Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kickstarter Roundup: The "Got It!" Edition

Kickstarter updated the Backer History page for each user's account, including a handy check box marked "Got It!" if the backer deems the project completed. Clicking on it neatly marks the project with a Kickstarter-branded green check mark, which apparently also denotes a similar indicator on the project creator's list of backers.

As some participants in the Kicksnarker G+ community expressed, it's not as functional as a custom spreadsheet tracking all the details of each project, and I agree. However, I think it's still a useful bit of functionality that was a no-brainer to implement on Kickstarter's part, since the Backer History is already a comprehensive list of a backer's pledged projects. It's also a useful method for them to gauge backer satisfaction and project completion rate.

I went through my list and checked off completed projects. Due to the binary "Have It/Don't Have It" choice, the results show a drastic difference from my own spreadsheet, which included remarks for partial fulfillment and itemized rewards. When made to distinguish the Got It as fully complete projects only, my count of satisfied projects drops precipitously (granted a number of them are recent projects).

It can be disheartening to see, but considering the successes I've backed, I still think Kickstarter remains a useful system to fund projects. I feel it was worthwhile to see the good projects come to fruition rather than to dwell overlong on the tardy ones and the outright failures. Not that the missteps are forgotten.

So who are the winners who earned their green check marks?

Limiting this to my tabletop gaming related projects only, else the full list is much longer. In order of backing they are as follows:

Journey to the West: Pathfinder RPG Voyage (Kobold Press/Open Design): Physical goods received as well as one oversized PDF stretch goal. There is one outstanding PDF stretch goal, but seeing as the other PDF grew to three times its original size and the last PDF book is in editing (it too is larger than promised), I consider this fulfilled far beyond the content promised. I saw some backers comment it took longer than expected, but seeing as this involved an elaborate and rigorous pitch-and-design process it came in well on time by my reckoning.

Castles & Crusades: Classic Monsters Manual (Troll Lord Games): This was completed on time, but I missed the survey and for some reason my books were "lost" for a while. An email to Mr. Chenault easily resolved that after a time as the books were shipped back to him from another backer possibly with a similar name (a lesson on my part to keep tabs on my questionnaires, and thus my KS spreadsheet was born). I received the books with personalized notes. The Troll Lords rock as far as I'm concerned with this project.

It Came From the Stars: Bringing the Weird to Pathfinder RPG (Zombie Sky Press): Was fun to read the development process as project creator and lead designer Scott Gable and company used a system similar to Wolfgang Baur's Open Design. The resulting book and PDF are a beauty to behold (a weird alien beauty).

D-Day Dice Board Game(Valley/Radiant Games): This exploded from stretch goals and I received a lot of stuff from this, quickly too. I'm pleased with the product. I've heard Valley/Radiant Games and its owners have gotten into some legal strangeness with another of their funded Kickstarter projects to reprint an older game. Even then, from the updates of that other project it looks like they may have resolved the issues and are moving forward. Didn't back the other one, just know that D-Day Dice went smoothly and one of my earliest backed (and received) projects.

Zong Shi (Gryphon Games & Eagle Games): Backed this on a whim, liked the concept, and it arrived at my doorstep before I realized it had even shipped. This was the first Kickstarter product I received. Gryphon and Eagle Games have about 25+ games completed or ongoing, all funded by Kickstarter. From what I can tell, they're pumping out board and card games at a rapid rate. When one project concludes they have another project up shortly (or even concurrently) at the same time they are manufacturing others or shipping another. They function like a well-oiled machine (maybe a bit too prolific in some ways) with a comparably minimal of delays (as far as I can tell). I haven't backed another of their projects yet, but usually at least skim their new projects. Some companies are really putting Kickstarter to good use and Gryphon/Eagle aren't the only ones, but they've been doing this for a couple of years now on KS with some success.

Artisan Dice (Artisan Dice): One of the original (if not the first) wooden dice makers on KS. I received my sets. They work well enough but I got them for the novelty and as a gift for a friend (again novelty). I heard some of the more exotic woods could not be machined and that led to a few disappointed backers, but for the most part the dice have been shipped to most backers (as far as I can tell).

Quicksilver Worldbook for Pathfinder (UNIgames): A company with Jeff Dee's involvement, this was a weird fantasy setting with psionics and living liquid metal. After some delays (not even considerable by KS standards), I received the book. A spur of the moment backing and I haven't given the book more than a thumbing through. It's nice enough at a glance. 

King For a Day (Postworldgames): Similar to above, backed for the hell of it, looked interesting at the time. After some delay got my book and PDFs. Project delivered and it looks like what was pitched.

Midgard Tales: 13 Pathfinder Adventures (Kobold Press): This resulted in a beautiful hardback of adventures. Stretch goals also gave backers an adventure by Wolfgang Baur and a Legends of Midgard supplement. All of them look great. The only outstanding product owed is the standalone Freeing Nethus adventure, but it's in editing last I heard. I consider this more or less complete. As the expanded adventure for Nethus was a stretch goal and we're gotten several already, and I've never been owed anything I paid for by KP, I expect the last adventure to ship soon/eventually. The main hardback grew larger than originally planned (maybe a stretch goal was in there somewhere), so there's plenty to chew through in the meantime.

Adventures Dark and Deep: A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore (BRW Games): One of the positive legends of tabletop RPG Kickstarters. This arrived as projected or was it early!? Joseph Bloch (BRW Games) continued this success with the rest of the ADD books, each one earlier than projected. Unfortunately, I didn't make it in on the other ADD Kickstarters before they ended, my brain fumbled its save vs fascination with other inferior KS projects, backed losers instead of winners. I do have the ADD Players Guide hardback incoming from DriveThruRPG, hopefully that will make me feel better.

Traveller 5th Edition (Far Future Enterprises): Received this a while ago. The game is a bit dense and I'll probably never play any version of Traveller. I do like the dice included as backer swag.

Rappan Athuk (Frog God Games): Went for the whole festering demon horde on this one, add-ons galore. Besides the main book and stretch goals, I got Slumbering Tsar, some Necromancer Games modules, the Tome of Adventure Design, and the City of Brass Boxed Set. They all arrived within a reasonable estimated delivery time and well packaged. Due to the positive experience here, this was not my last dealing with the Frog Gods.

Dungeon World (Sage Kobold Games): This gem arrived without any fuss, then exploded in popularity on my gaming news and social feeds. Love the little supplement booklets that came with it.

Ace Detective: Storytelling Game (8th Summit): Got this for the use of pulp detective artwork from Black Mask. The art is unrivaled in atmosphere for obvious reasons. I also liked the detective theme. The game looks sharp and comes with a Mythos investigation expansion too.

Shadows of Esteren: A Medieval Horror RPG (Agate Editions, Studio 2 Publishing): Esteren came out of nowhere (well out of France actually) and seized attention with its gorgeous award-winning art and production. Aside from the art, the atmosphere of the setting is dark and foreboding, which is supported well by the visual design. Haven't the chance to play the game yet unfortunately.

Tabletop Forge: Virtual Tabletop for G+ Hangouts (Tabletop Forge): Okay, marking this as complete might be controversial as Tabletop Forge imploded before a fully functional version could be released. The updates go into detail. I don't consider this a lost cause because the creator salvaged what he could from this by investing the existing TTF efforts into competing virtual tabletop Roll20 (also a Kickstarter funded project). As I understand it, much of the funds went to (besides KS & Amazon's cut, expenses, taxes and the like) fulfillment of backer perks (gaming PDFs, maps, game time with designers).

Backers of TTF were incorporated into Roll20 as if they were charter members of Roll20's own Kickstarter with the perks that come with that. Essentially, TTF became a second crowdfunder for Roll20. Most of the art and map assets were introduced into Roll20. Since they were owned by their respective artists anyway and they could sell it at the Roll20 marketplace, they weren't left to dry either. TTF might have died, but it made Roll20 stronger. I also received my non-TTF perks from this project, a bunch of books in PDF format and a custom world map for my use as a homebrew setting map. To date it is one of the most unique Kickstarter rewards I've received.

Bulrup: The Mystical Card Game of Abstract Agriculture (Stonescrye Games): An interesting little card game, another impulse backing, liked the agriculture theme and simple but effective art design. I think it was just the designer and one artist's effort, maybe with some help from friends here and there. This was one of the smoothest projects I backed proving a small outfit can achieve success if they're organized and serious (and passionate) about their project.

Numenera (Monte Cook Games): Numenera delivered a sci-fantastic setting wrapped around Monte Cook's new d20-descended Cypher System. Monte set up for one book and ended up funding an entire product line, all before D&D 5E reached a suitable beta release. With his friend Bruce Cordell signing on to the company and leading development of another game, The Strange, based on the same system, Kickstarter has helped these industry veterans launch a new company with top-notch production values to compete on stronger footing in a market with entrenched gaming titans.

Reaper Miniatures Bones (Reaper Miniatures): Along with everyone else and their dog, I went in for at least the Vampire package. I now have more minis than I know what to do with and more than I can ever hope to paint. Probably the greatest relative value of all.

Swords & Wizardry Complete (Frog God Games, Mythmere Games): Probably one of the better values in Kickstarter I've backed. Came away shortly after with a beautiful hardback for S&W Complete, a hefty Monstrosities book (did not dawn on me how big a tome this was until it uncovered it from the shipping box), and some adventures. Normally more of a Pathfinder or 2E person, but if I had to choose an OSR game, it would be S&W, due mostly to this Kickstarter (and its association with FGG's dual system support). S&W Complete is also 'advanced' enough to make an easy segue for my 3rd edition-centric habits.

Art of Brom (Flesh Publications): Not technically a gaming project, but it's Brom who defined a good portion of my favorite gaming products growing up. The book is magnificent in reproducing some of Brom's best and most iconic works. This launched, concluded, and most importantly distributed early enough for me to get another copy as a Christmas present for a friend. I've backed a few art books (and comics) and many will miss the holiday season. I can never rely on a project as a gift until I have it in my hands. Fortunately, Art of Brom had everything ready beforehand.

Fate of the Norns (Pendelhaven): Didn't know anything about the game going into this project, but apparently it's been out for 20 years, this was for the anniversary reprint and update. Anyway, the art style attracted me to Fate of the Norns more than anything, that and the Norse theme. Believe it or not, this was another project mistakenly shipped to another backer and this time I filled out the survey. I discovered this when the project creator contacted me to check if I received my package. This initiated the process to correct the shipping issue and I received my book and runes not long afterwards. I appreciate the project creator touching base to make sure everything was alright which informed me of the problem and they were quick to fix it. Good follow up and customer service.

Tenra Bansho Zero (Kotodama Heavy Industries): A RPG playing with Japanese influences actually written by Japanese designers, with a translator who treats it as a passion project? Sure I'll give it a try. Tenra delivered and the project creator kept in steady communication throughout the process. Books look great, came with cool a bunch of kanji dice (pretty unique from my other dice), some supplemental player cards and GM reference sheets and book marks, and a manga. Stretch goals had some PDFs, which are in development, but I have confidence they will be completed. The books are out, people are playing the game, that's what counts.

Shadows of Esteren Prologue (Agate Editions, Studio 2 Publishing): Like the previous Esteren project, this arrived before I realized it shipped. The production values and art remain 'Triple A' quality. Due to the success of their third KS project, the Prologue PDF is now available as a free downloadable intro to the game. This is an excellent way for a game to gain traction and this is all due to efficient use of crowdfunding.

Fate Core (Evil Hat Productions): Fate Core set a high standard for value, timeliness, communication, total transparency, diverse ideas and settings, and low cost of entry for all Kickstarters to come (or since). It's almost unfair to other projects to have this bar of quality looming over them. Fate and Evil Hat are like the Master Race of Tabletop Gaming, but aren't snooty enough to rub it in people's faces (I jest, but only partly). Aside from a producing a cool system and a bunch of settings, I like that the people involved highlight the amount of work it took to reach their level success and the insane costs of shipping. Listen and learn from the best, future Kicksterterers.

Sorcerer Upgrade (Adept Press): Got this more for the influence of the game than plans to play it, but never know, this is actually closer to what my game-conscious friends prefer in an RPG than the more D&D type games. Backed and received the books with good communication from the project creator.

Ehdrigohr: The Roleplaying Game (Council of Fools): The game with the most creative ambiance and less-tread cultural influences I've encountered on Kickstarter without heading into gonzo territory. The setting was realized vividly with distinct art and strong prose. The book is in full color too, unusual given the inexpensive backing levels. Where others do that and crash, Council of Fools delivered all the while with enough updates to keep backers apprised of progress.

Razor Coast (Frog God Games): The infamous Razor Coast project, already a failed pre-order from Sinister Games during the early days of Pathfinder. After a long absence, the setting creator appeared suddenly one day with an apology and with another supportive freelancer acting as a mediator, who handle his refund account for him with disgruntled preorderers. Then it was announced FGG had purchased the rights to the project. While FGG hit a snag with the full color printing and overseas logistics, they managed to pull everything together and get the books out before or around Gen Con 2013 (from start to finish still faster than a lot of other KS projects). Problems can hit the most experienced and organized of companies, but what separates the good ones from the ones who end up being the topic of snark is that the professional companies deliver in a reasonable time in spite of the setbacks (or deliver at all). Razor Coast shows us late is a viable alternative to never, all things considered.

Dungeon Roll (Tasty Minstrel Games): With custom production molds for dice with non-standard symbols and a game box in the shape of a treasure chest (or the awesome KS exclusive mimic monster box) I thought for sure this would be delayed beyond all reckoning. Fortunately TMG demonstrated they are in control of their production schedule. Shipped through Amazon, which I heard was not timely for other backers, but worked well for me. I received a very cool game with the aforementioned unusual aesthetics. The instructions included a few blatant typos, which was unfortunately given the brevity of the document, but the quality of the other components is solid.

Mage Tower: Tower Defense Card Game (Super Mega Games): Hassle-free project, backed and received on time. Helps the product was ready to go from their contracted print/production company.

Lords of Gossamer and Shadow: Diceless Role-Playing (Rite Publishing): Rite Publishing approached the Lords of Gossamer and Shadow Kickstarter with an interesting setup. Most backer tiers contribute only to the game's development (editing, art, layout, stretch goal PDFs). For the medium tiers, acquiring a print book is offered as an at-cost coupon through DTRPG. Some might say that's backwards, paying for a product twice. This actually offers the most transparent way to deal with rising shipping costs, else the project creator would just incorporate the print & shipping cost into the tier's price and then roll the dice hoping shipping or production costs do not explode in the meantime. I'm comfortably backing the middle tier knowing I'm paying for development costs and stretch goals. Together with the at-cost print and shipping, backing the project still cost less than other projects with exclusive hardcover tiers.

Majus: A Magic Noir Pacesetter Game (Goblinoid Games): Backed and received shortly thereafter. If only all projects were handled so smoothly.

Short Order Heroes (Calico Games): Another one that shipped before many projects of similar scope or projected schedules.

Torchbearer (Burning Wheel): This one was easy as well. The resulting book feels at once like it would fit amongst the old editions, but with a subtle modern/deluxe flare to it.

Haggis & Ross Clan Deck (Indie Boards and Cards): Recently received and it already made a list for top games for the holidays under $20. Another positive for actually delivering product to backers, it means you can also distribute through regular channels and you know ... sell your game and make a wondrous thing called profit (this is the esoteric Step 3 to profit's Step 4). Dungeon Roll above also made the same list. The secret is out folks.

Numenera: Poster Map of the Ninth World (Maps of Mastery): Went in for the basic map, got it. That went well.

That's what I've got, satisfied backing of 36 projects to date. There are more on the way and some of the recent ones look to be capable of delivering. Several companies also reappear as creators on my recently backed projects including: Kobold Press, Frog God Games, Rite Publishing, Monte Cook Games, Tasty Minstrel Games, and Agate Editions/Studio 2 Publishing. I back with confidence because I've actually received stuff from them. Success begets success, but they put the work in to earn it.

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