Almost simultaneously as I was getting deep into the board gaming hobby, I was introduced to Kickstarter. Companies like CoolMiniOrNot and Game Salute were just hitting their stride, and some great unknown publishers were making their mark with crowdfunded games. I was like Cookie Monster at the Girl Scout cookie factory, and all I saw was awesomeness. I had to have them all.
This may be a wasted paragraph, but I don’t want to leave anyone in the dark. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform that has taken off in the past few years. Initially it was for artists to fund weird installations and for musicians to record experimental albums. Kickstarter’s business model is based on the idea that individuals can financially ‘back’ a project, making something that would not normally happen a possibility. Independent artists were cutting out the middle man, and getting things done. Musicians were able to jump start their career without the need of a record label. This empowerment to the independent entrepreneur sprouted into a plethora of different branches from product design and comic books, to movies and restaurants.
The important thing for us: the board game industry was waiting for Kickstarter to happen. For all but a few behemoths, board game companies are made up of small teams of designers and publishers that are just barely making it. Many companies scrape to fund their next game with the sales they are bringing in of their current game. With significant minimum print quantities from manufacturers, a substantial amount of capital is required to produce a game. Kickstarter gives creators a way to collect that money before production.
Games like Alien Frontiers and Escape were some early Kickstarter success stories. After some momentum started building up some really great games started coming out, like Manhattan Project, Zombicide, Battle CON, Nothing Personal, 1775: Rebellion and a bunch of other high quality, super fun games. On top of that, many projects add ‘exclusives’ and stretch goals to further entice people to jump in. I first got into Kickstarter because I saw in retrospect how crazy the Abomination Level of Zombicide was. I didn’t want to miss out on that! Basically free stuff!
This is awesome right?! Well, no. For every game that is a success story, there is a whole pile of games that are flops. These are undeveloped, unplaytested things that some pass off as games. I don’t want to sound elitist here, but Kickstarter is inundated with projects there are not nearly to the level the previously stated successes. Even worse are the games that are successful in their funding, but then turn south. The horrors are diverse, ranging from games being significantly delayed (on the order of years), not being produced at all, that are thrown together with little care, where lawyers get involved, and some cases of outright fraud.
What does this mean for you, the interested consumer? Be careful. Do your own research. If something seems too good to be true, it most likely is (unless it is OGRE). Remember that you are spending money. Real money. Just like in the Matrix… if you spend money on Kickstarter, you spend money in real life. Don’t forget that you may not see the thing you backed yesterday for a long while (I am still waiting for Lost Valley and Salem).
What is FTKU?
I am going to be scouring Kickstarter so you don’t have to! Each week I will post a handful of projects that I think are interesting to check out. This way you won’t miss out on the exclusives and the stretch goals. You won’t ever have to use the horrible search function of Kickstarter! In addition I will likely be writing some short weekly commentary on the world of tabletop gaming on Kickstarter.
I am going to be focusing just on board games and card games. The Kickstarter ‘TableTop’ category is full of other things like RPGs and Miniatures; I am going to stay away from them. To be honest, I also have some biases that will come though in the projects that I pick. There are some companies whose business model I don’t particularly like, and in general I ignore on Kickstarter.
I want to make it very clear, here and forever, that I am not endorsing, in any way, these projects. I have backed projects based on reputable sources suggestion and said projects were never completed (See Odin’s Ravens). Do your own research! I am just a guy with an internet connection, I have the same information as all of you.
I will see you next Friday.