Who can’t believe that 2023 is nearly over? *raises hand* As the year winds down, this seems like the time to reflect on the things that helped us or brought us joy. The following is a list (not exhaustive) of my favorite apps, books, music, TV, and video games from the last year, including many that I would recommend to others. You can find my list from 2021 here. (I missed compiling this list in 2022, in no small part because I was sampling eastern Germany’s best Christmas Markets all through December.)


  • Airalo. My new go-to for international data, but you’ll need an unlocked phone. I was able to save a ton of money by setting up a second e-SIM to access Japanese mobile data networks. (It cost $10 for 10GB of data across 30 days, which was plenty for the week I spent there, and much cheaper compared to my phone plan’s offerings.) I wish I’d heard of this before my trips to England and Europe this year, but I was able to try it out in Japan successfully. I’ll definitely be making use of this app when traveling in the future. The only downside is that I can’t have both e-sims active, so I had to restart my phone in order to check my text messages. Luckily, most communication is done over apps these days instead of SMS, so I wasn’t missing much.
  • Reverso. This app pulled more than its weight for me while I was traveling abroad this summer. The thing I liked most about it is how it pulls up example sentences so you can help see the context and usage of a given word. It also saves your searches for you, so if you were a more disciplined language student than me, you could write down any new vocabulary in a notebook to study later. Also, it’s free and works fairly well offline, and it’s able to handle multiple languages in the same app.
  • Vivino. When in France, drink as the French do, I suppose. But when you’re at the supermarket trying to decide between the many, many wines available for less than 10€, this app helps to narrow down the field. Scanning the label gives you the user score for that vintage, plus a personalized rating for how it compares to previous wines you’ve enjoyed. By rating the wines I tried, I was able to get a better sense of my preferred styles and remember which labels to avoid in the future. It was also excellent to have on hand when we went to Bordeaux and sampled various Grand Crus. The app helped me to get a sense for how much those bottles would fetch back home, and whether it was worth it to buy it in France to bring home or to seek it out at my local liquor store.


  • Dracula by Bram Stoker. The vampire book that started it all (well, not quite), this one really does live up to its reputation as a classic. A few years ago, I read Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars and enjoyed it tremendously (it even served as the inspiration for a Dark Sun one-shot scenario I wrote based around Queen Tara), so I’m not sure what took me so long to get to Dracula. The epistolary style is really well done and should serve as a reference point for any game masters who long to add handouts to their campaigns. It’s inspired me to try running Night’s Black Agents in the new year.
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. Apparently this book is the first in an urban fantasy series I’ve been sleeping on for some time. The easy comparison is Storm Front, the first book in the Dresden Files, but I have to say that this one comes out on top re: modern wizard investigator stories, mostly because of the protagonist’s sense of humor and the audiobook narrator’s brilliant delivery. I think fans of British TV will find themselves very much at home with this book. I had the happy accident of being in London while reading this, and I had been exploring Covent Garden and the alleys surrounding the Royal Opera House immediately before reading the finale, which helped tremendously when picturing the final scenes.
  • Slaying the Dragon by Ben Riggs. With the news of the recent Hasbro layoffs affecting the D&D team at Wizards of the Coast, this book feels like required reading to understand some of the boom and bust cycles of D&D (although, sadly, D&D seems to be doing better than ever, and the layoffs appear to be mandated to help cover losses elsewhere in the company). It’s hard to fact-check/cross-reference this book because so much of it is original research and interviews done by the author, but that’s precisely why it’s a must-read for fans of the franchise.


  • All Quiet on the Western Front (Soundtrack from the Netflix Film). One word: haunting. The main “melody” is extremely simplistic, but it fits the subject matter so well. I also recommend the movie if you play any 20th century-based wargames or read any history. I found it interesting that this was only the first time a German production company adapted it from the book.
  • Seelie by CLANN. I’m not sure how to categorize this album, except it’s incredibly ambient and dark and pagan (especially Celtic). The tracks all kind of blend together in a good way, making it excellent for writing or focus work.
  • Gris (Original Game Soundtrack). Another great soundtrack I put on repeat this year, mostly while reading. It’s melancholic, sweeping, hopeful. I’ve never played the video game, but if it’s half as good as the score, it’ll be quite good.


  • Barbie. I went for a “Barbenheimer” double-feature this summer, and I did not expect Barbie to hit way harder than Oppenheimer did. Ryan Gosling might have stolen the show, but the story and the feels really made this movie stay with us. Coming from a franchise development/IP approval perspective (and this is where I have to do the disclaimer that my opinions are my own, I’m not speaking on behalf of my employer Asmodee), I’m shocked that Mattel let this get made, but I’m so glad they did.
  • Blue Eye Samurai. (Netflix) I had little idea this was coming until a few weeks before the release, but this show blew me away and shattered any expectations I had for it. The character development, the animation, the voice acting, the themes… it’s hard to find faults with the show (although, perhaps Mizu’s ending was unexpected). If you enjoy samurai cinema or anime, if you’re at all interested in the history of Japan, or if you’re simply an appreciator of animation, this is a must-watch.
  • Vienna Blood. (PBS) I like to joke that I have a grandmother’s taste in TV, because BBC/ITV period dramas make up so much of my streaming diet, but this is a mystery/detective show first and foremost. Instead of Sherlock and Watson, you’ve got Detective Rheinhardt and Max Liebermann. Max is a Jew in 1900s Vienna and a student of Freud’s work, with the psychoanalysis lending the show an interesting frame, but I’ve also really appreciated how important his family is to the show. I’ve found it really fascinating how they explore the many peoples of the Austro-Hungarian empire before its collapse, and it’s made me want to run a Cthulhu by Gaslight campaign in Vienna (elements of which I might pull forward into the NBA game).

Video Games

  • Baldur’s Gate 3. (PC) It shouldn’t come as a surprise that someone whose hobbies center on Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games should thoroughly enjoy this game, but I’m certain that even folks who have never rolled a d20 will be delighted by this CRPG from Larian Studios. The writing and voice performances are phenomenal, and the sheer amount of content (and thus, replayability) is staggering. I’ve logged over 60 hours playing and can easily see myself playing for 60 more. I’ve only just started Act II, so no spoilers, please!
  • Horizon: Forbidden West. (PS5) I was a bit of a latecomer to this game after it released in 2023, but once I started, I could barely put it down. Amazing characters? Check. Phenomenal gameplay? Check. Open-world exploration that actually evokes the feeling of discovery? Check. My only quibble is that the story isn’t quite as brilliant as the first game, but given that the first game was a masterpiece and easily in my top 5 games of all time, that’s a high bar to clear. I admit I bought a PlayStation 5 just so I could play the Burning Shores expansion when it came out in April, and while personally I had been shipping Aloy with Kotallo, I appreciate the romantic subplot being included.

What were some of your favorites from 2023? Did your list have any of the same titles as mine?

Featured image by Alisa Anton on Unsplash