To Kick or Not to Kick: The Pros and Cons of Kickstarting Tabletop Games

In the modern world of board gaming the word ‘Kickstarter’ seems to linger around every corner just waiting to jump out and insert itself the most casual of conversations within the hobby. It wasn’t long ago that Kickstarter was the home to underdeveloped prototypes seeking support. Currently dozens of games pop up on the site every week, some from new publishers and others from industry powerhouses. At this time in the hobby I think you’d be hard pressed to find a enthusiast gamer with a top 10 that didn’t have at least one game that has it’s roots grounded firmly in the fertile soil crowdfunding.

Unfortunately Kickstarter isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. So I thought it might be beneficial to sit down and really get down to the nitty gritty of it all. Below is a list of both the pros and the cons of backing a board game on Kickstarter. 

Pro- Bang for your Buck

Everyone wants to feel like they are getting a good deal. In the board gaming industry there are few places to get a better deal than Kickstarter. While the average price point on Kickstarter is higher than the majority of games you’ll find in your friendly local gaming store it’s still the best place to make the most of your board gaming budget. 

Most of the value of a Kickstarter will come in one of three different forms. The game could simply just be marked way down, lower than it’ll ever be available when it comes to retail. The original Gloomhaven campaign had a mere cost of $79 with no shipping costs. The game currently retails for $140 and rarely can be found with more than a 20% discount. Who knew? Choosing not to back an original Kickstarter can apparently cost you money in the long run. 

Not all campaigns will mark their games down from the anticipated MSRP. What they might do instead is include expansion content for no additional cost. A great example of this would be the massive Lords of Hellas by Awaken Realms. By merely pledging for the base game at $105, when the campaign ended backers were set to receive $100 worth of expansion content for free. If you think you’ll like the game, Kickstarter is the cheapest place to get everything for it all at once.

Pro- Exclusive Content

This pro is somewhat similar to the last because it usually comes at no cost but provides additional value. Ask anyone what gets them most excited about any given Kickstarter campaign and their answer will undoubtable be two magic words. Stretch goals. 

Stretch goals come pretty standard in most campaigns. The premise is that for each dollar milestone reached above their funding goal the creators will add some sort of bonus content , possible exclusive, to the game. These stretch goal rewards can come in the form of component upgrades, like cardboard chits being replaced with wooden tokens. Or maybe you get an exclusive mini representing some freakishly cool boss for the game. It may even be something as simple as linen finish on the cards or thicker card stock. Either way, when you get this bonus content at seemingly no cost to you, you end up feeling pretty cool. And the thought of missing out on these great perks can leave a gamer with some serious FOMO. 

Pro- First Access

In the fast paced world we live in we want everything as soon as we can get. Board game releases can sometimes take quite a while. Kickstarter campaigns will sometimes provide their backers with a chance to have the game well before the general public. I’m only a month or two away from having my copy of Barrage delivered to me. The game isn’t going to be available to the general public until November when it is released at Essen Spiel. That is a full 6 months that backers will have and be able to enjoy their game before anyone else. If that doesn’t tempt you to back a game, I don’t know what will.

Pro- Insider Access

While this pro may not be an additional reason for backing a game, it is definitely a nice bonus. Creators of Kickstarter campaigns are given the option to post updates from the time the campaign starts til when it gets delivered. During the campaign these updates often include announcements for the unlocked stretch goals and in-depth information on gameplay. 

Some of the most exciting updates come after the game has funded. These updates often include insight into the design development, previews of game art, and even footage of the production process. As a real enthusiast of the hobby I appreciate and find these updates fascinating. Hearing why the player boards got a revamp or getting to help choose the art for a particular event card makes me feel like a part of the game’s development. It’s fun peeking behind the curtain and seeing what it really takes to create a great game. 

Con- A Real Investment

When you pledge money to any Kickstarter you are basically investing your money. Most campaigns will take anywhere from 8-18 months from funding until you get your game. Your money will be tied up for likely more than a year while you wait for your promised product. That’s a long time. Not everyone is ok paying for nothing so far in advance just for the promise of something.

Unfortunately that’s all you are getting in return for your investment, a promise. The creators you give money to are by no means obligated to give you anything. It has been rare, but a few unfortunate campaigns have actually ended with the company going under and backers never receiving their game. No matter how small, are you willing to take that risk?

Con- Requires Patience 

If you’re like me, then you hate waiting. By far the worst part about backing any kickstarter is the wait. I’m normally pretty good about hearing about a new game and then being able to buy it two weeks later. As stated earlier backers are often waiting more than a year for their new, cool game that they know everything about.

The worst part of it all is that nine times out of ten campaigns are usually delayed. These delays are sometimes a month or two, but can often be much longer. One of my first games that I ever backed was called Quodd Heroes. It was originally scheduled to be delivered November of 2017. The last update for the campaign stated that finally the game is sitting in a warehouse in Florida being packaged for shipping to backers. If you do the math, that’s nearly a 16 month delay. It’s hard to be patient when something is that late. 

Many experienced Kickstarter backers will share the same sage advice. They will always tell you that it’s easiest to back the game, forget about it, and then be happily surprised when it shows up on your doorstep umpteen months later. Let me tell you though, this is easier said than done.

Con- Sometimes you get a Dud

Sadly it is fairly easy to be fooled. Most creators go to great lengths to make their game look as good as possibly. They hire the best artists. They create amazing sculpts for their minis. It can be hard to try and see past all the flashing lights and really dissect what’s underneath it all. Very rarely are the rules for a game completely finished by the time the campaign ends. This ultimately makes it hard to know exactly what you’ll be receiving. 

Not every game you back will live up to your expectations. For every game you come to love, there will be one that you find highly disappointing. If you’re lucky these disappointments will be the cheap games you backed. Backing any game is a gamble. Only with time will you get better at recognizing risks and finding creators you can trust.

Ultimately no one but you can determine if Kickstarter is the right rabbit hole for you. But luckily there is a alternative. Some FLGS’s participate by backing at a retailer level to get multiple copies of games to later sell in store. Game Grid happens to be one of these stores. There are 4 main advantages to taking this route. One, normally you get to see the game reviewed at least once or twice more in its final state before making any final decision. Two, most of the time you only pay the original pledge price and save yourself the $15-$20 you would have had to pay for shipping. Third, you aren’t tying up your money a year in advance. And lastly, you are supporting your favorite local game store, allowing them to continue to do cool stuff like back more games in the future. 

Check back next week when I walk you through some pointers on how to make sure you make the most of your Kickstarter experiences.

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