Top Ten Things I Learned From Kickstarting

Huzzah! The Kickstarter for CO-OP: the co-op game funded. It was a success, but it didn’t make a major splash. To be honest, I am very happy that it was any kind of success. I have seen some good kickstarters fail. So, I set my funding goal fairly low and made two plans: barely funding and substantial funding. Barely Funded! Huzzah! Still a success! So, I am executing a plan for a small print run.

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Along the way, I learned some weird/interesting/simple things about the Kickstarter process. For future Kickstarters, here’s a list of some interesting things I encountered along the way when running my Kickstarter.

Honorable Mention lesson:  Have two plans so you can be successful at a small or large level  of funding.  If you are a small publisher like us, it’s nice to have multiple levels of success.  This may not matter if you have a lot of experience or are a big company.

10) You get SPAM in your Kickstarter messages. What? SPAM? I got 10-20 messages from SPAMMERS who wanted to be my social media outreach, (for a nominal free of course). It was directed SPAM (no real estate deals or anything like that), but still SPAM. Hm. I wonder if someone should do a Kickstarter for a product that filters SPAM in the Kickstarter messages?

9) Vote Trading. Many people (5-10?) with active Kickstarters reached out to me: “Hey, if you support my Kickstarter, I’ll support yours”. A different variant of SPAM. In a dark hour, when my funding velocity was negative, I did it. Only once, for a project that looked okay. I felt dirty and never did it again. I am hoping by posting this, maybe I can get some absolution. Sorry.

8) People will Cancel. Oof, the worst feeling in the world is when someone supports your project, then backs out. And it’s their right: Kickstarter has made that one of the options. So, you have to steel yourself for that. It’s easy to say “Yes, I know that can happen”, it’s different when you see it. Recently, I saw a video by Tom Vasel who said this happened to him in the Dice Tower Kickstarters … up to $30,000 in the last bits of the project! (This is one reason Dice Tower is moving to Indie-Gogo: when someone gives you money, it is immediately withdrawn).

7) Reviews and advertising didn’t help that much. I spent $500 on advertising and maybe, maybe got 2 people from that. A lot of my supporters came from people I had personally met and playtested my game, Social Media, friends, and UNPUB testing (Rincon Tucson and San Diego). If I had made it to GenCon, I suspect I would have gotten a lot more support. I just wasn’t ready for GenCon.

I will say this: even though I didn’t get a lot of click-thrus, the reviews and ads gave me some legitimacy. The reviews showed a real game, and the ads showed someone cared/supported my game enough to spend money on it. So, I can’t quantify the “legitimacy”, but I suspect it helped me keep people who came to my site.
6) BoardGameGeek. I should have put my game on BoardGameGeek sooner. I was under the impression that I couldn’t register a game until it was “legitimate” (in Distribution). Not true. Although when I did finally register, we had just funded, so it was clear the game was legitimate at that point. I think I got some more traffic once I was on BGG.

Like the reviews and advertising, being on BGG gave me some more legitimacy.

5) Non-traditional buyers. As hard as it may be to believe in this day and age, not everyone likes Kickstarter and the act of putting Credit Cards on the Internet. I had one customer send me a check and one customer give me cash. So I did the paperwork of creating an accounts for both of them and “funnelling” their money through a credit card.

I am happy they cared enough to want the game, so I was happy to do the paperwork (Internet work?) for them. Make the customer happy.

4) Try to give lots of updates. When I first started, I didn’t want to give too many updates (I don’t want to annoy people with too many messages). The more I looked around at other projects and talked to people, I came to the conclusion that people seem to want those messages. They may not read them all, maybe they’ll just glance at them, but it gives a warm fuzzy. They may even get slightly annoyed, but it shows you care enough to try to reach your backers.

I heard about some projects where the people just disappeared with the money. I don’t want to be that guy. I want people to feel fully engaged, knowing what I am thinking.

So, I am probably more chatty in my updates than I should be, but I want people to feel like they are being kept in the loop.

3) Eye on Shipping. I made my game to fit in the USPS Fixed Rate Small box. On purpose: if I only got the minimal funding, I wanted to be able to ship by myself (if I had made the bigger levels of funding, I would have gone with Naked Shipping).

One really neat product I found was the Scottie Stuffer: it allows me to fit two of my games in the USPS Fixed Rate small padded envelope and still have great protection. For those of my backers who bought two games, that’s how we are able to get them two games for the cheaper price.

2) Feedback is important. It always good to have several friends you trust give you brutally honest advice at every level. I thought I was ready to Kickstart much sooner, but really got some honest feedback that really helped me. At every stage, my friends have helped by by proofreading, pointing out errors, and so on. Try to get as much feedback as you can at every stage: the Kickstarter, the Updates, the Comments, etc.

1) Friends matter. This was my first Kickstarter, and I got a lot of support from non-traditional gamers. Thank you.

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Daedalus Sentence Review

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When it comes to Kickstarters, I am a sucker for the cooperative game! I have supported as lot of kickstarters just because they were cooperative! And that’s where Daedalus Sentence came from for me …

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/167427101/the-daedalus-sentence-escape-from-space-prison-co

The Daedalus Sentence looks really cool. It has rotating, concentric rings and a LOT of moving pieces. Did it live up to how it looks?

I’ve played two games now with two very different groups of friends. We’ve lost one game and won one game. Group one is me, Josh and Jeremy (Jeremy hates cooperative games, but it looked cool enough for him to try), who are younger gamers. Group 2 is me, Junkerman, CC and Kurt, who are older gamers about my age.

Theme: 8
Gameplay: 7
Instructions: 5 (6 because they have game summary charts)
Cooperative Play: 8

Background: Some of us love cooperative games, and some of us (Jeremy) hate cooperative games.

Theme:
Wow! The whole reason we played this one because Josh and I really wanted to unbox this one and see how it worked. Jeremy came in late and was sucked in to playing (but he thought it looked cool). The whole idea that all there rings can really rotate, and fairly easily I might add, made it “fun” to do maintenance.

I would describe this as the prison from “Guardians of the Galaxy” meets Pandemic! It felt like we were in a prison, trying to discover the way out. We have to get from the inner rings to the outer rings to escape! It looked very science-fictiony, and felt the same way. We are trying to escape a space prison! That theme really came out.

Nit-pick:
If you JUST look at the rules summary, and the rules, it’s not clear how to get out of your cells! It looks like someone has to get you out of your cell, but how do we do that if we are all stuck AT THE START OF THE GAME? After searching the rulebook and the game summary, someone finally read the “flavor text”, which implied all the cells were all open (from a power burst). I’m all for flavor text, but when a rulebook is as big as the Daedalus Sentence, you tend to skip flavor text! Make it CLEAR we can just get out at the very beginning. This cost us about 10-15 minutes and kind of put us in a grumpy space to start.

Like: I like the Game Summary. It’s one of the better ones I’ve seen: it has all the actions you can do, it gives a very good summary of how those actions work, and we could “mostly” figure out the game from the rules summary (occasionally looking at the rulebook for clarifications). Like many games of this ilk, it has special locations with special powers: the Game Summary even summarizes what you can do at the different locations really well! That was great!

Dislike: My only quip with them Game Summary was that the “special locations” didn’t feel well distinguished. You really had to stare at it (“Oh! There’s a vent there”!) or consult the OTHER side of the Games Summary (“Wait, which one was a Research Lab again?”). Seriously, just put a picture of the location (even a small one) on the Game Summary next to the action. That way you can immediately draw your eye from the location to the summary.

In general, I really liked the Game Summary: without it, I think we would have been a lot more frustrated learning the game. I just wish the Special Locations were more distinguished.

Gameplay:
Josh and Jeremy jumped right in. We consulted each other, we tried to figure out the best thing to do, we tried to figure out when to open the way to the next ring. I think it’s a good game for cooperative gameplay: we are all just trying to get out of this prison (which of course we were wrongly put in!)

I am a huge fan of “Player Selected Turn Order”, and Daedalus Sentence uses it! We each get 4 actions per turn, and we are allowed to take those 4 actions in any order with the other players. So I can move (Rich action 1), Josh moves (Josh action 1) then researches (Josh action 2) then give me a card (Josh action 3), then I can (Rich action 2) use that card. Our actions support each other!

Most of the time, each player just used all 4 actions in order, but when it made a difference, we could go in any order. I know some people don’t like “Player Selected Turn Order” because they think it’s too hard to coordinate, but it was definitely NOT a problem in either game I played.

Jumping right in seemed to work. We learned parts of the game “On Demand”: how the circles worked, how to get to the next set of rings, how the locks worked, how to open the locks. The Games Summary really helped for this.

I like that the game has a simplicity to it, in that all actions are related to just one set of cards. The cards show either a colored ring, a minotaur (easy guard) or a Lactate (hard guard). (And they aren’t really called Lactates, but that’s what we called them in both gaming sessions). Rings show a color and a direction. When used in the maintenance phase, they show which ring rotates. A Minotaur or Lactate spawns a new guard in the maintenance phase.

The cards are also used for the actions. The players can replace maintenance cards (on Special Locations) so they force different rings to rotate.

The cards are also used for the combination to the gates. Each gate (to the next ring) needs to be opened by the players playing cards for the combination.

So, prison actions, player actions, and combinations all used the same deck! I thought that was pretty cool. We even did some strategy to keep Lactates and Minotaurs out of the main deck (in our hards) to make sure there was less of a chance they’d come out.
The Good News: I liked both games I played. I had fun, and I think my friends did too (Jeremy had fun, but in spite of the game). The game seems to foster cooperation. I think it’s a good game. The coolness factor of the rotating rings wears off, but I still feel like this is a good game. It has a vaguely Pandemic feel.

The Bad News: Ugh, the first game we lost felt very arbitrary. If you get caught by a guard once, you get sent back to your cell … at the middle of the board. And someone has to come rescue you. The first game felt like … stalemate. We were just about to escape (almost ALL Minotaurs were on on the board), and I got a stray minotaur in my space randomly. So, back to my prison I went. There’s no way my friends could go all the way back in and save me. Too many minotaurs. We knew we couldn’t win anymore, so we just quit.

That’s not good. Part of the reason we quit because the maintenance was unbearable: all the Minotaurs were out, 4 rings were spinning per turn, and it just wasn’t fun. We knew (as experienced gamers) we couldn’t save me and win, but we would have to “plod” and play it out. Nope. We just quit.

The second game (with a different group) was much more fun: I think that’s partly because we kept the Minotaurs and Lactates under control—there weren’t may of them. So, the maintenance didn’t weigh us down too much. Although it still got slightly annoying to go through 4 possible rotations every turn at the end.

Summary:

I like this game. I will play it again. I think CC and Junkerman would too. I think Kurt and Josh are on the fence, but Jeremy definitely won’t play it again.

It’s fun. I like the theme, I like the cooperative gameplay, but the maintenance on the rings and guards might turn you off (especially at end game).