So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Publisher Profile: Rio Grande Games

Our third stop for publishers is Rio Grande Games (RGG).  A look at this company in comparison to the other publishers profiled reveals that RGG is the most prolific of the three.  RGG takes a different strategy when it comes to publishing games; they primarily bring established games from Europe to the United States rather than bring a new game to market.  This approach has shown itself in the number of Spiel des Jahres (SdJ) winners that RGG has published, including Dominion, Carcassonne, Zooloretto, Thurn and Taxisand Niagara to name a few.  Of BoardGameGeek’s (BGG) Top 100, Rio Grande Games has 25 titles!

The number of (SdJ) winners makes sense when you think about RGG’s focus on family games.  The first few sentences on their website say it all:

Rio Grande Games is dedicated to bringing you the best in family entertainment. We offer the best family strategy games available! We have games for younger children to play with their older siblings and parents, games for their older siblings to play with their friends, and games for teens and parents to play with each other or when they get together for social occasions.

PR was #1 on BGG for years! (Promo image)
With this focus and with the focus of this blog being so similar, it would be easy to think that RGG is the publisher most commonly found in our family’s game collection.  We do have nine of their games.  Even if we throw out Hasbro, who makes a lot of the kid’s games we own, there are a couple of other companies that are represented more on our shelves.  Fantasy Flight Games, which I mentioned a few weeks ago, is one of them.  Z-man Games is the other.  Fantasy Flight has more theme, which my boy and I love, and Z-man produces a lot of inexpensive card games, which skews things in their direction.  However, I enjoy every Rio Grande Game that we own and have played; I can’t say that about every company!

As one thinks about it, this all makes sense.  RGG has focused on publishing European (largely German) boardgames for the US market, which makes the games very family friendly.  This style of game, often called a Eurogame within hobby circles, tends to be a little less thematic, with a focus on keeping everyone in the game until the end, and with both mid-game and end of game scoring.  Great stuff for casual gaming as we discuss here at Zwischenzug.

The games are all made with excellent components.  The artwork is pleasing to the eye, if not eye popping.  RGG publishes very few games that last more than 90 minutes and most play in an hour or less.  All of these are great games for a casual night of play.

In fact, buying a Rio Grande game is nearly guaranteed to give you a game that is designed around a family.  However, it is not a guarantee of a great game.  It’s true that buying an SdJ winner will give you a great game.  Nonetheless, with as prolific as RGG is, they have published a few stinkers too.  It’s just the law of averages; no one “bats a thousand” as they say in baseball.

This is a MUST HAVE game!
What does this mean to the casual and family game player?  Beyond the SdJ winners, which are all excellent, the key issue to buying a good Rio Grande game is where you buy your games from.  If you buy from a brick and mortar game store, just ask.  As much as I find many store employees lacking in knowledge, they will probably be able to help here.  If you buy at a store like Barnes and Noble, they will only have the better Rio Grande games physically in the store.  If you buy online, things are a little more dicey, but you will be fine if you buy the most popular RGG games at Amazon or the like.  This is a publisher that has enough sales for those to be meaningful statistics. 

Personally, I would have to recommend Carcassonne.  Everyone I have ever introduced the game to has loved it.  It is one of my personal favorites.  After chess, it is the game which I have played the most.  It’s probably due for a full review, so I will stop at that.  Ah, the list of games for me grows longer.  For you, well…

It’s Your Move!


  1. Nice idea for a series of posts!

    RGG's top banana, Jay Tummelson, could arguably be credited with the mass migration of the Euro gamming hobby to the United States that began in the 1990s. While working with Mayfair, he really pioneered the reprinting of award-winning German games in English for the domestic market, like Settlers of Catan. Mayfair and other companies (Z-Man is another good one) continue to use this formula successfully, but not with as much volume as RGG.

    A quick check on-line notes that RGG has published 12 of 33 Spiel des Jares winners (the older titles admittedly after the fact, but still) and also 11 of the 21 Deutscher Spieler Preis winners (the "gamers' games" - though a few one both honors).

    Does that make them the Cadillac of Game Publishers?

  2. Thanks for checking the statistics. I am not sure is that makes them the Cadillac of publishers, or more like General Motors Corporation -- huge producer with lots of selection. Nonetheless, they are certainly a major player in starting and continuing to bring Euros to the US.

    And now that you mention Jay, I realize I should have mentioned that RGG is great to work with as a customer. I bought a used copy of a game which was missing parts, and Jay was able to find the part lying around to help me restore it. Great customer service.