Value for Kicks

About this time last year, I wrote a couple of articles about Kickstarter (see them here and here). Kickstarter continues to fascinate me, both as a Funding platform, and for the social dynamics which go on there. With 4 projects that I have backed and am awaiting delivery of, I thought it might be a good time to revisit the topic before deciding whether to dip my hand in my pocket once more. In part, this is just doing some thinking out loud for my own benefit, but I hope it will be interesting to others too.


The projects I’m currently waiting on were backed in May 2015, Jan 2016, July 2016 and December 2016. They were supposed to be deliver in April 2016, October 2016, April 2017 and Jun 2017. It doesn’t take the most observant eye to spot that 2 of these are late, one of them by nearly a year, and it seems pretty clear that the other 2 will be delayed as well – let’s look at them individually.



ApocryphaBoxApocrypha is the disturbed long-lost sibling of the Pathfinder ACG –same design team, and some foundational common. However, it has definitely evolved in its own unique direction, along with an urban fantasy / contemporary horror theme that sets it apart from earlier adventures in Golarion. It was funded by a monster Kickstarter, which wildly exceeded its funding goal, thereby unlocking a ton of stretch-goals, meaning it was never going to hit its projected April 2015 delivery date.

The most recent update is predicting August (2017) for them to start shipping the core box, with the retail release coming a few weeks later. The various expansion bits are currently projected to be with us by November, or at least “before the end of the year” with the retail releases stretching from “in time for Christmas” through to early 2018.

Overall, the Apocrypha Kickstarter hasn’t been a great experience. For a project that was supposed to take just under a year, it’s now looking like 27 months minimum, just to get the base game, nearer to 3 years for the expansions. I don’t think that there’s any real reason to expect the worst (some of the gloomiest forum trolls are predicting bankruptcy at any moment), but it’s definitely been a grating process – I actually voted for this on BGG as one of the most anticipated games of 2016. By the time it appeared on the 2017 nominations list, my enthusiasm had faded.

The communication over the course of the Kickstarter has been mixed – it certainly hasn’t been the wall of silence that seems to plague some projects, but I do feel like they weren’t really upfront with just how long things were going to take – last spring we were being assured that it wouldn’t be as late as (that) October…

All of the mutterings coming out of the play-test suggest that this will be a good game, and that it will be a game with enough difference to make it worthwhile for those who already own multiple Pathfinder sets. Hopefully it will be able to capture our imagination, and actually find a place in our gaming schedule.

As far as I can work out (difficulties around historic exchange rates), I spent somewhere just under £100 on this. I think it may even have been my 2015 birthday present! As the most recent campaign update was keen to point out, that’s noticeably less than the cost of buying it at retail is likely to be (probably a saving of around £35 based on the dollar prices and current exchange rates). Still, if the 1-hour game time is accurate, that’s 20 sessions it will need to clock up before it meets my “value for money” formula. I’ve assigned a slightly arbitrary 3-month grace period from when KS games actually arrive to when I start adding them to the ‘not value for money’ sheet, and I’ll be interested to see whether it can make it.


9th worldBack at the end of 2015, when I was still expecting Apocrypha to arrive on time, I got an email about Lone Shark’s next project: The Ninth World – a skill-building game for Numenera. Perhaps with a bit of wilful self-delusion, I assumed that this meant they had finished the design stage of Apocrypha, and backed this one on a bit of a whim – the setting was novel, as was the mechanic, and I’m always interested in anything new and cooperative.

Of course, hindsight is 20:20 and looking back now, a lot of disgruntled Apocrypha backers point to Numenera as a major example of Lone Shark stretching themselves too thin / not getting one product finished before making a start on the next one.

For a lot of the time, Numenera has felt like the forgotten project – whereas Apocrypha has at least been handed off to the printers where (we assume) the blame for further delays lies with someone else, Numenera hasn’t got nearly this far. In November, a month after we were originally going to be getting the game, the design was “almost done,” by February, they were doing some playing around with layout that would make things a lot more streamlined going forward. There have also been art-issues apparently.

The last official stab at a date for this came in mid-March when we were told that they are looking at a street date of “no later than the 4th quarter of this year” and that the “plan is to fulfill to Kickstarter backers first” – all positive noises to have it at some point during 2017, but still pretty vague, and not all that reassuring given the delays we’ve faced so far.

Looking back at my Kickstarter account, I was quite surprised by just how much I’d spent on this – probably somewhere around £65. Given that I probably backed it more out of misplaced goodwill for the company than anything else, this feels a lot like a write-off for me: I periodically forget that I’ve even backed it, and the only time I start hunting for information updates will be in the wake of looking into Apocrypha. With a slightly shorter play-time than a lot of the other games on the list, this will need 16 sessions to hit the value marker – I can easily see myself selling it on at a fairly early juncture in the hope of recovering (some of) my losses.


Massive Darkness

My biggest complaint about Zombicide, was the lack of a proper campaign mode. As such, I was VERY interested in Massive Darkness– another game from Cool Mini Or Not and Guillotine Games, with a fair number of similarities to Zombicide, but designed for campaign play, with a more developed system for levelling up and gaining loot.


I gave CMON kickstarters their own article last year, and there hasn’t been that much change in my general thoughts. They are massive projects, funding is when, not if (and “when” is usually after about 4 minutes). Expect lots of stretch goals, lots of complaints about stretch goals (some legitimate, others not), plenty of pushing of optional purchases, then significant delays before your pledge actually arrives. When it does arrive, you’ll generally have something that’s cost you a bit less than the retail content would at the FLGS, plus a decent-sized pile of KS-only stuff.

The distribution of stretch goals and optional purchases in the Massive Darkness campaign felt odd, and it was irritating to pass on exciting optional purchases, (like the box that contains a Hellephant!) whilst unlocking yet another not-very-interesting Wandering Monster.

Largely because of the cost of picking up extra content on the secondary market for Zombicide, I ultimately decided to back this one. I have wondered several times since whether that was a good decision or not. The overall art-style wasn’t as nice as Zombicide (lots and lots of very pointy hats), and the character skills/classes seem a lot less interesting than originally billed. The $8, Kickstarter Exclusive add-on to use Zombicide characters and minis in this (and vice-versa) was probably the clincher, although I resisted the urge to double-up on this particular item, as a thing to sell later. This was probably a poor decision financially (confident I could flog it for double cost in the future), not sure if it was good or bad morally (I don’t want to be the person who backs KS projects just to sell on at a profit, but weirdly, if somebody doesn’t do it, a lot of people miss out on the opportunity to buy these things.) Anyway, that’s a whole different rabbit-hole.

This was the biggest outlay I’ve made on any Kickstarter project so far – nearly £110. Again, it was primarily funded by birthday money, but that’s still a hefty chunk of table time required to be “good value” – 22 sessions.

One interesting title that Massive Darkness can claim is the last game I paid out for before knowing we were going to have a baby that wouldn’t arrive until after he had appeared. Obviously that doesn’t really impact the Kickstarter process, but it does influence whether or not it will get played much. Again, I hope that this will turn out to be a good game, and worth my while – if it isn’t then I might be able to sell it (either the whole thing, or just some of the stretch-goals) to balance the books.


Legends Untold

Legends Untold is one of many cooperative dungeon crawlers seen in recent years. It comes from a new design team, who came to prominence at last year’s UK Games Expo. I had the chance to sit down and play a few turns with one of the game’s designers during my lunch-break, and had been monitoring it since.

This one was launched on Kickstarter right at the end of last year, and I think it’s fair to say that it surpassed everyone’s expectations with the level of response. With a funding goal of £12,000 to make the project happen, this ultimately raised over ten times that amount.

LegendsThe designers have created a whole world in which this game takes place, and clearly have grand plans for the future: higher level adventures, options to explore the world in different ways, and different sets which interact in different ways – to be honest, by the end of the campaign, I’d lost track of what exactly is coming when.

This was a much more reasonably priced project to back than the earlier ones – £24 for the original game, double that if you want the extra set which ended up being created thanks to all the stretch-goals.

I would definitely have preferred if the project had stayed at its initial size, which would have made this a far lower-risk undertaking, but in the end I opted for both boxes on the basis that i) I’m a terrible completionist, and wasn’t clear on whether I’d be able to get the second box in the future if I didn’t back now, and ii) this kind of independent start-up is the sort of project that Kickstarter ought to be for (at least in my opinion). I wanted to be part of something like this, helping to ensure that the industry doesn’t fall completely under the sway of international mega-corporations.

In the last month, the inevitable email has arrived, announcing delays to the project (the Kickstarter unlocked too many stretch goals, and it’s going to take much longer to produce everything). We’re now looking at September/October. ish. Very tiresome, but not particularly surprising: once again, we’ll see when this arrives as to whether it was worth it- at the very least, I reckon I’ll be able to play one box and (if I don’t like it that much) sell the other to claw back some money.


The Future

After the Massive Darkness campaign, and again after the Legends Untold project, I told myself that I was done with Kickstarter. I have plenty of games already in the house, or due sometime in the never-never, so that paying out more money for an untried game, appearing at an unspecified point in the future, looks like a bad deal. I expected to back Zombicide Black Plague Season 2 when it eventually appeared, but that was it.

Right now though, that resolve is being tested, with a couple of very interesting projects on the horizon.


I had hoped to pick up a review copy of Gloomhaven, but with all the supply issues the game has suffered (i.e. they could have printed 10x as many copies as they did and still sold out comfortably), there wasn’t one to be had.

GloomhavenFortunately for the many who missed out, there is a reprint coming, via Kickstarter, live right now. It funded in about five minutes, and hit the million dollar mark within a day. This would be another big beast of a project, not quite breaking the three-figure barrier, but getting pretty darn close. It’s not an impossible difficulty to overcome (I still haven’t spent most of my birthday money) and in a world where my gaming time wasn’t being eaten up by a baby, I’d probably back it without thinking twice. As it is, I’m torn between forking out for something I might not have the time to play, and missing another opportunity to get a game that’s been getting some fantastic buzz.

Aeon’s End

aeons-end-card-game-boxThe other project is one which launched a few weeks ago: the second wave of content for Aeon’s End. I’ve talked a bit about Aeon’s End on here, I’m really enjoying this Fantasy Co-op deck-builder, and as you know by now, I’m a bit of an expansion junkie so, at first glance, this looks like a no-brainer. That said, there are issues.

On the positive side, this Kickstarter offers new content for a game that is all about trying different combinations. It also comes with (slightly vague and non-committal) promises of improved component quality: thicker card, replacement tokens, a streamlined box, and maybe even an end to the strange glossy card-finish.

On the downside, this second wave of Aeon’s End – called War Eternal – features completely new graphic design, with everything being made bolder and brighter. As far as I can tell, this is mostly Tom Vassell’s doing – he complained in his review that he didn’t like the art of the original, and inevitably everyone else jumped on the bandwagon. Of course, all the people who didn’t have any issue with the art didn’t say anything – and therefore it gives the impression that everyone hates the art.

Does anyone else find this as jarring as I do?

Whatever my preferences for aesthetics, I’m much more bothered about things matching (or not). I still feel a shudder of pain every time I walk past the bookcase and see the newest volume of a series of novels towering over the earlier instalments because it wasn’t available in paperback yet (seriously, why do they print novels in hardback?!) As ridiculous as some might find it, it would pain me to play a game where half the cards where done in one style, and half in another. For a good contender to be my new favourite game, it seemed like I was out almost before I had got started.

Then came the update pack (it had already been announced, I just hadn’t got the message properly). If I back the expansion, and send them a photo of the stuff I already have then – for $10 – I could get replacements for all the cards (for a game that’s mostly cards, that’s 90% of the game for only $10).

This doesn’t feel especially post-apocalyptic to me

Personally I much preferred the earlier art, and thought it was a much better fit for the gritty, post-apocalyptic theme of the game, whereas the new design feels stark and jarring, the colours a bit too garish. That said, the new style is tolerable, and providing all those cards for a fairly nominal fee is a really good deal (of course, it does require you to back the second wave of stuff to get it, but they are running a business, not a charity [and if you NEVER plan on getting the later wave of content, why would you care about the cards being different?]). Ultimately, it looks like this is the only real opportunity to get everything matching unless I want to a.) never expand beyond the first wave, or b.) re-buy the whole thing at full price later on.

Green Horde

GreenHordeZombicide: Black Plague was the biggest hit of 2016, and more content for it has seemed like an obvious win. Just a few days ago, Cool Mini Or Not announced the second wave: Zombicide: Green Horde. Details are still very light, aside from the fact that it’s going to have an Orcs and Goblins theme to it but, assuming it’s mutually compatible with Black Plague, this ticks a lot of interest boxes.

Zombicide has been a bit squeezed for table time in this baby-shaped world, and I already have stuff that I haven’t really used – NPC Box 2 and the Deadeye Walkers – struggling to make it to the Painting Table. However, as the likelihood of this arriving in under a year is slim-to-none, it seems safe to assume that the landscape will have changed by then, one way or the other.

Sadly, the Kickstarter won’t be live until the End of May – after Aeon’s End and Gloomhaven have both closed, so I’ll need to decide before I get to that point- all three seems like it will probably be too much.

I’m sure I’ll end up taking the plunge on at least one or two of these (it’s like someone deliberately timed it to have two of them be live on the week of my birthday), and inevitably, that will lead to another article in 6 months’ time, complaining about how they’ve all been delayed. You can all tell me then that I should have known better, and waited until retail…


2 thoughts on “Value for Kicks

  1. Good read. Liked the articles about kickstarter too. Having just pledged for Z:GH and been stunned by the fact it raised $5M for a $300K goal (and $1M in just a couple of days), thought I might contribute some observations on the whole thing from the perspective of a ‘noob’, although given my qualifications it would be a mistake to assume (like far too many trolls did) that I don’t understand the complexities of business and, regardless of that, had no right to post comments.

    And that’s probably the best place to start. The trolls. Seriously, these guys show up like a bad rash on a person of questionable moral choices after engaging in an encounter with Charlie Sheen, and are just as hard to get rid of too. You can find them on any site related to Sci-fi or Fantasy, though some are branching out, into the world of politics and other current affairs, to inflict their ill-informed, self-absorbed, bigoted opinions and comments on better people.

    The Kickstarter Z:GH project run by CMON was no different. The motivations of these idiots is odd, to say the least. They tear down anybody who offers an idea that conflicts with their own, although they rarely offer any, only nasty, snarky, bitchy personal attacks. They appear to parasitically attach themselves to a project as a self-styled expert and hypocritically insist anybody who says things they disagree with is an ‘armchair expert’ (even though they know nothing about that person), a ‘noob’, ‘snowflake’ etc.

    Anybody that dares challenge them or points out the ‘be respectful and considerate’ rules for the comments section is targeted for more aggressive trolling and pile-in moves by other members of the pack, and it is not unusual to see troll-mances blossom as the enable and escalate the behaviour in a sick, twisted display of narcissism, projection, and all manner of other serious mental health issues. But their idiotic behaviour has another, more damaging impact.

    They harm their host, in this case Kickstarter and CMON. CMON has demonstrated that they use the comments section to gather feedback to adapt their product to their market. Trolls silencing the market by posting things designed to ensure their targets ‘take the hint’ that the trolls are in charge and everyone else needs to go away prevents CMON from obtaining accurate feedback. The failure of Kickstarter to provide a better forum format also damages their reputation, driving off current and potential market elements.

    There is no FB style ‘report’ or ‘bugger-off’ (block) option on the Kickstarter comments section. You must Report a Project to report offensive behaviour. And you can only do it once. Even then, Kickstarter can be slow to respond, if at all, and the troll will continue to behave badly, without penalty, even if one or more of their comments is removed. There’s a reason why social media should be off-site to kids. But enough on the trolls. The feedback was far more interesting.

    Z:GH Stretch Goals included five Kickstarter Exclusive (KE) miniatures based on the Stranger Things series. What irked many backers is that two of the five were in separate Optional Buys, unlocked and awarded only if those were also purchased… at $50 apiece. While the Friends and Foes Expansion was considered a worthwhile option, the No Rest for the Wicked Expansion was not. It wasn’t even an expansion, just an eclectic collection of stuff.

    First, the Core Box already came with a dragon and a ballista, so many people remarked as to how they were effectively paying $50 for the rest of the contents since they didn’t want those two things. The rest comprised a boatload of Spectral Walkers and Swarmz of Rats, more than anyone would need. No cards. No quests. No extra rulebook. Not an expansion. An excuse to charge $50 for people wanting to complete the ‘Stranger Things’ KE set.

    Worse, the Rat King & Swamp Troll Optional Buy also include half-a-dozen Swarmz of Rats. Many backers quite rightly pointed out the limited choice and expressed their unhappiness with the format used by CMON to market and sell their product. The trolls, of course, disagreed and attempted to silence the criticism in the hope for, we can only assume, a pat on the head from CMON. So what could CMON have done better, aside from give trolls their marching orders?

    The No Rest For the Wicked should have been a real expansion. Add some tiles, cards, quests and rules, and ditch the ballista and Dragon, sell them as separate Optional Buys. Include the two Stranger Things Exclusive Kickstarter Survivors as regular Stretch Goals. People can adjust their pledge as desired. Simple. But they could have done more. One of the backers pointed out the horrendous mark-up imposed by scalpers who sold-on KE from the last edition (Z:BP), demand for these rare commodities driving up prices.

    Needless to say, he was set upon by the trolls too. One troll mocked him for suggesting CMON was at fault for this situation, then attacked another backer who pointed out that, yes, CMON was responsible for deliberately creating a limited supply with no means to obtain it after the kickstarter except to approach scalpers. The logic of CMON over this matter is astonishingly similar to that of the trolls, and just as self-destructive. They refuse to even consider alternative ideas and options, no matter how viable.

    The trolls need to accept that if they don’t want to buy stuff, great, they’ve had their say and should stop trying to silence those who want choice. It’s simple, if you don’t want to contribute anything positive to the discussion, don’t contribute at all. There’s no need for trolls to constantly tell people how self-absorbed said troll is, we get it: we cannot reason with unreasonable people. As for CMON, they’re a business that makes money providing product to a market, so let’s start there.

    Why can’t backers buy KEs? As a backer, I could point out their own page states that “anything marked with this: ‘Kickstarter Exclusive!’ is an Exclusive item for Kickstarter backers, with remaining stock available at conventions and special promotions only.” This indicates that anything marked in that manner is something backers should (according to that statement) be getting. It also fails to include any form of cut-off, suggesting backers can still access this even years later. But I won’t.

    Instead, I’m goings to appeal to their profit margins. Say a scalper makes enough pledge to purchase a bunch of Core Boxes, then sells the Exclusives on and Core Box (even at a discount) on. Say each item they sell attracts the attention of just five people and it’s eventually sold for twice what CMON might sell it for: if CMON had sold that same item, they’d have five buyers. Oooo, big deal you say. It is. Think about it. Just for a moment. Do the math.

    Say CMON were to sell each Exclusive for an average of $5, but a scalper makes twice that. The Z:GH Core Box Exclusives includes about 55 unique items, and an average of $5 is conservative, minus the cost of the pledge after selling the Core Box at a discount (say $100 instead of $120). Assuming the scalper sells on at least twice that, even after deducting P&H, they can make about $500 by parasitically capitalising on the failure of CMON to make the most of its market.

    Now imagine what happens when say just 4% of the backers do this. Again, conservative. That’s 1,000 people selling on product that nets them $500,000 (half-a-million) that CMON could have sold itself. If the estimate of five bidders for every item sold on is used, and CMON sold it for half that, an average of $5 per items, that’s $1,250,000 worth of product. Again, these figures are conservative. It could be a great deal more.

    The fact is, players (real ones, not the trolls) want the choice to purchase KE items and even replacement ones and cards for those they’ve lost or broken (including from Z:BP). Some of them would even like Conversion Kit products (heads, helmets, arms, weapons, etc) to modify same-pose models for variety. Remember, some of these folks have migrated from GW (along with far too many trolls) because GW has spent decades ignoring its market and treating it badly assuming it would forever next-gen regenerate.

    The bizarre attitude from CMON regarding these requests is weird. Yes, KE items are incentives to get backers to fund a project. They’re effectively free (don’t get me started on that argument: if you think they really are free, ask CMON to give you some without backing the project, see how that works), but that doesn’t mean they cannot be sold separately by CMON. Sure, backers won’t feel as special if other people have to buy the toys they got at no additional cost, but they’ll get over it.

    If someone came up to you and said, “me and the lads like what you’re doing here, we’d like to give you $1.25M for these items you are already making”, are you going to say “no”? Seriously, who thinks like that?! CMON has an opportunity here. They must decide if the additional investment is worth the return, or whether they’re happy to let scalpers make money from all their work, Part of running a business is to remember the lessons from The Tortoise and the Hare: you snooze, you lose.


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