Board games: What’s hot in 2023!

By Peter Neugebauer 

Spielwarenmesse 2023 saw a veritable flood of interesting new board games that a retailer would probably have had a hard time finding online. Suppliers from both near and far are coming up with innovative parlour games.

Special innovations

Violin maker Sebastian Oberlin and media artist Adrian Rennertz have dared to do something completely new. With klang2, this start-up duo has combined classical analogue playing with modern technology. There are 20 tiles on the table, each with a chip inside. The cards communicate with each other via an app and smartphone. The result is an unparalleled collection of acoustic games. Among other things, there’s a memory game in which players have to look for countries and their capitals. When a pair is found, the national anthem of the country in question is played. Thanks to the AI in the background, players have to find new countries and capitals in each game. The collection offers a total of 15 different games. Besides the bookbinder’s edition, there are also classic versions in an elegant wooden design. (Oberlin & Rennertz GmbH)

“By the Book” from HCM Kinzel reinvents the solitary, one-player game. Two shelves, several books of different heights and a cat all have to be arranged to form a bookshelf in line with the instructions on the card. The assembled structure has to be upright. To check whether it is or not, a flowerpot is placed on the top shelf. The spirit level in the bucket determines whether the solution is correct. This challenging game is made of wood and the 40 task cards test the player’s ingenuity again and again. (HCM Kinzel)

“Fotosafari” from SmartGames is also a one-player game, but one for the very youngest players. In a plot suitable for children, animals such as a lion, elephant and giraffe have to come together in the savannah. Unfortunately, some of the paths are blocked. The lion doesn’t like to cross the water, the giraffe can’t get past the baobabs, and so on. The appealing material, with its clever sliding mechanism, encourages the children to solve all 60 tasks. And along the way, the child’s spatial imagination is trained. (SmartGames)

Backing the right card

Once again, NSV, the publisher with the cute games in a small box format, has an ace up its sleeve. “The Mind Soulmates” reinterprets “The Mind”, its successful predecessor. The cards in the hand have to be played in ascending order without consulting the other players. To make matters worse, the cards are placed face down. However, a player has knowledge of some of the values and gives the others playing the game a hint. The gameplay is still the same, but the task hasn’t got any easier. (Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag GmbH)

With “Bubbly”, Helvetiq offers a very nice card game for the entire family. One player is a soap bubble that wants to stay float for as long as possible before touching the ground and bursting. The other players have cards with disruptive actions found in the sky, such as butterflies or shuttlecocks. However, the bubble can avoid them by countering these cards. So that it can float for a long time, a little bluffing is also required. The special thing about this game is that it’s asymmetrical, which is quite unusual. (Helvetiq)

“Tiere toppen!” (Top Trump Animals!) by Drei Hasen in der Abendsonne is the third game in this successful series, after “Länder” (Countries) and “Inseln” (Islands), in which players have to call out their best statistic. The tried and trusted concept now comes in a most attractive format. What’s new is that whenever someone wins a card, it’s by no means safe in their hands. If another player has a predator in their hand, then they can lay claim to the card and win it. With 180 animal cards, there’s a lot of material and a wealth of variety in the small box. (Drei Hasen in der Abendsonne)

Pretty demanding

Trilogies seem to be coming into fashion again, and Corax is no exception. After “King of 12” and “Council of 12”, the “Queen of 12” is now taking the reins. It’s all about twelve-sided dice, the power stones, which have to be conquered with helpers and used skilfully. The plans of the other players should be anticipated, otherwise the coup won’t succeed. After kings and councils, a single queen will ultimately prevail and rule the twelve kingdoms. The games all have a similar feel, but the way of their gameplay is very different. (Corax)

After “Jammerlappen” (Cowardy-Custard), the Denkriesen games company has now come up with “Humbug”, another challenging game full of emotions. The active player describes the image on the card to the others or, if the card demands so, has to freely fabricate something. The other players have to guess whether the player is giving them a detailed description of the image on the card or talking humbug. It’s a game full of deception, guessing, bluffing and betting. Anyone who gets involved in this creative task will easily be able to spend a convivial evening playing games with friends. (Denkriesen)

Game Division is a newcomer with an interesting concept. “Viva”, its current card game, comes with abstract colour shapes, which have to be tactically placed down on the table, while observing a taboo colour. The taboo colour changes when the cards are set down. This prevents the player from placing all the cards in their hand down on the table at once. The games have three different formats and price ranges: Original, Pocket and Travel. In each price category, great store is set by design, quality and playability. (Game Division)

The cheeky battle bumblebee stings. After the successful game “Kampf gegen das Spießertum” (Battle against Philistinism), there’s now a family edition. The ideas on the cards are no longer quite so wacky but are still focused on the target group. “Mum ran over X with her car.” Is the answer card “Our funny neighbours” or rather “Grandpa's dentures” better? If everyone is prepared to be a little bit mean, then laughs all round are guaranteed. This version is also unsuitable for philistines. (Kampfhummel)

“Worte Querbeet” (Words All Over the Place) from frechverlag picks up on the idea of crosswords. Any game with letters that are formed into words is always challenging, as is the case here. Everyone writes individual letters into a simple crossword grid. Three dice determine the choice of letters. The difficulty, of course, is finding words that fit down and across to score high points. Fortunately, players can use jokers when filling in the grid. A simple game, but compelling. (frechverlag)

Can’t wait for more new board games?

Spielwarenmesse Digital offers further products from participating manufacturers from the Games, Books, Learning and Experimenting product group.

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About the author

Peter Neugebauer is still a “big kid” through and through. In early childhood, his parents introduced him to board games. And games were obligatory and always welcome at Christmas and on his birthday.He didn’t stop playing, not even during his years of study or working life. Early on, he reviewed new products, initially in trade journals, then also in daily newspapers and, for almost 40 years, in industry magazines. He can’t live without playing.

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