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The GamingTrend 2023 holiday guide — Tabletop edition!

At this point you’ve probably gotten your fill of video games and hardware and gear, but now it’s time for some real fun- Tabletop! We’ve got some great picks for those cardboard Santas out there:


Light weight games

boop.

Just one game into boop. and you will begin to see its full potential. The mark of a great abstract game is simple rules with emergent strategies that the players get to discover as they master the game. boop. is abstract puzzley goodness at its best, and an adorable theme to boop.

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Beacon Patrol board

Beacon Patrol

Beacon Patrol by Pandasaurus Games offers a captivating blend of nautical adventure and cooperative strategy for 1-4 players. The unique mechanics around tile placement, alongside the inviting cozy aesthetic, create a warm and engaging atmosphere that complements the thematic voyage. While there may be minor challenges with scoring and tile placement, the overall experience is a delightful fusion of strategy and maritime camaraderie, making it a worthwhile addition to any board game collection.

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Bonsai

Looking to chill and play a relaxing game? Look no further. Bonsai is a tile laying game where players are building their own bonsai tree whilst attempting to score the most points. Player interaction is limited to choosing end game scoring tiles and drafting cards from the shared market. Friendly competition is the name of the game as you carefully craft your tree and admire your opponents creations.

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Fiction

Wordle never died, it just became a board game. Add in the fact that the LIEbrarian can’t be trusted and you will quickly be scratching your head and wondering why you didn’t pay more attention in school. Fiction is immediately familiar to fans of the popular NY Times game, Wordle, but the added Liebrarian twist turns it into a fantastic one vs many board game. Easy to take with you and easy to teach, we couldn’t get enough of Fiction at Gen Con… even if we were all terrible at it.

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Medium Light weight games

Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game

Familiar deck building mechanics set in the Star Wars universe. A great two player game for the newcomer and veteran deck builder with plenty of room to expand the galaxy. In fact, an expansion has been announced for 2024, so now is a great time to get started.

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Dawn of Ulos

This mixture of Tigris & Euphrates and Acquire plays faster and simpler than either. Its wager system and direct player interaction bring a unique flavor to the stock market genre while scaling well at all player counts.

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Azul: Chocolatier Edition

For anyone who has yet to purchase this classic, the Chocalatier edition is the one to get. It comes with an excellent factory tile module to shake up play for more experienced hands and looks more scrumptious than ever. Not necessary for someone with the original, but a great gift for anyone else.

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Heat: Pedal to the Metal

Heat is like if someone tossed all my favorite elements from push-your-luck and deck management into a blender. The end result isn’t for everyone, but if you’re willing to accept a lack of control, it’s a great ride.

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Medium weight games

Snap Ship Tactics

Combining an awesome, customizable ship building set with great gameplay mechanics, Snap Ships Tactics is a fun, tactical game with huge potential. Snap Ships Tactics is many things in one. It is cool, fun, creative, tactical, and exciting! There is so much potential for this to be an amazing, expansive, living game. It is deceptively deep for being based off of toy space ships.

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Iki

Combining an awesome, customizable ship building set with great gameplay mechanics, Snap Ships Tactics is a fun, tactical game with huge potential. Snap Ships Tactics is many things in one. It is cool, fun, creative, tactical, and exciting! There is so much potential for this to be an amazing, expansive, living game. It is deceptively deep for being based off of toy space ships.

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Heavy weight games

City of the Great Machine

Take on the role of a team of revolutionaries fighting against a sentient local government or even the bureaucracy itself trying to keep the citizens in line. A great hidden movement one vs. many game that shines in its versatility of play modes and player counts. Tension and excitement from turn one.

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The White Castle

In The White Castle, you are a clan trying to gain favor with the court. Utilizing dice as a workers, you will tend gardens, train warrriors, and send courtesans through the rooms of the palace to gain victory. Each player only gets twelve turns, so adapting the board as the game progresses is a must. The White Castle packs a lot of game into a small box and is great for a quicker game with deep strategy.

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Barcelona

The city of Barcelona is expanding and you take on the role of an architect sent in to help. Place new citizens on the board to take actions such as building roads, moving your tram around the city, placing down cobblestone streets for bonuses, building public service buildings, and gaining new end game goals. Impress the master architect, Ildefons Cerdà, to gain big combos and outscore your opponents. A beautiful addition to the table with fun combos, tight decisions, and points; lots and lots of points.

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Root

Adorable woodland creatures locked in a deathmatch for forest supremacy? Tell me more. Root is a deceptively deep and strategic war game wrapped up in charmining artwork. Cats will attempt to dominate through numbers and infrastructure while birds rule through absolute authority and planning. Mice take on gorilla warfare while Racoons sneak around in the ruins of society looking for treasure. Asymmetric factions will battle it out in this absolute beast of a game.

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Marrakesh

A point salad with legs. Select and draft keshi tokens to power up your actions to become the most influential family in Marrakesh. A deep game with engine building and variable strategies to achieve victory. Different production versions are available for different wants, but either version makes for a great addition to the tabletop game space.

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Kutná Hora's dynamic economy mechanic sets it apart from other games its weight

Kutná Hora: The City of Silver

City building euro with real-time supply and demand economy. Double sided action cards played each round give you both the choice and limit your options as the round goes on. Each player is assigned a set of guilds and those give asymmetric abilities. There is a ton of depth to this game, lots of choices to make and limited turns to make them.

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Expansions

Lost Ruins of Arnak: Missing Expedition

The Missing Expedition expansion for the Lost Ruins of Arnak adds a lot of gameplay to Lost Ruins of Arnak in a small box. Not only are the two new expedition leaders powerful and fun to play, but the campaign is something that will get back on the table often. The solo experience is great, but the cooperative variation brings in some fun challenges to work through with another player. At the end of the day, this expansion makes a great game better, and is a must for solo or two-player gamers.

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Ark Nova: Marine Worlds

Ark Nova gets expanded with Marine Worlds, adding aquariums and sea creatures with new abilities. New reef dwellers will activate each other as more and more are built and the new sea creatures will help players get through the deck faster. A new fourth university will help with end game scoring and new alternate action cards add some twist and a bit of asymmetry to the game. This expansion makes the base game better and is a must have for fans of the core game.

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Cascadia: Landmarks

In the Landmarks expansion of Cascadia, players are able to add special markers to their boards according to the environment tiles in their habitat. These special landmarks add some endgame scoring bonuses on top of the wildlife scoring cards. The expansion also comes with some new wildlife scoring cards for each of the species in the game as well as new starting habitat tiles and enough components to play up to six players.

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Family Games

Monster Munch

With Monster Munch, Haba delivers another win in the kids gaming category. The classic memory match game is elevated with a fun theme, beautifully produced pieces, and interesting new mechanics. My own kids and my nieces and nephews ranging from ages 3-7 all had a great time with it.

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Dragon’s Breath

Kid’s games tend to lean heavily into teaching a skill or else being complete nonsense. HABA breaks the mold and continues to put out fun games that give kids a foundation in game mechanics while also teaching them great skills. Dragon’s Breath get’s kids thinking critically about what color gems will be dropped when they lift the ice ring and reinforces some basic counting skills. It’s genuinely fun and may just be the game to hook your kids on the hobby.

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Ticket to Ride: Legends of the West

America is expanding and your company is on the leading edge of transportation. The classic Ticket to Ride rules expanded with this legacy variant for up to 5 players. Westward Expansion is not easy, and new rules and events will add new twists and turns to the quest for Manifest Destiny. This 12 scenario campaign is great for fans of the franchise.

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Cranium Big Brain Detective

Can anyone say they didn’t enjoy a game of I Spy or Where’s Waldo or a Highlights Magazine at the dentist growing up? There’s just something about these types of games that is endlessly fun. A slight challenge, a quick reward, the self satisfaction of finding all 12 of those fish is a formula for success. Cranium Big Brain Detective features a huge piece of art with a great cast of cartoon characters and features to feast your roaming eyes upon. With challenge cards ranging from very easy to actually kind of puzzly and hard, this game isn’t just for kids. It’s silly, it’s mostly super easy, it’s a lot of fun.

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Party Games

It’s Kind of a Fun Story

This game is a warm hug. A social, party game with inviting artwork and deep questions that will bring your group closer together by sharing in each other’s lives and stories. With adaptable play styles and easy entry, this is a fun one to get to know new and old friends even better.

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Heroes of Barcadia

Heroes of Barcadia is silly fun, and a great way to spend an evening sitting around the table with friends and enjoying a few drinks. The production is high quality and won’t be spoiled by a spilled drink or two. While it may be light on actual gameplay, that doesn’t stop it from being a good laugh and great time.

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TTRPGs

Pirate Borg

Pirate Borg has substance, style, and avast(!) array of content to entertain you. While it is compatible with other Morg Borg material, the completeness and complexity of this book is more than you need to remain entertained for deep, explorative adventures.

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The One Ring 2E

The One Ring is a fantastic reimagining of this Middle Earth system, with intense focus on exploration and survival. Its mechanics are gamified to a point that doesn’t serve all tastes, but those mechanics are well suited to their purpose and sell the stories of treacherous journeys that fit right at home in Tolkien’s work.

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The Darkest Dream

GooeyCube’s 5E adventures are designed to help a Dungeon Master run better campaigns, and the first chapter of the Red Star Rising Campaign- The Darkest Dream- is the best place to start! With 150 pages of content and over 120 player handouts, this adventure acts as a perfect introduction to the Wy’rded World of Zyathe’ for players and DMs alike!

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Pathfinder 2e: Remaster Edition

Pathfinder: 2nd Edition is back with new remastered Gamemaster and Player core books. The new remaster combines features from some of the expansion books and errata released over the past few years into two manuals, with more content coming in 2024. These remastered editions make some systems of the 2e game easier to manage and easier for new players to grasp the mechanics of the game. While all the older 2e content is still usable, the new remastered books are easier to use and great for new players of the game.

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Dispel's Dice make all other dice look boring

Dispel Dice

Just when we thought we had finally filled the d20 sized hole in our heart, Dispel Dice comes along and changes the whole game all over again. These sharp-edged dice may be the most gorgeous math-rocks we’ve ever set eyes on, and between the iconic inlaid pattern sets and the liquid core chonky twenty sided beast, many of us here at GamingTrend have found a new obession….

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CCG/TCGs

Magic: The Gathering The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Scene Boxes

Wizards of the Coast is trying something new this year for Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Scene Boxes. These scene boxes come with six foil cards that can be displayed as a single panoramic artwork. They depict amazing artwork from Lord of the Rings and include Aragorn at Helm’s Deep, Flight of the Witch-King, The Might of Galadriel, and Gandalf in Pelennor Fields. Also included are three set boosters for Tales of Middle-Earth, six identical art cards and a cardboard display easel. These make a great gift for anyone who loves Lord of the Rings or Magic: The Gathering and especially for anyone who plays Commander. The six included cards are designed for Commander and they look like powerful additions to any commander deck. If you’re unsure what the Magic: The Gathering person in your life wants, these are a good option as they offer both specific cards and set booster packs.

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Disney Lorcana

Solid gameplay and fantastic original artwork will have any Disney fan smiling. Whether you are an experienced CCG player or new the hobby, Lorcana is a great game to jump into. You’ll be singing along and questing your way to victory before you know it.

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Hobby

Army Painter Speedpaint Metallics

Solid quality, great coverage, and every tint of metal that a hobbyist will need for their Necrons, armor plating, vehicles, and more, The Army Painter Speedpaint Metallics are a fantastic gift for the miniature painting in your life (or yourself).

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Black Oak Workshop Advent-ure Calendars

Do you need something to keep your resident dice goblin distracted until Christmas? Black Oak Workshop offers their Advent-ure Calendars featuring unique dice that can countdown to Christmas and beyond. Their dice are larger than standard sets and made from high quality resin plastic. They have Advent–ure Calendars with a wide variety of themes ranging from Santa’s Workshop to Witch’s Brew. This year they are adding three new sets with Lost Caverns, Ravens Faire, and A Christmas Carol! These calendars are a fantastic way to start off the holiday season as everyone loves adding new dice to their collection.

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Books

A photo of a food spread in the cookbook

Exquisite Exandria: The Official Cookbook of Critical Role

If you or someone you know is a fan of Critical Role, Dungeons and Dragons, or just expansive cookbooks, Exquisite Exandria is one of the best licensed product cookbooks out on the market today. Whip up some pastries from the Slayer’s Cake, batch make some Ruby of the Sea cocktails…it’ll definitely add some magic to the holiday party.

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Editor-in-Chief, Tabletop | [email protected]

Mike Dunn is the old man of Gaming Trend, having cut his teeth on Atari consoles and First Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons back in the day. His involvement with Gaming Trend dates back to 2003, and he’s done everything from design and code to writing and managing. Now he has come full circle, with a rekindled passion for tabletop gaming and a recent debut as Dungeon Master (nearly forty years after he purchased the original DMG).

Lead Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

A life long video gamer, Mark caught the Tabletop itch in college and has been hooked ever since. Epic two player strategy games are his favorites but he enjoys pretty much everything on the tabletop, just no Werewolf please. When he gets a break from changing diapers and reading bedtime stories he can usually be found researching new games or day dreaming about maybe one day having time for a ttrpg. Some of Mark's favorite games are Star Wars: Rebellion, A Feast for Odin, and Nemesis.

Lead Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

Dan is an educator from Colorado. Growing up as an Air Force dependent gained him lots of new perspectives on the world and a love for making new friends, especially over a good board game. When not at school or playing a board game, Dan is probably at the gym, attending a local sporting event, or performing or attending theater. Dan loves heavy euros, deck builders, living card games, and great solo rules.

Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

If you liked this, consider donating to the author at his website www.weeksauthor.com. GamingTrend is composed of volunteers who dedicate their free time to the hobby we love. Financial support means more time spent writing and more articles like this one!

Sean Weeks fell in love with the modern tabletop scene in 2004 with Tom Lehmann's Race for the Galaxy,but his chief passions are writing, antiquity, and anthropology. You can read his work in Paste Magazine or (formerly) Dicebreaker.

Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

Randy is a designer, nerd, and mini painter. He's been painting since 2015, and has learned a lot in his time! Come with him as he continues to push his craft forward, always down to try new techniques, tools, and paints!

Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

Samuel is an an avid tabletop gamer with a preference for heavy euros and cooperative story-driven campaigns through immersive worlds. When not at a gaming table, he can be found kayaking, catching a baseball game or hunting down some delicious food.

Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

Chris began tabletop gaming in college and quickly fell into the addictive world of cardboard. Beginning with D&D and Catan he became an enthusiast of all things gaming; analog or digital. Chris, now a relapsed MtG player, loves connecting with people via gaming through RPGs, board games, and video games. A particular favorite is testing friendships through social deduction games.

Image of Mike Case
Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

Starting with the classic charm of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Mike ventured into the spell-slinging arenas of Magic: The Gathering. He later immersed himself in the strategy and storytelling of modern board games. His passion has taken him from digital realms to tactile tabletops, always in search of the next great game.

Senior Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

John Farrell is an attorney working to create affordable housing, living in West Chester Pennsylvania. You can listen to him travel the weird west as Carrie A. Nation in the Joker's Wild podcast at: https://jokerswildpodcast.weebly.com/ or follow him on Bluesky @johnofhearts

Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

Nick grew up reading fantasy novels and board game rules for fun, so he accepted he was a dork at an early age. When he's not busy researching the intricacies of a hobby he'll never pick up, Nick can be caught attempting to either cook an edible meal or befriend local crows.

The GamingTrend 2023 holiday guide — Tabletop edition!

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