Board games are a great way to bring the family together (assuming it isn’t Monopoly, of course). The standard board games such as Candyland, Clue, Jenga, and Operation are good, time-tested family fun, but it is often even better to try something new or unique. In my experience, independently developed board games (or “indie games”) are often the best, since they are creative and fit a niche interest.
So where can you find indie games? There are actually a lot of options if you know where to look. Here are some places to start your search:
My number one source is Kickstarter. This website has all kinds of independently developed things including movies, products, technology, and of course, board games. They have a full category specifically designed for board games called “Tabletop Games” under their main “Game” category. I have had great success with games purchased from Kickstarter. One of my favorites is Palatine, where you take on the role of one of the powerful Roman families to build up political and military power to take over the city of Rome. Another example is Exploding Kittens (the objective is to prevent your kitten from exploding), which became so successful that it ranks as one of the highest-grossing Kickstarter projects ever. It is great fun and one of the easiest card games to learn.
There is one major downside to Kickstarter: It typically takes a long time to get your purchase. Projects on Kickstarter have prototypes but haven’t actually been made yet. The point of the websites is to get funding to produce your idea, and campaigns to raise money can last up to two months. Then there is a period of time when the designer has to perfect the game and have it produced, which can take several more months. One of the games I requested ended up being delayed due to supply issues (the game ended up being more popular than expected). Kickstarter requires a lot of patience, but it definitely has its benefits.
Next Page: Don’t Count Out Ye Olde Amazon.com.
2. Good Old Amazon
Another source is Amazon.com, which has a category under “Games” called “Board Games.” You will have to filter the results by “Featured Brands” to find the “Indie Boards & Cards” category, which is unfortunately rather limited. Look for the Featured Brands filter and choose it to see the full list — you can start by selecting a letter. You will then see hundreds of brands, most of them having only 1 or 2 offerings in the Amazon store. For example, I suggest looking up “Artana” under “Toys & Games” — their game Tesla vs. Edison is complicated but very fun.
Next Page: The Best Option of All, Board Game Geek.
3. Board Game Geek
Finally, if you want to get really indie, I suggest looking up BoardGameGeek.com. As the name suggests, it is a pretty geeky website, which allows you to browse by game or publisher. The site includes many independent publishers including “self-published” and “open source.” Here you will find over 4,000 games under “self-published” alone. This site has more information on games than you could ever want, but you will definitely want to check out each game’s reviews, popularity, comments, and forum conversations.
You can also find links on where to purchase each game, eBay auctions for that game, or even people who want to trade for it. For example, if you are interested in “Battle for China” (a board game that simulates the Japanese invasion of China in 1937), you will find out that there are a few European sites selling the game for about €20.00 and there are 18 people interested in trading for it.
Board games are always great fun. They are mentally stimulating, social, and can bring the family together. Indie versions can let you find a unique game for your family and keep the rotation fresh. The sources above should direct you to find some great independent options. Feel free to leave a comment about which indie games your own family plays!