Kickstarter Backlash

Clearly, Kickstarter (and IndieGogo, and others) are on to something. It's enabled some pretty fantastic things to come to fruition, in ways totally not possible just five or ten years ago. It's fueled some fantastic developments in both digital and tabletop gaming, furthering the current "new golden age" climate.

Personally, I've been involved with two game Kickstarters, with differing results.

1) Dungeon Roll

I was very excited for this game. Dice-based, but with classes, it had a lot of whiz-bang, great kickstarting, and promise. It completely busted through all of its extended goals, and closed a success. But then things got shaky. I'll give credit to the authors in being honest and keeping the backers up-to-date, but the production seemed plagued with issues. When the game finally arrived, it both looked cool (the box, the foil wrappers), and cheesy – specifically, the dice. A lot had been made of how great the dice were, but when I got them, they seemed ugly and poorly made. Which, considering this is a dice game, is a big deal. There was little appeal to actually roll them. The rules themselves were not well written – not awful, but clearly in need of a developer to tighten things up. But my main gripe is with the actual game itself – gameplay is a lot of rolling, or watching someone else roll. It plays like a series of solitaire games. The press-your-luck mechanic is fine, but overall the game is sorely lacking some sort of interplayer interaction. I don't imagine ever really playing this game.

2) Short Order Heroes

I backed this more on a whim than anything, but I've been very impressed with the whole thing. The author was very communicative, and the product arrived earlier than I expected. The cards are nice, standard playing cards, with decent illustrations. Each card has a character trait and a value, which make up character design and gameplay. It's a very elegant solution. But once I started picking three cards at random, I started to really love this deck. It's a treasure trove of permutations, each evoking some interesting character from the combination. I spend half an hour just laying out sets of three cards, and seeing how characters developed and reacted to each other. Fun.

My takeaway from these Kickstarters is that when looking to back a project, it's important to check that the author has done their homework. Are they new to production? Have they made games before? Do they know what to expect from shipping? In the future, I'll definitely be asking these questions. Kickstarter is a great resource, but it's time to move out of the wild-west phase and into something more informed.