If you’ve been around the gaming community in almost any capacity recently, you most likely have heard of Kickstarter. But if not, Kickstarter is currently the world’s largest crowd funding platform. Creative people start projects and try to entice the public to donate money to fund them and bring their ideas to fruition. The projects range from the absurd to the zany, economical (pay what you want) to the pricey, simple to the horrifyingly complex. In most cases, those that donate get some sort of payout for their time and trouble but many projects just want money and don’t claim to provide anything in return.

Within the last year or two, Kickstarter has really become a mainstream way for independent game designers (and even some game companies) to fund new designs, expansions, or “big box” sets. If you follow the forums on BGG, many in the community love Kickstarter for its ability to lubricate the flow of designs into the market bypassing the cumbersome and sometimes painful “pitch” phase when approaching a publishing company with a new design. Others in the community despise Kickstarter as an only avenue for simply pushing “ungroomed” designs onto the public, prolonging delivery times, increasing the risk of non-delivery, etc.

I’ve backed seven gaming projects since April 24, 2013:

  1. A Study in Emerald (£50)
  2. VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game ($44)
  3. Fantasy Frontier ($60)
  4. Reaper Miniatures Bones II: The Return of Mr Bones! ($120)
  5. Coin Age: Pay What you Want Area Control Microgame ($3)
  6. Doublesix Dice: Roll Better ($10)
  7. Kingmakers: Board Game Parlor ($20)

As it stands, only A Study in Emerald has been delivered. VivaJava The Dice Game had a few problems with their hard-proofs but it looks like they’re into true production now. They’re shooting for March, 2014. Fantasy Frontier was funded in October, 2013 and they seem to be sailing into production estimating delivery in May, 2014. The Reaper Miniatures are a set of high-detail, molded sculpts that just look cool. Not sure what I’ll do with those yet but the estimate for those is not until November, 2014.

Coin Age, appears to also be on track for an April delivery and Doublesix Dice is a bunch of various colored double-D6s. Basically a D12 with pips for a D6 duplicated. For $10 I chose a pledge level where they roll some of their dice and the result determine how many dice you get. With stretch goals I ended up with a slightly less than average roll but I’ll be getting 19 dice. Not bad for $10.

Kingmakers is a bit different. This Kickstarter project was simply a “plea for money” to create a “board game parlor” in the Short North section of Columbus. Boardgaming is a such a big part of my life, I figured I should back a project that tries to get the word out to others in novel ways. There’s no “product” in return for my pledge other than I supposedly get my name written in “fancy” chalk on one of their pillars for some period of time.

All in all, I I’m satisfied with my experience with Kickstarter but I do feel some fatigue. I’ve not been involved in them but some projects have imploded after they’ve been funded and all the pledged money was lost. It is an unfortunate risk that you take when you back a KS project leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

In most cases, Kickstarter projects offer stretch goals. If, for example, a project is asking for $30,000 to be funded, they may offer that they’ll throw in better bits at $35,000, and an expansion at $40,000. etc. The more money they raise, the better product everybody gets (depending on the tier to which you pledged). When you pledge you’re not really sure what you’ll end up with but you can pledge the minimum and if it takes off, you might end up with all of the stretch goals too for the same pledge amount. Taking it a bit further, some project are only offering these stretch goals *if* you backed the project on Kickstarter. If they move the project to regular mass production (keep in mind that “mass” is still a board game niche market here so still small quantities relatively speaking) buyers that obtain a copy later won’t have these stretch goals.

This discrepancy between Kickstarter versions and retail versions has complicated the process of trading and buying used games in that everyone must be aware of the version they’re trading or purchasing. Not all versions of Euphoria, for example, are the same. The “Deluxe” Kickstarter version is different from the “Supreme” Kickstarter version which is different from the retail version and they all were released in the same year!

I’m a proponent of Kickstarter but I’m tending to agree with the comments I’ve seen about fatigue. It’s hard work keeping up with the latest Kickstarter campaigns, what stretch goals are available, tracking versions, etc. all while still keeping up with the latest buzz for non-Kickstarted games. But, it is a hobby and somewhat a labor of love so to speak.

What are your feelings about Kickstarted games? Have you been happy with the results?

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