Two women are seated on the floor of an apartment. They have a board game placed on a small coffee table between them. One woman has a deck of cards in her hand and is shuffling the deck.
Board games are experiencing a resurgence. Entrepreneurs are leveraging the trend with quirky, sweet, and even eerie games to help friends, families, and strangers connect. — Getty Images/Fiordaliso

Board games have made a big comeback over the past few years. After finding more leisure time during the pandemic or feeling isolated without much human interaction, people are playing tabletop games to reconnect with others, have fun, and engage in some friendly competition.

A cultural longing for community has catalyzed the industry into a “golden age not seen since the 80s,” wrote The Washington Post. These five small businesses are making tabletop games popular again.

We’re Not Really Strangers

A simple concept has brought great success to We’re Not Really Strangers Creator Koreen Odiney. In 2018, the then 23-year-old had the idea to create an ice-breaker-style card game that encourages people to get more intimate with each other— whether the game is played with friends, family, or strangers.

Six years later, Odiney has expanded on her idea with a variety of different decks designed to get closer to a romantic partner or even yourself. This game takes “How are you?” to the next level.

We’re Not Really Strangers rose to popularity during the pandemic due to its connection-making nature. Transferring the compelling questions on the cards to social media reinforced Odiney’s goal of bringing people together and served as a digital conversation starter.

Posting relatable thoughts like “One day at a time” or “What’s been keeping you sane lately?” grew the brand’s Instagram following to a staggering 5.4 million followers. Odiney has truly created a community around the game and has surely deepened relationships all over the world.

Facade Games

Started by Holly and Travis Hancock, and backed by crowdfunding, Facade Games has been creating board games since 2015. The couple launched their first game, Salem 1692, that year as a fun side project, but the support they received on Kickstarter was overwhelming.

A few years later, they crowdfunded their second game, which exceeded their fundraising expectations, and the Hancocks quit their careers to make Facade Games their primary pursuit. To date, they’ve produced seven games and have sold nearly half a million copies.

With light strategy and social deduction games such as Bristol 1350 — which is based on the Black Plague — and Hollywood 1947 — based on the Hollywood Red Scare — darker historical events are the common thread throughout the Dark Cities series. Composed of five games, each one tells a different story, so the Hancocks decided that each game should be housed in a hollowed-out book.

Travis recalls, “My mom … would always say as soon as a game box is ruined, the game is ruined.” Thanks to this clever packaging, each set can be stored more easily than in a conventional cardboard box.

A cultural longing for community has catalyzed the industry into a “golden age not seen since the 80s.”

The Washington Post

CMYK Games

Previously known as Palm Court, CMYK Games is a New York-based collaborative group effort among Alex Hague, Justin Vickers, James Nathan Spencer, Wolfgang Warsch, Matt Leacock, Jon Perry, and more. Designers first, the creators focus on the aesthetic appeal of their games as much as gameplay. Their mission is to make immersive social games that don’t look like anything else on your table.

CMYK’s collection includes their debut game, Monikers, dubbed “the perfect party game” by The New York Times; a game-show-style board game, Wavelength, that begs participants to be telepathic; and Daybreak, a cooperative game that enlists players to find solutions to the climate crisis.

The Fuzzies involves building a tower of little felt balls, Lacuna is a two-person game with the objective of connecting and collecting the most flowers, and Spots is a dice game inspired by Christoph Niemann’s “Faites Vos Jeux” visual pun. It’s safe to say that CMYK wants to be the producer of the prettiest board games.

Resonym

Game designer, digital artist, and professor Mary Flanagan is the founder of Resonym, a New Hampshire-based tabletop game publisher committed to inclusivity and being socially conscious. Using a small team of artists, testers, and administrative professionals, everything is created in-house with the help of many collaborators.

Resonym has a lineup of both board games and card games with a variety of themes that’s continued to grow since 2012. Buffalo: The Name Dropping Game has everyone at the table name prominent people and celebrities that match a particular description as fast as they can.

Another card game, Awkward Moment, has players submit embarrassing scenarios to “the decider” every round, with the goal of getting the winning reaction.

Phantom Ink is a competition between two spirits who write out clues to help their mediums guess the secret object as quickly as possible. The company has published eight other party and strategy games for adults and families — all made with fairness and the fantastical in mind.

Lost Boy Entertainment

Hollywood writer K.C. Schrimpl and his family own and operate Lost Boy Entertainment, a board game publisher and film production company. As a professional screenwriter, Schrimpl is the driving force behind the creative side of things and has curated a small selection of both kid-friendly and adult-only games.

Plunder: A Pirate’s Life was the first game Schrimpl released in 2019. This is a family game in which each pirate tries to collect the most resources, land, and treasure they can. King’s Cup Extreme is an elaborate take on the classic party game. Piles! is akin to Ligretto and the memory game, while Cheers to the Governor offers inventive new rules to another timeless card game.

Among Thieves, Schrimpl’s directorial debut, was released in 2019. A filmmaker first, Schrimpl incorporates other entertainment, such as comedic skits, into his brand and social media accounts. Lost Boy Entertainment is setting itself apart from other game publishers by pushing the boundaries of what a board game company can be.

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