When determining if a neighbor is a werewolf, it helps to have one’s wits. Unfortunately, as the local lush of my village, I was wasted when the angry mob came to the door. They demanded I prove my humanity, but I failed to give a coherent answer. Just to be safe, they lynched me.

This is a typical round of One Night Ultimate Werewolf, a popular board game that found its way to the coat closet of a close friend and avowed nerd. Tracing the origins of the game, however, doesn’t require a plane ticket to Hasbro’s headquarters in Pawtucket, R.I. In the midst of an engineering revolution, in the heart of the most technically advanced region in the world, a new kind of board game has skyrocketed to a prominence not seen in decades—and many of the games are being produced in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Unlike traditional American board games, these new kind of games, dubbed “euro games,” focus less on direct competition between players and more on territory and resource management. The games often intertwine the fates of players, so that cooperation becomes necessary to win, give or take a well-timed stab in the back.

Euro games, like Settlers of Catan, seem to be especially popular among Silicon Valley programmers. But many more people are catching on. The Toy Industry of America reports that the games/puzzles category—not including electronics—was up 10 percent from 2013 to 2014, totaling $1.42 billion in revenue. Catan, the prototypical euro game released in Germany in 1995, has sold 30 million copies worldwide. By comparison, Monopoly has sold over 275 million copies—but with a 60-year head start.

A trip to the HQ of Bezier Games, creator and publisher of One Night Ultimate Werewolf and several other popular—though niche—board games, leads to a row of two-story beige houses. The home base is hidden in plain sight in a suburb of south San Jose. Perhaps the only distinctive feature is a truck in the driveway, which is fully wrapped in an orange and purple sunset, silhouetting a muscular wolf man.

Ted Alspach, a former Adobe product manager who’s now president of Bezier Games, sits inside the home at a huge circular table in his game room. Even he can’t seem to believe the explosive popularity of his board games over the last decade.

“If you had told 2005 Ted that he had games in the top 50 on BoardGameGeek,” Alspach says, “he would’ve said, ‘No way. That’s awesome! But no way.’”

Alspach recalls how he ended up designing and publishing board games for a living. In 2005, he bought a plane ticket to Spiel, the world’s largest board game trade show, in Essen, Germany. There, out of a friend’s booth, he sold all 50 copies of a crude expansion he had designed for a then-popular game. Alspach didn’t break even for the trip, but he returned home confident and bought a high-end Xerox printer to continue constructing games of his own design.

“As a neophyte, totally naïve game designer, you send out 10 copies of your game to all these publishers and you expect, since it’s a good game, that someone’s gonna publish it,” he says.

2005 Ted was frequently disappointed.

It wasn’t until 2007 that Alspach gained traction, after making his own version of a bluffing game familiar to summer campers. Known to many as Mafia, he called his version Werewolf. Players sit in a circle and must identify the lone werewolf, who secretly “murders” other players one by one. A consensus about whom to stop is formed through freeform argument, meaning the best werewolf is usually the best BSer. Alspach began creating his own version of the game, adding new roles for players and gameplay mechanisms.

“It was really popular,” he says. “People kept asking me to make them a copy.”

He posted his creation several places online, including BoardGameGeek, and ended up selling 800 copies, all handmade. “That’s 40,000 cards I had to cut,” Alspach says. “At some point I realized the quality was just acceptable—and that’s probably putting it nicely. So, I decided to take the dive and actually get it professionally printed.”

He found an artist in New Zealand and a printer willing to do small-scale manufacturing. The first run totaled 2,000 copies and within a year the game was sold out. “That doesn’t sound like a lot,” he says, “but in the world of board games selling 2,000 or 3,000 copies is a successful game.”

The next version, a modification of another game by a Japanese designer, became One Night Ultimate Werewolf. Since its release in 2014, it has sold almost 100,000 copies. Kickstarter campaigns for its sequel and prequel have raised $150,000 and $380,000, respectively. Alspach recently posted a video on the company’s Facebook page of a man proposing in the middle of a One Night game.

Bezier’s parallel-lined logo can be found on games like Suburbia or Castles of Mad King Ludwig. Not exactly household names, but they rate in the top 100 games on boardgamegeek.com, the preeminent online hub for board gamers. They rank close to many other Bay Area-bred games: Dominion, out of Berkeley; Ticket to Ride, out of Los Altos; or Race for the Galaxy, from Palo Alto.

The Bay Area’s robust board game ecosystem appears to owe its provenance to former tech geeks. Tom Lehmann, designer of Race for the Galaxy, worked at Oracle as a programmer. “After four hectic years, I wanted to work on smaller projects and had a bit of money to be foolish,” he says, “so I became a game publisher.”

Lehmann’s colleagues have followed similar trajectories, he says, naming off Bay Area designers such as Matt Leacock, Donald Vaccarino, Susan McKinley Ross, Wei-Hwa Huang and Alspach.

“Among the designers in the Bay Area, many, including myself, have worked in high tech and bring those skills to our designs,” says Lehmann, who collaborated with Huang, a one-time Googler, on a dice-based adaptation of Race for the Galaxy. Leacock, a former Apple employee, created the acclaimed Pandemic.

Alspach says he knows a game design has real promise when players take ownership of the play. In Castles of Mad King Ludwig, as an example, the game’s king demands that players create a castle to his peculiar specifications, set randomly at the beginning of each game. The players then physically build their own castle, which includes constructing bowling alleys or great halls or dungeons. Players try to curry favor with the king while minimizing penalties, such as putting the bowling alley next to the queen’s bedroom. During playtesting, Alspach found, players started out just wanting to build their castle for its own sake.

“They’re so excited about getting this room that they add to their castle,” he says. “The points are not even in their mind.”

Creating that kind of engagement, to the point where winning becomes secondary, Alspach says, is why these niche games have become so special. “You want to win, but outsmarting other people, there’s something about that, like, ‘Oh, I got that one past you!’”