2: A Pathfinder’s Respite

Or Navigating the Very Murky Waters of Kickstarter

Today I’d like to share my advice regarding Kickstarter campaigns, to you the potential supporter. This is coming from a fairly critical, semi experienced backer’s point of view; and all cut down in to little bite size pieces. Below you’ll find seven guidelines that I think ought to help folks figure out how to shop Kickstarter right. I do repeat myself a bit here and there, but in those circumstances I felt that the reiteration was worthwhile. So, without further ado:

1 – First and foremost, don’t commit yourself to a Kickstarter on day one.
Heck, you’re not committed to a project until the campaign closes, as you have the option to back out at any point during that time. When people are presenting new ideas (especially their own), they tend to get really excited about them; and it’s very easy to get caught up in that. I don’t want to discourage folks from supporting a new company, a new designer, or even a new game. But I would always encourage you to temper your excitement, examine the mechanisms presented, and do your level best to imagine the game play before you decide to give your money to a project. It’s far too often that I meet and interact with folks who’ve bought a game through Kickstarter and either regret that decision outright; or are trying far too hard to convince themselves they love it. Don’t let this be you!

2 – If you don’t have at least one good, solid year of board gaming experience under your belt, Kickstarter is a really bad idea.
Kickstarter is a no man’s land filled with good folks who happen to have a lot of good ideas. And again, it’s really easy to get caught up in that. But I’d suggest that you really need to explore this hobby first- learn as many game mechanisms as you can. And when I say learn, I don’t mean “oh yeah, I’ve heard of those,” I mean learn them. Know the rhythm of the board game you’re about to buy. If you don’t really know what a worker placement game is, buying one a year or two in advance is pretty inadvisable.

3 – Despite oft presented appearances; once you take shipping into account, Kickstarter is generally just as expensive as buying full price at retail.
More often than not, you’ll pay more when buying a game through Kickstarter. In all seriousness, if you aren’t one hundred percent positive that you want the game, don’t support the campaign. As a friend of mine likes to say, “If the game is any good, it will make it’s way to retail.”

4 – Always be prepared to lose your money.
Yes, many successful companies use Kickstarter as pre-order program. If Stonemaier Games were to do another Kickstarter, I would describe it as a sure thing- and they are hardly alone in that regard. But if something goes wrong with a project, no one is obligated to see your money returned to you. So, be mindful of what Kickstarter really is on paper, and how much money you have involved in it – you very well might lose it.

5 – In all honesty, deluxe games are mostly a waste of money.
I feel compelled to acknowledge that I am a sucker for deluxe editions myself, and I’ve got a few in my collection- most notably Gùgōng and soon the coming expansion Pànjūn (both so beautiful, both so pointless)- so I speak from experience. Occaisionally they add something, but I’ve found that more often they take something away. There’s a charm to pushing wooden meeples around a board that those fancy minis just can’t match. I’m clearly not a ‘lead by example’ kind of guy in this department (though for the record, I do tend to avoid minis most of the time), so take all of this with a grain of salt. Also, if you or anyone you know would like to donate the Small World Designer Edition to Token Opinion, gosh I’d just love you lots.

6 – In my experience, Kickstarter tends to be very addictive.
Deciding to support your first project is a challenge. Project number 5 is easy. But by project number 10, you’re looking for 13- because you already know what 11 and 12 will be. It’s really easy to get caught up in this loop, and I promise you, the highs will not outweigh the lows. Spread out those purchases, and be mindful that while many companies try to sell it this way, you’re not buying the Kickstarter campaign experience- you’re buying the game.

7 – And finally, if the project you’re considering backing is run by a company that has more than one unfulfilled Kickstarter project in the works, don’t back it.

I think this is a pretty good rule of thumb. This practice is outright forbidden by Kickstarter rules, and while they might not be willing to enforce it, you should- otherwise you’re just reinforcing bad behavior. One company in particular seems to have gotten themselves into a fair amount of trouble doing this, and other several other companies seem to be following their example. Best to just avoid it in my opinion.

And that’s it- all there is to managing a successful Kickstarter experience for yourself. I think that in the end, the best advice I can give is this: be mindful of all that you do. I know just as well as anyone the excitement of opening up that new game box, to discover the magic of all the bits and bobs inside. But to quote Mr. Tom Vasel, “board games are toys for grown-ups.” Remember that the game is just a conduit. The cornerstone of our hobby is the people. Your friends, your family; gathered around the table, enjoying an interesting little puzzle – with you.

This is the second in a series of three articles. If you’d like to check out the other two articles, those links are posted below:

Kickstarter Examined Part I

Kickstarter Examined Part III

Do you have any advice for those who are new to Kickstarter? My list was pretty specific to board games, but perhaps you have experience supporting other types of projects. Let us know in the comments below!

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