Kickstarter: Reaping the Rewards
By Jonathan Liu , December 22, 2011
Since I first started using Kickstarter, I’ve backed about 40 projects, some at the minimum ―I just want to help‖ level and a couple at a higher level with bigger rewards. For the most part, I’ve supported a lot of board games, for which there’s typically a minimum level for the basic game without a lot of extras, but I’ve also kicked in for books, movies, apps, and other things as well. Of course, the hardest part about Kickstarter is that you pay the money up front and then have to wait for the work to be done — it can be a slow process, and difficult for those of us accustomed to instant gratification and cheap two-day shipping.
Of course, it’s also easy, when you don’t have the items in hand, to forget how much you’ve already spent on things that haven’t arrived yet. Toward the end of the year I had to put a moratorium on things for a while because I’d really spent more than my budget allowed, even though it meant missing out on some really cool ideas. So, here’s a year-end reflection on the things that have arrived so far. I know there were at least a few that should be arriving shortly after Christmas, (like Carnival, for instance) but I’ll have to cover those later. For each item I’ll tell you when it was funded, when I actually received the rewards, what I think of it, and whether it’s available for purchase now. Inevitable: dystopian tabletop gaming This was my first foray into Kickstarter — it was actually funded in June 2010, but it’s the only thing I backed last year. It was also before I’d seen a lot of board game companies getting into Kickstarter for funding, and the rewards structure was still kind of a new thing. In this case, you could kick in for downloadable print-and-plays, but I pitched in at a higher level for the ―deluxe‖ printed copy. That was kind of an expensive proposition, but I liked some of the other stuff by game designer Jonathan Leistiko, and I liked the idea of helping get something off the ground. Inevitable was funded in June 2010, and I received it sometime in the fall or winter that year (I don’t have the exact date). The game itself is sort of like the game of Life or maybe Careers, except set in a dystopian future filled with black humor. I thought it was kind of fun, but not necessarily really deep as far as game mechanics go. I’d like to play it
again but it’s certainly one that requires the right set of players. It’s available now at $45 for the printed version, or you can get the downloadable one for just $10. Nora and Lucy; Horribly Heartbroken at Hogwarts Ok, so Nora Renick-Rineheart and Lucy Knisley are pretty clever girls: they basically got over 300 people to fund a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter… in exchange for a comic about the experience. Now, I’ve read some of Lucy Knisley’s other work (including memoir/travelogue type books) and I like her drawing and writing style. Plus my wife really wanted a copy of the 25-page comic book. At $15 for a little zine-style book (it’s that little yellow book in the bottom left corner of the photo), it’s a bit pricey, but the book was pretty fun to read. And my wife got to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter later on. Funded: January 8. Received … in April? You might be able to buy a copy from the Burrow’s Studio store, but it’s currently down so I can’t check to be sure. Mathematician’s Dice I funded these in February, and received them sometime around July. They’re a pair of dice, but instead of 1 – 6, they have i, 0, 1, φ, e, and π. Honestly I haven’t done much with them other than to add them to my dice stash, but they’re fun and were about $10. You can still buy them here, though they cost more now — here’s a case where backing on Kickstarter was a better deal than waiting.
Michael Zulli: Fracture of the Universal Boy This is a comic book done by Michael Zulli. I hadn’t ever heard of him before, but I was impressed enough with the sample artwork and intrigued about the story, so I chipped in for a copy. It’s a large, gorgeous hardcover, but I had to wait a while for it: it was funded in March, and I received it just this past week. (Though I think there may have been a mix-up with my address when I moved. Note to Kickstarters: don’t collect addresses until you’re ready to ship! If it takes you eight or nine months to produce something, people may have moved by then.) I’ve only flipped through it a little and haven’t sat down to read the story, but the production quality is great and the price seems about right for the size and length of the book — however, that is a long time to wait between paying for a book and getting it. It’s not for sale separately as far as I can tell, at least not yet. Giant Robot Warrior Maintenance Crew If you didn’t back this at least at the $5 PDFversion level, you missed out. It’s a comic book about the crew that runs around inside a giant robot warrior, repairing things and keeping it running because the celebrity pilots are idiots. I mean, imagine the amount of maintenance that Voltron would have required, right? The best part about the comic is that you don’t ever
actually see the robot from the exterior — it’s just all about the slightly crazy people who work in its bowels … and other parts. I paid at the end of March, and have gotten PDFs of the three-part miniseries, though I’m still waiting for the printed copies, which I’m expecting soon. Not sure if this will be sold anywhere after they’re ready. If it is, you may want to consider picking it up — I would say it’s rated PG-13 to R, but anyone who grew up watching Voltron or other giant robot warrior cartoons will probably get the humor. The Wormworld Saga App I really loved The Wormworld Saga when I first read it, and I was impressed with Daniel Lieske’s ambitious plan to use Kickstarter to turn this series into a full-time job. Of course, he probably hadn’t expected that printing, signing, and shipping all the rewards to backers would be nearly a full-time job in itself! Since the project was funded in April, I’ve received my lovely print (which, alas, I haven’t had time to get framed yet but will soon be hanging on my office wall) and the app was released in October. You can still order prints from Lieske and the app can be purchased from iTunes. But the biggest benefit for this campaign is that everyone benefits, whether or not you chipped in: the comic is still free to read online, and the long-awaited Chapter Two will be released on Christmas Day! (If you have an iPad, though, the comic does look gorgeous and there are some pretty nifty added features there.)
The Cosmonaut: A Wide-Grip Stylus for Touch Screens The Cosmonaut was another long wait: I backed it in April and just received it in the mail today. But I know this is probably going to be the case for anything that requires special manufacturing — particularly when you can’t start working on any of the manufacturing process until you’ve actually raised the money. The Cosmonaut went through various iterations to get everything working just right, but it’s a wide-grip stylus, based on the idea that writing on a touch screen is more like writing on a whiteboard than on paper. You can’t rest your hand on the screen usually, so you use broad strokes and rough sketches.
I missed out on the ―pay what you wish‖ tier, which is an interesting model, but got in on the $25 retail tier. I’ve only fiddled around with it just briefly but it feels pretty good in the hand and seems to work well for scribbling; if I really love it (or hate it) later on I may do a follow-up for you. The packaging is actually quite cute, and you can still go and purchase one now if you missed the Kickstarter campaign. Coffee Joulies Coffee Joulies were apparently an idea the world was waiting for, based on the response to the Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $300,000 on a $9,500 goal. Dave and Dave ended up moving to New York, setting up shop in an old Oneida Factory, and basically turning this into a real business instead of a simple ―make a few and sell them‖ proposition. I paid for mine in May, and received them sometime in October, I think. Are they as great as promised? Well, I know I’ve read some complaints, and some praise for them. I actually don’t drink hot beverages much, but my wife has been using them daily in her tea (in a thermal mug with a lid) and seems to love them. At least, she better, because otherwise I don’t know why I should keep washing them with the dishes. You can still buy them at the Joulies website, though they’re sold out for the holidays and will be shipping in January. Montage Montage was billed as ―the best 4-player word game of all time,‖ so I couldn’t pass it up. The jury is still out on whether or not that’s true, but
it may at least be the best crossword puzzle board game of all time. It’s an interesting one, played with two teams, where you use colored circles to stand in for letters, trying to get your partner to guess the clue before the opposing team does. There’s some great strategy and the board has a nice retro look to it, and the components are really high quality (like Pastiche, also from Eagle Games). It’s actually a reprint of an old game which is really hard to find, and Eagle Games wanted to be sure enough people would buy it to make it worth reprinting. The wait time was about five months, from May to October. So far I’ve only gotten one play of the game, because you have to have exactly four people, and they have to like word games. It’s now available from Amazon or Eagle Games, and maybe your local game stores. The Road to Canterbury Here’s another board game also from Eagle Games: The Road to Canterbury. It’s designed by Alf Seegert, who also did Bridge Troll and Trollhalla, so I knew it would probably have some interesting game mechanics. Plus, the artwork is adapted from a Hieronymus Bosch painting, the theme was inspired by the Canterbury Tales, and you get to be a bad guy. (Seegert seems to be a fan of playing bad guys.) It’s a tongue-in-cheek look at medieval religious practices and corrupt pardoners, as you encourage pilgrims to sin so that you can sell them pardons — but not too much, or they’ll die before you cash in. This one was also a five-month wait: June to November. The game is gorgeous, with really great components. So far I’ve just played once but it was a lot of fun, once we figured out what we were doing.
The Road to Canterbury is also available for purchase now, from Amazon or Eagle Games or game stores. It’s sure to please the boardgame-playing, literature-loving geek in your life. Gype: Bringing G.K. Chesterton & H.G. Wells’ Game to Life This project, eventually sold as Uncle Chestnut’s Table Gype, created a game based on an idea by Chesterton and Wells. Jenny Williams has reviewed the game here on GeekDad, and I got to play it while her family was visiting this summer. I can’t remember when I received my copy of it, though according to Kickstarter updates it was probably shipped in September (after a funding goal in July). The game is fun, though the quality of the pieces can be a little uneven, being unpolished wooden dice and a fabric board. The game is for sale, but it appears to be out of stock most places I’ve checked online. White Elephant Card Game Here’s a seasonally-relevant card game: White Elephant. Aside from having one of the best Kickstarter videos I’ve seen, it’s a really funny concept: you’re trying to swap out junk from your attic for junk from other people’s attics, in the hopes of finding the perfect gift for Great Uncle Irwin, your crazy neighbor, and the cat. I backed it in July and just received my copy this month — actually just about in time for these
white elephant gift parties, if I’d been willing to give up my copy. Probably should have chipped in for a bonus copy to give away. The quality looks great, but I haven’t gotten to play it yet. The game runs about $15 and can be picked up at Amazon, though without the special Kickstarter-only promo cards. Mirror, Mirror: a game of deception, reflection and love Oh, one more from Eagle Games, who ran quite a few campaigns (and still have more) on Kickstarter this year. This one, Mirror, Mirror, is a two-player strategy game in which each piece has a mirror on the back. You have various letters that you’re carrying, and you have to discover which of your opponent’s pieces is carrying the true letter and not just a decoy. Of course, when you move around a piece to check out the letter behind it, you also reveal your own piece, which makes this a pretty tricky proposition. This one was a shorter wait: I backed it in August and received it in October. But then I haven’t had as many two-player game sessions, so I haven’t actually played it yet. More on that in the future, I hope, but the little mirrored pieces turned out pretty nicely. Plus, I saved a bit buying it through Kickstarter, as it costs a little more now on Amazon and from Eagle Games.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue I reviewed Flash Point: Fire Rescue back before the campaign ended, because I’d gotten to play a prototype and I thought it was pretty great. It’s a cooperative game, somewhat in the style of Pandemic, in which you all play firefighters rescuing victims from a burning building. I ended up going in at a higher level to get multiple copies, which I figured I could gift or sell later, keeping one for myself. Indie Boards & Cards ended up running into an issue with the 8-sided die, though, because the one that ended up getting packaged with the game doesn’t have the same opposite-side-pairs as their prototype, so they had to ship a separate die with each game. Still, the game came relatively quickly: funded in August and received in November. I also got the extra double-sided board (with two more buildings using slightly different rules), a promo specialist card, and some firefighter meeples (which may or may not be included with every game). You can still buy the basic game from Indie Boards & Cards, from Amazon, or check for it at your local games store. Fealty I’d heard some great things about other games by Asmadi Games even though I haven’t actually played any yet — but Fealty looked like an interesting concept with a good deal of flexibility. I just chipped in at a level to buy a copy, which
comes to just a little less than it would now when you tack on shipping. I funded in August, got it just this past weekend, and haven’t played it yet. The one thing that is a bit disappointing is that it’s one of these big-box small-game deals. The box is literally twice as big as it needed to be: the only thing that’s the size of the box was the original sheets of cardboard to be punched out. Ah, well. I may be making my own smaller box for this one eventually. Other than that it looks like a decent game and I’m curious to play it soon. Fealty can now be purchased from Asmadi Games.
I’d just been camping recently when I saw this one, plus the house we moved into this summer has some hammock hooks on the front porch, and we’d been talking about getting a hammock eventually. The Kammok ―Roo‖ is a camping hammock which packs down into a very small bundle but is quite comfy, and comes with some ―Python‖ straps that allow you to attach it to trees over a wide range of distances. But aside from getting the hammock itself, I also liked Kammok’s promise to donate a small portion of their proceeds to prevent malaria, providing mosquito nets and health education to families in Africa. I funded it at the end of August, and by the time the Kammok arrived it was Thanksgiving — a bit chilly for hanging out on the porch most days, though not unbearable. I tried it out just to see how it worked, but my kids loved it so much they spent nearly an entire day outside, snuggled up with blankets and pillows and just grinning away little two little joeys. You can still purchase it from Kammok’s website (along with some other gear), though it costs a bit more than it did during the Kickstarter campaign and the Python straps are sold separately. Creatures: the card game Creatures isn’t the most creative name for a game, but the game itself is quite charming. Each card is a front, middle, or end of an animal, worth a particular number of strength points and with part of its name and a short descriptor. Put together, you can read each animal’s name and a sentence about it. However, you can also mix things up, so you can make a Oc-mer-on (head of an octopus, body of a hammerhead shark, tail of a scorpion) or any number of other silly
things. The goal of the game is to make champion beasts which can defeat all the other player’s beasts in combat. It’s not a terribly deep game, strategy-wise, but the drawings are pretty awesome and it’s fun to put together ridiculous beasts and read their descriptions. Kickstarter backers got a bonus creature (the Chupacabra), plus a set of refrigerator magnets of some random creature parts. (There were some higher levels with T-shirts and other rewards, but I just wanted the game.) The quality of the game is nice, although the card tuckbox was a little larger than the cards themselves, making it susceptible to squashing. And this was by far the fastest turnaround I’ve had for a Kickstarter project: funded November 4, received November 26. You can still order copies of the game at the Creatures Card Game website.
Well, there you have it. Backing projects on Kickstarter can be a gamble: you don’t know how long it will take because a lot of people aren’t prepared for delays in manufacturing and shipping that are entirely out of their control. Or else they might get an overwhelming response, and realize that they’re going to spend weeks just packaging and shipping things out of their home by hand. Supporting a project means paying ahead of time, sometimes at a higher expense, for something that is unproven and may turn out to be a disappointment. But it also means that you get to help make things happen, things that otherwise would just be a cool idea in somebody’s head that never sees the light of day. You get to help people fulfill their dreams and bring some pretty awesome stuff to reality.
You might get some nifty exclusive rewards, or your contribution might actually benefit even those who don’t take part in the campaign. Ultimately, it’s about investing in ideas that you think are worth having, to encourage people to keep having cool ideas. These are just the projects I’ve backed myself — other GeekDad contributors have backed other things, and there’s a host of other cool ideas that are still waiting to be discovered. Be sure to check out our Kickstarter curated page for a few of the current projects we think are awesome!