Hey, have you seen this really cool game that’s up on Kickstarter right now? Whaddya mean, ”What’s Kickstarter??”
Kickstart My HeartKickstarter. It amazes me, but I occasionally encounter gamers, both online and off, who’ve still never heard of the platform. Frankly, this amazes me. Hey, I’m an ‘experienced’ gamer in his mid-forties, whose daughter often looks at me with pity when I ask her to turn something on the TV/cable/Netflix/whatever – I’m lying, my daughter has no pity – but even I know what it is. I know, I know … I still hear some of you asking it – “What’s Kickstarter?” Ugh, you’re killin’ me Smalls.
You’re killin’ me, Smalls…
Okay, briefly, for those who still don’t know what Kickstarter is… Kickstarter is/was a crowdfunding website used by various artists/companies to pitch their amazing ideas to the masses so that those fans, or future fans, can contribute funds directly to help said artist/company make this amazing idea become a reality. Oh, I suppose Kickstarter could be used to help create something as dull as a movie or music album or game about exploding household pets, but realistically, it has but one true purpose – to create glorious board games with miniatures, preferably in 28mm so that they scale well with the typical wargames we all play, with themes or subject matter that otherwise would have virtually no real hope of being made. Well, sure, I guess one could create a board game without such miniatures, but then, really, what’s the point? Some people just don’t get it.
The amazing part about this Kickstarter phenomenon is that, relatively speaking, it’s not a new thing. It’s been around for several years – I can’t really be bothered to look it up, I only know that it got its hooks into me in the fall of 2013, so let’s just say three or four years. Honestly, before I noticed, it didn’t really matter. The important part is, in today’s world, with the way technology seems to be evolving, that’s a long time. At least, it seems like a long time when I consider that some gamers still haven’t noticed its existence yet. And this is an important point. Time. If you’re gonna engage with Kickstarter, you need to know these things take time. You need patience. And you need fortitude, because Kickstarter will try your patience.
Listen to this right after your Kickstarter ends. Then do it a bunch more times.
For all its wonder and potential, be warned, Kickstarter is like a drug. I know, I know … just hear me out. You see, once you get onboard with a project, once the artist/company has you on the hook, because hey, that game looks brilliant, the roller-coaster ride is just beginning. The funding periods for various Kickstarters vary, but the ones that matter, usually run 20-30 days. And they usually roar out of the gate, funding hundreds of thousands of dollars or even more, on their first day, then tapering off to a steady growth over the remainder of the funding period until the last day or two, when often more funds are raised than even in the first days of the Kickstarter’s launch.
Of course, there’s more to it. These insidious gaming companies provide additional funding goals known as ‘stretch goals.’ These goals usually add elements to the game – additional scenarios, miniatures, you name it. These additions entice more backers to join and/or current backers to up their pledges. As a backer, you find yourself watching the total rise, chatting with fellow backers on the Kickstarter’s forum, eagerly awaiting what new element might be added to the game with the next stretch goal announced, even pleading with the Creator(s) to add something cool to the game that occurs to you. It is all quite thrilling, and it can be hard to not check up on a given Kickstarter’s progress on a daily basis. Sometimes an hourly basis.
I can quit whenever I want. Shut up … yes I can!
And then one day, BAM! It’s all gone. The Kickstarter funding period is over and now there is nothing to do but wait. That delivery date of 12-18 months away, that didn’t seem so long during the funding period, abruptly settles in. The constant updates, changing elements to the project and the furious debating/pleading/exultation that runs through the funding period is just over with. It doesn’t help that often times there is that headlong race to the finish where in the last couple days the total rises faster and faster, more and more elements are added to the game or project and the Creator(s) are in near constant contact with the backers. It’s exciting and thrilling and … addictive. When it jarringly ends, it can be very disconcerting. Indeed, you may find yourself looking around for another Kickstarter to join, just so you can get that exciting feeling again. It’ll never be like that first time again, but you might find you can’t help yourself. You keep looking.
And it is at this point where you need the fortitude to cling to your patience. Because it can be a long wait … longer than you even realize. Many Kickstarters, indeed all those I’ve participated in, deliver late. Some very late. Some, never deliver at all. The risks of all this is usually laid out quite clear on that first page of the Kickstarter, all the way at the bottom of the page, past all the super cool stuff that catches and twinkles in your eye. But it’s there, so take heed. I recommend you treat the whole experience like gambling, because on a certain level, that’s exactly what it is. Don’t pledge (gamble) more than you can afford to live without (lose), because it may be a very long time before you see a return on your investment (if ever). But … when it does deliver – there’s that feeling again.
My First Time
Now, if you slip into the Kickstarter world as I have, and you’re around long enough, you’ll hear some say that Kickstarter has lost its original intent and purpose. These people will complain that many of the companies (such as CoolMiniorNot or Mantic Games) that use the platform to produce these glorious games are exploiting it. Surely, such people contend, these companies have proven that they are successful and should be able to self-fund future games/projects. I have a word for such people. Wrong. You see, setting aside the limited resources and thin margins these companies must contend with, such people are missing the central point. Many of these games simply would not ever be made without a platform such as Kickstarter.
Waiting for my updated CSM codex.
To really understand what I mean, I need to explain my first experience with Kickstarter. So, imagine if you will, the murky past, a bygone era of myth and legend, a time of turmoil and lingering heat (no not Hell, I live in Arizona, so … shut up) – October 2013. In this trying time of despair, when Genestealer Cults were only whispered of in the shadows and Chaos Space Marines still suffered in impotent bitterness (wait a second…), I found myself perusing the wonders of the Internet (thanks Al Gore!) and surfing my way through Bell of Lost Souls. I was minding my own business, searching for scraps of rumor regarding all things Chaos, when an image scrolling along the right of the screen commanded my attention. What was this image? A simple, greyscale rendering of a flying saucer from Mantic’s Mars Attacks Kickstarter. I was mesmerized and followed the link down the rabbit hole.
Oh the cheesy 60’s gloriosity … how I love thee.
Oh, I was vaguely aware of my brother having mentioned to me months previously that some company was gonna create a Mars Attacks game that was in 28mm scale using some sorta platform or something. To be honest, I had no real understanding of what he was talking about, and it was only in passing at any rate. But once I clicked on that link, saw what Mantic was doing/proposing, and gradually came to understand what Kickstarter was, I was completely enthralled. I droned on to my wife about it. She listened patiently. And within a day or two, I found myself asking her if she was okay with me dropping almost $200 on this project. This eventually became $350. And I didn’t care. It was awesome! I loved everything about that Kickstarter and game; the images, the colors, the game mechanics and especially the cheesy 60’s vibe of the Martians.
And the weird thing of it is, to this day, I don’t really understand why I’ve come to like Mars Attacks so much. Oh, I loved the cheesy 80’s movie, as to be honest it’s just my sort of comedy. But, I didn’t like it THAT much. And I had no idea it was based upon a crazy trading card set from the 60’s or that there was more to the genre than the movie. And none of that explains why I became so fixated with the Mantic game and its miniatures. But I did. Perhaps it was just a confluence of factors – the cheesy Martians, cool miniatures (toy soldiers, and a personal weakness) and accompanying game, and the thrill of the Kickstarter experience. All that, and most assuredly, one crazy idea. The idea, that in addition to whatever this game might bring, I could also use the miniatures to create the coolest ‘counts as’ Tau army ever. Which I did; leading them to glory on the first day of the Vegas Open this very year! Second day? What second day?
How my first day in Vegas went.
Mantic’s Mars Attacks was only my first taste of Kickstarter, but it would not be my last. I have since participated in half a dozen or so more since those heady days of yore, and I’m always on the lookout for another cool game full of awesome miniatures. Fortunately, I have discerning taste, and I try to adhere to my guiding founding principle – in addition to whatever cool thing this game/miniature line is trying to do, what weirdly amazing 40K army/project can I pervert it into? This means that I’ve managed to keep myself from going completely out of control with the Kickstarter addiction, unlike some people I know (you’re welcome Morg!). But, more importantly, this reinforces my original point. These weird games/projects I’m attracted to are only possible because of Kickstarter. I mean, come on! Who really believes there’s a company out there that would have taken a chance on creating a miniatures game like Mars Attacks? What’s more, a whole miniature war gaming line (in plastics no less), complete with flying saucers, multiple troop units, leaders, vehicles, giant bugs and burning cows?? Does anyone? Honestly, I don’t deserve even the possibility. But it’s a reality, and all thanks to Kickstarter.
The Future Is Here
So, what of the future of Kickstarter? Well, to be honest, I’m more excited for the near future. For, you see, though I’ve long since received my Mars Attacks pledge and another small pledge for Mantic’s Dungeon Saga Kickstarter, the bulk of my more substantial pledges to five outstanding Kickstarter projects are all due to ship to me within the next six months, beginning this very month of October. Specifically, this all begins with Monolith’s Conan. Monolith is a brand new company out of France, and I invested heavily in their Kickstarter, as did many others (they received more than 16,000 backers and raised more than $3.3 million!). I won’t bore you with all the details, as you can check them out easily enough on your own, but the important things regarding this project that hooked me so deeply was that Monolith insisted that their game would adhere only to the true Conan stories written by their original writer/creator Robert E. Howard, and, that the miniatures would be of the highest quality plastic. Honestly, they had me at the whole ‘sticking only to Howard’ bit (my dad used to regale me with these stories on long car rides when I was a boy), but the art and miniature quality of the project is just amazing, so there’s that too. Of course, the project is a year late to deliver (but I saw this coming from a mile away, as the Monolith team just seemed too aggressively ambitious with their timetables at the time of funding), but it’s a reality now. At least, the core game and Kickstarter exclusives are – we’ve begun to see unboxing videos from various third party reviewers popping up in the previous few weeks. The rest of the expansions and Add-ons will come first quarter next year. But it WILL be in our hands soon, and I can’t tell you how excited I am.
And Conan is not coming alone. I have a number of other Kickstarters set to deliver right on his heels, and unlike the mighty barbarian’s game, I managed to stick to my rule of pledging to these with the intent to dual purpose the miniatures for my twisted 40K projects. First up is Mantic’s Warpath, which should deliver in November-December. While the game looks interesting enough (and ‘Huzzah!’, they are supposedly including rules for me to run my Martian army in the game), I really pledged for the Plague faction (hard plastic, multi-pose zombies, mutants and assorted gribblies) and the hard plastic vehicles (super cool Sci-Fi flyers, tunneling machines, Hum-Vs, etc.). The quality is not Games Workshop, but it’s way cheaper and the plastics means these will be easy enough to convert and fold into my all-too-numerous Chaos armies.
Making cool minis for longer than you know. But I know.
Following these two eagerly awaited projects, I’m expecting smaller pledges from Reaper Miniatures’ Bones 3: The Search For Mr. Bones! (I ordered some ludicrously cheap cemetery terrain, Cthulhu monsters and other assorted knickknacks) sometime in December-January, Creature Caster (a single ‘not a Lord of Change’) if the artist ever really delivers (I have so many doubts) and Cryptozoic’s Ghostbusters II (you don’t want to know what I intend to do with these minis) sometime around May 2017. All in all, some great stuff coming, and this doesn’t even count some other interesting Kickstarters that should be delivering in this same timeframe that I didn’t back, but for which I’ve kept my eyes peeled nevertheless, such as Mantic’s The Walking Dead: All Out War Miniatures Game or TitanforgeGames’ Lobotomy Board Game. And there’s always more to come, such as Mantic’s new Star Saga Kickstarter going on even now or the whispers I’ve heard that Mantic may be launching another Mars Attacks Kickstarter next year (better be true!)…
So why am I rambling on about all these cool things coming my way in the near future? Because, dear reader, these great things can be coming to you too. You see, that is the last, and perhaps most important cool thing about Kickstarter that you should know. My over-eager enthusiasm for all these great projects, my faith that they would one day become reality, and my fearless willingness to put my money where my mouth is, have all helped these things become available for all my fellow gamers to enjoy as well. You see, shortly after these projects drop into my sweaty palms, they will be available on the general market as well. Indeed, Conan is currently being previewed in a number of places and Mantic is already teasing The Walking Dead and the Plague faction from Warpath. These great games and their awesome miniatures will soon be a reality for you all to enjoy (even those of you who were asking “What’s Kickstarter?” earlier).
So what about you – will you be looking up these great games? Will you consider looking into upcoming Kickstarter projects and joining the ranks of the addicted? Waddya mean “So, what’s Kickstarter again??”