The Wargamer team’s favorite games of 2023

These are our little team’s personal favorite new games from 2023 - including tabletop triumphs and spectacular DnD videogames alike.

Wargamer team's games of the year 2023 - Wikimedia Commons photo of four baubles on the branch of a Christmas tree, with Network N media profile photos of Alex Evans, Mollie Russell, Tim Linward, and Matt Bassil edited onto the faces of the baubles with blurring

It’s Christmas; the winter holidays are in full swing, and the year 2023 is about to end – so naturally, Wargamer’s little team of four has been thinking back across 12 months of tabletop games and videogame offerings from our favorite universes. Here, we’d like to share our ultimate Game of The Year choices – and why we think they rock so hard.

At Wargamer, we straddle two different, but slowly merging worlds: tabletop games and videogames. On the tabletop, we cover everything from the best board games, to tabletop RPGs, to trading card games, to Warhammer 40k and other miniature wargames.

As for videogames, we keep our sights a little narrower, mainly covering two main territories: on one hand, the best Warhammer games and DnD games on PC; and, on the other, strategic and war titles we think our audience will love, from RTS and grand strategy games through to tactical CRPGs with one foot in the TTRPG world (one 2023 release fits that description best, of course).

I asked our team (that’s right, there really are only four of us) to cast their minds back through the whole year, across all those categories, and choose their absolute favorite game of the year – and here’s what we all came up with. If you only choose one 2023 release to buy, you cannot do better than one of these.

Wargamer Team's Games of the Year 2023 - screenshot from Baldur's Gate 3 showing a kobold merchant in the circus in Baldur's Gate outskirts, overlaid with a tag reading Mollie's Game of the Year, and a profile image for staff writer Mollie Russell

Mollie – staff writer & RPG specialist

Mollie Russell‘s game of the year is Baldur’s Gate 3 – The best Dungeons and Dragons videogame ever (seriously)

It was clear early on that Baldur’s Gate 3 was no ordinary game. And over 300 hours later, it continues to impress me. Few RPGs offer such depth, character, and freedom. With so many builds to test, BG3 companions to kiss, and cutscenes to discover, I’m going to be returning to Baldur’s Gate, over and over, for some time to come.

This is a turn-based RPG wearing the skin of Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition. Combat is a complex web of strategy, spellcasting, and ingenuity – a spontaneously thrown flagon of water can be as game-changing as an enormous fireball.

Wargamer Team's games of the year - Wargamer Baldur's Gate 3 screenshot showing editor Alex Evans' Tav kissing Wyl

Each environment features so much detail that you’ll never play out its scenes in the same way twice. Even when the story beats are the same, Baldur’s Gate 3 offers seemingly endless replayability.

And mark our words, the story rarely gets old. It’s a tapestry of quality cutscenes and idiosyncratic dialogue trees. Every character has impact, from the lowliest local rat to your most beloved travelling companions. From its humble beginnings to its truly epic finale, Baldur’s Gate 3’s narrative is one of the most compelling I’ve seen in gaming.

We’re not unique in giving Baldur’s Gate 3 a ‘Game of the Year’ recommendation. But, as our Baldur’s Gate 3 review can tell you, it really does deserve all the hype – and gamers of all kinds are missing out if they don’t give it a try.

Wargamer team's games of the year 2023 - Crusader Kings 3 Tours and Tournaments - A shiny helmet with an approaching horseman in it, overlaid with a blue tag reading "matt's game of the year" and a profile picture of Matt Bassil

Matt – staff writer & TCG specialist

Matt Bassil‘s game of the year is Crusader Kings 3 – finally approaching its full potential.

 

Before you ask, yes I am picking a grand strategy game title that came out in 2020 as my game of the year for 2023. Why? Well, partly because Mollie has already claimed Baldur’s Gate, but the main reason is that Crusader Kings 3 is a prime example of Paradox’s DLC model working just as intended. While Crusader Kings 3 was as broad as its predecessor upon release, and had a lot of great systems encouraging you to roleplay as a medieval monarch, it suffered from a severe lack of depth.

Indeed, while the game got plenty of good press because it was by far the most approachable Paradox title ever made, once you’d run through your first extended playthrough or two, you’d already exhausted a lot of what Crusader Kings 3 had to offer. After that, its Middle Ages map painting soon became a bit stale.

Crusader Kings 3 Tours and Tournaments: a hunt.

After an extended break, however, I was back at it in 2023. The simple reason for that is the new DLC. Tours and Tournaments did more for Crusader Kings 3 than any recent Paradox DLC release I’ve experienced. There was suddenly a lot to do in peacetime as well as when you were warring.

You were no longer twiddling your thumbs, playing at max speed waiting for the next casus belli, you were off on hunting parties and pilgrimages, competing in jousts or planning murder feasts.

More than the game’s new traveling and regency systems, which are decent but nothing to write home about, it’s the excellent new events that won me over. I’m not sure exactly how many new encounters and interactions Tours and Tournaments has actually added to Crusader Kings 3, but it feels like it’s just about doubled from the base game.

Crusader Kings 3: Tours and Tournaments DLC - screenshot by Paradox Interactive, planning a pilgrimage

This really expands the roleplaying aspect of CK3, which was already shaping up to be its strength, thanks to the way the game encourages you to play to your character’s traits. Now being at peace is just as engaging as attempting to conquer your enemies.

The only tricky thing with this DLC, however, and the thing that I think has given it somewhat mixed reviews on Steam, is it’s hard to know exactly what was added by the paid DLC pack. Tours and Tournaments came out alongside a free update that added a great many of its systems – albeit in a simplified form – to the base game. But that’s as much a plus as it is a drawback, since it means those who didn’t splash on the DLC also benefit from the quality of life updates added to the game.

Now all we need is for a couple more quality DLCs and for the CK3 modding community to catch up with the previous game, and the title will be perfect. After many new hours sunk into Crusader Kings 3, enjoying the upgrades Tours and Tournaments provided, a hunger for mods has seen me start pouring time into Crusader Kings 2: I just love that Game of Thrones total conversion.

Check out our Crusader Kings 3 Tours and Tournaments review for more details.

Wargamer Team's Games of the Year 2023 - Wargamer photo showing two painted Star Wars Shatterpoint minis, overlaid with a tag reading Tim's game of the year, and a profile picture for staff writer Tim Linward

Tim – staff writer & miniatures specialist

Tim Linward‘s game of the year is Star Wars: Shatterpoint – An elegant wargame for a more civilized age.

Star Wars fans and wargamers alike owe it to themselves to check out Star Wars: Shatterpoint. Atomic Mass Games has taken the rapid advance, thrust, and parry of a lightsaber duel and translated it into a lightning fast skirmish wargame that favors quick wits and daring gambits.

Fighting with a small team of familiar faces drawn from across the Star Wars canon, you’re fighting to win two out of three rounds holding objectives around the map. It’s always transparent what you need to do to win, but the unit you will be able to activate next is chosen randomly, rewarding improvisation over planning.

Wargamer team's games of the year - Wargamer photo showing three Star Wars Shatterpoint minis in combat on terrain

Combat is more than just rolling dice. Rolling well for an attack gives you extra moves along your ‘combat tree’, a branching path of unique effects for each unit that might include driving the enemy back, healing, or somersaulting onto an objective.

The game effortlessly generates classic Star Wars moments, from Anakin deflecting blaster shots to Darth Maul brutally murdering anything he touches. The starter set had the foul luck to launch just a month before Warhammer 40k 10th edition. If you overlooked it, now’s the time to give it a go. See our Star Wars Shatterpoint review for more information.

Wargamer Team's Games of the Year 2023 - Wargamer photo showing a Frosthaven Boneshaper mini on the map board, overlaid with a tag for Alex's game of the year, and a profile picture for Wargamer editor Alex Evans

Alex – editor & hopeless Warhammer 40k obsessive

Alex Evans‘ game of the year is Frosthaven – the RPG board game of my dreams

As Wargamer’s editor, I’m a bit of an occasional, generalist reviewer for the site, focusing mainly on the problematic love of my life, Warhammer 40k. Landmark board game releases tend to go to our specialist writers; in the case of Cephalofair’s magnificent Frosthaven, that honor went to the excellent Mollie Russell.

But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t also trapped me in its icy embrace – and, while I’ve only explored a tiny portion of its vast, branching fantasy campaign, it’s still my game of the year by some margin. Mollie’s splendid Frosthaven review gives a full account of its wonders, but this monster RPG board game earns my top spot for more abstract reasons.

My favorite videogames, by a country mile, are story driven RPGs that combine adept storytelling; dynamic, evolving circumstances I can personally influence; and crunchy gameplay systems to keep me challenged and engrossed. At the same time, after a few hours in even the best CRPGs around, I start to crave the tactile joy and physicality of moving pieces on a board. Maybe I’m just easily distracted, who knows.

Wargamer team's games of the year - Wargamer photo showing a Frosthaven character mini on the board during a scenario

Either way, it means I’ve always dreamt of a big, bold board game that mixes all these ingredients into one huge, delicious cake – and that’s precisely what Frosthaven is. Its predecessor Gloomhaven was, too, but I came late to that game, and before it had a chance to get its teeth into me, its frosty successor arrived to deliver the same thing, but bigger, better, and more so in every way.

There’s colorful exploration, via the physical map board and the dozens of places you’ll discover on your adventure, adding stickers to mark them out in the world.

There’s world building, narrative, and a sense of location, too; the ongoing metagame sees you rebuild the town of Frosthaven from nothing, generating new strategy options, character encounters, equipment, and narrative side-quests along the way.

Wargamer team's games of the year - Wargamer photo showing the Frosthaven map board laid out on a red tabletop

There’s roleplaying, with the ‘Haven games’ signature library of unique character classes to play through, develop, and leave behind when their story ends. And, of course, there’s the meat and potatoes: razor sharp, challenging, and rewarding dungeon-crawler scenarios to play through.

Lots of other games have captivated me this year. Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of my favorite games of all time – but, having spent nearly two entire weeks of her life playing it, Mollie’s earned the right to pick that one as her GOTY. Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader gets an honorable mention, too, as a slightly scrappy but ultimately superb RPG in my beloved 40k universe, which I honestly can’t stop playing at the moment.

But, of all 2023’s new releases on screen or tabletop, only Frosthaven promises to keep drawing me back in for months and possibly years to come (depending on how many other board games steal my table-space in the meantime). I’ll be back soon, Frosty. Count on it.

Wargamer team's games of the year - Wargamer photo showing several monster standees laid out in Frosthaven scenario map on the tabletop

There you have it, folks: the ultimate tippy tops of 2023, as far as your Wargamer team’s concerned. It’s been a cracking year for us – as you see from our editor’s holiday message – and we’ve loved sharing it with you. See you all for another year of tabletop terrific-ness in 2024!