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Interesting Games from Small Publishers and Less Prolific Designers
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Hobby gamers are a fickle bunch and are always eager to try out the latest release. To stay viable, prolific designers and larger publishers maintain a catalog of games to support their brand and livelihood. Each year the major publishers release a new crop of games at major conventions like Essen, Origins, Nuremberg, and GenCon.

Although there are some notable exceptions, I believe that this business practice breeds a degree of mediocrity. Rather than take risks and blaze trails by releasing unique products, publishers and designers often rehash ideas, mechanisms, and themes of previously successful games. After a breakout hit, we’re bound to see a number of similar games or expansions hit the market shortly thereafter.

Fortunately, small publishers and less prolific designers provide an alternative. Since they’re not constrained by the same business model, they're more likely to take risks, innovate, and/or provide lavish production values. In recent years, a number of unknown designers and publishers have been responsible for some of the most interesting, original games.

Please add games created by small publishers and less-prolific designers that interest you or that you enjoy. Perhaps this list will help their games gain greater exposure and recognition.
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101. Board Game: Catacombs [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:449]
Ryan Amos
Canada
Ontario
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We're a small publisher producing our first game in early 2010: Catacombs

Catacombs is an action/dexterity based adventure board game. One player controls the Overseer, controlling the monsters of the catacombs. The other player(s) control the four heroes who cooperatively try to defeat the monsters and eventually the Catacomb Lord. The main mechanic of Catacombs is for the players to flick wooden discs representing the monsters and the heroes. Contact with an opposing piece inflicts damage but missiles, spells, and other special abilities can cause other effects. When all of the monsters of a room have been cleared, the heroes can move further into the catacomb. Items and equipment upgrades can be purchased from the Merchant with gold taken from fallen monsters. The Catacomb Lord is the final danger that the heroes must defeat to win the game. Conversely, the Overseer wins if all of the heroes are defeated.
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102. Board Game: Galaxy's Edge [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:4269]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Andrei Burago
Publisher: Assa Games

Comments:

"Another great game from Andrei Burago, designer of "Conquest of the Fallen Lands"."

"It is very nice to see a game of galactic conquest with totally Euro mechanics. Simple, elegant and fast. But there was no need to take the Euro-style up to the point of wooden components, which are a bit of a let-down. The game is thematic enough with the expansion of colonies and the various alien races, but the military conquest is quite abstract (not for the lack of combat, but for the inconsistent value of classes of military bases). Also, it requires four players for the alien powers to be properly balanced. However, my only big complaint is the card playing. I understand that it had to be limited somehow, as the cards can be very powerful. But using a die to determine if you can draw/play a card was a terrible idea and increases the inherent luck factor a lot."

"Beautifully produced. Gameplay is pretty abstract, but has some neat mechanisms. I need to play more to decide if they're ultimately opaque, or just require a few plays to figure out."

"A very interesting take on area-control with a well-melded sci-fi theme. Quite enjoyable and fits nicely into its weight class."
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103. Board Game: Castle Panic [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:609]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Justin De Witt
Publisher: Fireside Games

Comments:

"Early rating based on co-op game only. This is a fun family game that even my 6 & 8 year old children can play well. I think this one will get a lot of plays."

"Nice light co-op game with the opportunity for some selfishness and screwage built in. The rules are very well done and the simplicity is itself attractive. Kids will like this every bit as much as adults."

"The best cooperative game for kids that I have come across yet. Simple rules, choices and player interaction all wrapped up in an hour long game."

"Great fun for the whole family! No really."
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104. Board Game: Fzzzt! [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:2015]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Tony Boydell
Publisher: Surprised Stare Games Ltd.

Comments:

"This game is a little gem and could become the quick card game of choice. Players bid for robots. Robots fill your hand as in Dominion, but there is an element of hand management as you can discard robots onto any production units you have acquired as long as there are matching symbols. Lots to think about. Nice graphics but the card symbols and rules text could have been larger. Recommended."

"Nice short & fast cardgame with lovely cartoony robot art."

"Fzzzt! is a really nice little auction/set-collection filler. Cards serve multiple purposes: money for bidding, straight victory points, and components in sets that score more points. The blind bidding, which I don't usually like, works well and the passing of the 'spanner' to the loser of a tie is a really nice mechanic (pun intended) that can put players in an unexpectedly sticky spot."

"Fun, attractive, and certainly good value for money!"
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105. Board Game: Sumeria [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:1724]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Dirk Liekens
Publisher: Reiver Games

Comments:

"Very imaginative game! Lots of strategic choices, yet simple and elegant rule system and a fairly quick play. Well done!"

"Very fun game in a small box. While very different than, say, Yspahan, it somehow scratches the same itch for me. Simple area-control mechanism but the shifting advantages of controlling particular city-states add to the challenge of this straight-forward game. Simple rules, nice components, and ever-changing strategies. I look forward to playing again. I prefer the 3 player game to the 4 player game (though both are fun) because it is less chaotic."

"A lot of game in a small box. Well worth pulling out to start or end an evening games session. Could also be a great 'lunch hour' game, plenty of depth there for a 45 minute game."

"Puts the "nasty" in "dynasty"."
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106. Board Game: Homesteaders [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:282]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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designer: Alex Rockwell
publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games

comments:

"...done a great job balancing all the various buildings in the game, and there's really a lot of emergent strategy that comes out of every play."

"A very good Action/Bidding game where the mechanic is handled brilliantly. It plays very well with either 3 or 4, and is a little more challenging with 3."

"An optimization game at its heart, Homesteaders doesn't reinvent the wheel, instead, it took some of the best mechanics and melded them into something that is both familiar and different at the same time. For a total of 10 turns, players get the chance to bid on the right to construct buildings that will generate money, goods, VP and/or actions."

"Rules and gameplay are relatively simple and easy to learn, but the game is full of interesting and complex decisions. Thus far, it has received a big thumbs up from the serious gamers in my group who have tried it."
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107. Board Game: Kachina [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:2486]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Scott Caputo
Publisher: Bucephalus Games / Mudcap Games

Comments:

"A lotta thinking for such a straightforward tile laying game. Simple yet challenging and quick. Very rare combinations of qualities in a game."

"This is a great two-player game. You don't need to commit a lot of time, but get great satisfaction out of a play."

"This is a nice tile placement, hand management game. Very impressive for a first published game. I would like to play again. Reminds me a little of mash up of Kingdoms and Qwirkle - 2 games I enjoy."

"Great game with ingenious method of making the low point cards worth potentially more than the high point cards by giving them special powers. Trumping someone elses high point row is especially fun!"
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108. Board Game: Summoner Wars [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:220] [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked]
Jim McMahon
United States
West Springfield
Massachusetts
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Designer: Colby Dauch
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games

Comments:
"Would love this game! Huge fan of Heroscape. Would love the Dwarves!!!! "

"I tried this game out at GenCon and I'm really looking forward to it! It's easy to learn, quick to play, and yet seems surprisingly deep. "

"Played this with a playtester, and this is SO fun. Easy as hell to learn, plays in under 45 minutes, and the art is fantastic.
It's a minis game with cards instead of minis. "

"Played this at GenCon 2009 and it looks great! Can't wait to get it!"
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109. Board Game: Ants! [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:4031]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Theodore Aitken
Publisher: Twisted Winds Ltd.

Comments:

"This was my favorite gem of a find from Essen."

"I really like the game. It's original (I especially like the combat system), easy to explain and quick to play. It's also funny and looks pretty good. Definitely worth the small price that was asked at the fair (€25,-).

My only (minor) complaints are that the rulebook could have been clearer and that there is a slight printing error. This error didn't affect the gameplay, and it's being fixed by the publisher."

"Wishlist - Resource aquisition, supply lines, combat and area control as ants at a park! Cute art and pretty fun looking game play. Right up my alley."
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110. Board Game: Chase [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:2451]
Kevin Garnica
United States
Buena Park
California
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This is actually a short strategy game that uses (are you sitting down?) *DICE* as the playing pieces. You won't roll a single die during this game. Instead, they move according to the number of pips showing. then, there's seven different moves you can perform with the dice, which affect the position and faces of the dice. My best friend bequeathed it to me and I'm appreciating it even more now as I'm older. If you can manage to find a copy (it's pretty hard) you will like it very much. A 2-player abstract strategy game using dice that plays in a half-hour.
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111. Board Game: Treasure Fleet [Average Rating:6.11 Overall Rank:6843]
The Grouch
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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Brilliant little pirate card game published by Ship Of Fools Games. Quick, easy to teach to non- or casual gamers, yet with surprising tactical depth in such a small package.
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112. Board Game: Vinhos [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:191]
Duarte Conceicao
Portugal
Carcavelos
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Hope it comes out this year!
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113. Board Game: Lineage [Average Rating:6.81 Unranked]
Richard Reilly
United States
Bryan
Texas
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Designed by a 16 year old, this abstract is getting good reviews from geeks who have played it. Pretty decent production, too!
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114. Board Game: Abande [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:4133]
Néstor Romeral Andrés
Spain
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I like this game so much that I decided to publish it

Players in turn enter new pieces on the board or move pieces already placed to capture opponent pieces (thus building stacks). Pieces on board must always be connected (i.e. adjacent to other pieces). When all pieces are placed and both players pass their turn in sequence, points are collected for pieces and stacks. The player with the higher score is declared winner. Abande can be played on a 37-space hexagonal board or a 7×7 orthogonal grid (with diagonals).

Expansion: Abande²
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115. Board Game: The Aztec Market [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:4519]
Néstor Romeral Andrés
Spain
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Being nestorgames a (very) small publisher, and Victor Melo a less prolific designer, adding it to this geeklist is a forced move.

The game tries to represent the great pre-Columbian market of Tlatelolco (Mexico). The player is a merchant trying to get goods (4 different types) from the sellers while trying to increase their value. To increase your chances of buying you'll need to spend your influence points to adapt the market to your needs. The board is modular and changes every turn. The players can move the board pieces, this being an important part of the strategy.

This game is winner of the 2007 Ciutat de Granollers de Creación de Juegos.
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116. Board Game: Hippos & Crocodiles [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:5706]
Néstor Romeral Andrés
Spain
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And being myself a less prolific designer and a small independent publisher, I must add this

HIPPOS AND CROCODILES is a board game for 2 players designed by Néstor Romeral Andrés in 2007. It takes 10 minutes to play.

The object of the game is to fill up the river with hippos and crocodiles. If a player can’t place a piece on the board, he loses.

(one of my best-sellers)

Thank you for creating this geeklist! I hope you don't mind if I add some games from nestorgames. Just to expose them a bit

Néstor
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117. Board Game: Hexellation [Average Rating:7.25 Unranked]
Néstor Romeral Andrés
Spain
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A little story:

A year ago my daugther was just a baby. One day I was trying to get her asleep. I was lying in her bed, and he was lying on my shoulder. I was looking at ceiling while (terribly) whispering a song.

And there they were. The ceiling of my doughter's room is full of small star-shaped stickers (those that you can see with no light). My baby felt asleep. Then this game came to my mind almost instantly.


Thank you again for this geeklist

Néstor


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118. Board Game: Yavalath [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:3332]
Néstor Romeral Andrés
Spain
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Cameron Browne is a quite prolific designer, but LUDI is not (by now). LUDI is a computer program created by Cameron that 'invents' board games.

Yavalath is the first game invented by a computer program, and nestorgames is it's proud publisher

Thank you!

Néstor
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119. Board Game: Querni [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
Néstor Romeral Andrés
Spain
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Enrique Fernandez won the 2009 Granollers game design contest with this little gem.

Querni is a two-player abstract strategy game played on a 10×7 board. The goal is to remove all your numbered pieces (1-16) from the board. The catch is that you can only remove numerically consecutive chains of pieces, and the chains must be at least three in length. Turns involve moving a piece (one adjacent step, or one or more jumps) and/or removing a chain.

Thank you!

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120. Board Game: Robosoccer [Average Rating:7.37 Unranked]
Néstor Romeral Andrés
Spain
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And the 21th game published by nestorgames.

Initially conceived as Mundialito (Gold Cup)



... this game was the first winner of the NESTORGAMES continuous abstract game design contest.

I re-themed it to Robosoccer, adding a few changes in the rules and the components. Like creating a customizable board and turning the pyramids into this:



Thank you!
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121. Board Game: Dinosaur Chess [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:5787]
Daniel Danzer
Germany
Stuttgart
southwest
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On sale again after 17 years!

Designer Richard Oldham is "aboard" and checking out the dtails:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/496386/dinosaur-chess-ga...
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122. Board Game: Seii Taishogun [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:6533]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: John Clowdus
Publisher: Small Box Games

"In Seii Taishogun, players are Daimyo during Japan’s Sengoku period. In attempts to increase their power and broaden their influence, players will struggle for control of important locations on each of Japan’s four islands, and there are several methods to do so. Conquering revolves around the use of Samurai tokens, whether it be taking a poorly guarded pagoda or persuading the residents of a castle that siding with you would be in their best interest. When the game ends, players are awarded points for the locations they control, the player with the most points is named Seii Taishogun."

Comments:

"A fun wareuro that involves diplomacy, bluffing and tactics. And it finishes in 45 minutes."

"Really nice game. Art is simple but elegant. Card quality is excellent. And I'm a sucker for portable games! I think I might like this game even more with more plays."

"Quite a good game. Probably my favorite of the "Small Box Games." Plays quickly, but a fair bit of strategy that isn't obvious on the first play. We'll have to play this one again a few times to figure it out. The internal clock is quite an interesting mechanic."
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123. Board Game: The Last of the Independents [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:6323]
Alexander Stevens
United States
California
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Second release by Numbskull Games (which consists of my dad and I)! In LotI, the players are small car manufacturers taking advantage of the huge demand for cars after WW2. Euro-style economic game with some chance, and cards which you have to carefully manage- spending in one of two different ways or holding for a better use on the next round. The game plays pretty quickly, and players have a lot of interesting decisions, ranging from the overall approach they're taking to success on a given round (three different ways to score VP), to the exact allocation of their money.

Currently in production, and will be for sale very soon!
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124. Board Game: The Looney Bin [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:6694]
Alexander Stevens
United States
California
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First release by Numbskull Games. Fast card game with standard action/counter cardplay. The unique part of the game, however, are the patients, which have a unique set of therapies they'll respond to. Although the start of the game is mostly blind guessing, towards the end players can deduce which therapies will succeed based on the unique combinations that other cured patients have had.

The cool thing about this one is that it plays well with 3-10 players, and at our board game nights, we often bring it out if we have a large crowd including non-gamers.

We made the mistake of asking our friends who'd played it to make BGG accounts and rate it before we realized that was Bad.
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125. Board Game: Assault of the Dead [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Gary Simpson

California
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Designer: Gary Simpson
Publisher: Gary Simpson

A zombie game...
Its not a minis game.
Its not a b-movie game.
Its not a solo game.
Its not a tongue in cheek game.
Its not a variant.

It's a co-op survival horror game.

Comments:

None yet!
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