Interesting Games from Small Publishers and Less Prolific Designers
United States
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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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76. Board Game: Krysis [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:4744]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Designed by Zoltán Aczél (some games from years ago) and Zoltán Ágó (no other games), this one is from a small Hungarian publisher (even if the game entry suggests something different). It was picked up by Heidelberger though and will be released internationally in the second half of the year.
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77. Board Game: 1936: Guerra Civil [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:1755]
Arturo García

Madrid
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Yeah, I'm the author and publisher of this game.cool

But, hey, I'm my own publisher, this is my only designed game and I believe it deals with the Spanish Civil War, a fascinating chapter in History, in a refreshing way!

I mean, how much more small, non-prolific and interesting can you get than that?
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78. Board Game: Beyond Chess [Average Rating:7.77 Unranked]
Mark Salzwedel
United States
New York
New York
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I had a booth by this designer at Toy Fair last year, and he was getting a lot of attention -- video coverage, awards. I'm not into chess, but if you have ever been intrigued by it, this is a challenging variation where you move standard chess pieces on the board which is made of tiles that move.

For videos and animations and other images
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79. Board Game: Cheese Chasers [Average Rating:6.31 Overall Rank:5234]
bran mcmillin
United States
Houston
Texas
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Help the Mice surround the Cheese and break the Mousetraps so that they can get to the Cheese and be the top Cheese Chasers around!

Cheese Chasers is a SOLITAIRE OR MULTI-PLAYER, FREE PNP card game that I designed, takes 1-10 minutes to play. Printable on 3 pgs of 8.5" x 11" (that includes the pocketmod rule booklet). It can be played Cooperatively OR Competitively. The contents of Cheese Chasers are: 40 cards and 4 tokens, fits on 4 printed pages (that includes the rule booklets too!).


Show everyone how you are the top Cheese Chasers around by posting your HIGH score at the Scores Thread.

Scores Thread: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/386572
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80. Board Game: Sector 41 [Average Rating:5.95 Overall Rank:6873]
Steve Sartain
United States
Auburn
California
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Designer: Mike Lachtanski and Dave Long
Publisher: Scimitar Games

This is the first game to be published by Scimitar Games which is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. In Sector 41 you can foil the plans of your opponents by using your massive Mother Ship to fold space and alter the board to your advantage. Can you combine strategic planning with fast changing tactics to guide your race to victory before the Guardian fully awakens and reclaims his home?

As I understand it, these guys also plan to provide expansions for Sector 41 and will be releasing several more games over the coming year.


Comment:

"This is really a nice first effort by a new game company. The quality of the components (tiles, rockets, box and box insert) are all very good (I've seen the manufacturing prototype). The game is a good combination of a little luck and a lot of strategy. The game mechanic of folding space is somewhat unique and adds a nice element to the game play. Being a tile-based game means that each game is a new and different experience. There are also a number of variants provided on the Scimitar Games website that provide for shorter, or simpler or more challenging game experiences.

I really think these guys have put out a great first game that should appeal to a wide range of gamers. I am looking forward to more good games from these guys. Well done!"
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81. Board Game: Safe Return Doubtful [Average Rating:5.78 Overall Rank:8278]
Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Randy Moorehead currently not active, but he made some great stuff.
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82. Board Game: Power & Weakness [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:2987]
Birger Hogrefe
Switzerland
Rubigen
Bern
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A very intresting 2-player game. Its quite asymetrical, as knights and magicians play completely different. You change each round....

Definately a hidden gem in my opinion!
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83. Board Game: Song of Blades and Heroes [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:1617]
Tim Leuftink
Germany
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A cheap little skirmish-tabletop.

Easy to understand rules, every figure has only two characteristics and maybe 1-3 special rules. Special rules sounds complex, in fact move a long or short range is one of this special rules...

With this game I explan tabletop to most beginners.

The best:
You can use EVERY 15mm/28mm figure you own.
Battlelore-minis agains my LEGO-figu... aaargh...meaning of course: agains the LEGO-figures of my little brother.
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84. Board Game: Arctic Scavengers [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:702]
Robert K Gabhart
United States
Keller
Texas
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Driftwood Games is releasing their first game May 15, 2009. Heavy on theme, strategy, and entertainment value, Arctic Scavengers has already received rave reviews from beta testers and game reviewers alike.

Arctic Scavengers is set in a post-apocalyptic ice age roughly 100 years in the future. Players lead their respective tribes of survivors to scavenge for supplies, hire mercenaries, and skirmish with opponents over valuable contested resources. In a harsh and brutal environment, survival is the key. The player with the largest tribe at the end of the game is declared the victor!
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85. Board Game: Word Blur [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:3492]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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"We have just been having TOO much fun with this. I gotta raise my rating to a 10! Last night our team guessed "dairy" from the hint "mammal pump", and we had the biggest laughs trying to get "programmer" by pushing the words "pull, crime, war" up to the "sounds like" modifier. The highlight was for the word "dictionary" when I simply scooped up about 50 words and slid them into the hint area... we got it in about 2 seconds!"

"Long story short. Played the game with a bunch of non-gamers, they want to play next time they come over which sounds good to me."

"Oh, the creativity and laughter. Take magnetic poetry and turn it into a game! Searching through all the words to find just what you need can be frustrating at times, but that's part of the tension of the game."

"I love this game so much! So many words to choose from and many things you can come up with. Highly recommended for even people that aren't fond of party/word games."
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86. Board Game: Linwood [Average Rating:5.55 Overall Rank:8761]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Shem Phillips
Publisher: Garphill Games

The game combines a roll-and-move mechanism with exploration and tile placement. I'm a sucker for exploration and will be watching this one closely.

Comments:

"A keen little roll and move, short length, exploration game with some special movement and 'banditry' for flavor. Nice presentation job. I really like the layout of the forest tiles and it won't be long before I come up with more games for this little system and I'm sure I wont be the only one. Probably more like a '6' except that its 'kit factor' and simple presentation gets bonus points from me."

"A good game for young and old, simple system with enough strategy to interest adults, while the different board each time keeps things interesting."

"The variable board layout is the strength of this game which is otherwise throw and move, Can be tricky to finish if the board and dice throws conspire against the game."

"Light medium for a family game, light for a strategy game."
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87. Board Game: Shuuro [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:3873]
alberto giusti
Italy
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Designer: Alessio Cavatore
Publisher: River Horse

Shuuro is a game for two players, which merges the precision and rigour of chess with the creativity and variety of war-gaming.

It does so by attaching a points value to each traditional chess piece and allowing the players to spend a predetermined amount of these points (say, a total of 800 points) to select the chess ‘army’ that they think makes the best use of the points. This creates a feeling of ‘ownership’ towards the particular combination the player thinks is the most effective.

The ‘battle’ will then take place on a large chess board of twelve by twelve squares. This board, however, also introduces a new and unique element to the game. Each of the four six-by-six quadrants of the board contains two plinths that block the movement of the pieces. These plinths are placed randomly at the beginning of every game with the help of a dice, ensuring that every game will be different and present unique challenges. The plinths also help in balancing the game, restricting the movement of Queens, Bishops and Rooks, while at the same time allowing Knights to land onto them and using them as defensive positions (as only an enemy Knight can take them while they’re there).

It is worth noting that game box also includes a normal chessboard and full rules for traditional chess, making it good to learn chess and allowing players to engage in this great classic as well as the innovative Shuuro.
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88. Board Game: Jet Set [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1290]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Kris Gould
Publisher: Wattsalpoag, Inc.

Jet Set seems like an interesting twist on a hybrid connection and economic game with some retro cover art.

Comments:

"This is a wonderful train game, with aeroplanes. It has gone almost completely unnoticed, but it is a very neat connection and economy game with very simple rules. Yes, it is a bit light(ish) and a little luck dependent, but it is as good a game in its genre as I can think of. It is never dull, it has quite some tension, it is short and it is fun. Throw away your Ticket to Rides and play Jet Set."

"Good game of routes and rates. After 5 games of this, mostly with 5 or 6 players, I'm very nicely intrigued. A fine economic scramble with an interesting deadline."

"A bit of a surprise. Didn't know what to expect on this one. Starts off a bit slow and constrained, and builds up into a crescendo of tension and competition for tickets/cards. My group (2 gamers, 3 wives) really liked it."

"I found this to be an interesting take on connections games (i.e. I think of it as a train game even though it has a airplane theme). It combines aspects of claiming and controlling various connections with collection of routes worth victory points by using these connections. The catch is that you have to give up some of your planes on those connections (i.e. dedicate them to that route) in order to claim the route, and consequently the points and income. Cash is very tight, so you need to make everything count as much as possible. The decreasing income values of your claimed routes help keep a runaway leader in check. And it looks really nice."
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89. Board Game: Robotory [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:2731]
Chief EGG Head
United States
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From the companies that did the original Traders of Osaka and R-Eco this is a nice little design
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90. Board Game: Maria [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:156]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Richard Sivél
Publisher: Histogame

Richard Sivél's best-known design, Friedrich, is a shining examble of an excellent game with asymmetric win conditions. His next title, Maria, is scheduled for an Essen 2009 release. The game is derived from Friedrich, but, early reviews claim that it adds a few twists.

The game page states, "MARIA is primarily a 3 player game. One player is Austria, the second is France plus Bavaria, while the third player has the schizophrenic role of playing Prussia (Austria's enemy) and the Pragmatic-Army (Austria's ally) at the same time. This is made possible by the division of the map into two parts, the Flanders map and the Bohemia map."

Comments:

None yet!
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91. Board Game: Triumvirate [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1396]
Travis Worthington
United States
California
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2010 Releases ........................................ The Resistance, Haggis & Triumvirate ..................................... Now accepting submissions for 2011 releases ........................................ www.IndieBoardsandCards.com
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Looks like this is the list to be on for a small publisher, and it doesn't get much smaller than me.

Triumvirate is a fast paced game for two that requires subtle hand management and card play to win.

The game has been well playtested, and favorably reviewed thanks to the BGG community.

It will be released in limited (ie, very professional but still hand made) in late August/Early September 2009.


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92. Board Game: Caligula [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:4382]
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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This year we will be at Essen 2009 with a new game: Caligula. As the past year with Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas, we think it will be a very good game and will held the interest of most of you.

Edit: Hall 9 Booth 9-42
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93. Board Game: Race for the Summit [Average Rating:5.90 Unranked]
Michael Lachtanski
United States
San Jose
California
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Race for the Summit is a card game based on the sport of Rock Climbing.

The cards are laid out on the table to form a rock spire and 2-6 players climb this spire. Each climber has different prefrences for the various hold types as well as a unique special ability that may be used once per game.



Each turn consists of 2 phases:

1) The Climbing Phase, where climbers must wisely spend a limited amount of stamina to make moves and/or "clip in" to the safety bolts.

2) The Action Phase, where each player must strategically select an Action card from a limited pool. Players must balance the desire to choose the best card for their own progress against denying key cards to their opponents.

To be sucessful you must know when to play it safe and when to push your luck and risk falling.

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94. Board Game: Day & Night [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:1758]
eva g
Greece
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Designer: Valentijn Eekels
Publisher: Mystics.nl

Day & Night is a strategic board game where two players duel with asymmetric decks. The many spells and strategies make every game different than the other and exciting until the very last turn. Day & Night is beautifully illustrated with over 40 arts, specially created for this game by fantasy artist Eerin Vink.

Recently got nominated for best 2 player game in the international gamers awards. Also gets lots of positive comments:

EndersGame: "There's a good reason this game was nominated for an International Gamers Award." / "I can see this appealing to a wide range of people - I had high expectations, and it did not disappoint. Recommended!"
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/443294

Tom Vasel: "I was really impressed" / "Certainly a very interesting game"
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/443581

Eric Martin: "As with any card game, someone playing Day & Night might get lucky with the perfect cards for a particular situation, but the more I play, the more I discover opportunities for turning the odds in my favor, for playing the probabilities of what I might draw, and for properly valuing the cards that I hold and can play for the current game state. Kudos to Eekels for an excellent first design – here's hoping he can make it available to a wider audience some day or night..."
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/435022
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95. Board Game: Hour of Glory: Stronghold Kit [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:3484]
Luc VC
Belgium
Brugge
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A stealth game with a ticking clock mechanic.

To get a better feel check this excellent review
http://www.vimeo.com/5374155

Sounds like a must have for me
(I hope to find a copy at Essen this year!)
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96. Board Game: Central Pacific [Average Rating:5.66 Unranked]
Michael Evans
Canada
Nobleton
Ontario
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Just played this last week, and enjoyed it very much.
Light, but strategic, tile laying rail-building game.

Quality, all-wood components with charming and functional laser-etched graphics.

The publisher, Blue Panther http://bluepantherllc.com/index.htm , specializes in both manufacturing and selling many different games of the same kind: light, family-friendly, high-quality, all-wood games.

Unfortunately, the reason I got the chance to see and play the game was that the owners of the game store/game club I go to were given the sample copy sent to their regular suppliers. Said suppliers had already looked at it and decided not to carry the game.

No doubt a very common story with smaller game publishers, and their ongoing struggle to get their games noticed and distributed.

gooBgooPgoo
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97. Board Game: Hibernia [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:3880]
T. Nomad
South Korea
Gyeongsan
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This excellent little self-published iron age war game features a scoring track that is colour-coded. On your turn, you score one point for each territory you control, but only if the colour of your territory matches those on the track in front of you. So I might control red-green-blue-blue, but if the next step on the scoring track is yellow, I would score zero points that round. As a result, each player's position on the scoring track has significant influence on the battles which they will undertake. Very clever.

Beautiful board, compact design, intuitive, conflict-rich gameplay.

According to
Olivier Lamontagne
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
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Quote:
This game is what SmallWorld should be.
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98. Board Game: Terra Prime [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:2427]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Seth Jafee
Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games

Homesteaders and Terra Prime will be launched by Tasty Minstrel Games at BGG.con this year.

From the rulebook: "The goal of Terra Prime is to explore the space surrounding the Terra Prime outpost, colonize and harvest the resources produced on the nearby planets, and protect the colonies from hostile aliens. Players gain Leadership points by founding colonies, delivering resources to Terra Prime, and driving off or befriending hostile aliens. e value of colonies and the resources they produce increase the farther away from Terra Prime you get, but so do the dangers of exploration.

Comments:

"Played only the prototype so far, but look forward to seeing the published version! A very well put together, fairly light but still quite strategic game."

"It feels like a Runebound in space, except better and more streamlined."

"Overall, the design feels as though it has only a scant few feet to go to complete a marathon of polishing. ... At any rate, I'll be sure to buy a copy of this when (notice that I didn't say "IF") it hits the shelves."
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99. Board Game: Gene Pool [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:3504]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designer: Mark Goadrich
Publisher: Goadrich Games

This game is going to be reprinted in October! The cost will be $9. Shipping will cost $2 to the US and $4 for international locations. See the publisher's website for more information.

From the publisher's website: "How do you play Gene Pool? You will be competing with your opponent to repair important genes of various length and difficulty with gene therapy. Make these repairs by modifying and rearranging a common DNA sequence. Your current genetic research goals are private, and are only revealed when they can be found within the DNA sequence. Continue repairing genes until one player completes enough research to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and the game!"

Comments:

"Elegant, quick, and endlessly replayable. Proof positive that not every gaming experience needs to be a four-hour strategy slog."

"Genetic musical chairs! Nine years or bust!"

"A quick 2 player card game that has earned its weight to be added to my camping/backpacking games. The pattern recognition takes a few hands, but then like tetris you can visualize gene transformations. I find myself always fantasizing what the cards look like from the opponents view. (just reverse, i know)

Congratulations to Mark on his awesome self-production. The quality is high on the cards. The procedure for making the cards, is one I always wanted to try, but from the sounds of it, it is very labour-intensive.

I know that Mark has other great designs under his hat. Lets hope we see them here as well!"

"Another one I bought "just to have" because I'm a bit of a collector, but Mathgirl and a lot of our friends really enjoy this one. I keep hoping he'll print more...

(Mark, if you're listening, I promise to buy 5 right off the bat. maybe 10.)"
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100. Board Game: Erosion [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:3748]
United States
Lexington
Kentucky
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Designers: John Douglass & Phil Eklund
Publisher: Sierra Madre Games

Sierra Madre has traditionally released meatier games such as American Megafauna and Origins: How We Became Human. They've just released a card game titled Erosion that plays in about half an hour.

From the publisher's website:

"Erosion is a geological card game that lasts but a half hour. Struggle to keep your mountain uplifted while weathering and eroding the mountains of other players. The deck is divided into sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks. The winner is the player who has the highest mountain, and accumulates the most material in his delta, with a bonus for fossils."

Comments:

"First impressions: nice card game with some mechanics in common with Glory to Rome. Cards are multi-purpose and there are several areas to move cards between. The geological theme is brilliantly integrated - could definitely work in the classroom but fun in its own right. Second play with the advanced rules was even better..."

"I enjoyed the game, and as usual, the science is fascinating. I have not yet played with the advanced rules or the expansion, which both seem to give more direction to the decisions."

"I learned more from this game than any other game I've ever played...it's like a class on basic geology. Really cool. Enjoyed my first play using basic rules, rating may go up with advanced rules added."
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