Ain’t That a Kick in the Head: The Joys & Pitfalls of Kickstarting Board Games

I sit here, mere hours away from the end of a kickstarter campaign, and I can’t decide whether to pledge my money.

In case you’re not familiar, is a Web site where people set up projects—be they books, or paintings, or video games, or board games—and ask people to give money toward that project. They have to set a certain dollar amount, and a date, and if the project hasn’t reached that amount by that date, the project doesn’t fund and no one pays a red cent. The incentive for backers is that they often get their hands on the project before anyone else. And they usually get some kind of special Kickstarter-only bonus. There are new games popping up every day…I’m just not sure that’s a good thing.

You see, in August of last year, I backed a game called Glory To Rome. I was supposed to have the game in my hands a month or two later. Well…it’s July, and those games are even now on a slow boat from China (literally). I might see it next month. I’m not confident.

It’s not just this bad experience that’s made me gun-shy. I don’t really like all these companies seeing this as a way to move mediocre games into the system. Before, companies were more discriminating when it came to what they produced—their money and warehouse space was on the line. Did some gems slip through the cracks? Sure. But now we have lots of games out there that passed a bare minimum vetting process, and will be produced as long as it gets backed on Kickstarter. Some of them are great games, but I also think this is leading to more stinkers getting through. I don’t think a game should be produced just because the money comes through—I want good games produced!

Another problem is that this process provides the consumers with very little info on these games. Before, a game would be produced, and you could do research, or play a friend’s copy to find out if you liked it. With Kickstarter, you have very little information to go on, and if you want to get all of the cool bonuses (and who doesn’t?!), then you feel compelled to back a game you have almost no information about. Is a short video—produced by the company who wants your money—going to give you a good idea about whether the game really is good or not? I'm doubtful. That leads to people buying mediocre games that they might not have before. Which leads to gun-shy people…like me…who hesitate to back games in the future.

Which brings me back to my current predicament. This game looks pretty fun--anthropomorphic, crazy, steampunk vultures?! Awesome! It’s not very expensive. But I just don’t know.

I’m backing it on faith. It might be a stinker; it might be awesome. Either way, I’ll let you know.