What on earth is an H-Index?

One of the more unusual gaming discoveries I made in the first part of July was of another games blogger out there who was even more number-obsessed than I was.

Via a post on Board Game Geek, I found my way to an article which went into great detail about something called an H-Index. Since then I’ve found various other links which suggest that this is actually quite a common thing for game-stat-geeks to look at.

Without even realising it, I’d been making reference to something resembling an H-Index for a while, when doing my monthly updates on the 10 of 10 challenge.

If you want to read the full explanation, you can do so over on the original blog, but broadly speaking, an H-index looks at N games played N times – so if you’ve played 3 games 3 times (or more), your H-Index is 3. It’s a measuring system that works in squares, so if you had 100 games played 3 times, or 3 games played 100 times, you’d still only have an H-Index of 3, until a 4th game reached 4 plays.

As I said, I’d used what was essentially an H-Index in tracking the 10 of 10 challenge through its early stages, because there was generally more of interest to say about 6 of 6 (for example) than “still 3 games at 10, no others have got there yet” but I was a bit uncertain last year what to track after I reached 10 of 10 – did I go for 11 of 11? Or did I just keep track of 10s?

I like the H-Index model, and will use it going forward – I’m currently at 11 for 2017, as even though 13 games have been played 10 or more times, several are still sat on 10 or 11.

Looking back over the years I’ve kept records, I was able to put together lists for 2015, 2016, 2017 (so far) and “all time”(since Christmas 2014) – this was what I got.

Big4
The “Big 4” – all appearing on each individual year, and the all-time lists.

2015 –    H7

Pathfinder ACG, Lord of the Rings LCG, Dice Masters, Marvel Legendary, Game of Thrones LCG (2nd Ed), Machi Koro, Mapominoes

 

2016 –    H13

Zombicide: Black Plague, Pathfinder, Lord of the Rings LCG, Dice Masters, Marvel Legendary, Game of Thrones LCG (2nd Ed), Mansions of Madness, Arkham Horror LCG, Elder Sign, Zombie Dice, Legendary Encounters Firefly, Beyond Baker Street, Dominion

 

2017 –    H11

Lord of the Rings LCG, Arkham Horror LCG, Pathfinder ACG, Zombicide: Black Plague, Elder Sign, Dice Masters, Aeon’s End, Dominion, Marvel Legendary, Eldritch Horror, Dungeon Time

 

All-Time – H17

Pathfinder ACG, Lord of the Rings LCG, Dice Masters, Marvel Legendary, Zombicide: Black Plague, Game of Thrones LCG (2nd Ed), Arkham Horror LCG, Elder Sign, Dominion, Mansions of Madness, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Beyond Baker Street, Zombie Dice, Aeon’s End, Star Wars Destiny, Yggdrasil

 

All-time: How we got there

The guy who wrote the blog article has also tracked the intervals between moving up a level on the H-index – this was a bit more awkward to extract the numbers for, but eventually I got to something that looked a bit like this…

Maps
The first game played after I started keeping records…

1              Mapomines        25/12/14

2              Mapominoes, Yggdrasil                 27/12/14

3              Pathfinder, Yggdrasil, Mapominoes         28/12/14

4              Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Pit           8/3/15

5              Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Mapominoes, Coup        12/5/15

6              Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Mapominoes, Dominion, Machi Koro      26/6/15

7              Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, AGoT, Machi Koro, Mapominoes      18/10/15

8              Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, AGoT, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Curse of the Black Dice                15/3/17

9              Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, AGoT, Zombicide, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Curse of the Black Dice                       25/3/16

10           Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, AGoT, Zombicide, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Dobble, Curse of the Black Dice                    28/5/16

11           Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, AGoT, Zombicide, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Dobble, Bananagrams, Dominion               15/7/16

12           Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, Zombicide, AGoT, Machi Koro, Mapominoes, Dominion, Boggle, Bananagrams, Yggdrasil 21/9/16

13           Pathinfder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, Zombicide, AGoT, Machi Koro, Mapominoes, Mansions of Madness, Dominion, Yggdrasil, Boggle, Bananagrams      8/10/16

14           Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, Zombicide, AGoT, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Mansions, Arkham LCG, Dominion, Elder Sign, Yggdrasil, Zombie Dice             2/12/16

15           Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, Zombicide, AGoT, Mapominoes, Arkham LCG, Machi Koro, Elder Sign, Mansions, Dominion, Zombie Dice, Destiny, Bananagrans  29/1/17

16           Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, Zombicide, AGoT, Elder Sign, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Arkham LCG, Mansions, Dominion, Zombie Dice, Yggdrasil, Dobble, Bananagrams              27/2/17

17           Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, Zombicide, AGoT, Arkham LCG, Elder Sign, Mansions, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Zombie Dice, Dominion, Yggdrasil, Beyond Baker Street, Dobble, Bananagrams                19/3/17

18

H-AllAfter the first 3, this follows a fairly steady, mostly linear progression, albeit with a few bumps here and there – it seems fairly common for there to be a long period without an increase, then going up 2 levels in fairly short order.

21 games total have appeared on the all-time H-list, with some coming in at lower levels then ducking out again, whilst others have been firmly entrenched for the duration. This is the full list, with the games in Red being ones that have previously appeared but have dipped out.

Boggle
Ready to make a comeback?

AGoT, Arkham LCG, Bananagrams, Beyond Baker Street, Boggle, Coup, Curse of the Black Dice, Dice Masters, Dobble, Dominion, Elder Sign, Legendary, LotR, Machi Koro, Mansions of Madness, Mapominoes, Pathfinder, Pit, Star Wars Destiny, Yggdrasil, Zombicide, Zombie Dice

Of these, Curse of the Black Dice and Destiny have both gone, whilst Pit and Coup are languishing on 6 and 7 plays respectively. Boggle is probably the only one that could realistically hope to re-enter the H-index in the future (although the shaking at the start is a bit noisy if the baby’s napping…)

The plays of these 17 games account for 74% of all sessions logged

Fortunately, there are plenty of other games either already just short of 18 plays, or due to land in the future that I hope will keep this ticking along – I’ll keep revisiting it as I go…

 

2017

The 2017 list is slightly harder to organise chronologically with only monthly data: reaching H-5 in January tends to lump everything together somewhat!

El Game
For a while in January, I was only playing games that began with “El” – only 1 apiece though…

The 11 games currently on the list account for 53% of the year’s gaming, so just over half,

2017

1              Elder Sign            1/1/17

2              Zombicide, Destiny         4/1/17

3              Legendary, Zombicide Elder Sign               13/1/17

4              Legendary, Destiny, Elder Sign, Zombicide            21/1/17

5              Zombicide, Eldritch Horror, Destiny, Arkham, Elder Sign 29/1/17

6              Elder Sign, Zombicide, LotR LCG, Destiny, Dice Masters, Eldritch 26/2/17

7              Elder Sign, LotR, Zombicide, Dice Masters, Destiny, Legendary, Arkham 7/3/17

8              Elder Sign, LotR, Zombicide, Arkham, Legendary, Aeon’s End, Pathfinder, Dice Masters  26/3/17

9              Elder Sign, LotR LCG, Zombicide, Arkham, Dice Masters, Aeon’s End, Pathfinder, Eldritch, Legendary,                4/4/17

10           LotR LCG, Arkham, Elder Sign, Aeon’s End, Pathfinder, Zombicide, Dice Masters, Eldritch, Legendary, Destiny                30/4/17

11           LotR LCG, Arkham, Zombicide, Elder Sign, Pathfinder, Dice Masters, Aeon’s End, Legendary, Dominion, Eldritch, Dungeon Time                 25/6/17

 

H-17This follows a much more standard distribution curve, rising sharply at the start, where a game only needs playing once or twice, then levelling off over time. Interestingly, these games only account for 52% of all sessions logged so far this year, which suggest a fair few other games hovering just outside the top.

NextAeon’s End, Arkham, Destiny, Dice Masters, Dominion, Dungeon Time, Elder Sign, Eldritch, Legendary, LotR LCG, Pathfinder, Zombicide,

Only 12 different games so far have counted towards this index of 11, with Destiny being the exception that dropped off the edge – I’ve given up on the rather punishing Destiny release schedule (coupled with a very high price-point), but I’m optimistic that Mansions of Madness and/or Runewars will make it up to 12 for the year sometime soon.

 

 

Timed

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about time: about hours of gaming rather than sessions, as a more useful measure of how much a game gets played. Using the approximate session-lengths I’ve estimated for most of my games, it seems that 10 games have clocked up 10 hours so far in 2017: Zombicide, Eldritch Horror, Arkham LCG, Aeon’s End, Elder Sign, Mansions of Madness, LotR LCG, Runewars Miniatures, Pathfinder, Legendary. – I don’t imagine it will take all that long to add another couple to this list, but much beyond 12 or 13 is likely to be difficult.

 

Going all the way back to Christmas 2014, I can get to 14 games played for 14+ hours – Pathfinder, Zombicide, LotR LCG, Dice Masters, Legendary, Mansions of Madness, Eldritch Horror, Arkham LCG, Game of Thrones LCG, Elder Sign, Machi Koro, Yggdrasil, Aeon’s End, Dominion – I can see myself getting up to 15 fairly shortly, but beyond that it’s likely to be a struggle (to pick one example sitting just outside the 14-hour mark, 2 hours of Mapominoes is quite a lot of games)

 

Hopefully some of you are still awake (you should have guessed this was coming when I published a mostly-pictures article earlier in the week), and will be back to join me next time. I’ll have the July re-cap at the beginning of August, but if you’re lucky I might manage another proper article before then too…

Monsters of the Mansions: Part II – The Investigators

I’m aware that this blog has a habit of getting a bit number-crunch heavy at times, lots of theory, and not a lot of board game.

As part of an ongoing attempt to stem this tide of text, I try periodically to introduce some more visual content, looking at my efforts with the Paintbrush.

Today I’m going to return to Mansions of Madness- I did a painted low-down of the base game back in the autumn, and today I want to look at some of the expansions.

Mansions-Investigators-All

Suppressed Memories and Recurring Nightmares were 2 boxes that provided the tiles and figures of Mansions of Madness 1st edition for 2nd edition players – they disappointed some 2nd-edition fans with their lack of scenario/card content, but they way that they extend the range of Investigators and Monsters at your disposal made them a must-have for me.

Mansions-Investigators-Kate
Sadly, I can’t really get the pens in focus – that’s how detailed they are!

Between the 2 boxes, there were no fewer than 16 new Investigators made available. Some of them were really nice figures to paint, and I was really pleased with some of the details, like the creases on Kate Winthrop’s lab-coat, and the pens in her pocket.

Mansions-Investigators-Monterey-DexterThe Guys

Generally speaking, the male investigators in Mansions of Madness tend to be less interesting to paint – Darrell the Photographer, and Bob the Salesman particularly fade into the background, although figures like Dexter the Magician and Monterey the Archaeologist have a bit more of the unusual going for them.

Mansions-Investigators-Joe-MichaelThere are also a few rather more dynamic male investigators appearing in these boxes – Michael the Gangster and Joe the PI both come out all guns blazing – Joe feels a little bit over the top to me, but I like Michael’s scope, and he’s a fun investigator for scenarios that have a heavy focus on monster-bashing.

Mansions-Investigators-Vincent-Harvey

Relying more on mind than body, the next 2 male investigators are Vincent the Doctor, and Harvey the Professor – a lot more brown in the palette for these men (there’s no way I was going to paint Tweed pattern on something that size). I also liked Vincent’s Saw – definitely the approach to medicine you expect your Arkham Investigator to take.

Mansions-Investigators-AshcanOf course, no Arkham Investigators set would be complete without everyone’s favourite Arkham LCG Investigator, Duke, who comes to Mansions in the company of his faithful sidekick, Ashcan Pete.

Because Duke is so small, it’s quite difficult to get any meaningful detail onto his miniature (aside from the red scarf around his neck, but being the only dog in the set, he still stands out from the others quite well.

 

 

The Gals

Mansions-Investigators-JennyJenny Barnes is a character who takes quite a bit of flak from various members of our play-group, and you have to admit that her outfit looks better suited to society balls than creepy old houses. However, she’s a character with quite an interesting backstory, and very good utility in most of the different games, so I still wanted to do a good job on this one – the colour-scheme for her dress and hat vary across the different Arkham Files games, but on personal preference I went for the blue rather than the purple end of the spectrum.

Mansions-Investigators-GloriaGloria, the author was another fun one to paint- the shades of green weren’t that remarkable, but anyone who carries a typewriter like a handbag has done more than enough to catch my attention.

Sadly, this miniature arrived slightly damaged (leaning forward at quite a funny angle) and, although I’ve been able to correct it a bit with a hair-dryer and pot of cold water, there’s still a noticeable lean.

Mansions-Investigators-Amanda-Carolyn Amanda and Carolyn, the student and the Psychiatrist respectively, both have fairly blank outfits, but with a lot of utility in Elder Sign and Eldritch Horror, I still wanted the figures to look good – they certainly aren’t the stand-outs of the bunch (Amanda’s glasses are way too dark/thick-framed), but I think they’re passable.

Mansions-Investigators-Mary-MatteoSister Mary, like Father Matteo from the 2nd Edition core box, appears in clerical robes, and I decided to follow FFG’s illustrations with a brown colour-scheme, rather than black and white, which leaves them looking a bit less similar to one another.

 

Mansions-Investigators-MandyLast, but by no means least comes Mandy, the Researcher – this was a really difficult figure to paint, combining my two pet peeves from this range of figures – glasses and excessively detailed shoes. Overall though, I was quite pleased with the end result, particularly when viewed from a table-top gaming distance: the dark wash bringing out the detail lines in the jacket really well.

 

That’s about it for today – I want to aim more towards little and often with these pieces, but hopefully I’ll be back soon with some more Monsters

Pecunia populi vox dei

(based on very rusty GCSE Latin, “The Money of the People is the Voice of God”)

Monopoly is a rubbish game. It often makes me sad that a lot of people think that’s what Board Gaming is.

Rising SunLots of other games aren’t rubbish, but they’re not for me. Rising Sun, a recent CMON Kickstarter, is a Diplomacy-style game of shifting alliances and careful negotiation for 3-5. Not playable with 2 (or 1), not cooperative, it was never going to be something for us.

That’s a shame – the Samurai + fantastical elements theme really caught my attention, and I monitored this one for a while, in the hope that they would announce some kind of variant / option that would bring it into scope. But they didn’t and I moved on.

l5r(I will rely instead on a brief obsession with Legend of the Five Rings this summer autumn, poring over gorgeous artwork and lamenting the fact that I will never be able to afford to visit rural Japan, before that too gets abandoned like every other competitive LCG because I can’t get to down to the FLGS reliably enough to play regularly…) [/tangent]

 

Increasingly though, it seems like my approach to the campaign – watching hopefully, then resigning and moving on – is an unusual thing to do. More-and-more, the approach is to request, demand, or simply berate until a designer changes their mind to suit your tastes – or until you run out of energy and give up.

That process – which at best could be considered constructive feedback and collaboration, and at worst descends into entitled sulking and name-calling, is what I want to look at today. How does the creative process for a game on Kickstarter differ from any other game?

 

Finished?

The thing about making a game through Kickstarter (or any other form of crowd-funding), is that you’re not just presenting people with a finished product, you’re asking them to invest in a concept.

Now for a good Kickstarter, that concept will be very well thought-out, extensively play-tested and soforth: having good gameplay videos, or a review copy in the hands of a well-known games-blogger are both major elements in ensuring the success of a Kickstarter. Still, the fact remains that you haven’t actually made it yet, and that gives people the impression that things are still up for grabs.

NotAStoreIt’s also worth saying that (officially) people on Kickstarter aren’t just buying a game, they are investing in your idea – and that will give a lot of them the sense that they now have a right to tell you how to make your game.

Going back through the Rising Sun threads [On Board Game Geek – I lack the sanity to wade through 34k+ KS comments], I was actually surprised at how few there were clamouring for a co-op version, but there were still plenty of threads demanding 2-player options, less “racist” language and iconography (some in the game itself, but mostly in the marketing) more properly-dressed female figures, more mostly-undressed female figures and so on.

Obviously, looking at it from the outside, with a little bit of cold detachment, you can see how ridiculous it is for one person to cancel their $100 pledge as a protest at the way a $4.5 million project is being run – my personal favourite thread was this one.

I think there’s certainly a lot more chatter these days about any not-yet-released game, and how the fans think the designers should make it better, than there used to be. Still, it feels like Kickstarting a game gives people a sense that they have more of a right to tell you how to make your game to suit them.

Add-onsDone right, the interaction between designer and backer can be a good channel for market research, and have some sensible benefits. For example the Aeon’s End: War Eternal campaign offered an add-on pack with dice to use as life-counters, and it seems to have largely been down to Kickstarter comments that these will now be spin-down dice (adjacent numbers next to each other). However, when you start to believe that $100 gives you the right to tell a company that their entire business model is wrong, it may be time to stop and think for a moment.

 

Investment or Pre-order?

Notionally, Kickstarter is still about investing in an idea – Creators pitch that idea to backers, and offer them bonuses for investing now and making that project happen, rather than waiting for retail.

GreenHordeForumsIn reality, the scope of what a project is, is a lot broader than that. At one end of the scale, Cool Mini Or Not are one of the biggest Kickstarter producers, and a lot of people have commented on the fact that a CMON Kickstarter can feel a lot more like a simple pre-order than like a proper project to back an otherwise infeasible project. You expect delays, but it would be a major shock if a CMON Kickstarter failed to deliver altogether.

If I pre-order a game from the FLGS, I don’t expect to be able to influence how that game comes packaged, or how it plays and, if that’s the case, I shouldn’t have any more expectation that I can do so when pre-ordering online.

But, however much it might look, or feel like that, a Kickstarter project is still (officially) not just a pre-order, even when it’s a $4 million project with a projected delivery time-frame of only 3 months (looking at you Gloomhaven). In that context, people are always going to ask for additional things they want.

Behind the Scenes?

Most big Kickstarter projects these days will have a fairly complex marketing strategy, designed to ensure a strong start, retain interest over the course of the campaign, and hopefully generate a last-minute surge. This will lead to a broad sprinkling of updates and stretch goals, with information being held back and released at strategic moments.

One issue with this limited flow of information, is that it makes it very difficult to say with certainty what was prepared before the campaign began, and what was only added late in the day, as a response to ongoing feedback – was stretch goal #10 really a response to what people were clamouring for? Or just a happy opportunity for the creator to add a bit of spin, when announcing something that they had had planned all along.

HedgesZombicide: Green Horde had a mammoth campaign, which finished recently in dramatic fashion, breaking the $5 million barrier with 2 minutes left!! Unlike previous editions of Zombicide, Green Horde features hedges and barricades – some hedges printed on the terrain boards, and a handful more represented by cardboard tokens that can be added as a scenario requires. The offer of a hedge-and-barrier pack to make these 3D was clearly planned all along. When people then clamoured for the opportunity to buy more hedges (without extra barriers), so that they could replace all the hedges, (not just the token ones) with 3D models, I’m prepared to believe that CMON genuinely did re-think their plans, and offer more of the same components in a slightly different arrangement.

Massive By contrast, from very early on, there were lots of people who wanted a crossover pack to use their Green Horde figures in Massive Darkness – sure enough it was unveiled in the final week of the campaign, prompting a little surge in pledges. That doesn’t mean for a moment that I think CMON didn’t have it planned all along, just a lot of experience in how to manage people’s interest in a KS campaign.

The point where I start to suspect that they may actually be making things up as they go along is when they announce new figures and don’t have sculpts ready for them – the 3D renders of the Ultimate Survivors in the Green Horde campaign hint at that for me, and ”Reptisaurians” (Lizard-men) from Massive Darkness came as concept art only – now they really look like something put together at the last moment. 

 

“Your chance to get involved!”

flavour textOne area where it does seem easier to prove that the community are influencing the final product is when campaigns contain backer competitions: to take another recent example, the Aeon’s End: War Eternal campaign featured Board Game Geek competitions to name one card, and to write the flavour text for another. Now, obviously these are fairly minor (and crucially non-mechanical) tweaks to the game, but they do serve to foster a greater sense of involvement among backers.

Inviting comment is a double-edged sword though: for one thing, a lot of people were fairly disappointed with the outcome of some of these contests, especially as the creators seemed to simply pick their favourite from amongst the various suggestions, rather than allowing a public vote, or even basing their decision on the number of Likes and positive comments. At this point the cynic starts to wonder: was that a real member of the public who posted the winning suggestion? Or a fake account from the creators to ensure that they didn’t have to change anything as a result of their own competition (just to clarify, I don’t think that’s what happened here).

Backlash

Garak_(Star_Trek) Ultimately, the more Creators try to engage backers in the project, the more they open themselves up to criticism when they don’t change their game to suit the whims of the public. For every clever little fix the backers suggest, they can expect a whole handful of crackpot suggestions to re-design the game to do something completely different, to replace the components with Obsidian, or translate it into Klingon (not the same game – if they were replacing the components with Obsidian, then you would translate into Cardassian. Obviously.)

I think it’s also worth remembering that in all of these types of forums, it tends to be a vocal minority who do most of the commenting – this can lead to situations, where a dozen or so people clamour for something, and generate the impression of an irresistible tide of feeling, when 95% of people are happy with things as they are, and are just keeping quiet about it. Green Horde had over 100,000 comments by the time the campaign was over, but it wouldn’t surprise me for a moment to learn that at least half of those comments came from a dozen or so people. This is certainly my sense of what happened with Aeon’s End: the graphic design on the first edition was fine, but the people who liked it didn’t feel the need to post endless threads on BGG and the like demanding it be kept the same (why would you?) in this context, those who pressed for change would have sounded like an overwhelming majority.

Comments
Strangely, I couldn’t find the comment I was looking for amongst 105 thousand others!!

I think that listening to backers has the potential to be a great resource for Game Designers and Creators. However, mob rule is only going to get you an incoherent or perennially delayed game, and there must come a point where they know their own mind, and know when to stick with their decisions.

Like most backers, whilst I recognise that KS projects are not there to suit my every whim, I generally wish that communication was more frequent, and clearer. Even there though, Creators have better things to do than report on design and development events in minute detail, and sometimes a silence is just a silence.

 

That’s about all I wanted to touch on today, and it brings me to the end of this little mini-series on Kickstarter. I’m sure it’s an area I’ll touch on again, probably around the autumn, by which time (hopefully) I’ll actually have my hands on some of the various games I’ve backed.

Boards of June

If May was slow, then June was slower. Having to travel for various family birthdays, the continuing trials of a baby who hasn’t read the book on sleeping, re-organising my house to give said baby a room of his own and (ironically) a long weekend at the UK Games Expo all got in the way of some more regular gaming sessions.

 

UKGE

UK Games Expo is the biggest weekend in gaming in the UK, and one of the biggest in the world these days, and it’s always good to make it along to this.

ukge Last year I was doing games demonstration, part of a big team that had grown even more this year, to the point where I believe they hit 100 demo-ers! This year I’d decided to head along with a slightly smaller party, joining the good folk from Games Quest.

It was certainly a gruelling time – long hours of fairly heavy physical work setting up on the Thursday, and an impromptu meeting in a hotel car-park on Friday night to unload a game that had accidentally made its way to Expo via Luxembourg. Saturday was the biggest day ever at UKGE in terms of attendees, and then the always long and wearying process of set-down / trying to figure out exactly what went where on Sunday before heading home.

Overall, it was a good weekend – aside from talking to a lot of people about a lot of board games, I also found myself on a stand that sold replica swords and magic wands. For anyone interested, Longclaw is quite nicely weighted (did I ever mention that I used to do sword-combat as a martial art?), but Needle feels better, if you know how to use a fencing blade properly. [disclaimer: all brandishing of swords was done when the hall was closed, and I wasn’t going to accidentally impale any passers-by].

I also got to have a bit of a look round, and a catch-up with the team behind one of the KS games I’m waiting on – unlike last year, I didn’t come away with any new games, but there were certainly a few things which caught my eye and I’ll be looking out for in the near future.

Mars The only disappointment with the weekend was the amount of actual gaming that got done – I’d hoped to get in at least one session of Terraforming Mars (a game which sits firmly in the “looks interesting, but too expensive to try” bracket for me), but ultimately we only managed a single game of Skull and a few rounds of Codenames. That said, the final round of Codenames in particular was one of the funniest I’ve ever witnessed as the opposing spymaster gave a clue which everyone except his 2 teammates understood, then watched them blunder around for ten minutes before accidentally stumbling on the right answers via sheer dumb luck. [ok, you probably had to be there].

Expo was the first time I’d spent nights away from home since my son was born, and I ended up going back to join him (and my wife) at my in-laws house on Saturday night. I hope to make it back to Expo again next year, but am learning the folly of making long-term plans without getting the baby’s permission.

 

What got played?

MahJong
My dad still doesn’t understand why everyone is laughing at his wall…

Bearing in mind the low overall level of gaming, June wasn’t too bad for crossing off games that had previously been unplayed – 3 days at my parents’ house ensured the inevitable dusting off of Mah Jong, and B-Sieged also made its first foray from shelf to table. I still have 15 unplayed games, some of which will be going up for sale soon, whilst others should get played reasonably soon.

There were a few fun new discoveries in June, perhaps the most surprising of which was Doom, a 1-vs-many board game from FFG, based on the computer game of the same name. I’d picked this up to review, and had expected to wheel it out to limited enthusiasm, possibly paint it, then sell it on, but found it went down surprisingly well. By contrast with The Others, a superficially similar game I reviewed last year, this game has a tight ruleset, streamlined gameplay and more customisation potential than you can shake a stick at. It’s not a short game by any means, but it still returned to the table, by request, on 2 out of the 3 nights following its initial introduction. The fact that it doesn’t lend itself well to 2-player means I’ll probably still end up moving it along, but an engaging diversion nonetheless.

 

Themes?

Doom-Board-Game-Box The rise of Doom also impacted the Theme and Mechanic break-downs for the month, with “Sci-Fi” and “Kill the Other side” being far more prominent than they have previously, (although “Kill the Other side” owes its prominence at least as much to Runewars). There was still a fair amount of the usual quest-completing-monster-beating-world-saving, but not in the overwhelming way it has been in the past. Lastly came the ever-helpful criteria that is “win,” which became a bigger element than normal.

Aside from that, Fantasy remains strong, with a sprinkling of Abstract, although it was a pretty lean month for all things Lovecraft – just a single session apiece for Mansions, Eldritch and Elder Sign, whilst Arkham LCG found itself caught in a lull as I tried to work out whether to re-build decks or wait for the next adventure (new deck arrived on the 29th, but didn’t get a chance to play it before the month ended).

 

Overall thoughts

Nedicide As we start to lurch towards something a bit like a routine, I get a distinct sense that the high levels of gaming we managed between January and April are phenomena of the past. Whilst I have hope that bed-times and regular naps might allow us to get a bit of structure back into life, a baby who is actually interested in the world around him takes more time and attention than one who basically lies around inert, and we’ve progressed much more rapidly to the grabbing stage of things.

GreenHorde The rather massive Kickstarter for Zombicide Green Horde (the successor to Black Plague) meant that June was the nearest I’ve come to admitting defeat in my attempts to have a negative overall spend on gaming for 2017: I’ve managed to claw things back towards zero by selling off a few unused odds and ends, but I’m still in the red right now.

Even if I don’t get back to negative spend, I don’t think that what I’ve spent looks at all shabby when compared to the hundreds of hours of gaming we’ve had (not to mention dozens of hours painting).

Right now my spending on gaming this year is up a fair bit on last year (69% of the spend after only 49% of the time), but with sales already at 131% of last year, I don’t think I’d be too worried, even if I didn’t know that most (hopefully all) of 2017’s bank-breaking Kickstarters were behind me.

I’ll continue to monitor my collection, and am already starting to consider moving along one or two favourites that others don’t share my enthusiasm for, and which I struggle to get to the table.

Whatever happens, I’ll keep gaming as much as I can, and when I have anything (hopefully) interesting to say, and the time to say it, I’ll keep posting on here.

Terrinoth – the Undiscovered Country

 

Escaping the Madness

lovecrafts As regular readers of Fistful of Meeples will probably know, I like plenty of theme in my games, and I don’t really do things by half-measures.

Last autumn/winter, was a big Arkham kick for us, starting with Elder Sign, running through Pandemic Cthulhu and picking up Mansions of Madness 2nd edition, Eldritch Horror and the new Arkham LCG in November. I also picked up the beautiful Lore book that FFG put out, providing various backstories for the investigators.

investigatorsbook Those remain popular games: even though Mansions took a bit of a back seat whilst I attempted to get the latest batch of monsters painted up, the Cthulhu Mythos is still the setting for the 2nd 4th, 5th and 6th most-played games this year (by hours. By sessions would be 2nd, 4th, 11th, 13th, as it’s just easier to squeeze in 15 minutes of Dungeon Time than find 3 hours of Eldritch Horror…), and the Arkham Horror Files make up more than 25% of gaming time overall. That said, I’ve probably calmed down slightly from the peak of obsession of last year.

 

Unknown Realms

Looking round for something new, I was starting to wander in one direction when a new game caught my eye.

Runewars-Miniatures-Game-Box You don’t have to have spent much time on Fantasy Flight’s Website in the last couple of months to have noticed the Runewars Miniatures game. The core box was launched to great fanfare, and barely a day went by without a new expansion being announced or previewed.

It looked like a good game: taking a few mechanics from X-Wing and creating a rank-and-file Fantasy Wargame. I was lucky enough to pick up a review copy (see here for the full review, which summarises my general thoughts) which removed the initial obstacle of the heavy buy-in cost.

New Tales and Old

The thing which really interested me about Runewars Miniatures was the fact that it came with not just 2 books – FFG’s standard “Learn to Play” and “Rules Reference” – but 3: this time out there was a new feature, a Lore book.

Terrinoth is Fantasy Flight’s own little Fantasy world, a place that they have been using as the setting for board games for a number of years, but which hasn’t historically received that much development.

All The TerrinothTerrinoth tends to attract a certain amount of derision for being very generic, but it feels like it’s still a significant place, simply on account of being the home of some fairly important games, including Descent, Runebound, and Battlelore Second Edition.

As I already mentioned, Terrinoth hasn’t been the most developed setting up to now – I’d been meaning to have a go at Descent since we realised how much we liked Mansions of Madness last year, but had absolutely no notion of where it was set.

I’d also, like a lot of people, tried and failed in the past to get hold of Battlelore 1st Edition, which should have meant that when FFG finally announced that they were putting out a second edition, it should have been a big deal. However, by 2015, I’d gone full circle and decided that I own more than enough of the Commands and Colours series already (I’ve downsized my Memoir ’44 collection, still have C&C Ancients with a couple of expansions, and I sold Napoleonics as it didn’t get to the table often enough). As 2-player head-to-head games get pushed out by cooperative and 3 or 4-player offerings, I let Battlelore second edition pass me by, without even reading enough to know that it was set in Terrinoth

Now though, it feels like FFG have decided to really push Terrinoth, with added theme, just around the time I found myself getting my first games set there:

Around the time that the Runewars Miniatures game was gathering steam for its big release, FFG also announced a co-op expansion to Runebound due for the autumn – this was enough to make me start digging into the world, and I was intrigued by what I found there.

I decided to start getting some the Terrinoth games: I bought Rune Age via Facebook, (as it was cheap, and offered co-op play) acquired a copy of Descent (traded for Star Trek Frontiers), got the aforementioned review copy of the Miniatures game, and rounded out the set by taking delivery of Runebound 3rd edition, courtesy of eBay.

 

So what is this place?

Latarii
One of the Elves rides a moose. She definitely didn’t steal the idea from Thranduil. Honest.

I won’t lie. Terrinoth is quite generic, certainly at first glance. There is a human faction, an undead faction, and an elven faction – the humans (almost always the most generic faction in any setting) are mostly spearman and cavalry, whilst the elves have bows, ride wild beasts, and hang around with Ents. The undead are mostly endless ranks of skeletons that do their best to regenerate, aided by dread Necromancers, but they also ride giant, angry-looking worms, which is a bit of a twist. The final ‘main’ faction, the Uthuk are a bit more unusual, a sort of human-demon hybrid group, but as they’ve yet to be spoiled for the Miniatures game and I haven’t played them in Rune Age, I can’t offer too much more detail about them yet.

Bound RunesDespite all these tropes, it definitely does feel like there are things about Terrinoth that stand out. An obvious one is the Runes that seem to power most of the magic in this world – remnants of a mighty artefact from an earlier age, destroyed in order to keep it from the hands of the man who now leads the armies of the undead. Thematically, it’s an interesting idea of power being harnessed from an object whose creation is now long-lost.

War RunesIt also makes for some interesting game mechanics: in Runebound, you cast Runes (~flip cardboard discs) rather than rolling dice, and acquiring better Runes is a key element of the game. In Runewars Miniatures, the Runes play a slightly more passive role: round-by-round they are re-cast to determine the ambient levels of different types of energy: certain units will then be able to gain movement, combat, or even healing abilities equal to the number of rune-symbols of a certain type in play.

I’ve also come across a lot of references to Dragons in Terrinoth, and they look interesting, albeit based on relatively sparse information at this point. The dragons certainly don’t owe allegiance to any of the main factions above (in fact, it seems that they were in charge of the whole place, in eons past), but they do sometimes pop up to intervenene in the ongoing conflicts of the humanoid folk, so I’ll be watching with interest to see whether they ever appear as anything more than enemies to fight.

 

Descent from where?

Descent MonstersTerrinoth is probably not helped by the fact that Descent, which seems to be far-and-away the most successful of the Terrinoth games, is also probably the one which leans the least heavily on the setting. Descent: Journeys in the Dark – 2nd Edition, (to give it its full name), is a top 100 game with lorry-loads of expansions, and which got a big boost to its popularity with the release of a companion app last year, making this 1-vs-many game playable solo or fully co-op. Descent has been rated over 15,000 times on BGG, with an average rating of 7.8, that puts it at 65 in the overall ranking.

Descent
It would work better if they called it “Runefall”

The trouble is that whilst the Heroes you control in Descent are tied into the races of Terrinoth, most of them wouldn’t feel at all out-of-place in a game of D&D.

So far I’ve only played the introductory campaign of Descent, and made a brief, if so far rather unsuccessful start on the main campaign, and I’m hoping that as we go along, we’ll start to see a stronger sense of setting for where all this action is taking place.

Significant others?

Although Descent is the big name in FFG’s Terrinoth offering, there are plenty of other games available, and they make more of a point of referencing their setting.

Runewars (not the miniatures game) only has around 6,500 ratings, for a fractionally lower 7.7 average, which puts it at 120 in the rankings.

Battlelore 2nd Edition is actually placed just above Runewars in the rankings at 118, thanks to a 7.9 average, although that’s based on a mere 3,500 ratings.

Rune Age is probably the lowest rated of the various Terrinoth games (I’m deliberately ignoring older editions), with only a 6.9 average, although the 3,600 people who have rated it were still enough for it to make it inside the top 200.

Runewars Miniatures is still too new for ratings and rankings to mean much – it’s got an 8.1 average, but based on only 186 ratings, it’s only recently squeezed inside the top 3000 games out there!

 

Runebound

Runeiverse Runebound is notionally the flagship product in this series (all these boxes feature a reminder that you’re in the “Runebound Universe” rather than referring directly to Terrinoth). However, it barely scrapes into the 500 on Board Game Geek, with ‘only’ 1,800 or so people having contributed to its 7.6 average rating, and I was a bit dubious about what made this the ‘lead’ title.

RuneboundI’ve only managed to play Runebound a handful of times since getting it, but my initial suspicions were quickly dispelled – Runebound definitely feels like the game that gives you the best sense of the place these games are taking place in, and the level of scope on offer for simply exploring the world is great. As already mentioned, it has currently been rated fewer than 200 times, which leaves it languishing somewhere just inside the top 500, but I’ll be watching this one carefully as the “Unbreakable Bonds” expansion lands sometime in the next few months – given the success of reinventing Descent as a fully-coop/solo compatible game, I’d expect that FFG are hoping for a similar success with Runebound.

 

The Future?

Of the Terrinoth games, Rune Age seems to be officially out-of-print (not listed on FFG’s website under the list of Runebound games), whilst Battlelore is languishing, having seemingly reached the end of the release line (there seems to be a general understanding that there’s nothing more coming for this game, although I couldn’t find an official announcement). Descent seems popular despite no new content on the horizon, and it seems only logical that the changes to make Runebound co-op/solo-able, will broaden the audience. Runewars Miniatures is still pretty new and being marketed hard, but the vague bits of information I’ve been able to glean from industry insiders suggest that it’s not selling all that well, possibly because of the price-point.

Working on the basis that there are (essentially) 4 games active in the range right now, only 3 are really on my radar – The Runewars board game (which may or may not still be available) seems to have some shared ancestry with Twilight Imperium, which instantly flags it up as being too large, long, complex and heavy to make it to my dining table more than once.

Runewars Expansions
This was just one announcement article!

Descent we’re already playing: half-a-dozen games isn’t really enough to form a detailed opinion, but overall I like what I’ve seen, even if I have a few concerns about the components. Rune Age I’ve played solo and I hope to introduce it to others soon. Runewars Miniatures I have a core box & a couple of expansion bits: I’ve really enjoyed the handful of games I’ve played, and it looks like it’s got some really interesting mechanics, along with some really interesting army-building decisions to be made once you have more miniatures. That said, it’s definitely one of those games where I’m only going to be able to play at the FLGS (my wife doesn’t really go in for table-top wargaming), and it has the potential to be a real money-sink, so I need to decide soon how far to plunge down the expansions rabbit-hole.

 

Right now, it’s fairly clear that Terrinoth simply doesn’t have the depth of the Arkham Horror Files, and so it isn’t going to capture the imagination in the same way. That said, I am curious to see what FFG do with this setting, and whether there will be more to come in this universe: games that make more of the narrative and the setting, more explicit links and crossovers between existing games, or even some good-old tie-in fiction. With the end of the FFG/Games Workshop partnership, it definitely feels like FFG have a gap in their range that they’re looking to plug, and it will be interesting to see just how far they will go in tying this setting to some of their signature products – Runebound LCG anyone?

The Games of May

Somewhat belatedly, it’s time to recap on what happened on our gaming table during May.

BlurryNed
Flailing so fast, his limbs are just a blur…

May was a much quieter month than any I’d seen so far this year gaming-wise, as work, family, weddings and who knows what else clamoured for my attention.

(Ok, who am I kidding, it was mostly just the baby and the need to catch up on sleep).

However, whilst I didn’t manage to get a lot of things on my to-do list finished, that doesn’t mean that May was completely gameless, as you’ll see…

 

Un-played

For one thing, May allowed me to cross a few more games off of the un-played list, as both of our Discworld games: Ankh-Morpork and The Witches made it to the table for the first time – Ankh-Morpork is a good game generally, although it has the potential to get rather frustrating as Random Events destroy all that you have built. Interestingly, for all its appeal, this one has only made it to the table twice in the past three years, and I’m often tempted to sell it, as it goes for silly figures on account of being out-of-print, but never quite get round to it.

Discs

The Witches is a much lighter, more family-friendly game – I didn’t really enjoy the game we played of it, as I got crippled by a string of shocking dice-rolls, and basically did nothing all game. Still, as something ideally suited for young children, it’s probably worth hanging on to in anticipation of when Ned can cope with something more complex than Peekaboo.

May also saw Super Dungeon Explore crossed off the list, as I sold it on – I picked this one up last year, and enjoyed a few early games that we played of it, but its sheer length, combined with the discovery of games like Mansions of Madness, Descent, and Eldritch Horror (not to mention others that are ‘coming soon’) mean that this wasn’t likely to see much more play, and didn’t really justify its place on the shelf.

 

x10

Dominion_gameDominion became the 11th game to make it to 10 plays, hitting the table 5 times early in the month, although it faded towards the end of the month. I’m still working on something Dominion-wise, but haven’t got nearly as far with it as I’d hoped, so that will have to be a story for another time.

There are several other games that are still heading in the right direction to hit 10 plays sooner rather than later, but I don’t want to pre-empt myself, so I’ll talk about them when they get there.

 

What got played?

Descent May was very heavy on Fantasy, easily accounting for over half of the month’s gaming. Within Fantasy, Terrinoth was the big new thing, about 1/3 of sessions, but over half of time, simply because Runewars and Descent are both multi-hour undertakings – I’ve got an article on Terrinoth cooking away somewhere, so I won’t say too much more on that now.

Lovecraft still made a significant appearance, with more Arkham Horror and Elder Sign, as well as a welcome return for Mansions of Madness, back in play after a long spell on the painting table. Overall, we were still mostly in a solve-the-mystery/complete-the-quest setting, although there was a fair amount of PvP “kill the other side” in Runewars.

 

May That just about brings me to the end of May (finally getting around to posting this on June 8th, which, the latest polls suggest probably isn’t  also going to be the end of May – the electorate showing a disappointing lack of concern for punning bloggers…)

Of course, June is UK Games Expo month, so expect that to shape gaming for the coming weeks, and even if I don’t manage an Expo article, I’ll be sure to report back all the highlights in the next monthly summary, in a few weeks’ time…

Kickstarter: Now with Rounder Corners!

KSAs part of my ongoing not-all-that-regular series on Kickstarter, today I want to take a look at the wide world of Stretch Goals.

As I explained in the Kickstarter Basics article, every KS project comes with a Funding Target – The Funding Target of a pledge would generally be (more-or-less) the minimum amount that designers have worked out they need in order to actually make the game – the costs of making the bits and pieces, and getting them out to the buyers: you don’t want to pitch it too high, because if you set the bar at $100,000 and people pledge $99,999, then you don’t get a penny, the whole thing fails.

Funded On other hand, if you hit $100,000 on day 15 of 30 (or 5 minutes into day 1 for some projects…), what happens then? Whether you’re a designer who believes they have a great game that people deserve to know about, or simply a business looking to make more cash, chances are that you aren’t just going to think “job done” – you want more people to keep coming along and backing the project for the rest of the funding period. To make that happen, a lot of people turn to stretch goals.

A stretch goal is a sort of unofficial extra target for a KS project- they’ve already hit the funding target, so the project is going to happen, but this is a way to keep people engaged, and hopefully make it all bigger and better.

Making it Better

Maybe you launch a project for a game, and set a target of $20,000 – as soon as you pass $20,000 you know you can make your game. Maybe if you got $25,000 you could use a higher-quality card-stock, so you add that as a stretch goal. If you get to $30,000, the dice included could be custom dice rather than generic ones. At $40,000 maybe you have enough cash to make 20 different cards for each deck in the game, instead of 15.

In an attempt to keep driving traffic to the Kickstarter page, many projects will drip-feed the stretch-goals: announce 1 or 2 to begin with and, as the targets are met, those goals are “unlocked” and you can announce the next one – this keeps people coming back to check in on things, and generates a buzz around the game.

More cynically, it allows designers time to re-balance if funding goes a lot better (or worse) than anticipated, but however you look at it, it helps generate a sense of progression. Lots of projects will have late stretch goals that the designers always planned to include, but they announce them just before the end, in order to provoke a late surge in funding.

 

Money for nothing

(NB: All the numbers quoted in this section are hypothetical)

There are always issues with stretch goals, and one major issue is cost.

Imagine you launch a project where the game costs $40, and you have a funding target of $20,000. Assuming no optional purchases/wonky international shipping charges etc, that’s 500 backers you need to get funded. Imagine if, instead, you get 1000 backers. That’s $20,000 more than you were expecting. However, you now need to produce 1000 copies of the game, not just 500.

This is where it gets complicated. It probably doesn’t cost twice as much to produce twice as many copies of the game – you still only need the same number of pieces of art, the same number of designers, and the factory still has the same amount of set-up work to do. Equally, it doesn’t cost the same to produce 1000 copies as 500 – you need twice as many raw materials, you have twice as many boxes to ship etc.

On this basis, you probably have some money to offer extras as stretch goals. Let’s say that the original $20,000 was $10,000 of art, design, set-up costs, and $10,000 of raw materials and shipping. Your 1000 backers have increased your revenue by $20,000 dollars, but only increased your costs by $10,000 – that’s $10,000 spare.

StretchQualityBut what do you do with that $10,000? – say you decide to have extra art, or commission nicer art from your favourite artist – $5,000 more spent on art probably has no real impact on your ongoing production costs. However, if you decide to upgrade that card-stock, it’s a different matter: if you improve materials, you impact the whole of the project – instead of $20 per copy on materials, you’re now spending $25 – that’s not just $2500 on components for the first 500 copies, but $5 for every extra copy you sell. This means that for all future stretch goals, you’re working with a reduced margin, as each new pledge of $40 now only brings you $15 to play with, not $20.

A lot of this has to do with economies of scale, particularly with Miniatures games. Broadly speaking, to make a miniature for a game, you need to spend a fair amount of money paying an artist to sculpt it. Then you need to spend a fair amount more on getting a mould made to cast it in plastic. Once you’ve done that, actually squirting plastic into the mould probably costs a fairly trivial sum

SculptStretch
Aside from the sculpting cost, this is no more miniatures than you were making anyway.

Using hypothetical numbers, you might need to spend $250 to get the sculpt crafted, another $245 on a mould, but be able to produce copies of that new figure for $0.50 a time. If your campaigns raise figures somewhere in the millions of dollars, you can offer a stretch goal like “extra sculpt for miniature x” with a fairly static cost: you hit your sculpting and moulding cost as a 1-off, but then have no additional materials cost for making 3 figures each in 2 poses as you previously had for 6 figures all in the same pose.

OgreExtra
Once you hit $635k, that’s an extra Ogre – for ALL backers.

If you’re adding figures, rather than simply adding variety, the costs are still small – up until they aren’t. Even if it only costs you $0.50 for a single miniature, Rising Sun, CMON’s most recent Kickstarter received over 30,000 backers – that’s $15,000 to give each backer 1 extra miniature, using our hypothetical figures. By the time you reach a certain level, even if the per-unit cost is very low compared to the static set-up cost, you have a very limited amount of slack in the budget. That’s why most Kickstarter projects will see the stretch-goals spaced further and further apart as the pledge total gets higher.

 

Numbers?

As I mentioned above, all of the numbers I’ve used here are hypothetical. I don’t know how much it costs to commission a sculpt, or to move from sculpt to cast to mould, or to make a figure once you have all your moulds ready to go. I’m pretty confident that the start-up costs are much higher than the ongoing ones, but I don’t know the numbers. I’m not claiming to be an industry insider, nor an expert, and I hope that no-one goes away from this (or any of my other) article(s) having been mislead in any way.

– since writing this, I’ve found This Interesting Article, which isn’t really looking at the same thing, but is still interesting in terms of money, numbers and board-games. 

The problem though with the internet in general, and Kickstarter comment sections and forum discussions in particular, is that everyone’s an expert. You can confidently expect dozens of folks with no experience of miniatures casting to come along and announce to all that making X “only cost Y,” or “definitely cost at least Z” – maybe some of them are right, but a lot of them won’t be, and this can lead to a lot of bad-feeling as backers feel that the creators of the project are simply profiteering, rather than ploughing the money back into the game. This is particularly problematic, because there’s a chance it might be true – some Kickstarter creators are small, independent start-ups, desperate to get their game to market, and incredibly grateful to anyone who has helped realise that dream. Others are multi-million-dollar companies for whom the goodwill of the buying public is just a resource like any other, to be judiciously managed on the road to maximum profit – they’ll give stretch goals where it will help drive sales, but never so that it’s going to cost more than it generates.

 

Great Expectations

Big Board Game Kickstarters have been a thing for several years now, and people have expectations. They expect stretch goals, and if it’s an established company like CMON, they will have expectations for what those stretch goals should be, and how often they should come. With the sense of entitlement common to most millennials, as soon as those expectations fail to be met, you can expect them to start baying for blood.

Azrael In the Massive Darkness campaign, there was a fair amount of anger when the $675k stretch goal was the Miniature for a new player-character, Azrael the High Elf, and the 710k stretch goal was the class-sheet pad for the Noble Warrior. As Azrael is a Noble Warrior, a lot of people cried foul play at this point- this was one stretch goal, they argued, disguised as 2, to give the false impression of smaller gaps between goals.

Now, CMON are big enough that they didn’t care – they knew the project was going to break a million dollars, so both goals were happening anyway. It’s also technically true that Azrael could be played as a different class, so it was technically an extra thing, even if people didn’t like it.

Aeon’s End is a marketplace game (think Dominion), so the Stretch Goals in their KS campaigns generally take the form of new cards for the marketplace, increasing the variety. Each time a few thousand more dollars were notched up, another card was added for backers, a spell here, a gem here. Some of these cards are now simply part of the game, whereas others are either Kickstarter exclusives (backers get them, others don’t), or “Promo” (backers get them at no extra cost, others may have the chance to buy them at a later point).

With 20+ stretch goals unlocked by the time the campaign ended, having raised more than 10x the original target figure, this one would have to be classed as a success.

Right?

ThickBreach Well, unfortunately, this campaign suffered a bit of a PR fail with one of the late-ish stretch goals.

Every game of Aeon’s End requires a set of cardboard “breaches” –the holes in reality through which player-characters fire their spells. In the original game, these were fairly thin and bendy, so people were fairly happy when the 80k stretch-goal upgraded them to thicker card-stock.

Some also commented that they would prefer their breaches with rounded corners. However, they seemed a bit puzzled when the $275,000 stretch-goal appeared, “round corners for breaches” – this seemed to put noses out-of-joint for a number of reasons: firstly they’d already “used up one stretch-goal on breaches,” secondly there was a perception that making the breach corners rounded shouldn’t cost any more than having them square [as far as I can tell, most people have now come over to the idea that it would cost more, which sounds plausible to me, although I really don’t know]. Thirdly this coincided with the gap between stretch-goals going up from $10,000 to $15,000, which most people felt warranted a more exciting reward.

Rounded There was a fair amount of grumbling and mockery in the Kickstarter comments and, aside from various jokes along the lines of “next goal: even rounder corners,” one comment in particular leapt out at me

“Ok I asked for round corners a while back but i dont think its SG material. Its something than you just do because its something that you do….. I dont think round corners justifies 15k really.”

Lack of apostrophes aside, it’s fairly clear what they mean – and clear that they’re not happy

I think a lot of this ties back in to that sense of entitlement I mentioned earlier. This guy has backed the project, and he now believes that this entitles him to more free stuff at regular intervals: at the time, the project was trending toward $300k, which would have meant 3 gems, 4 spells, and 2 relics (incidentally that’s the exact ratios for a standard marketplace), as well as 2 Nemesis and a Mage, all of which others would need to buy as a separate expansion (probably around $20), and a few extra dividers and basic Nemesis cards not available elsewhere. That’s on top of a base game that will now be slightly bigger and better quality for everyone than when the campaign launched.

Assuming they thought the game was worth the $65 tag when they backed it, it’s pretty hard to see how a backer could be unhappy with what they get here – the extra content and the value for money vs RRP are all fairly clear.

 

Too small unless stretched?

But of course, it is an assumption that they thought the original project was good value – I know that there have been KS campaigns in the past which I have looked at and decided that the basic pledge wasn’t worth my money.

Also, up until a Kickstarter project finishes, you can edit or cancel your pledge, without being committed to anything, so there are people who will jump in early, with a strong expectation of cancelling later on if the project doesn’t tick enough boxes for them along the way.

Numenera Stretch Goals

That seems a bit backwards to me, but as far as I can recall (it was a long time ago), I deliberated on the 9th World for a while, and backed it late on, having been swayed by the extra stuff they’d unlocked – if it had stayed in its pre-stretch goal state, I’d probably have kept my money.

Still there definitely are people who pledge early, do so without any real thought of backing out later, but who still bring their fairly subjective feelings about stretch-goals along, and demand to be heard.

 

I think that’s about enough on Stretch Goals for today. Next time in this KS mini-series, I want to continue the theme that we’re starting to touch on – the idea that being a Kickstarter backer somehow gives you “rights” that a mere buyer doesn’t have.