Last week I wrote an article about the pros and cons of backing tabletop games through Kickstarter. In short, there is a lot of value in what these campaigns have to offer. But like everything else that often appears too good to be true, there are downsides. With each campaign comes an inherent amount of risk. This week I want to talk about some do’s and don’ts that can help minimize these risks.
It’s important to first understand that there is no perfect formula to weeding out all of the bad campaigns, nor is there some algorithm that will point you to the perfect campaigns. This isn’t a perfect science. The sooner we all come to the realization that not all the games we get off of Kickstarter are going to end up in our top 10’s. I feel like 50% is a pretty good goal. If you end up wanting to keep 50% of your Kickstarter games then you’ve done pretty good. Besides, I can tell you right now that the highs you’ll experience from your good purchases will definitely outweigh the lowest of your poor ones.
Alright, let’s jump into those do’s and don’ts:
Don’t be tricked by great artwork. There is absolutely nothing wrong with with great artwork, it really can elevate a gaming experience. The issue comes in assuming that because the artwork is good then the game must also good. I think I’m pretty safe in saying that most people would rather play a great game with mediocre art than play a mediocre game with great art.
Do look for some form of rulebook. It’s completely normal for a game to still be in development during the campaign. Creators will even take feedback from backers in an effort to improve their games. There is no real way of knowing if the game will be a good fit for you and your game group, but looking at a early draft of a rulebook can definitely help give some sort of idea. It’s not enough for mere description of gameplay isn’t enough to get my money.
Don’t fall for ‘free shipping’. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. The only things free these days are Costco samples and your parents’ advice. Someone has to pay for shipping and it’s unlikely the creator will let that cut into their costs. Odds the cost of the game was raised to make up the additional cost to send you the game. So while you may feel like you’re getting a great deal, don’t let this persuade you.
Do look for 3rd party reviews and playthroughs. Serious creators know that to make money you have to spend money. To get their game as much exposure as possible they will often hire the best reviewers in the industry to do paid previews or playthoughs while the game is on Kickstarter. While this is helpful in gaining a better understanding of the game, it is a good indicator that the creators confident enough in their product to put it in the hands of very influential voices.
Don’t think that sooner is always better. It’s only human to want what you pay for as soon as possible. I’d be lying if I said that when choosing between backing two different campaigns, I’ve never let the deciding factor be the estimated delivery dates of each project. In the end, the 8 month wait is probably going to feel like as much of an eternity as a 11 month wait. It’s like they always say. The best things in life are worth waiting for. You better believe that includes board games.
Do double check the creators history. Kickstarter has a cool feature that lets you see all the different projects created and backed by creators. Look at how many successful campaigns they’ve already completed, it’s a good indicator of the experience with all the challenges that accompany managing and fulfilling a campaign. It’s also not a bad idea to check and see what other games they’ve backed to see if you approve of their gaming tastes.
Don’t feel pressured into backing. It a common marketing ploy to offer something special to those who jump on board in the early stages of a campaign. These are known as early bird specials. Sometimes backing in the first 24 hours will get you a $10 discount or some sort of free promo. While these are tempting, it’s not always wise to irrationally spend $100 to make sure you save $10. It’s better to spend the $110 after a little more research, knowing that it’s something you want.
Do understand it’s ok to cancel a pledge. If you found the pressure too great and ended up jumping into what you now feel is a poor judgement call, there is no shame in canceling your pledge before the campaign ends. There is no penalty for doing so and since your card doesn’t get charged until after the campaign ends you won’t need to worry about hunting down any refund. So feel free to back early to qualify for that 24 hour bonus, but then get in a little research before making up your mind.
Don’t feel obligated to go “all-in”. Most campaigns will offer up a lot of additional content for you to add to your pledge. While it is extremely convenient to pay at once for the game, its 2 expansions, some promo cards, the art book, and the playmate, it may not be wise. Check and see what will be available after the campaign through retailers like your FLGS. It’s best to wait and make sure you like the game before spending an absurd amount of money on more stuff than you’ll ever need.
Do check for a retailer pledge options. Many campaigns now have an option for retailers to pledge for multiples copies to sell in their brick and mortar stores. Normally these include all stretch goals and included expansions. It may be worth getting in touch with your favorite game store and seeing if they are interested in backing the game for you. Game Grid does this quite often. This is nice because it will be their money that’s tied up nearly a year in advance and not yours. This can also alleviate some of the shipping costs associated with a single pledge.
Don’t stress it. I may not be the most qualified to provide this particular piece of advice but rest assured I’m working on it. I have had many a sleepless night worrying about whether or not to back particular games. A guy only has so much money and gaming time. In the end though for every good game I’ve missed on Kickstarter, I was able to back an equally good one within a mere couple of weeks. Don’t forget to keep things in perspective. A game is nothing more than little bits of wood, cardboard, and plastic.
Do feel free to take a chance on a game that speaks to you. In the end it is only your opinion that will matter. If you stumble across a game that speaks to you. By all means, take a chance. There is a sense of excitement backing a game based a unique and cool theme that really hits home with you. In the end, maybe the game isn’t viewed as fantastic or standout by the rest of the hobby but that doesn’t mean that you can’t love and enjoy the game as much as you hoped you would the day you backed it.
And there you have it. Hopefully you can browse the Tabletop Games section of Kickstarter with a little more confidence now. There have been some pretty great games brought to life thanks to Kickstarter, and this is only the beginning. I hope you can find and back some great ones, cause their definitely out there.