Thursday, October 4, 2012

Top 7 Game Publishers

I try my best to judge a game based on the merits of the game.  One of the merits of a game is the company that publishes the game.  This isn't always a guarantee that the game will be great, but there are some companies that excite me more than others.

#7 Tasty Minstrel Games (TMG)
TMG is an up and coming company.  They've had some early successes with Homesteaders, Belfort, Martian Dice, and my personal favorite from them, Eminent Domain.  They've had some growing pains, but they're a company looking to publish great games, and provide fun games for families and gamers alike.  I've enjoyed the TMG games that I have played, and I hope there are more to come.  A few are in need of an expansion, and I hope TMG focuses on building up their existing product line as well as adding quality to it.

#6 Gryphon Games (Part of FRED distribution)
I've enjoyed many Gryphon games, from the non-gamer favorites of For Sale and Can't Stop to the slightly heavier Roll Through the Ages.  Gryphon Games targets casual gamers who are looking for an enjoyable play experience in a relatively short time. (Under 1 hour, typically around 30 minutes)  Games that are fun and short tend to be a hit with people of all ages and gaming backgrounds.  I really appreciate having games like that around, since I can introduce them to people and play almost instantly.

#5 Wizkids
Wizkids is fairly new to boardgame publishing, but they've made a big splash.  When they acquired the Star Trek license, my Trek fanboy heart was overjoyed.  When I saw what they did with Star Trek Fleet Captains, and to a lesser extent, Star Trek Expeditions, I was simply amazed.  Wizkids has been in the HeroClix business for a long time, so they're no stranger to amazing sculpts of characters and vessels from a variety of properties.  Wizkids has published some very strong games in their short existence, including the highly innovated Quarriors, and the highly intriguing Mage Knight.  They're a company on the rise, and I look forward to seeing what the have in store.

#4 Rio Grande Games (RGG)
RGG is best known for Carcassonne and Dominion, which are two games I rate highly and enjoy.  Those two games also show the two paths that RGG has taken in game publishing.  In their early days, RGG was primarily a game importer.  They sought out great games in Europe and brought them over to the US.  With Dominion and Race for the Galaxy, RGG started publishing some of their own games.  I've greatly enjoyed this shift, since I'm not a huge fan of "euro" games.  RGG has a good blend of games, and I think they're a company that offers something for everyone.

#3 Z-Man Games
Z-Man takes the shotgun scatter approach to games.  They like to publish a lot of games and see what sticks with their audience.  There isn't anything inherently wrong with this approach, though it can lead to some good games not getting the recognition they deserve.  The best Z-Man game I've played is Pandemic, but they have published a lot of other really good games: Agricola, 1960, Ascending Empires, Ares Project, No Thanks, Neuroshima Hex, and countless others.

#2 Fantasy Flight Games (FFG)
FFG is best known for large scale productions.  Twilight Imperium, Descent, StarCraft, Rune Wars, and many more.  I've yet to play one of their "coffin box" games, choosing to focus my efforts on some of their smaller games, such as Cosmic Encounter and Space Hulk: Death Angel the card game.  FFG is well known for stunning production quality.  They put a great effort into miniatures which make their big games look fantastic.  FFG is also known for their LCG (Limited Card Game) lines.  They have taken the business model of a randomly distributed card game and modified it with predefined chapter packs.  This allows everyone to own all the cards for a set price.  FFG has a superb commitment to quality and growth in the board game industry, and a propensity for expansions.  

#1 Days of Wonder (DOW)
DOW has made some truly great games, Ticket to Ride and Shadows over Camelot are two of my favorites.  Every DOW game that I've played, I've liked.  There are some that are better than others, but all of them have something to offer.  DOW focuses on superb quality and a very small quantity.  This keeps people coming back from more, without feeling that they could never keep up with the flow of new releases.

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