Hello! Welcome to Friday Tabletop Kickstarter Update! For info on what is going on here, check out this introduction. As always, there is a lot going on, let us jump in.
Remember that I am in no way endorsing these games, I have not played them, I have not talked to the publishers. Back at your own risk.
The Battle for Hill 218
Apparent Weight: Light-Medium
Genre: Hand Managment, Historic Combat, Card Game
The Battle for Hill 218 was first printed in 2007 by the relatively small publisher Your Move Games. Originally just a small print run with minimal graphics, it has been slowly gaining support from the boardgaming community. Now this game can be yours! This campaign aims to update the art and upgrade the component quality of the latest print run.
Dungeon Lords: Happy Anniversary
Apparent Weight: Medium – Heavy
Genre: Card management, Action selection, Resource management
Legendary designer Vlaada Chvátil’s Dungeon Lords is getting a revamp for its birthday! The fifth anniversary is approaching of this dungeon ruling game, where players are the big baddie trying to take down the annoying heroes. If you have always wanted your own copy, including some expansions and special exclusives, now is the time.
Shadows over Normandie
Apparent Weight: Medium
Genre: Light wargame, Tactical squad movement, Card Drafting
Last year Devil Pig Games invaded the Kickstarter world with its hit Heroes of Normandie. For their first extension of the game line they decided to add Lovecraftian Horror to World War Two. This is an obvious choice, right? I cannot get over how amusing and fun the art looks for this game, I love it. Plenty of additional content can be found on their campaign page.
Zombicide Season 3
Apparent Weight: Medium
Genre: Cooperative Zombie Survival, Miniatures
It is that time of the year again, CoolMiniOrNot has launched their latest installment in the Zombicide franchise. Fan rejoice, haters hate, either way Zombies are coming! I use quite a few words below to hit on some highlights of the campaign, see that for more info.
Deliberation with Zombies
Thoughts on the world of Tabletop Kickstarter.
I was recently reading a project update that defensively mentioned something to the effect of “If I was running a zombie miniature kickstarter I would do things differently… ” Later in the comments of the same update, a backer questioned the creator’s intent on bashing another project. The response from the creator specifically called out Zombicide, and clarified that they were not bashing, they were acknowledging that their campaign was not nearly as strong as CoolMini’s. You cannot go in to a comment section of a Tabletop Kickstarter project without seeing Zombicide mentioned somewhere. It is arguably the most successful game franchise to be backed on Kickstarter. In this case when I say game, I don’t mean ‘just’ boardgames, but I mean all gaming related projects. Only the OUYA console has raised more than the three Zombicide campaigns. Some people love this game and some people hate it with a passion.
To be fair and upfront, in an effort to acknowledge my biases, I am a fan of Zombicide. It was one of the first games I reviewed for Gaming Trend. Even more important to me is that my wife is an even bigger fan. Zombicide may be her favorite game of all time. In fact, Zombicide is the reason that I became interested in Kickstarter. We played the game after the first Kickstarter had taken place, and felt as though we missed out on the craze that was the initial campaign. From that point on, I was motivated to never miss such an exciting gaming event.
Two weeks ago, CoolMiniorNot and Guillotine Games launched Season 3 of Zombicide, with another standalone game Rue Morgue and expansion Angry Neighbors. Right off the bat, similarities from the Season 2 campaign became clear: similar pledge level set ups ($150 for both boxes), each box introduced a new location and separate new zombie type, and a promotional figure included right at the start. Like any good CoolMiniOrNot campaign, this one is full of complaining backers.
While you may not be interested in Zombicide, what is going on with this campaign is still relevant to anyone who is interested in Kickstarter, simply because of the numbers of backers and how vocal they are. At the moment I am writing this, there are almost 33,000 comments in the main section alone, not to mention the hundreds of comments on each update. And while I don’t suggest you try to read them all, there is still something to be gained.
It seems as though the general backer’s complaints can be funneled into four categories: 1) stretch goals were spaced too far apart 2) stretch goals that only offer half of a game component or that are not functional game components 3) Add-ons that replace free stretch goals and 4) the Cost of non-exclusive add ons.
One of the most exciting thing about CoolMini’s campaigns, and really most successful Kickstarter campaigns, is watching stretch goals come and go. In the future I may talk to how absurd this is, all this talk of ‘reaching for stretch goals.’ But for most backers this is very important, and many Zombicide backers expect a certain level of frenzy to be accompanied with their goals. Stretch goals that are spaced farther than $5000 seem to get backers suspicious, and every $75k is far too long for some people.
Speaking of stretch goals, there are only so many more zombies CoolMini can throw in to a box before people stop caring about stretch goals. To combat this, every once in a while CoolMini will add a stretch goal that is a completely new mechanic. After a whole slew of initial zombies a stretch goal was announced for five Crowz miniatures. That sounds awesome, right? More minis! A new zombie type! But wait… what about their spawn cards? The very next stretch goal was a set of spawn cards that allowed for these new figures to be used in the game. The uproar was great (in terms of Kickstarter at least). Backers were upset about these two things not being included in the same goal. The absurdity of getting miniatures without a way to use them!
These Crowz lead to the next debacle. A few days after these stretch goals were passed, CoolMini announced that backers could add to their pledge to purchase a box of Crowz miniatures. This seems innocuous enough, until it was pointed out that the stretch goal was only offering five figures, while the add on included fifteen figures. It is apparent that five minis is not going to be enough to effectively integrate in to gameplay, that this add on pack is necessary for a normal experience. Only to add to their angst, a similar stretch-goal-turned-even-
better-purchase situation happened with the experience mode cards. The stretch goal offered a deck of fifty four cards while an optional buy pack included the same fifty four cards plus an additional fifty six different cards.
In addition to the above, some backers believed that the cost of the add on material is far too high. Just about all of the additional items are non exclusive, meaning that backers should be able to purchase them after the campaign. The additional products are listed with MSRP values that do not match up with realistic retail values. Season Three followed suit and included three Artist Packs of survivors designed by special guests, each priced at twenty dollars. Looking back at Season two, these packs were offered at 15 dollars, and more importantly they can now be found online for the same price. The wealth of other add ons are similarly judged to be artificially high MSRPs with only modest discounts to backers (that are still higher than actual retail value).
And here is the tipping point for some backers. One particular backer called for a protest. I am 100% sure he read my previous post about Who is in Charge. This backer asked everyone to lower their pledge level to the bare minimum and to remove additional funding for add ons in an effort to ‘force’ CoolMini to acknowledge their grievances. There was a surprising number of people who supported this call for protest and a noticeable stagnation in funding occurred over the next evening. For reference, previously this campaign was pulling in ~$40k-$50k a day. On this evening almost no money was added to the campaign.
As I was watching this unfold, I felt myself sympathize with the disgruntled backers. They had some valid points. Or so I thought until I stepped back and looked at the larger picture.
While it may seem that CoolMini does not respond to their backers, the reality is their response takes longer to be seen than a day of fervent backer comments. I took some time to look back over the past three campaigns to see where Season Three stands in comparison.
First major response that I noticed, that seemed to be ignored by the overwhelming majority of the backer base, was the inclusion of all previous promotional figure’s play mats. CoolMini has always struggled with the issue of Kickstarter exclusives. Their first kickstarter included some exclusive miniatures that are in very high demand now. For example, a Dave the Geek figure sold for $133 on eBay. The play mats for the associated figures have been posted on the Guillotine Games website for at least the past year, allowing players to print off a copy and play with proxy figures. The very first stretch goal was to include every play mat for all promotional figures from the first two campaigns. This exactly solves their issue of keeping the figures exclusive, while still giving new fans a way to play with the old characters. Of course the only comments about this were people who were complaining about getting redundant play mats.
It would not surprise me if these new play mats also include corrected versions of the Season two figures and they were all misprinted originally. Even more of great effort by CoolMini to make fans happy.
Next I looked at the number of miniatures included for each ‘main’ pledge level over the three campaigns. For this, I only looked at the big box game included, so Zombicide, Prison Outbreak and Rue Morgue. Each pledge level was basically $100. In addition, I only compared extra game elements that would work with the respected game. For example in Season Two a handful of Toxic Zombies included that did not really matter for Prison Outbreak. I ignored these. My main motivation here was to see if at the end, the stretch goals were similar. As these benchmarks are arbitrarily set along the way, and each goal contains different numbers of additional stuff, I just wanted to compare the end result.
Here are the miniature counts:
So grand totals: Zombicide: 94 zombies, 12 survivors, Prison Outbreak: 96 zombies, 17 survivors and now Rue Morgue: 118 zombies and 18 survivors. We have a clear winner here. It should be noted that I am taking these numbers from the Season three campaign before it is even over. At the moment it is just about half way done, so Rue Morgue’s number may go up still. I think it is safe to say that the stretch goals are spaced similarly to the way they were before in terms of end-of-the-day zombies per pledge.
Now the grievances towards CoolMini about the Crowz and the experience deck do have a little bit of credit to them. I can see where CoolMini is coming from, they want to infuse their campaigns with excitement over the long haul. Every day there seems to be a morning update and an evening update. In an effort to continue drumming up support, things need to be slowly added to the pot. What is interesting is that CoolMini has used this tactic from the first campaign with the inclusion of Zombivors. For the first two campaigns every single survivor has an included zombivor. They were all released as stretch goal X: New Survivor, stretch goal X+$1000 New Survivor’s Zombivor! To complain about the Crows double stretch is to simply complain about fabricated stretch goals. I don’t think CoolMini had any intention of not producing the required cards.
Sure I think CoolMini inflates their MSRPs, but show me a Kickstarter campaign that posts a retail price that is not inflated. This has become a standard for the gaming industry (and really retail at large) and is worth of its own post. I have complained about it before, and I know game store owners wish that consumers never knew. Backers should know by now that if they don’t want it, they don’t have to buy it. No one is ‘making’ them buy anything, even if the culture suggests otherwise. If backers think they can buy it later for cheaper, then they should.
So, What now?
People often forget that no one is forcing them to financially back a game. If someone is unhappy with a campaign, they should stop backing it. Plain and simple. CoolMini clearly knows what they are doing and seem to be riding out the wave of negativity. They know they are offering a good product and they know that there is plenty value added for backers. At the moment the campaign has almost as many backers as the Season 2 campaign had, but a significantly lower funding level. I am fairly confident that both those metrics are going to rise significantly in the next two weeks.
As for me and my own, the only thing that would stop me from backing is the mass amount of Zombicide stuff I already have. Do I really need 400+ zombies to have a good time? Probably…
If you have KS topics that interest you, let me know @Scooter_TTTD