deal with the four factions included in the core game, and eventually those featured in the expansions, is all part of the experience of playing and loving Root.
The act of playing Root is like picking up a book that you can’t wait to read again because the more time you spent with it, the more you know and the more invested you become. Don’t miss out on one of the best board games ever created and start your Root journey.
2. Betrayal at House on the Hill: Third Edition
Attempt to survive the many horrors of this shlocky, fun and freshly updated board game
If you’re a fan of horror - whether the bloody slasher-kind or the silly monster-movie type - Betrayal at House on the Hill is a series you should be paying attention to. The latest release in the horror board game franchise is its third edition, which was published just last year. An adventure-style board game taking place in a stereotypical haunted mansion filled with all sorts of terrors, Betrayal at House on the Hill 3E is easily the greatest iteration in the series, improving on absolutely everything that came before.
A cast of, finally, diverse characters players in Betrayal initially work together to explore the titular house on the hill. Players build the house’s layout as they play, placing each randomly-drawn room tile next to the door their character walked through. Whenever they discover a new room, players may find themselves experiencing a paranormal encounter with some denizen of the house. Some of those encounters may cause one of the players to suddenly turn traitor against their friends in service of whatever evil force they’ve had the misfortune to stumble across. What starts as a co-op board game quickly becomes a race against time to stop a dastardly plot and save the remaining survivors.
What makes the latest Betrayal superior to its predecessors is in the ways it refines and adds to the experience established by the previous editions. Additional cards introduce more context to the story, fresh rules make the game better balanced and newer players are catered to with a well-written rulebook. Fans of horror will get a real kick out of playing Betrayal at House on the Hill: Third Edition.
This birdy board game features gorgeous artwork and a compelling card system
Designer Elizabeth Hargrave’s board game about attracting avian creatures to their natural habitats has quickly become one of the must-play tabletop releases of the last few years, with over a million copies sold and its creator catapulted to stardom.
Wingspan’s acclaim will be little surprise to anyone who’s played before, thanks to its combination of gripping strategic cardplay and the pastoral charm of its theme. Players take turns to add cards to each of their natural habitats, with every additional card increasing the actions they can perform in a combo on subsequent turns, as well as scoring points. Players can choose to gain food to attract further birds, lay eggs to add birds further down each row and draw additional bird cards to play on future turns.
What makes the gradual building of your card-driven engine even more satisfying is the faithful representation of the birds’ real-life counterparts, from their diet and how many eggs they typically lay to, yes, their wingspan.
Wingspan isn’t just a beauty to play - it’s a beauty to look at too, thanks to the gorgeous artwork of its feathered stars and its now-iconic pastel egg tokens. (Reminder: you can’t eat them, despite how tasty they look.) With a delightfully original theme, brilliant gameplay and a visual feast to match, Wingspan deserves its place as a modern classic-to-be. It’s one of the best board games of recent years and is destined to become an all-time great.
4. Team3 Pink/Green
A chaotic and hilarious game inspired by ‘see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil’
Dexterity board games in themselves are often chaotic experiences where players fling objects around. Add the elements of not being able to see, speak or hear and you’ve got one heck of a messy, yet undeniably fun, board game. Team3 is a board game series that takes the concept of ‘see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil’ and turns it into an exercise in communication. Two teams made up of three players must try to replicate blueprints that only one player can see, using the various blocks to recreate each of the designs.
However, the player who can see the blueprint cannot speak and must communicate their instructions to another player who has the ability to talk. This second player must then attempt to decipher the first player’s instructions in order to tell a third player what they must do with the collection of blocks in front of them. The player in charge of actually constructing the design is blindfolded and can only interact with the blocks via touch, using their hands to feel out each piece and place them in the correct pattern. If the instructions of the second player are precise, the third player should be able to recreate the required blueprint in under the required time limit.
Of course, these sorts of scenarios rarely end up going how players want them to, especially when first diving into the game. Inevitably someone – or multiple players – is going to struggle to instruct or decipher their fellow players, leading to a desperate dash to attempt to do the right thing. All the while, the hilarity of the scenario Team3 puts its players through will cause at least one person to break down – but that’s the joy of this brilliant little duo of board games.
Play as legendary figures in an intimate miniatures showdown
The concept of Unmatched is to have a roster of well-known characters - both in the public domain and licensed - fight one another in an area, with each character having their own unique deck of cards and abilities. If you imagine how a fighting video game might be translated into a tabletop title, it would be like Unmatched.
In the game, each player controls a character of their choice - in the case of Season One, it could be King Arthur or Medusa - on a simple board. Players fight to the death using any abilities, allies and cards they have to hand. Every character’s deck is designed around a different playstyle, with players encouraged to approach every character differently. Whilst King Arthur has fewer defence cards in his deck, he has an ability that allows him to boost his attacks, whereas Medusa is more of a ranged attacker with a collection of allies to absorb the brunt of the damage dealt to her.
Not only does this make Unmatched a series with endless potential, with each character introduced offering up a new experience, it also ties beautifully into the concept of pitting beloved pop-culture characters against each other. Characters in Unmatched don’t just look how you imagine them, they also play like you imagine them.
6. Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
A remake that keeps the soul of the original but updates it for the future
The original Libertalia had a fantastic core gameplay loop with some unfortunately problematic racial representation. Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest keeps the compelling gameplay mechanics of the original title, as well as the pirate theming, but reinvents them in a completely new way.
As rival pirate gangs in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, players in Libertalia attempt to snatch up the best loot from each of the voyages they embark upon. Though the pirate gangs are working together against the naval law enforcement, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t more than willing to stab each other in the back for their own gain. Every round takes place over a series of days, with every day featuring its own collection of loot - from the desirous to the disastrous. Players simultaneously select a card from their hand, being sure to keep it secret until everyone reveals at once. Every card in the pirate board game has its own ranking and special ability, with higher-ranked cards getting first pickings of the loot.
However, having a high ranking doesn’t necessarily guarantee that players will get away with the best loot, as there are plenty of cards with abilities that will directly mess with their opponents’ plans. The cut-throat nature of Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest – alongside its new artwork, cards, components and modes – make it the perfect board game for any friend group that can withstand it.
7. Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
Help the world’s greatest sleuth solve a series of original cases
Part of the fun of mystery novels is trying to predict the solution before the detective. Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective takes the unspoken game of reading classic thrillers and makes it an actual game, inviting players to pit their wits against the World’s Greatest Detective himself.
Consulting Detective plays out like an interactive story, with players reading blocks of text as they search a map of Victorian London for clues and suspects. There are plenty of red herrings to lead you astray - but taking a less direct route can pay off in the final interrogation with Holmes, as the players are asked a series of questions about the case and its surrounding details.
The immersive nature of Consulting Detective - the box includes a newspaper for players to search for leads, along with its map and case books - makes it one of the best board games for those after a shared story and tricky puzzles, blending together choose-your-own-adventure books, escape room riddles and even a light touch of roleplaying.
The long-running series has seen a number of entries over the years, ranging from the original box and its expansions - re-released in recent years - to the more recent Baker Street Irregulars and even the more gameplay-driven competitive spin-off Watson & Holmes. While we’d recommend steering away from the macabre inspired-by-true-events campaign of the Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures box, each of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective’s boxes can be tackled as a series of standalone scenarios before picking up another.
Whether you successfully crack the case or not, you’ll have fun - but be prepared to pale in comparison to some of 221B Baker Street’s unforgiving solutions. It’s nicknamed ‘Sherlock Holmes: Insulting Detective’ for a good reason.
8. Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition
The latest and greatest version of the beloved sci-fi board game
Twilight Imperium has a reputation for being one of the longest board games to play, with sessions sometimes lasting several hours or even days. For some, the prospect of being glued to a table for such a long period of time sounds like hell. For others, Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition features one of the most engrossing experiences tabletop gaming can provide. Set in a fictional universe in which humanity is but one of a whole host of sentient species living across the galaxy, Twilight Imperium 4E sees players leading their respective civilizations into what they hope will be a glorious future.
With the option to command one of 17 different species – and that’s just in the base game – Twilight Imperium 4E is pretty epic, to say the least. The space board game features multiple paths to victory, with players free to pursue whichever options open to them: whether they be peaceful or violent. Every playthrough of Twilight Imperium 4E is different depending on how the galaxy is constructed, with players having the option to travel to different planets in order to claim them for their respective civilisations. Whether or not players are successful in their chosen conquests will depend on if they have the resources and wits required to outsmart their opponents.
Success is dependent on completing objectives, with some objectives being public knowledge and others remaining a secret until they’re fulfilled. This element keeps players on their toes and makes it more difficult to predict what their opponents’ next moves might be. For a challenging, epic and deep tabletop gaming experience, look no further than Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition.
9. Descent: Legends of the Dark
Embark on an epic quest in this co-op board game featuring a cast of dynamic characters
An ambitious reboot of sorts for the much-loved Descent series of dungeon-crawler games, Legends of the Dark introduces a new companion app to guide players through its epic fantasy adventure.
Legends of the Dark is a sweeping, cinematic take on the classic fantasy questathon, popping up on the table with 3D environments - including levels built across multiple vertical levels - and off of your tablet screen with its fully-featured companion app, which keeps track of the players’ story-shaping decisions during the 30-plus-hour campaign and brings its enemies to life with dynamic behaviour that responds to the characters’ actions.
Descent’s familiar dice-chucking combat is given a fresh twist with the introduction of double-sided cards that can be flipped to open up new options during fights, with characters able to take on fatigue to perform more powerful abilities.
Between the dungeon crawls, players can retire back to the local town, upgrading their equipment - with both new physical cards and digital effects handled by the app - and embarking on side quests that flesh out the colourful characters’ backstories while granting chances to grab extra gear.
Descent: Legends of the Dark’s blending of physical gameplay and ambitious digital features comes together in a slick, satisfying package. With this box billed as the first act of a planned trilogy – Act II, The Betrayer’s War is yet to receive a release date - we can’t wait to see what the world of Terrinoth holds.
10. Undaunted: Stalingrad
Experience World War II in a creative mashup of deckbuilding and strategy
The Undaunted series might still be fairly young, but it’s most certainly made an impression over the last few years. Beginning with Undaunted: Normandy, the franchise has since taken inspiration from other historically important battles from the Second World War, such as the conflict within North Africa and, most recently, the Battle of Stalingrad. Possibly one of the most crucial turning points of WWII, the Battle of Stalingrad saw the forces of Nazi Germany clash against Soviet Russia.
Though we obviously know the outcome of that particular fight, Undaunted gives players the opportunity to play out their own version of the historical battle by taking command of either side. Depending on which army the players choose to control, the two-player board game sees players attempting to achieve their own objectives on the battlefield using their respective card decks. Players are able to command their troops using their army decks, with each card representing a different unit players can deploy. What makes Undaunted especially unique is that each player will have access to different types of units – each suited to different combat approaches – that they’ll gradually acquire throughout every scenario.
Undaunted: Stalingrad is the most cohesive entry yet in the series due to its enormous campaign, with each scenario feeding into the next to offer players an overarching storyline that will be altered depending on the outcome of each scenario. If you’ve ever wanted to try a WWII-themed wargame but have been intimidated by dice mechanics and spreadsheets, consider starting off with Undaunted: Stalingrad.
11. The Quacks of Quedlinburg
Test your luck in this real-time, bag-building board game
While deckbuilding games and dice-building games are fairly well-known across the hobby, bag-building games haven’t acquired the same amount of recognition. The Quacks of Quedlinburg is a fine example of what bag-building games can offer that the other two genres cannot: visceral anticipation. Pulling the right card when you need it certainly feels good and getting that perfect roll is undeniably satisfying, but the act of physically picking out exactly the token you were hoping for in Quacks is the kind of experience that requires at least a cheer, if not a full-on leap into the air.
Though Quacks might have an older European board game vibe to it - its terrible artwork and odd name being the major culprits - it undoubtedly understands what makes a modern classic work: a straightforward and addictive gameplay loop. At the beginning of each round, players simultaneously draw tokens from their respective bags, before placing them on their board. Where the tokens go will depend on the number they carry, but the general aim is to move as far along the board’s track as possible. However, players will need to be careful to not pull too many white tokens from their bag, otherwise they risk their potion exploding and losing one of their two potential rewards. It’s a genius move to have players all doing this part of the game at the same time, as it creates an atmosphere that's full of infectious tension and energy - one that’s a joy to watch as much as it is to be a part of.
If players exercise restraint - or are simply lucky enough - they’ll be able to gain a bounty of victory points, as well as money to spend at the ingredients store. Buying more ingredients tokens will increase a player’s chances of avoiding those dreaded white tokens, alongside giving them some nifty benefits. But this never guarantees that players will do well the next round, with Quacks teaching its players that chance can sometimes be a cruel mistress. However, getting lucky in Quacks is one of the best feelings a board game can gift you, which is why it’s here on this list.
12. Arkham Horror: The Card Game
A living card game that challenges players to survive the horrors of the Old Ones
Arkham Horror Files is the tabletop’s top scream queen, a collection of horror board games that range from dungeon crawls through haunted houses (Mansions of Madness) to globetrotting adventures in a desperate race to close monster-spawning interdimensional portals (Eldritch Horror) - and more besides.
While each of the Arkham Horror Files games has its own appeal, the series’ arguable masterpiece is Arkham Horror: The Card Game, a co-op living card game that sees players’ investigators delve into the cosmic horrors of the Cthulhu mythos during unique scenarios.
Players are able to kit out their characters - familiar faces from the universe’s shared roster of reformed cultists, action heroes and brainy puzzle-solvers - with gear, before exploring a number of locations in search of clues to progress their investigation. Along the way, they’ll have to deal with cultists, gribbly monsters and the looming return of an Old One by using both their brains and brawn.
The cards allow gameplay to be fast and fun, while pulling tokens from the chaos bag to resolve tests adds an element of controlled randomness. Players can acquire new cards and customise their deck over the course of multiple connected scenarios, creating a campaign-like progression as you work to save the world from its supernatural doom.
With a number of expansions for players to fight their way through and a huge amount of replayability in its characters and customisation, Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a perfect co-op game for friends looking for a card game to return to week after week. It’s frighteningly good.