Kickstarter Sampler

By April 27, 2013Kickstarter
Kickstarter Sampler

We at the Order sometimes have conflicting feelings about the huge wave of Kickstarter tabletop game projects that began to roll in last year. On the one hand, there are some wonderful deals to be had, lots of fantastic miniatures, and some exciting games. On there other hand, there are a lot of projects that don’t live up to the exacting standards we hold for game production. The very freedom of the Kickstarter concept that has allowed small publishers to amass money and support that would normally be beyond their reach, also means that some of these publishers aren’t quite ready for the big time when it comes to quality design and production. This is certainly not a reflection on the enthusaism and sincerity of those involved, but rather, a reminder that it takes time and experience to develop the skills required to create something of real quality.

That said, let’s have a look at some of the current Kickstarter campaigns that have us raising an eyebrow in interest, and possibly even reaching for our well-thumbed wallets …


Deadzone: The Sci-fi Miniatures Board Game

by Mantic Games

Deadzone hit its $50K goal in 33 minutes—not a bad start. A day from launch—as of this writing—and it’s already at $160K. Things are looking good for this sci-fi urban combat miniatures boardgame, and judging by the success of Mantic’s last Kickstarter campaign Dreadball, which hit almost $729K, I think they’ll hit the magic million mark this time without breaking a sweat. Gamers just can’t seem to get enough of space marines vs aliens combat games, and despite the fact that this game’s theme is almost identical to Studio McVey’s recent Sedition Wars, there was very little that was original about the latter game’s theme either. The real selling points here are the miniatures, which look great, and the 3D modular terrain, something for which gamers will always happily fork out cash.

[alert type=”notice”]Final Tally: 4,306 backers, $1,216,482 raised.[/alert]

A Study in Emerald

A Study in Emerald

by Martin Wallace

Martin Wallace (Struggle of Empires, Age of Steam, et al) is certainly well known in boardgaming circles and there was great excitement to when it was announced his latest game borrows the theme from a Neil Gaiman short story that mixes Sherlock Holmes and H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. It’s an interesting mix of deck-building and bidding, with a bit of secret team play thrown in. Oh, and of course the sanity of your agents will be at stake. And did I mention zombies and vampires? The campaign is at £37K with 27 days to go.

Look out for much more information about this game in an upcoming interview with Martin Wallace, here at the EOG!

Final Tally: 1,882 backers, £124,135 raised.

Galaxy Defenders

Galaxy Defenders Co-op Sci-Fi Miniature Board Game

by Ares Games

Ares Games, makers of such beloved games as the Wings of Glory series and War of the Ring (not to mention Aztlan, for which this writer had the honour of creating the graphic design), have recently gone sci-fi with Galaxy Defenders. Gremlin Studios have developed this mission-driven game in which players control special agents battling an alien menace controlled by a card-based A.I. system. Despite a slightly disturbing penchant for capitals in all its text, this looks like a fun throwback to the days of classic pre-2000 scifi—for example, the creature designs don’t try to hide their inspiration from the Alien and Predator films—and 90s-era Games Workshop boardgames. It’s already doubled it’s $40K goal and still has 25 days to go as of this writing.

Final Tally: 1,080 backers, $180,252 raised.



by Secret Weapon Miniatures

Tabletop gamers love plastic terrain and miniatures, so Secret Weapon Miniatures is onto a winner with their Tablescapes Kickstarter campaign. At over $160K with 15 days to go, they’ve already doubled their initial goal. These injection molded plastic 12×12″ tile sets are affordable, flexible and highly detailed, and they are unlocking different styles as they meet their stretch goals, with scrap yard and a clean urban streets sets already approved. In addition, there’s a bunch of barricades, walls and scattered terrain pieces available. It’s about time another company came up with these themed plastic terrain tiles, and these look like giving the gamers the variety they’ve been craving.

Final Tally: 1,395 backers, $311,488 raised.


Robotech RPG Tactics

by Palladium Books

The Palladium roleplaying game Robotech goes way back to the 80s, but there’s plenty of life in this kind of Transformers-style giant robot concept yet, as evidenced by the success of this new miniatures game that has already powered past its 70K goal to $385K—with 24 days to go. Again, cool figures seem to be the main drawcard. But with decades of background material behind them, Palladium Games has big plans for the future of this system.

Final Tally: 5,342 backers, $1,442,312 raised.

Of course, this is just a quick look at just a few of the many Kickstarter projects in progress as we speak: check out some of those others in the tabletop games section of the site now.

How do you feel about the Kickstarter gaming phenomenon? Do you feel that compromises are being made in quality, or is the empowering of small publishers worth it? Will Kickstarter end up being a store for larger publishers rather than a supporter of smaller creatives? How many Kickstarter campaigns have you supported? We’d love to read your comments on the issue.


  • Gordon Hills says:

    I would like to see a miniatures game based on exploration rather than warfare. Something like Relic Expedition but using miniatures and including exploration of alien planets. The expansion possibilities would be endless!

  • Dennis says:

    I have been contemplating this very subject with my local group. Kickstarter ideally would be the perfect place for indie developers and creative/ daring games to have a chance at life, however it seems to be headed down the dangerous path of big company hype machine. Did Zomibicide Season 2 really need to get funded through Kickstarter after the success of the first or was it just a way to get a HUGE amount of pre-orders and press? Ultimately the onus falls on the consumer to choose, support the ideals or just use kickstarter as an outlet store? I sadly fall somewhere in between. Trying to find games that are new and creative but still have to have my Deadzone with bonus stuff.

  • Universal Head says:

    @Dennis I agree, the danger is definitely there that it just becomes a forum for big companies churning out old ideas; I keep wondering when the first Fantasy Flight Games campaign is going to appear. The Days of Wonder campaign for an Android version of Small World seemed unnecessary, for example. At the moment, I’m finding myself less interested in funding things because I prefer to read reviews and get more information before I add a game to my collection. And often the stretch goals and bonuses are for stuff that really isn’t necessary to the game. I bought into Sedition Wars, for example, and it’s a good game, but I really didn’t need all those extras. But gamers, including myself, aren’t known for restraint when confronted with lots of shiny new miniatures!

    Then again, we’re also facilitating the growth of companies that will eventually force the big boys to lift their game, which is a good thing. It’s definitely a quick leg up for them, even though we have to inevitably deal with a few teething problems.

    @Gordon Hills Nice idea. Have you ever played Voyage of the BSM Pandora? It was a paper-and-chits game that came in a 1981 issue of Ares magazine. It also had a paragraph system to add a story element. I remember it fondly and could definitely see it as the basis for a full scale space exploration game.

  • Will says:

    If someone had told you even five years ago that you’d be able to arrange $1m of crowd-sourced funding for a table-top miniatures zombie game, would you have believed them? It’s pretty astounding.

    My initial reaction is that major game companies with established global markets like FFG and DoW could go to the bank, not rely on KickStarter, after all, it’s not called ‘KickEstablished’. Having said that though, these companies have done the hard yards and demonstrated they can bring things to market themselves, so would it really be to our benefit if they just concentrated on their business model and stayed out of this online venture-capital space? Possibly not. They might come up with some truly brilliant games.

    This is not how capitalism has generally been understood to work. KickStarter is an extraordinary example of how the internet is changing the established economic model, and I guess by definition, it’s open to anyone with a good idea and shedload of organisation.

    • Universal Head says:

      Indeed. It’s still up to us if we support the campaigns or not, and presumably the ones that look amateurish just won’t get the funding. Though it does amaze me how even some really dodgy looking ones have raked in cash. Either way, it’s going to be fascinating to watch how things develop over the next few years.

  • Mike says:

    I’ve already got too many games that I don’t play. I backed 2 kickstarter projects this year Formula E and Zombicide season 2. And that’s it for this year. Famous last words!

  • Smottz says:

    Not to mention the risks involved. I was delighted to see that Odin’s Ravens had returned for a second printing through Kickstarter. However, following a successful campaign, it appears the KS creator has disappeared and is not responding to anyone or providing any updates. Gulp!

    • Smottz says:

      By the way…how do we go about altering our profiles/avatars, etc.?

      • Universal Head says:

        I’m glad you asked … it’s not something you can do just yet, but we’ll see how things at the Order develop … some of those venerable old members refuse to let in just anyone you know …

    • Universal Head says:

      Sorry to hear that about Odin’s Ravens. I have a copy of the game and it’s an old favourite for me and my girlfriend. I must admit I wasn’t impressed by the artwork of that second edition though—looks a bit like something you’d pick up in a shop that sells crystals and unicorn statues! (Not that the original edition’s illustrations were that impressive either.)

      • Smottz says:

        You’re spot on in your assessment of Odin’s Ravens’ artwork. Fortunately, I did not find out about the re-release until it was too late to back it. Which, it turns out, is a blessing in disguise for both the reason I cited as well as the reason you described. Though you have to admit, crystals *can* be useful in a number of games. Discovering a cove of crystals in Tales of the Arabian Nights could only be enhanced through the use of a small, clear crystal teddy bear holding a red glass rose… 😉

        • Universal Head says:

          You’ve got me there—even though Iaid out all 300 pages of The Book of Tales, you can’t expect me to remember every entry!

  • Kim says:

    Via KS i think there are gonna be some flops, some average games and some great games. Just like in the old skool games publishing world. I think the way KS is shaking the industry up is great, although it can be hard identifying the quality games to back. Ive found 7 or 8 so far.

    As a wanna be Australian game designer I have to say its hard to pitch games at US publishers who generally want you to go to Gencon to pitch! Finding ways to publish via KS provides people outside the US with another avenue to making games. Thats a good thing as long as they are good games. Right?

    • Universal Head says:

      As long as they’re good games, sure. Though unlike old skool publishing it can be hard to tell because there are no reviews, sometimes not even a PDF of the rules, and a need for complete trust on the part of the person giving the money. But on the whole I think it’s great; I’m just curious about the direction in which it’s going to evolve.

      It is really unfortunate that some amateurs and shysters are undermining the credibility of non-established publishers to compete however – every time someone doesn’t deliver or does a runner, it pushes the system more in the direction of the established publishers.

  • Brent Lloyd says:

    Kickstarter is changing our hobby for sure, and I don’t think all the changes are yet apparent.

    I think it is delivering the next to final nail in the coffin of many brick and mortar stores that sell the hobby games we love. The final nail will be if ever Magic (M:tG) dies.

    I have supported 40+ projects on Kickstarter to the tune of well over $5k and I have started backing out of projects. The number of Kickstarter Exclusives is getting out of control and I am a firm believer that they (with rare exception like Zombicide) severely limit a games lifespan. The folks who miss the Kickstarter are less likely to pick up a game if they cannot get the exclusives and the B&M stores (that I am friendly with) are not stocking Kickstarter games (once again with rare exception).


    • Universal Head says:

      Interesting to hear how you’re starting to back out after being such a big supporter. Thanks for your perspective; it’s interesting to watch these changes happen in the industry.

  • Tom says:

    I’m really looking forward to the gladiator game Arena Rex, and the space sandbox game Xia: Legends of a Drift System.

  • Tom says:

    In regards to Brent, I guess I don’t have such a dour view on the FLGS. I still visit mine weekly, and have no problem paying an extra 10-15 bucks for a game to hold it in my hands and help out a local seller. Pretty much anything I have backed on KS will never make its way to Tulsa, OK anyhow. I think there is a reasonable balance between both mediums.

What do you think?