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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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126. Board Game: Iconica [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:5661]
Andy K
United States
Fort Wayne
Indiana
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Designed, Illustrated & Self-published by Eric Torres

Features "a graphic style that is clean, cohesive and—quite simply—gorgeous to look at. Eric Torres, the game’s creator, is a Designer and Art Director, and it certainly shows."

"If you like turn-based strategy and want to see a game that really looks and feels different from typical card games, check out Iconica. I can’t overemphasize how impressed I am with the quality of the game, both the appearance and the actual gameplay, and I’m looking forward to see what Torres does next."

- From Jonathan Liu's review on Wired.com


The game is for 2 players. It comes with 6 Character Cards, a player aid, two d6, 36 wooden cubes and rules. Cost is $16, including shipping, from Etsy.

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127. Board Game: Stupiduel [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:5952]
Chris Sessoms
United States
Butler
Pennsylvania
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This is fun and silly little game, that requires some great imagination and a lot of silliness, and a bit of story telling. That and the designers of the game are from my hometown. So yay.
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128. Board Game: Galaktico [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:6162]
Dan Has
United States
Sandy
Utah
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Secretly choose weapon and shield cards for each of your ship types, setup your starting forces around your space station, and go to town.

Galaktico has a surprising amount of depth for how simple and straight forward the rules are. Although I have to admit I'm a sucker for space themes.

Also the components are fantastic; solid board, ships are made out of some kind of mortar/stone, and the asteroids are pieces of iron pyrite(fool's gold). Which just looks cool.

You can see pictures of them hand injecting the molds for the ships on the game page.
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129. Board Game: Kaigan [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:1561]
Kevin Whitmore
United States
Albuquerque
New Mexico
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Inotaizu is a game that I've heard a few whispers about. It is by Kenichi Tanabe, and the subject is about Japanese cartography. I just got it, and have not yet played it. But based on the rules, and the attractive components, I think this is a winner.

Edit - I've now played a couple times. Very clever game. I'm not particularly good at it - but I am impressed with the central mechanism.
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130. Board Game: Flicochet [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:3847]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Phil Harding

Publisher: Adventureland Games

Description: Flicochet is a simple yet strategic dexterity flicking game that can be played on any table or flat surface. Try and flick your discs as close as possible to the jack, while hitting your opponent's discs out of the way! Late in the round, you may move the jack itself to improve your position. Take aim and watch it ricochet across the table! But don't knock it off, or you'll pay a heavy price!

Comments:

"Lotsa fun in a small package. A must buy for me"

"Essentially a cross between lawn bowling (rules) and Crokinole. The designer described it to me as 'poor man's crokinole'.

"The game plays well and the rules are flexible enough to cover a variety of play surfaces. ... Cute, simple and expected to be cheap. This is a clever twist on Crokinole and I'm sure many will go 'Why didn't I think of that!?'"

"Fun simple flicking game. Like the idea its works on any table..."

"Not quite as cool as Crokinole, but most of the fun for a fraction of the expense, and much more portable."
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131. Board Game: Alien Frontiers [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:92]
Tory Niemann
United States
Maricopa
Arizona
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My own board game should be out in a few months.

Clever Mojo is the definition of small publisher, and this is my first published game, so I'm certainly less than prolific. And Alien Frontiers is certainly an interesting game, though my opinion may not be totally unbiased here!

You can pre-order the game now on Kickstarter.com. We've had an amazing response to this and have already pre-sold a sizeable portion of our planned print run!
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132. Board Game: Grailnah [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
Greg CZ
Hungary
BUDAPEST
Budapest
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It is very rare that I see a game that I have never heard of, but today I came across this while I strolled through a thrift shop.

Looks great. Now I have to find someone to play it.


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133. Board Game: Toscana [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:3986]
Paul Laane
Finland
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Designer, Illustrator: Paul Laane
Publisher: Aqua Games

I am excited that Toscana is now out of the printers and soon ready to hit the stores. It is Licensed to the Finnish company Competo who distributes it in Scandinavia. It will make an appearance at Essen 2010.

Toscana is an exciting game set in the competitive world of wine. It is a game with short and clear rules, but with considerable depth of play and minimal random elements - so it suits gamers and non-gamers alike. It is a unique combination of stock market and area control, and the game introduces some good and trusted mechanics in a new blend.
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134. Board Game: Carpe Astra [Average Rating:6.04 Overall Rank:3485]
Kevin Shillinglaw
Canada
Kitchener
Ontario
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Since It's Alive and Sumaria are already on this list, I feel that it is my bound duty to make sure Carpe Astra was included.

This is a unique political game (as the object is to gain as much support from various guilds) that involves a modular tile board (that can be manipulated after being placed) and cards that allow you to "network" (gain support) or "slander" (cause an opponent to lose support).

There are lots of (sometimes deliciously painful) decisions to be made that can make or break your attempt to secure the Galactic Throne.

Man, I can't wait to play this one again!
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135. Board Game: The Hanging Gardens [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:834]
Kevin Shillinglaw
Canada
Kitchener
Ontario
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This one deserves to be on this list (IMHO).

A unique game where cards are played to build aspects of the Hanging Gardens. Rewards are in the form of scoring tiles (the more of one type of tile you have increases the amount you score).

What's really unique is that the way the cards can be played can give your brain a good workout as you try to maximize your building potential.

This game has taught me that no matter how many times I spin a card, sometimes it just won't fit.
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136. Board Game: Flash Duel [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:2504]
Isaac Kerry
United States
Mankato
Minnesota
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This is a light dueling game featuring a cast of 10 asymmetric characters. Very fast and fun, and the standard edition is quite affordable.
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137. Board Game: Yomi [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:408] [Average Rating:7.27 Unranked]
Isaac Kerry
United States
Mankato
Minnesota
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Another addition from Sirlin Games, this has not been officially released yet, although all of the decks can be purchased in a pdf. This game was designed to be a tournament-worthy competitive card game, and draws inspiration from video game fighting series (the designer is a well known developer/balancer of such games). I've been very impressed with the gameplay so far, which is tense and exciting and full of interesting decisions.
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138. Board Game: Puzzle Strike [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:872]
Isaac Kerry
United States
Mankato
Minnesota
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This can best be described as Dominion+Bejeweled using chips instead of cards. I haven't played this one yet but I think it looks like an intriguing twist on Dominion-style deckbuilding games, especially in terms of increased player interaction.
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139. Board Game: Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:680]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Robert Abbott
Publisher: Stronghold Games

Consider this entry a placeholder for Stronghold Games. In recent months, they've announced reprints of 2 of my most-desired out of print games: Survive! and Code 777. Additionally, they plan to provide a new version of Confusion. I'm impressed with their initial selections and look forward to seeing more.

Comments:

"I thoroughly enjoy this deductive abstract. Quite thinky. Be sure to take good notes!"

"One of the best deduction/strategy games."

"This game is a very nice cross between something in the chess family and a deductive reasoning game. Victory relies on moving the puck to the far end of the board and holding it there but you will first have to deduce the movement rules for your pieces."

"Chess Style. This game is unusual in that you have no idea which of your pieces are which when you begin the game. Each player has 12 pieces with different movement abilities (though each player has the same 12 pieces his opponent has). But startup is random, and only your opponent knows which of your pieces is which. You learn during the game by trying to move pieces and your opponent letting you know if the move is legal - process of elimination, you figure it out. In the meantime, he/she may be carrying the puck to victory!"
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140. Board Game: Popular Front [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:2152]
patrick stevens
United States
Los Angeles
California
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Fast abstract diceless war game for 2, 4, or 6 players in two teams. Something like a combination of go and poker. This is Numbskull Games third release. For more information visit our website: numbskullgames.com
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141. Board Game: Porto Carthago [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:3405]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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New game from Bernd Eisenstein of Peloponnes fame.

Self-published - to be released at Essen.
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142. Board Game: Wok Star [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:1151]
Chuck Hill
United States
Imperial
Missouri
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This game is getting some excellent podcast press and it seem like it will be a ton of fun!
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143. Board Game: Cholent, The Game! [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
 
Kenny Rosenberg
United States
Chicago
Illinois
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As a unique family card game, "Cholent, The Game!" is easy enough for an 8-year-old to play, but strategic enough where it can be enjoyed by everyone. It is Epicure Games' first release, and pre-orders are currently available on Kickstarter.com
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144. Board Game: The Phantom League [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2743]
Timo Multamäki
Finland
ASKA
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Finnish board gaming hasn't really expanded, yet, but it doesn't mean that the games wouldn't be good and interesting.

I have followed this list for a while and found it to be a good source for following what other smaller designers do. As a game designer of Phantom League, I'd like to introduce it in here.

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In Phantom League, you are the captain of a merchant spaceship. You begin as a nobody with a hunger for recognition and glory that will soon lead you onto a path of fame or notoriety! Build your career through trading, piracy, exploring new systems and eliminating your rivals in the other Leagues – phantom alliances
powerful enough to challenge law and political order across the known universe. This game features:
• A modular board – every game is different
• Card-driven game play – you, not the dice, are in control of the game
• A wide range of actions and strategies – there is no single best way to win
• Cooperative and competitive interaction – choose when to ally with or conspire against other players

Phantom League is designed for 2-6 players of 12 years and up, and will take approximately 2 hours to play. Phantom League is inspired by David Braben’s video game Elite.
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145. Board Game: Pitch Bowl [Average Rating:7.90 Unranked]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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Designer: Daniel Quodbach
Publisher: Self-published

French designer and self-publisher of dexterity/ finger flicking games. Games usually limited to 150-200 copies.

Game simulates to some extent a game of (American) football with wood tokens making it out for runners and quarterbacks - and rules allowing for passing, running, interceptions etc.

Comments:

"An excellent game that is worth being bought and played.Just try it !"

"A very "pro" self edition, for an outstanding very tactic pitch game ! Sooo good !"

"A fun pitching game."

"Knowledge of the rules of football is not required in this relatively simple game. The pieces are of good quality, and "pitching" the tokens works really well as the playing surface provides more friction, therefore one has more control. The rules are a tad ambiguous, and I'd like to read them again before deciding to purchase this one or not, although I am very tempted to pick this up! "

"Nice game but I was expecting that the rules will be closer than football rules. Very good pitching game. "
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146. Board Game: Glonk Le Choc des Aliens [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
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Designer: Daniel Quodbach
Publisher: Self-published

French designer and self-publisher of dexterity/ finger flicking games. Games usually limited to 150-200 copies.

Fight out the Galactic War with each player controlling and armada consisting of a spatial bas and 8 to 12 saucers (represented by wooden discs) each with their own special powers.

There is also an official 2-player campaign based on the first Star Wars trilogy: Star Wars: Pitch Wars

Comments:

"A really fun and interesting dexterity game. Great components for being self-published. The rules (esp. the english ones) and the game play offer some ambigous situation - but nothing that can't be ironed out with a FAQ. The player aids and the rules are not up to the same standards as the rest of the components."

"Dexterity games are usually either a hit or a miss with me, but this falls somewhere in between. The not all too clear rules are perhaps to blame? I do think I'll grow to love this game as it has much going for it. The different powers of the factions, the cool move mechanism and so on. One problem with the game is that I think you'd need four players at least to play it. The more the merrier.

Will gladly play again and rating might well increase when I do.

Update: Had to buy a copy myself too."
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147. Board Game: Caveman Curling [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:2336]
 
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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Designer: Daniel Quodbach
Publisher: Self-published

French designer and self-publisher of dexterity/ finger flicking games. Games usually limited to 150-200 copies.

Pre-historic curling - on an icy lake two tribes of pre-historic men meet for a game of Kairn. Game includes bludgeons and totems.

This game is self-published but has also been picked up for wider release by 2 publishers (see this BGN news item)

Comments:

None yet.
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148. Board Game: Jerusalem [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:1546]
Mario Pellicciotti
Italy
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Very good majority game. There're some reviews on the boardgame page.

It's distributed by Abacusspiele, but the publisher is Red Glove, a little italian publisher.
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149. Board Game: Tic-Attack-Toe [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Richard Reilly
United States
Bryan
Texas
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Designer Nathan Jones' first game (I believe). The publisher, PB&J Toys, makes some other toys, but this is their only game.
 
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150. Board Game: Florenza [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:848]
Matteo Panara
Italy
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«Quando non c'è energia non c'è colore, non c'è forma, non c'è vita» (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio)
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The first game of a new Italian publishing house. It's a worker placement game and takes place during Renaissance in Florence.

In Florenza, the players are the heads of the most powerful families in Florenza during the Renaissance period. The goal of the game is to become the most famous patron of the arts by hiring the most famous artists of the period and financing their works.

Each player can commission artworks in his own district, the Cathedral, or in the civic buildings of the city. Each artwork requires money and resources to complete. To earn the money and resources the artists need, the players send their workers to labor in various workshops, possibly even in their opponents’ districts. Additional workers can be earned by offering charity to the church.
During the game, players will earn prestige points, primarily by completing artworks. prestige points can be spent during the game, but at the end of the game they will be the player’s primary source of victory points.

All of the characters in the game are real historical figures that lived and worked in Italy during the Renaissance. Most of them worked in Florence. All of the buildings in the game were real Renaissance workshops. The artworks the players can complete include the masterpieces of some of the most famous artists in the world.
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