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Board Game Friday: My Top 50 Games of 2023 (#50 - 41)

Welcome to my Top 50 Board Games of 2023!  

In order to make my rankings, I first compiled a list of every board game I played in the last year (November 1, 2022 through November 1, 2023).  Then, I inputted that list into Pub Meeple's ranking system.  That system pairs up games two at a time and then I had to pick my favorite of the two games.  Once the system has enough information, it then spits out a ranking of my top games!  

My plan is to spend the next five Fridays counting down my Top 50 games of the 2023.  If those goes well, maybe I'll do something similar next year (but let me first see how much work this ends up being before I promise anything else)!

Without further ado, let's get to my list!

#50:  Trails  

Trails is a small, simple worker placement game that uses set collection and recipe fulfillment.  The basic idea is that you are a hiker on a trail walking back and forth.  Along the way, you can take photos, collect resources, and perhaps even encounter a bear (which in this game is a good thing).  The game has a rather unique timing mechanism that as the game winds down, the individual powers of the spots to land grow stronger.  To win the game, you must have the most points which you get by collecting badges, taking photographs, and seeing lots of birds.  Overall, the game has a fun cadence to it and is easy-to-teach.  It also helps that it is a beautiful little production.  

#49:  Dinosaur Exhibit

Dinosaur Exhibit is a game that I've already reviewed on the blog back in May of this year (see here).  I've had a lot of fun playing this game with my son, especially before he turned five.  He hasn't had much interest in playing Dinosaur Exhibit in awhile (our last play of this game was at the end of July 2023).  One of the fun things about doing this list over time is that I expect games will come and go based in large part upon what types of things my son is in to at the time.  That all being said, Dinosaur Exhibit is a rather fun game for adults playing with their kids.  It's much, much less mind-numbing as compared to many other children's games!

#48:  Food Chain Island

This year, I've started to dabble in solo games a bit more.  Food Chain Island surprised me a bit by making my list of top 50 games but I guess that's the fun of doing the Pub Meeple rankings.  In hindsight, I'm not sure why I don't immediately think of this as a Top 50 game for me - after all, I did play it solo 8 times this year!  In Food Chain Island, your goal is take a layout of 16 animal cards and slowly whittle the animals down to a single survivor.  To do so, you move one animal card to eat another animal.  Each animal has specific criteria (sometimes good, sometimes bad) that affects either what they can eat or how they can move.  Published by Button Shy, this game is super portable and easy to set up and tear down (which I've found I need if I'm going to play a game solo right now)!

#47:  Forbidden Island

My first (but definitely not last) cooperative game on the list.  Forbidden Island sees players working together to collect four treasures and then climb into a helicopter in order to escape an ever-sinking island.   With simple rules, great looking pieces, and slightly-asymmetric player powers, this game is a great introduction to cooperative games.  While my son and I found the first several difficulty levels too easy, playing on the hardest level is definitely a challenge.  

#46:  Ticket to Ride:  London

For the first half of 2023, my son was obsessed with Ticket to Ride.  We started him off with Ticket to Ride First Journey (basically a super kiddie version of Ticket to Ride).  He quickly outgrew that, so we then moved on to Ticket to Ride:  New York and then Ticket to Ride:  London.  Both TtR: New York and London are small map games designed for 2-4 players.  Each game plays in about 15 minutes as well so they are a perfect stepping stone to the "full experience" offered by big box versions of Ticket to Ride.  For my son and I, we definitely prefer TtR: London over New York and we still bust this game out every now and then when we want something kind of quick but still fun.  

#45:  Codenames

The classic thinking person's party game, Codenames makes it onto my Top 50 as the first party game on the list.  In Codenames, you play as two different teams competing to uncover all of the your team's secret words before the opposing team does the same with their words.  Each team has one designated clue giver while everyone else on the team works together to guess words based on the clue giver's clues.  The two main catches are that on the grid of words between the teams there is one word that if guessed is an automatic loss for the team that guesses the word.  The other catch is that the clue giver can only say a single word and a number for the clue.  For example, a clue giver might say "Blue, 3."  That clue would mean that there are three words that somehow related to the word blue.  Codenames is a truly a classic party game and while it's not a game that I generally try to get people to play, whenever I do actually sit down and play it I still have lots of fun.

#44:  Exploding Kittens

Back-to-back party games, Exploding Kittens is a fun, crazy card game where the goal is to knock out all of the other players at the table with bombs.  There's tons of ways to mess with your opponents, but it's all done in a light-hearted manner.  With the right group, this can be a super fun game with tales of revenge once an evening of gaming has concluded.  It's much, much more raucous than a game like Codenames!

#43:  Deep Sea Adventure

Deep Sea Adventure is another game that I reviewed earlier this year on the blog (see here).  This is a simple push your luck game that is fun to play with people of all ages.  My son and I still enjoy playing this game quite a bit when we want something rather quick but still exciting.  I will say that my son is much, much luckier with dice rolling than I am which might be why he enjoys this one so much!  

#42:  One Deck Dungeon

One Deck Dungeon is a game for one or two people.  The basic idea is that you have a deck of cards representing a dungeon and you need to progress through the deck.  Each card in the deck features a bad guy that must be defeated by rolling dice of appropriate colors and values.  It's deceptively thinky despite it's small box and rather simple ruleset.  This is also one of those rare games that I've enjoyed as both a two player experience as well as a solo experience.  

#41:  Tiny Epic Galaxies

The Tiny Epic series of games has been hit or miss with me overall.  Luckily, Tiny Epic Galaxies is one of the games in the series that firmly belongs in the "hit" camp of things.  In Tiny Epic Galaxies, you roll dice and attempt to collect resources, expand your influence over other planets, and build up your economy.  This isn't a game that I've played a lot yet (in fact, I've only played it once) but my initial impression was favorable enough that the game nearly cracked my Top 40.  As it stands, Tiny Epic Galaxies comes in at #41 on my list and thus closes out the first installment of my Top 50 Games of 2023.

I hope you've enjoyed the first part of my countdown.  Look for the next four parts on each of the next four Fridays in December (if all goes well)!  


  1. Forbidden Island is a personal favorite of mine, and Exploding Kittens was fun the one night I played it.

    1. I played Exploding Kittens with some of my college students a few weeks ago and it was a hit with them. My son loves Forbidden Island, it's nice to have a fun (fairly quick) co-op to play with him.


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