Monday, February 11, 2013

To Kickstart, or not to Kickstart?

Hey everyone!  Aly and I have been looking at the next step for Ars Victor.  I want to share what we've been working on, and hopefully get some feedback as to our sanity.

Kickstarter is a "crowd funding" site.  It lets independent creative-types fund projects with lots of small backers.  Backers are usually rewarded with whatever the project produces -- in this case, a copy of Ars Victor!

We think we can run a Kickstarter project to fund a print run of Ars Victor, and give copies of the game to our backers.  How big of a print run depends on you!

I've put together a quick poll on Google Forms -- please let us know if you'd consider backing us on Kickstarter!

Poll: Ars Victor Kickstarter

Read on to delve into the depths of our madness...

He was considering a KS project for a new bridge.

What... is your quest?

There is no question in my mind that Ars Victor is a fun game.  Our reception at Gateway last year and our first review confirmed it.  The next steps?  Exposing more players to the thrill and tension that is Ars Victor.

To make that happen, we want to do several things:

  • Print MOAR Copies!  People keep asking us how they can get the game.  While you *can* print-and-play, it's not easy: it's a big game!  On top of that, we've run out of all our demo units, and can't even send copies to reviewers.
  • New Art!  After a lot of input, we decided that we want to get new art for Ars Victor.  The existing art is functional, but it could be better.  Instead of relying on my inept art direction, we're looking to hire a professional to do it right.
  • Tournaments!  The launch tournament really highlighted how fun Ars Victor is in a competitive setting. We want to run that event at local game stores wherever we can, and give away copies of the game as prizes.

So... Much... Peril

There is much peril!

We have a good idea of what we need to do.  I'm getting quotes from our printers, receiving proposals from artists, and planning a tournament schedule.  There's a lot we can do, and I think a Kickstarter project can fund it.

Print-on-demand games
hand-assembled by deranged gamers
(pictured: stunt gamer, not actual)

Printing Options

When it comes to making more copies of Ars Victor, we have a couple of options:

  • Print on Demand.  We can currently print copies through Victory Point Games, the awesome folks who did our first demo run.  They're set up to print individual copies (by hand!) The downside: it costs us roughly $60 to ship each game.  That makes it really tough to fund anything, if we're giving these away as rewards.
  • Volume Printing.  It seems like the minimum run for any of the "big guys" is 1,000 units.  When we hit that point, the cost-per-game goes down... dramatically.  Now, that doesn't mean we need 1,000 backers -- we just need enough backers to pay for a minimum run.  We don't make any money, but we end up with a garage full of Ars Victor games.

Getting New Art

We've published our Request for Proposal on two web sites: BoardGameGeek and  I'm also reaching out through other connections.  We have received several proposals, but we have yet to choose one.  We're still open to receiving new proposals, so if you know anyone, send them our way!

Either way, we're getting a good idea of what we can expect to pay for the new art.  Bids have started at ~$1000 and gone up.  It seems like there are enough artists willing to work on some sort of contingency schedule.  Finding the right artist that fits in our project is going to be critical.

We will build a giant wooden rabbit
and fund it on Kickstarter.

The Kickstarter Plan

Aly and I have done a bunch of research on Kickstarter game projects.  When we compare our social media stats (Facebook friends, views & likes on BoardGameGeek0 with those of similar projects, it looks like we're at the bottom of the ladder.  We could probably fund a small project, but it's going to be challenging to hit $10,000.

The great thing is that we can structure our project with different levels of success.  This lets YOU, our loyal fans, choose how much of this project we can fund.  Is there only enough support for a couple dozen Print-on-Demand copies?  OK.  Is there enough demand for new art and a large print run?  We can do that, too!

Basic Project Goal: $2,500

This is what we need to raise to accomplish the bare minimums.  It would get us another half-dozen demo units.  This will let us get out to more reviewers, and run tournaments at local game stores and conventions.

Rewards: At this level, we're using Print-on-Demand to get our Premium backers a copy of the game.  We should also be able to ship a "Print-and-Play Upgrade" kit to our Regular backers.

Stretch Goal: Art

Depending on the proposal we accept, our next goal will be $5,000 or more.  At this level, we can pay to have all of the art redone by a professional game artist.  We will be able to get art that can sit comfortably on the shelf next to titles by Days of Wonder or Fantasy Flight Games. 

Rewards: We're still using Print-on-Demand, but we're shipping with beautiful new art!  I'm creating a Strategy Guide to give away to backers of all levels.  We're also creating new, unique unit counters for our Premium backers.

Stretch Goal: Volume

The final quote from the printer will tell us what this target is, but it's going to be over $9,000.  Probably over $15,000, actually, but I just wanted to say OVER 9000.  When we hit this goal, we're able to order a 1,000 unit print run.

Rewards: Things go crazy nuts.  All the Regular backers now get a copy of the game!  For the Premium backers, we go apeshit, and give them tons of extra stuff.  We're looking into stained wooden boxes, engraved dice, hardcover rules and strategy guides, extra counters... even an extra copy of the game!

What kind of miracle are we talking about here, exactly?

Think We'll Make It?

I'd love to get your feedback on our plans.  If we get enough support, I'll try to fund as much of the art as possible on my own.  If this is a horrible idea, then I'd love to know before we start. :)

Please fill out our Kickstarter poll, and let us know what you think!


  1. I think your game is solid enough you'll be surprised by the amount of people who will back your project on kickstarter. However you will need to make sure of a couple of things.

    1) I really,really,really want to stress that you have a person ready and willing to sit down and talk to backers either at a set time for a couple of hours every day or all throughout the day. People will crucify your game if you don't answer their questions in 24 or less. doesn't matter if your game is the next settlers of catan or not.

    2) The second most important thing is that your kickstarter is the most easy to read and understand thing on the planet. You also have tons of videos lined up and ready to go. I'd even say have your art designer picked out and have them put some demo pieces up as incentives.

    3) Your rewards for the game aren't exclusive things for the game. Let people buy them later at some undisclosed time. A lot of boardgamers hate exclusive promo packs with a passion, for a reason, and so they tend to hate when they are used in board game kickstarters.

    4) Add a high pledge tier for something like 500-2000 dollars to let a person help create something like a new faction. I've seen quite a few people go for those high ticket items that let them directly influence the game production.

    Make sure it looks professional. The Kickstarters that pass peoples wildest expectations for boardgames give you a ton of information, they look cool, are well presented, they have a person who talks to their backers constantly, oh and they included custom miniatures.

    Since you can't do that last one you can at least do all the others and i think you could have a great success on your hands. I haven't heard of half the games i've backed on KS before but because they had all those things (some eve minus the minis) i backed and they have been great.

  2. I want a wooden badger as a KS reward.

    I agree with everything Matt said. Community liason who is all over it minimum 1x/day is critical. Seems like after a few really public failures KS communities are unforgiving about lack of communication.

    I love this game. Make it happen!

  3. @Matt: Thanks for all the advice!

    When the KS project starts, I'm planning on posting something at least once a day. Our KS video might be a bit amateurish, but we ought to be able to put together a pretty snazzy looking project page.

    I'm hoping to have the artist working on the new art and posting it from the moment the project starts.

    We've definitely been studying other KS projects. Gunship: First Strike was an eye-opener.

    One stat I haven't seen anywhere -- how much of a typical game project's backers come from its core audience (eg my email list), and how much come from random browsers?

    @Mikey: I will get our engineers working on a WOODEN BADGER piece.

  4. I felt terrible for the Days of Wonder Small World 2 campaign it was murdered and they had a pretty good campaign with decent communication. But people wanted more and better clarity.

    Same with Purge they had to basically give everyone a second copy of the game to entice people to back even with the developer of the game answering questions on boardgame geek constantly.

    As for posting something once a day that isn't going to be enough if you can't answer most or all of the questions once a day. you will have the vocal minority of entitled KS backers moaning on your kickstarter about how you are terrible and why can't your KS campaign be run like the last one they pledged on. Which will drive off people. Just read the Days of Wonder Small World 2 comments.

    There is a lot of just random foot traffic on Kickstarter. Show a steady increase of money going up with constant new stretch goals to unlock and you will get a lot of new traffic daily i've seen. The only boardgame kickstarters i've seen stagnate are the poorly made ones that get angry people posting in the comment sections or ones that have the developer drop off and stop posting new updates/stretch rewards.

  5. Interesting. You think that responding to comments is more important than having new content daily? That's actually easier -- I was finding it hard to come up with new interesting stuff to say every day.

    I looked at the SW2 KS -- ouch.

    Thanks again for all the tips!

  6. Definitely i feel comments are more important then big updates.

    Ultimately i think if you are using big updates as simply milestone markers or when something big is added or changed. Most people will be happy with that amount of large updates. Obviously after the kickstarter you can start using the bigger updates more instead of reading all the comments etc.

    But i think during the campaign if you are showing you're around answering questions and interacting with the people backing your project they will be far more receptive and well spoken. And they will be your advertising. They will tell their friends/blogs/forums, etc. If they aren't getting what they want from you in the comment sections they aren't spreading the word because their disgruntled new backers will see that and stay away, and you won't get the extra traffic.

    I fairly successful campaign that had a lot of good communication and big updates would be Compounded made way over their goal had great communication with frequent but not a lot of major updates, mostly when they hit milestones.