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Moving and Shaking: 7 Great Board Game Publishers (Early 2020)

A web search of “board game publishers” yields 2,110,00 results. So…that’s a lot.

But board game publishers aren’t created equally. How do we know which are best, the brightest? Well, a very few of them crank out game after game that combine wonderful gameplay, high component quality, value for your money, and funfunfun games that always find their way to the table.

As with all lists, this is subjective, but I tried to give good thinky thoughts to this and I’ve listed my top board game publishers below. It’s an alchemical combo of steadiness, what’s in the pipeline, trust they have built with customers, and more. So, trust that when you buy from one of these companies, you’ll get something good.

7 Great Board Game Publishers (Early 2020)

Days of Wonder

Days of Wonder is a thoughtful game company. They have a measured release schedule that pretty much only produces A+ games. Days of Wonder might not produce many games, but they are all killer, no filler, and they make this list due to their steadiness and dependability.

Ticket to Ride and Smallworld are well-known classics. Their record of consistency has also created a nice catalog of games like Five Tribes and the new Deep Blue, which I, sadly, have not been able to try.

But my favorite Days of Wonder game is Memoir ’44: a World War II themed game that I’ve reviewed in full.

Top Days of Wonder games:

  • Memoir ’44
  • Ticket to Ride

Leder Games

Leder Games is a small company that has become known for a certain type and they make this list due to the strength of Root and Oath, which is in the pipeline.

Root took the gaming world by storm. It had a wonderful blend of deep asymmetrical strategic gameplay mixed with…cuteness. Our full review of Root is here.

So, while the St Paul, MN-based company has developed an identifiable pattern with their games, it’s working like a champ. Their smart design, attention to illustrations, and story-deep gameplay is a hit, right now with Root. And we suspect in 2021 with Oath.

Top Leder Games game:

CMON

CMON was formerly Cool Mini or Not, which was appropriate because with CMON games, you come for the cool minis.

Known for multi-million dollar Kickstarters for games like Zombicide and Blood Rage, CMON has built their company on big, thematic games with BEAUTIFULLY sculpted miniatures that entice board gamers via stretch goals.

I’m an admitted big dumb animal when it comes to my game preferences, so I love the active and thematic games that CMON produces. Would CMON still make this list if their games didn’t include zombies, samurai, Vikings, and wizards? I dunno. But I don’t have to imagine that hypothetical because my gaming shelves are chock full of CMON minis!

(Our review of Zombicide and Blood Rage.)

The latest CMON game is a Marvel game that is filled with–you guessed it–a box full of superhero minis.

Top CMON Games:

Fantasy Flight Games

FFG stands for the Minnesota based Fantasy Flight Games. Being one of the largest game companies, they have lots of good titles in their catalog, but few are as well-received as their licensed games, particularly those from Star Wars.

Star Wars games like Imperial Assault and X-Wing are fantastic, plus Star Wars Rebellion from their long-time in-house designer Corey Konieczka is a masterpiece.

Before Covid-19, I would write many of my Nerds on Earth articles from Fantasy Flight’s Game Center, which has gaming space for several hundred, plus a full kitchen. It’s wonderful, just like Fantasy Flight Games. You can rest assured that if you pick up a game from Fantasy Flight, it will be a quality one.

Top FFG Games:

Plaid Hat

Plaid Hat was an indie game company that was acquired by Asmodee, only to recently go indie again. They made this list because of that recent turn, which has fans wondering if it will allow them to go back to their roots.

Designer Jerry Hawthorne is known for whimsical story-driven games like Mice and Mystics and studio head Colby Dauch is known for 1v1 games like Summoner Wars.

Dauch is candid in telling the story of the professional and personal events that took Plaid Hat from indie to acquisition to indie again.

Their upcoming game is pirate themed, which makes it instantly interesting to me.

Top Paid Hat games:

Starling

A game board with a tree built in really does inject a boost of interest to the table.

Starling made the list due to the steady popularity of a single hit: Everdell. It’s a game with cute forest creatures that is balanced with legitimate gameplay.

But that’s not enough on it’s own to make this list. Starling has produced an impressive set of expansions for Everdell. Each begin on Kickstarter but are delivered on time, with clear communication, and an overall broad strategy to support them in game stores and wide distribution as well.

Like Leder, they are another small publisher with very few titles. But big studios like FFG more than balance them out.

Top Starling game:

Stonemaier

Stonemaier cares about the industry as a whole, as well as the individual board games they produce. Jamey Stegmaier is an industry thought leader who has helped raise the water level for everyone. (Our interview with him is here.)

But that wouldn’t be enough to put Stonemaier on this list if they didn’t release great games. Between Two Cities and Euphoria are solid, while Viticulture is a delight. And Scythe is a bonafide hit that was then one-upped by Wingspan.

Stonemaier cares so much about quality, each one of their games is anticipated upon release.

Top Stonemaier games:


So there you have it: lots of great board game publishers, making lots of great board games. Plenty of games were linked as well, because you can trust if you get a game from the above companies that you are getting a ton of entertainment in a box.