Board Game Review

Angrily waiting by the door… (The Kickstarter problem)

This may not be a specific game experience post, but it’s as equally relevant to any and all gamers who have ever had the experience of throwing their money blindly into a kickstarter based on one thing. Kickstarter is both the greatest thing a gamer can find, but also the bane of my gaming addiction. Between waiting for a game’s delivery and the ‘umm’ing and ‘ahh’ing about whether to back yet another Kickstarter with 5000 miniatures just because you’ll get a single kickstarter exclusive miniature that will definitely change your experience to that of those who miss out on the campaign, Kickstarter will take up your time and drive you to checking a campaign’s update 12 times a day.

Before I get started rambling, it is worth saying I am not targeting any specific developers or campaigns. Please take anything I say with a pinch of salt, I have no intention of offending any individual parties. I have infinite respect for anyone who successfully develops a game, gets it funded and produces the goods! It is something I can only dream of achieving.. but nonetheless, I’m going to ramble.

The games on kickstarter themselves should theoretically hold their own weight in terms of quality; backers should back a game based on its content and gameplay. Theoretically, games should be funded based on how well they’ll play, corresponding directly with the necessary amount needed for them to be published wide scale. But we know that’s not the case. I am as guilty as any other backer when looking through Kickstarter; it only takes the words “Funded in less than 1 hour” or “Exclusive Kickstarter backer expansion”, or my personal favourite “OVER 20 STRETCH GOALS UNLOCKED” for me to start reading the campaign’s details and inevitably backing it.

The Exclusive

Now I have no problems with developers offering out Kickstarter exclusive content, it’s a great way for them to get their game off the ground and encourage backers to hand over their cash.. but that shouldn’t be the most prominent feature of a campaign, it should be the gameplay and concept. I’d rather play something completely unique than another campaign clone with new miniatures. I always laugh when I see a campaign that is blatantly putting their exclusive miniatures at the forefront of the campaign. It almost seems as though the game can’t make it out of Kickstarter and will not survive in the regular market. Do they believe their campaign exists only on Kickstarter for those 30 days and then the following it had dies? I imagine the developers saying “What self respecting enthusiast would buy our game without the exclusive white paladin character!! We need to make sure our backers know they’ll get this element in their game. It MUST be our opening gambit. It will surely be placed on a pedestal in their Kalax, it’s the only way we’ll make a sale!”

Again, speaking from experience, I’ve backed games with exclusive content, some incredible, some pretty mediocre. But I don’t believe I’ve ever said to my partner “Hoo boy am I glad we’ve got this exclusive Kickstarter card in the deck, without it, I’d have definitely not enjoyed myself. Praise be to the card!” What’s worse is that some exclusive content doesn’t actually add to the game, it isn’t an extra element, it’s just sort of there. It’s not an extra hindrance or aid… it exists and that’s it. I would never not back a kickstarter because it has an exclusive, and in the past I have been as guilty as anyone for backing games based on its exclusive content.. Maybe my rant for this one is more me telling myself off for doing so, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

The Insta-Fund

We as backers shouldn’t be enticed by the speed a campaign was funded. We often forget that, just because a game had a huge following before it launched, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a ground breaking game. The hype is not always to be believed! It’s not uncommon for a big game to be sponsored and shared way before its release on Kickstarter. I get it, it’s a fantastic way to let people get an opinion beforehand and to help build a fan base ready to meet the large funding requirements. 9/10 times it live up to the hype and guaranteed a quality game.. But does the speed it’s funded reflect the quality? Or the hype? This is the least of my qualms with Kickstarter campaign’s, but it’s still one of those things I see at the top of a Kickstarter and think ‘Why is this important to the campaign?’.

The Long Road of Stretch Goals

I say this is my favourite, and by favourite I mean the one that really bugs me. I know why stretch goals exist and I completely see their value; spread the excitement, increase awareness of the game and help the developer make and improve their creation. Absolutely fine in theory, but in practice some developers don’t see stretch goals as something extra to say thank you or to encourage people to share the campaign.. It’s a requirement to get the whole package.

What gets me is when a developer launches a game and lists stretch goals straight away. Not regular bonus stretch goals, but stretch goals that almost seem like they should have been a part of the game from the instant it launched. The sort of stretch goals that would be necessary for the game to function to the level they’re advertising it at. The ones where unlocking all stretch goals means you’ve finally got the original base game as it was designed. Those bug me. When it’s cosmetic like quality upgrades or changing from standard pawns/meeples to those with a bit more detail that’s fine, I completely see why that’s a stretch goal. I’m even ok with expansions being added as stretch goals after the campaign is funded, at least then it looks like it’s a separate entity to help improve play. But when you’re unlocking things like elements of the base game, then it’s getting silly. The issue on top of this is that, and I’m not gonna name specific names, I know of some Kickstarter campaigns that have been funded without any of the stretch goals they advertised unlocked and just before its time is up it is abruptly cancelled and removed from Kickstarter. Sort of makes you ask whether they’d set their funding limit low to entice people doesn’t it? Just a bit too sneaky for my liking.

If I’m being honest with myself, getting all of this off my chest doesn’t change anything. I’m still going to be scrolling through Kickstarter and I’m probably going to back the first campaign I see with an exclusive card in it, 73 unlocked stretch goals that was funded in 12 seconds. It’s almost become predictable, but it doesn’t deter from that excitement and suspense of knowing the post is on his way and there’s a Kickstarter with my name on it. That initial excitement and hype overrules any complaint I’ll ever have with any campaign. And honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad experience when contacting a developer about something. It must take a heck of a lot of patience to deal with X amount of backers all asking similar questions.. Realistically, so long as they’ve produced a quality product that holds its weight against the required funding amount, I’ll never complain about a developers efforts.. Just their sneaky methods of getting my backing, which they often do!