I am using the Indie label pretty liberally here.
While these aren’t your mass-market publishers like Hasbro or Mattel, and they aren’t even your well-known hobby publishers like Asmodee or CMON, I am sure you are familiar with at least a few of these independent board game publishers.
However, this list is for the indie publishers that are (mostly) going at it on their lonesome and trying to make a name for themselves. Some of them are making waves already, and in some cases, big waves.
None-the-less, these are companies that deserve your support to help them and the industry grow. Supporting these publishers is one of the ways we will get more unique and diverse ideas out into the world and push our little hobby into what it could be, an art form akin to film and book. And it’s far from charity, they all absolutely deserve all of the attention and more.
Before we get into it, it’s important to point out that these indie publishers aren’t listed in any particular order (you’ll notice we didn’t include numbers next to each of their names). They all bring something unique and special to the table.
This is a Japanese publisher that pumps out a lot of really good games. While most of the publishers in this market focus on small and light complexity games, Analog Lunchbox puts a bigger emphasis on density, complexity, and replayability.
The games they are most well known for are Airship City, which just got a big international partnership with CMON games and Passtally which has been picked up by Pandasaurus Games.
However, this company publishes two new games each year, one at the Spring and Fall Tokyo Game Markets and their games typically sell out lightning fast. The simple, sleek art and graphic design combined with a mid-weight strategic experience makes their games exceptionally unique for a Japanese publisher.
This Polish company Awaken Realms possibly shouldn’t quite be on this list because it is already one of the top publishers in the world and on their way to sitting in that top-tier for enthusiasts. Their first big success came back in 2017 when they released This War of Mine: The Board Game, a tabletop version of the hit video game This War of Mine. It was a much bigger success than originally anticipated making just under a million dollars on Kickstarter.
Since then, they have been pumping out massively successful games including Lords of Hellas and Nemesis. This past year, they really kicked it into high gear running 3 separate Kickstarters that raised more than a combined $13 Miliion dollars. These included Tainted Grail, which has begun delivery to backers, Etherfields, and The Great Wall, both of which are set to be delivered in 2020.
These games feature highly detailed miniatures and huge amounts of content. In fact, Tainted Grail and Etherfields both feature base boxes with over 30+ and 50+ hours of gameplay respectively, not to mention additional campaign expansions that will likely double or even triple the content and the gameplay hours.
If this company continues to produce quality games of these proportions and at this rate, they may surpass companies like Fantasy Flight Games and CMON as industry leaders.
Despite their heaps of success, I felt it important to include them here, because if you don’t know their story, this company started off as a small miniature painting studio and in just under 3 years, they have firmly inserted themselves into the board gaming world. Part of the reason for that success is that they likely had the people and the overhead to get the ball rolling quickly, but it is still phenomenal how big of an impact they have made in such a short period of time, and that is worth acknowledging and celebrating.
Brain Crack Games
Brain Crack Games is a company that has definitely improved their games over the course of time and they are on the presuppose of making a real impact . They started small with a game called Mined Out, and then came-out with 3 solid games in a row over the last 3 years: Farsight, Dead & Breakfast, and Ragusa.
These games are all very different and show the companies’ versatility, but we are still looking for them to make a great game. The steady upward trend they have been showing is promising and I think it won’t be long before we see a game that really jump starts this publishing company.
Brotherwise Games doesn’t print a lot of games, but when they do, they are very good. A light, cult classic games Boss Monster and Boss Monster II were published back in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
Another game called Unearth, an extremely underrated game, published in 2017 and finally in 2019, they released an Unearth expansion and a new game:
Call to Adventure
This is a fantasy adventure game where you will craft a character and then go on adventures trying to write their story by gaining traits and completing challenges. You will earn triumph points and corruption points which will determine how your character will evolve and inform your decisions throughout the rest of the game.
Button Shy Games
Game Hungry has talked about Button Shy Games before on this blog, so I will be somewhat brief as to avoid redundancy. For more details about Button Shy and their amazing contest and publishing opportunities, check out this article.
Button Shy is a small family-owned publishing company that prints 18 card games and ships them off in a small bi-fold wallet.
The games are small, they are portable, but they often pack a much larger punch than their size would imply.
Button Shy has been doing this for a few years now and the quality of their games has steadily improved. We have seen some of the hobby’s best and brightest step into the micro-game world, something that may not have happened if not for Button Shy’s ongoing efforts.
In Tussie Mussie players are giving flowers based off their assigned meaning in Victorian times. It features a simple I split, you choose mechanic and it works really well. It is a lovely theme with stunning artwork.
More importantly, this game truly shows how relevant Button Shy is becoming in the industry.
In the year 2019, artist Beth Sobel and designer Elizabeth Hargrave combined to create one of the biggest hits of the decade, Wingspan. Yet, soon after the immediate success of Wingspan, these two also combined with Button Shy to publish this 18 card microgame. To have a powerhouse duo like this step-in and work with a small publisher like Button Shy, is absolutely great for the industry.
This publishing company was founded by designer Isaac Childres. The company sort of came out of nowhere in 2015 when it released a long and complex Euro style game called Forge War on Kickstarter. The game was decently received but flew well under the radar and was a bit overwrought.
Fast forward a couple years later, and Isaac Childres put Gloomhaven on Kickstarter, which almost instantaneously became the #1 ranked game on Boardgamegeek, and it has remained this way for a long while now. It is a massive Euro-inspired dungeon crawl game with campaign and legacy elements and an advancing narrative.
This is a standalone adventure game set in the Gloomhaven universe and features 16 new characters, 3 new races, 20+ new enemies, more than 100 new items, and a 100 scenario campaign. It is taking a lot of the best parts of Gloomhaven and adding in some really innovative ideas including solvable mysteries, seasonal events, and new ways to progress the story. Frosthaven is set to launch on Kickstarter on March 24th, 2020.
City of Games
Frank West designer and publisher has put three games so far that span a wide variety of styles and complexities.
City of Kings was a massive cooperative fantasy game that took pride in the fact that it was almost infinitely randomized and customizable, creating a unique experience each and every game.
Vadorian Gardens was a light abstract drafting and tile placement game.
Finally, Isle of Cats, a recently fulfilled Kickstarter, has been a huge hit among reviewers and hobbyists. It is a bright and colorful game about placing polyomino-tiled cats from unique families on to your boat in order to transport them safely away from the isle before an evil villain arrives and destroys the isle.
El Dorado Games
El Dorado games is an independent publisher that released a strategy game called The Island of El Dorado in 2018. This game has since received 2 expansions and will soon be releasing a legendary edition via Kickstarter. This edition will include a big box version that houses everything ever made for the game.
In addition the team has recently Kickstarted three other games set to be delivered in 2020. A small card game called Taco Fight and a pair of strategy games called Windward and Capone.
This is a Taiwanese publishing company that started in 2014. They have produced a number of small box games that offer complex decision making with a minimum amount of components and rules. They are probably most well-known for Hanamikoji, which got mentioned in my best 2 player board games article.
However, recently they have started branching into other types of games, one of which is Geometric Art.
This is the newest game from EmperorS4 and is a party drawing game that is quite fun and unique. There is a competitive mode and a cooperative mode to the game. The cooperative mode is my preferred method of play, so I will highlight that briefly here.
A prompt is given and each player will draw a piece of artwork based off that prompt. They will also write (and hide) their artwork’s title. Then players, as a team will try to guess what the title of each piece of artwork is. If you succeed, great, if not, you will suffer penalties, such as losing a die, oh about that!
The big catch in this game is that you roll a set of dice that tell you exactly what and how many of each geometric shape you can use in your artwork. The more dice you have, the more flexibility, but guessing wrong will cost you a die. Players lose if there is only 1 die remaining or if player’s get too many Xs. These are given when guesses are wrong AND every time player’s use the same title for the same prompt.
It is a light and breezy game, that can be taught in 5 minutes and offers a fun and unique twist on the drawing party game.
Far Off Games
Things have been relatively quiet on the Far Off Games front. They published a neat surfing game called Tavarua and an epic space game called Xia: Legends of a Drift System but they haven’t released anything besides some small expansions since 2018. However, there is rumor of a new game on the way.
Arydia: The Paths We Dare Tread
This is likely heading to Kickstarter at some point in 2020 and it looks to be what they are calling a “Green Legacy Game.” A legacy game that does not destroy components and is completely re-settable. It drops you into an open fantasy world, where players will cooperatively explore, progress, engage in combat, and role-play their way through a story-driven adventure.
Tim Fowers is one of my favorite designers, he too, received many mentions on my personal list of games I played in 2019, including Burgle Bros., which landed at #6 on that list.
His best quality as a designer is making an extremely thematic and theatrical experience. He is also connected with one of the best illustrators and graphic designers in the business, Ryan Goldsberry. Together they create games that are dripping with theme, before you even open the box.
He recently funded two new games on Kickstarter including Sabotage, and Burgle Bros. 2, which are available for order on his website.
Of all the recent companies to spring up, I would argue that Game Brewer has some of the best production of any of the companies. Their deluxe reprint of Gentes really made the game substantially better, not only to play, but to look at.
In 2018/2019, Game Brewer released a couple of really good, really well produced games in Gugong and Fuji Koro. They have a unique publisher subscription that allows you to get a 25% discount on all their games by paying a yearly fee. It’s too early to tell exactly how much this would save you but if you get at least 2 games a year from them, it is definitely worth it.
This was one of my favorite games from 2018, it featured amazing artwork and production, with extremely fluid and interesting mechanics. There is this card exchange mechanic that is brilliant and I am shocked it hadn’t been used in this way previously. Game Brewer recently Kickstarted a modular expansion that will likely take the game to a whole new level of success.
Garphill Games is a publishing company run by designer Shem Phillips out of New Zealand. He does an excellent job of world-building and typically create multiple games in the same universe. For example, The North Sea series has 3 games, Raiders of the North Sea, Shipwrights of the North Sea, and Explorers of the North Sea, plus and a number of expansions. The games can even be played together in a saga mode.
Similarly, The West Kingdom series will have 3 games plus expansions, the recently released Architects of the West Kingdom and Paladins of the West Kingom, with the 3rd and final game Viscounts of the West Kingdom, coming to Kickstarter in March, 2020. There is also likely to be a saga mode added to this as well.
These games all provide a unique twist on typical Euro mechanisms and feature the amazing artwork of Mihajlo “Miko” Dimitrievski. They also come tightly packed in a wonderfully sized box, that will spare some room on your shelves, despite offering a nice chunky experience on the table.
Genius Games is run by John Coveyou who was an engineer before calling it quits in 2013 to become a full-time designer and publisher. His games all revolve around the sciences and offer a great mix of education and fun.
Many educational games fall into a category that makes them unexciting to play outside of their educational purposes. However, Genius games utilizes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) based publishing with a mission to create games that are not only scientifically accurate but also, enjoyable enough for even the hardcore hobbyist.
The most popular games produced by Genius Games include Cytosis, Periodic, and Subatomic. They typically publish 1 or 2 games a year and they are usually fairly affordable and with very good production quality.
Greater Than Games
This is not a new publishing company, in fact, they have made one of the most popular and long lasting hits in our industry, Sentinels of the Multiverse. They’ve also made quite a few very good games such as Bottom of the 9th, Compounded, Brewcrafters, and of course, the game that won the award for longest title, VivaJava the Coffee Game: The Dice Game. But their best and most popular game, Spirit Island has really put this company on the map.
This game was released via Kickstarter in 2017 and received a relatively underwhelming (but successful) $85,000. The game received rave reviews and it became one of the hottest commodities in Board Gaming throughout the duration of 2018.
It is considered one of the best cooperative games ever made, and it should only get better. In 2019, they ran a Kickstarter that raised nearly $800,000 for a big box expansion that would essentially double the amount of content. That is set to become available sometime in 2020 and this is a great jumping in point for anyone who missed out on this magnificent game.
Inside the Box Board Games
Inside the Box Board Games is an independent publisher from the UK. They have released a number of small card games as well as a popular big box game called Sub Terra which is a cooperative survival horror game. They have also recently Kickstarted a very unique narrative puzzle game called CryptX and a follow up to Sub Terra.
Sub Terra II
This is a standalone sequel to Sub Terra, which took you into the depths of a dark and terrifying cave. This one, however, has you journeying through a volcanic temple searching for a legendary artifact. You must work together to quickly find the keys, unlock the inner sanctum, and escape with the artifact, all the while avoiding traps, lava, and temple guardians.
Itten Games is a relatively big publisher in the Japanese scene, but they are also starting to make some noise outside of Japan, namely with their hit Tokyo Highway.
I predict that within a couple of years down the road, you will see more and more of their games becoming available internationally.
This is a dexterity game that uses cylinders, popsicle sticks, car meeples, and a pair of tweezers and has you building up Tokyo Highway and placing cars, over-passing and under-passing each other as frequently as possible.
It is a very unique game and that is what Itten Games does best. They were large contributors to the “Is This a Game?” exhibit that we highlighted and they are doing a lot to push the boundaries of game design.
Their Spring 2019 Tokyo Game Market release was a big hit here in Japan, it is a 2 player abstract strategy that once again has a stunning table presence. It is definitely worth checking out, especially if it gets the international attention I anticipate it will.
Jordan Draper Games
Jordan Draper is an independent designer and publisher who is most well known for his game Import/Export and the Tokyo Series games. Jordan is an extremely creative designer that utilizes an unique sets of components to create an experience.
The Tokyo Series currently consists of 6 games including Tokyo Coin Laundry, Tokyo Tsukiji Market, Tokyo Game Show, Tokyo Jidohanbaiki, Tokyo Metro, and Tokyo Jutaku. However, the total series is planned to consist of 12 games in total.
These games are uniquely themed around everyday life in Tokyo and have extremely amazing component quality, material, and usage.
Another interesting thing about these games is their integration with each other. Each game in the series can be played alone or in some combination with other games in the Tokyo series. You can even play a mega-game of all the games in the series in succession and the score is continuously kept throughout.
This company has published some small box games, but with some really top notch productions. They took a solid game called It’s Mine and completely modernized it with all new art, extra content, and streamlined rules. They renamed the game to Caper and it is one of the best 2 player drafting games out there. In 2019, they Kickstarted an original game that has become a big hit.
This game has you taking on the role of hikers going through the United States National Parks. It is a very light and breezy game that can work really well with families and non-gamers. It features stunning artwork from more than 35 different artists and incredible overall production value.
It was just announced that they will also be bringing the new Nightfall expansion to Kickstarter in February.
Leder Games creates wildly asymmetric experiences starting with their first entry Vast. This game was interesting but it didn’t quite hit the mark with a lot of people.
You may have heard of the follow up to Vast, a little game called Root. This game took the industry by storm thanks to its asymmetry, cute critters, beautiful artwork by Kyle Ferrin, and the perfect cloaking of a war game as a mainstream hobby game.
Leder Games is coming out with a new game called Oath, coming to Kickstarter in January, 2020.
This game is going to be a massive hit. It has a similar design feel to Root, but this one offers something extremely unique. The game is ever-changing, as in the effects of one game carry over to the next game.
You may think this must be a legacy game or campaign game. Apparently it is not, in fact there is no scripted narrative, no physical changes being made to any components, no app or gimmicks, and no conclusion to speak of. You the players, continuously shape the kingdom you play in by your choices and your actions. You can reset the game at any time and it can be replayed over and over again.
Lucky Duck Games
Lucky Duck is a company that is pushing the industry forward with creative implementation of mobile apps. In fact most of their initial releases were simply ports of mobile apps into board game form. However, recently they have undertaken the task of innovating completely unique app-assisted games.
Chronicles of Crime
This is one of the most unique board games to come out, well, ever. It is a deduction game that puts you in the role of a detective. You will use the mobile app to scan QR codes on cards to interact with suspects, witnesses, and evidence. You can then proceed with lines of questioning by scanning other cards. In addition, the app incorporates a VR interface that allows you to literally look around the crime scene for clues.
It is definitely a glimpse where board games could be heading, forming a bridge between the digital and analog game worlds.
LudiCreations is a Finland-based publishing company that publishes a wide variety of games. They have been around since 2013, but in 2018, they really began making a bigger impact in the board game industry with their games Crisis, Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden, and in 2019 they Kickstarted a reprint of On the Underground:
La Boîte de Jeu
Since 2017, this French publishing company has put together a very nice resume. A couple of well received games released during that time period were Outlive and Neta-Tanka, both thematic Euro games with a unique twist on worker placement. However, near the end of 2019, they hit a home-run with their newest game It’s a Wonderful World.
It’s a Wonderful World
This is a drafting, engine building, and resource management game set in the future. Players will be competing to build up the best empire. What seems to make this game standout, is that the mechanics of the game are very simple but offer a lot of nice decisions to make.
The game is essentially three steps: draft cards, construct cards, and produce resources. That is it, but it does it with a nice twist in that production occurs in a specific order, meaning if you construct something now, you may be able to use it’s produced resources later in the same round. Since there is only 4 rounds total this creates a solid tension from a game that doesn’t bog you down.
On The Underground
This game was originally released in 2006, but LudiCreations has done an absolutely beautiful reprint of this game that streamlines the rules, adds a second unique board to play on, and does a complete overhaul of the artwork and components. It is now a game that feels like it belongs in 2020, whereas the old edition has felt dated for a while now.
This small publisher only has 2 games thus far, Norsaga and Shipwreck Arcana. Both games are relatively small packages and both seem to be perpetually in-and-out of print, as is common with independent publishers. I personally, haven’t had the privilege to play Norsaga yet, but let’s take a quick look at their other game:
This is a cooperative abstract deduction game that offers a very unique and interesting puzzle. Players draw two chits numbered 1 through 7 from a bag and then play 1 of them face up to a restriction card. The card may say something like, “if you have 2 odds, you may play the higher one here.” The rest of the players will then discuss to figure out if they know what chit you have leftover.
That is basically the whole game, with a couple of scoring rules and a whole bunch of unique cards. The game is neat and it fits a rare gap in the hobby game world, offering a short cooperative deduction experience.
This is a drawing party game and it is one of the best games ever made in either category (party or drawing).
Everyone is given the same category by the game master, let’s say “fruit.” Then everyone, besides one person, is given the prompt, let’s say “banana.” The players will then take turns drawing continuous lines on the same piece of paper using their unique colored marker. After 2 rounds of this, players will vote who the fake artist is.
However, if the fake artist can figure out what the prompt was, it doesn’t matter if they were outed, they still win and everyone else loses. So players are drawing things so vaguely to not make the picture obvious, but yet, with a clever hint of obviousness so that the rest of the real artists know that you aren’t the fake.
It is hysterical and in my humble opinion, a must own for anyone who ever plays in large groups (5-10 people).
Mindclash has made a name for themselves by producing extremely thematic Euro games packed to the brim with content.
This is a sprawling Euro game set in a nearly uninhabitable post-apocalyptic future where players control factions trying to go back and correct the course of time, but only under their own faction’s agenda.
They did a great job developing the backstory and the ensuing theme to this game, and an even better job of making the game feel thematic.
The game is very complex and comes with multiple variants in the base box, not to mention they just successfully Kickstarted a big-box expansion with numerous modules to boot.
Trickerion: Legends of Illusion
This is another sprawling Euro game that puts you in the role of Illusionists who will be learning and performing tricks and hiring helpers to assist you. The object of the game is to gather the most fame, and it has a lot of interesting mechanical choices that help the theme to come through.
This is a game that is expected to come to Kickstarter at some point in 2020 and be released sometime in 2021. It is yet another interesting theme, based off an award winning novel from Hungarian author Brandon Hackett.
The Mindclash team is making a big transition here, however. This game is a fully cooperative and story-driven campaign game. I was waiting to see a game in this style from them and it looks like that wait will soon be over. Keep your eyes peeled for the Kickstarter, as this is going to be a must-have for a lot of people.
Orange Nebula is a relatively new publisher, that found a lot of success relatively quickly in 2018/2019 with their smash hit Vindication.
There are a few things that made Vindication stand out and put Orange Nebula on the map:
- Highly thematic Euro-game
- Excellent component quality
- Unique end-game trigger system
- Unique action selection/depletion/recovery mechanic
The success of this game has allowed the company to move onto something much grander now in 2020.
Unsettled just finished raising over $1Million through Kickstarter, and it looks absolutely incredible.
It has this sandbox feel that will offer different planetary exploration modules with completely unique environments and encounters specific to that planet.
It is very much the type of game that I would expect to see in the digital world, but to port something like this over to analog, is going to be a heck of a task.
If the game turns out half as good as it looks, it will be candidate for game of the year in 2020/2021 when it is released.
Across the world, Oink Games has become relatively known, but in Japan, they are by far the biggest publishers, ironically though, their games come in some of the smallest boxes.
Their games generally fit into the “filler” category, taking usually only 15-30 minutes to play and not necessarily being the focal point of your game day, but they manage to fit a lot of game into an extremely small design space.
Deep Sea Adventure
Deep Sea Adventure puts players in the role of divers looking for treasure, the only problem is, there is one oxygen tank and everyone is sharing it. It’s a push your luck game where being greedy negatively affects everyone, and as such, it motivates players to be even more greedy.
It creates a lot of memorable moments and is super easy to teach and to play. It is highly recommend as a starting point for your Oink Games collection.
Fake Artist Goes to New York
Pencil First Games
Pencil First games has a working relationship with designer Steve Finn from Doctor Finn’s Games which is another small publisher that is worth checking out. Pencil First has taken on publishing responsibilities for a couple of his best games, Sunset Over Water and Herbaceous.
In addition the owner of Pencil First Games, Eduardo Baraf has published a game called Lift Off that was well received and actually has a brand new deluxe edition on Kickstarter as of the writing of this article.
Skulk Hollow is the most recent release from Pencil First Games and it is one of their most successful releases to date, it is a highly asymmetric 2 player game.
One player takes the role of a guardian trying to rid the land of the Foxen clan, while the other players take on the role of a band of heroes from the clan who are attempting to protect their village by vanquishing the guardian.
Red Raven Games
Red Raven Games is essentially a single person publishing company from ultra-talented renaissance man Ryan Laukat. Ryan Laukat does the design, the artwork, and the publishing of all the games through Red Raven Games. The amazing thing, it is all really, really good, especially the artwork, world-building, and storytelling. He is best known for Near and Far, but has a number of other good games in Above and Below, The Ancient World: 2nd Edition, Empires of the Void II and Eight Minute Empires: Legends.
With each game Ryan Laukat has produced, he has improved not only as a designer, but also as a storyteller and a world-builder. Sleeping Gods was Kickstarted in the late part of 2019 and it seems like this will be the feather in his cap.
This is a massive narrative-driven cooperative exploration and survival campaign game set in a uniquely created world. He borrows all that he has learned from the creation of Above and Below and Near and Far, to create this highly anticipated title set to drop in 2020.
Fun fact: Ryan Laukat (and family members) even composed, played, and recorded the musical composition used for the Sleeping Gods Kickstarter trailer. Just to further emphasize just how talented Ryan actually is.
Saashi & Saashi
I have made my love for Saashi & Saashi games no secret. Their newest release, Remember Our Trip, was mentioned in my Tokyo Game Market Preview.
I also make mention of them a few times in my top games that I played in 2019 on my personal blog.
Saashi & Saashi makes these light card and board games that feature the most charming artwork to go along with very unique themes. For example, they have covered improvisational jazz in Take the A Chord, catching elevators with In Front of Elevators, designing bus route’s in Let’s Make a Bus Route and I have already highlighted my favorite game of their’s, Coffee Roaster, as one of my picks for the best solo board games for single players.
Serious Poulp is also a relatively new publishing company that has just 3 games under their belt. Two small games, that even I have never heard of, 8 Master’s Revenge and Steam Torpedo, and then one mammoth game called 7th Continent.
This is a massive exploration game that has one of the most brilliant narrative exploration systems ever-created. As a designer, I find myself envious that I didn’t come up with this system, and yet, so thankful that someone did.
It is so simple and yet, it managed to give this feeling of authentic but controllable randomness in the world, because, in reality, it is hardly random at all, in fact it is mostly pre-determined by YOU and all your decisions and actions.
The game is vast and sprawling, I have played nearly 40 hours of it and I have barely scratched the surface of what the game offers. It was easily the top game I played in 2019 and might be my favorite game of all time. To find out more of what I have to say about 7th Continent, check out my post here.
The exciting news is that because it’s a system more than anything, it can be applied to new games, new stories, new worlds, and new themes. The next one on the docket for Serious Poulp is called 7th Citadel coming to Kickstarter later this year. Keep your eyes peeled for that one.
Side Room Games
Side Room Games is a small publisher that had their first game, Black Sonata published in 2019. They have published 2 other games, Maquis and Orchard since. All of which have had a very fast turn-around time and good quality production.
The games that they have published so far were all award winning print-and-play games from independent designers, so they are helping to make amateur designers into professionals, while exposing their wonderful designs to a larger audience.
Side Room Games at the moment, seems to focus their energy on Solo games exclusively and they do it well. Two of their games made our top solo game list so we won’t go into much detail on them here, but their 3rd one was just released.
Orchard is a very small box solitaire game that plays in under 10 minutes. It utilizes 9 cards and some dice, and it is about harvesting fruits. It funded on Kickstarter not so long ago and fulfillment is underway.
Reviews on it should be coming shorty, but since the game was previously made available as a print-and-play, there’s little doubt, the reviews will be positive.
This company has produced a lot of quality games, but they exploded in 2018 and 2019. Their past releases include Black Orchestra, Archmage, Farlight, and Alien Frontiers. However, the 2018 release of Everdell was a smash hit and they have since released 3 expansions for this game.
This game was one of the best games released in 2018 and it features some of the best artwork and world-building in modern board gaming. The game takes place in a charming location called Everdell, which is filled to the brim with anthropomorphic critters that are lush with character and emotion.
You and your friends will compete to build the best new village in Everdell by sending workers out to gather resources and then building a tableau of cards that represents your village.
Sinister Fish Games
Sinister Fish Games has only two titles under their belt, one called Great Scott which is out of print and another one called Villagers, which was released in 2019.
Villagers is a drafting game in which you will be drafting villagers to add into your personal village. There is an engine/tableau building aspect to it and the way you draft and combine useful abilities will lend to your success. The person who accrues the most amount of money wins the game. It is a simple and fun game with some very charming graphic design and artwork.
This is yet another Japanese publisher that is making a big impact in the tabletop industry. They have created a game called Eye My Favorite Things which is a trick taking party game that is extremely unique. It is primed for an international release, although there is no word yet as to whether this will or won’t happen.
They recently released a game at the Tokyo Game Market called Planet Plant which is a light-midweight strategy game. This game is a big step away from their previous hit, but it has some beautiful artwork and some interesting mechanics that will help this one live up to the expectations set by Eye My Favorite Things.
In addition, Surume Days was one of the organizers of the “Is This a Game?” exhibition in 2019 and they showcased 2 really interesting exhibits. Including the 1 Year Game and Post Life Game.
Read more: A look inside “Is This a Game?”
The name of this publisher is interesting to me, because everytime I read or hear it, I can’t help but hear Phil Collins “Sussudio” in my head. This company is based in Taipei, Taiwan and they have made a couple of high quality games in Dadaocheng and their 2019 publication Formosa Tea.
In Formosa Tea, players take on the role of tea farmers that harvest tea leaves, process them, and produce (hopefully) high quality tea to transport domestically and internationally. It walks through many facets of the tea industry in Taiwan via worker placement and worker advancement mechanics. The game is stunning and has a nice amount of strategic complexity.
The Pandemonium Institute
This is a new Australian publishing company that produced one of the biggest Kickstarters of 2019 earning over half a million dollars for their social deduction game Blood on the Clocktower.
This is one of the most verbose social deductions ever made. It plays up to 20 players and has a plethora of different roles and continuing contributions from “dead” players.
Check out the Shut Up and Sit Down review for a more detailed overview:
This publishing company is best known for their hit Roll Player, which has seen 2 big box expansions. The basic premise of the game is that you are creating an RPG character, which is a neat theme, but they took it further with the expansions by actually allowing you to use that character to do some really neat things in the Roll Player universe.
They have followed this up with two Roll Player tales, Lockup and most recently Cartographers.
This is a flip and write game that will have players drawing a map of the northern lands. In a time where roll/flip and write games have saturated the market, this one does a couple of really unique things:
- Player Interaction
- Variable Scoring
This is a fairly rare combination to have in this genre, and I think it really sets this game apart from the rest of the field.
This is a French company that came out with a really innovative cooperative game back in 2016, called V-Commandos. The game has been out of print for a while, but now they have rebooted the game system with the Assassin’s Creed license.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood of Venice
If you are unfamiliar with the series, Assassin’s Creed is a video game series that takes you through the annals of history to work as a stealthy assassin to assure peace via free-will. This game by Triton-Noir, takes the concept and places it into the V-Commandos gameplay system. It was Kickstarted in 2019 and should be coming out sometime during 2020.
This is the independent publishing company featuring Cole and Drew Wehrle. Cole Wehrle is the designer of great games such as Root and John Company. Wehrlegig Games was formed to facilitate the 2019 reprint of the 2nd edition of Pax Pamir. There is no information as to whether the company will be publishing any more games in the near future, but it is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Players are taking on the role of Afghan leaders during the 19th century. They will be battling for the manipulation of the Europeans who attempted to forge a new state following the collapse of the Durrani Empire. This is a highly political and strategic tableau builder featuring shifting allegiance and a unique end game trigger and scoring system. The 2nd Edition of the game has some of the most beautiful components in a modern board game.
This concludes our list of board game publishers that we think you should know about. There are always more great publishers out there waiting to be discovered, putting in the work behind the scenes, and that’s who we’re looking to celebrate.
All of these publishers, at some point, had to take risks and put themselves out there. I hope that you all can do what you can to support these publishers and what they do for our industry.
If you know of any companies or people putting out top-tier indie board games that are worth adding to this list, please let us know, and we will do our best to add.