Brian Shabbott
July 17, 2017

Kickstarter as a Preorder Platform

Before I had delved into the depths of Kickstarter tabletop game campaigns, I had assumed they were all small operations – one or two people working out of an apartment looking to make their dream a reality. I thought Kickstarter was solely for those who didn’t have the reach or resources to make their games viable in retail stores.

In many cases, my assumptions have proved correct. However, there are a number of campaigns out right now (and a few of them made this list) that are from established companies. They may have been those small operations when they ran their first Kickstarter campaigns, but based on their success anything they make could easily be sold in retail.

So, why Kickstarter? For the companies that began there, it’s simple enough: it provides the ability to connect with your core audience, build a base for your new product, and get some hype surrounding the campaign. The production budget may not be where it needs to be either, so backer support increases those funds to where they need to be. For larger companies, Kickstarter provides a kind of preorder system similar to what is seen in most brick-and-mortar video game stores. A campaign allows these companies to gauge interests (especially on new projects), preventing them from overzealously printing a game that won’t sell as many copies as exist.

Some may criticize these moves as unnecessary, may suggest they deviate from the true spirit of Kickstarter, and take focus away from the projects that truly need Kickstarter to get off the ground. However, board games are at their zenith right now, and that all has to do with competition. If the market wasn’t competitive, there would be fewer and fewer innovations in game design. But with a competitive market, game designers are tasked with making a game better than their competition. This is true in retail, and will prove true in Kickstarter. Want to compete against a triple-A board game campaign? Make something truly magnificent.

In the end, when designers are forced to compete, the gamers win.

My Top 4 Games of the Last Two Weeks

Epoch: The Awakening          

What stood out most about this one to me was its RPG feel. Exploring the map, collecting relics, encountering monsters, building a party, and attaining traits all resonate deeply with those who have played RPGs on the tabletop or in video games. Add in some resource management and area control aspects, and this becomes a well-rounded game. The various paths to victory, unique map setup, and varying endgame conditions in this race to collect honor provide for a new gaming experience each time.

    Basic backing level: $59

    U.S. Shipping: $5

    158% funded

    Ends Thursday, August 10th

Star Realms: Frontiers

Anybody who has read some of my other articles knows I am quite partial to deck-builders. One of my most recent reviews was of Star Realms, and needless to say it’s one of my favorites. So the standalone expansion Star Realms Frontiers was going to make this list without question. The expansion adds new cards to the mix, as well as new mechanics that improve upon the already great deck-builder, such as double-ally abilities and faction-combo cards, which will further reward those who build an intelligently synergistic deck. If you are a fan of Star Realms, this is one you should check out.

    Basic backing level: $30

    U.S. Shipping: $8

    380% funded

    Ends Thursday, August 10th

Explorers of the North Sea: Rocks of Ruin

There is no shortage of Viking games out there right now, but this one caught my eye because of the unique tile-laying mechanics involved. Through turn-based tile placement a seascape is created on the game board, and each player will move their Viking longship around the board, navigating the waterways to pillage and plunder. Points can be gained a variety of ways: gathering livestock and returning it to the mainland base, conquering outposts, winning battles at sea (against the game – there is no player combat), and even dying in combat. There have been a number of tile-laying games that have popped up in my top games in the past, and this one makes my list for similar reasons. Rocks of Ruin takes an already great gameplay mechanic and improves upon it by adding elements of board-movement, resource-collection, and battle.

    Basic backing level: $37

    U.S. Shipping: Free

    348% funded

    Ends Thursday, August 3rd

Founders of Gloomhaven

Gloomhaven was a big hit on Kickstarter back in 2015, and the Kickstarter for its second printing landed in the top 10 all-time tabletop campaigns on the crowdfunding site, raising nearly four million dollars on a goal of 100 thousand. Needless to say, any game based in this world is bound to do well, and Founders of Gloomhaven has proven that point easily.

This game strays from the dungeon-crawling mechanics of its predecessor and instead offers a tile-laying city-building experience. Gameplay is driven by action cards, and players must use their actions to gather resources and build structures to make Gloomhaven into the city fans of the original game know it to be. Each action card played provides opponents the opportunity to follow with their own action. Trade and diplomacy are also heavy in the game, as all players don’t have access to all resources. Even if you haven’t played Gloomhaven (of which I am still guilty), this is one to check out for any fans of the tile-laying and civilization-building genres.

    Basic backing level: $49

    U.S. Shipping: Free

    550% funded

    Ends Thursday, August 10th