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Phirax's Magical Box of Hot
Keats and Yeats are on your side, but you lose... because Wilde is on mine.
There are 5 steps in every successful Kickstarter campaign. Since I'm way too lazy to actually sign up with Kickstarter, here is my funding campaign for...
Lords of Bacon: The Edible Deck Building Game
Step 1: In the beginning... blah, blah, blah
All Kickstarter campaigns start off with an origin story...
Back when this crazy rollercoaster ride started all I had was a dream, a refrigerator full of bacon, and Klaus Teuber snoring on my couch...
Like so many aspiring young designers before me it was my dream to one day publish my own game. To achieve this goal, I did all the things that real professional game designers do. I bought a geek badge that said "Game Designer," I stalked Martin Wallace at game conventions, and I even belittled and humiliated newcomers to our hobby. But I still didn't have any published games to my credit. Finally, my breakthrough came during a chance encounter with Martin Wallace in the men's room at Spiel Essen...
MW: My God, are you insane?
Phirax: Martin Wallace? What a crazy coincidence.
MW: You just climbed into my bathroom stall!
Phirax: Do you mind if I videotape our conversation for my designer diary?
MW: I'm sitting on the toilet!
Phirax: (to the camera phone) So Mr. Wallace, what are you working on right now?
MW: A bowel movement, you idiot! I'm taking a crap!
Phirax: Movement... Crap... It sounds like someone is working on a new expansion for A Few Acres Of Snow.
MW: I'm not designing a deck building game, I'm pooping.
Phirax: I don't understand, what's the difference?
MW: Well, the former requires a compelling theme, tightly knit mechanics, and rigorous testing...
MW: While the latter is how I make train games.
Phirax: I knew it!
Phirax: What was that?
MW: Looks like Last Train To Wensleydale.
Aldie: Stop, Stop, Stop!
Phirax: What happened? What did I do?
Derk: You set off our new automated content censorship system.
Phirax: You installed a new automated security system?
Derk: Yeah, pretty sweet, huh?
Phirax: Because it looked like Aldie just ran over and yelled, "Stop!"
Derk: Yeah, that's the new system.
Phirax: And this new system covers the whole website?
Aldie: (out of breath) I spend most of my time in the Wargames forum.
Derk: Phirax, about your blog...
Aldie: You can't just publicly insult and humiliate Martin Wallace.
Phirax: I thought that was why you started this website.
Derk: That was our original intent, yes, but we've grown since then.
Phirax: Have you been to the A Few Acres of Snow forums lately?
Aldie: Is it really bad?
Phirax: Well, Mr. Wallace is usually depicted in the toilet, not on it.
MW: I don't mean to be rude, but...
Aldie: Oh, hello Martin!
Derk: Didn't see you sitting there.
MW: No worries, it is a bit crowded in here, after all.
Aldie: Martin, we'd like to talk to you about doing some free promos for charity when you have time.
MW: Sure, I'm always happy to help.
(the conversation continues outside the stall)
Phirax: Okay then... back to insulting Kickstarter.
Derk: Ooh, good idea...
Aldie: Kickstarter is stupid.
Phirax: Uh, you probably shouldn't say that publicly.
Derk: $% Kickstarter!
Aldie: We ownz those beetches!
Derk: Aldie has been learning to speak "l33t."
Aldie: Our new automated security system needs street cred.
Phirax: Do you guys mind if I get on with my thing here?
Derk: Oh, no, get back to it young man!
Aldie: See you on the fly tip, sha-zizzle!
Step 2: Kickstart My Heart
The next step in a Kickstarter campaign is the "heartfelt pandering." This is where the designer explains how a crucial lesson learned during the origin story led to an important breakthrough...
I was making good progress on my game but I found myself troubled by something Martin Wallace had said about the design of deck building games. He claimed they required a compelling theme, tightly knit mechanics, and rigorous testing but Eminent Domain obviously didn't have any of those things, so was Wallace right?
I had been learning how to design games from Klaus Teuber so I never considered the possibility that hard work and fresh ideas played a role in game design. I knew I would never be as brilliant and industrious as Martin Wallace so how could I find success with as little effort and creativity as possible?
Then it dawned on me... Kickstarter!
With Kickstarter, anyone could post a video about their half-assed ideas and then other people would pay to have the game made. It was just as lazy and cynical as board game blogging so it was perfect for a designer like me who had nothing to say and was too lazy to say it.
But I still needed an idea — a clever hook — and I needed one fast because Klaus would be waking up on my couch soon and when he woke up he wanted his quick filler of bacon. Quick filler... bacon... that's it! I'll sell a deck building game made out of bacon!
Step 3: Mmm... Bacon...
The third step in the Kickstarter design process is the presentation of the Fact Sheet. This is where the designer explains how his game is a cross between Dominion and Agricola...
We are selling bacon to board gamers. This is the most stupidly obvious idea since Uwe Rosenberg decided to make a board game with "sheeples."
How the Game Works
Think Dominion with bacon. Drool, shuffle, eat. Rinse and repeat. The game works just like Dominion except that Dominion players tend to drool more and eat less.
Klemens Franz will cook all the bacon.
Example of Game Play
Just like the decks they are building, players start out thin and healthy and by the end become fat and bloated. The game end is triggered as soon as someone has a heart attack, at which point each player checks his cholesterol level (aka bacon victory points) and the player with the highest number wins (or dies). Or both.
Is it Fun?
Who cares? Is Dominion fun? Our game has B-A-C-O-N.
Step 4: Drama, drama, spank the llama.
Before we ask board gamers for money, we need to tell them a sad story about how the game almost failed to reach the light of day...
Whiskers the Cat loved board games. Whiskers was just like all those cute cats you see in photos on this website, swatting meeples, staring intently at plastic tokens or just sleeping in game boxes. Then one day a tornado came and dropped a spinning house on Whiskers.
Whiskers managed to crawl out from under the house and as I arrived on the scene the little kitty looked at me with big, sad eyes...
Whiskers: Meow. (cough, cough)
Phirax: Oh, no Whiskers, don't say that!
Phirax: You want me to make a deck building game?
Whiskers: Meow, meow.
Phirax: It's the only thing that can save your life?
Whiskers: Meow. (swat, swat)
Phirax: Eminent Domain sucks?
I was just about to start designing my deck building game when a Tasty Minstrel Games delivery van carrying copies of Eminent Domain pulled up in front of me and ran over Whiskers.
Aldie: Stop, Stop, Stop!
Phirax: Oh, come on, what now?
Derk: You can't tell people that Tasty Minstrel Games killed your cat.
Phirax: $% that, this is payback.
Aldie: The guys at Tasty Minstrel are really very nice people.
Derk: Phirax, why don't you try sticking to your usual routine?
Phirax: My usual routine?
Aldie: You know, make jokes about poop and masturbation...
Derk: With board games as the punch line.
Phirax: I don't do that.
(Aldie and Derk start to pantomime a mock blog entry)
Derk: Hurry up in there, I want to play some Dominion?
Aldie: Give me a minute, I'm on the toilet "shuffling my deck."
Derk: You've been in the "throne room" for quite some time.
Aldie: Sorry it's taking so long, but the throne room allows me to do each action twice.
Derk: Har-de-har-har! He's doing it twice...
Phirax: I hate this website.
Step 5: Kickstarter Stretch Rewards
Remember back before we had Kickstarter? When a game with an MSRP of $20 used to cost $20 or maybe even a little less if you bought it online? But that was before the invention of Kickstarter "stretch rewards." Stretch rewards are little "free extras" that designers include to hide the fact that you are paying 300% over MSRP for their game. Stretch rewards include things like stickers that say "Kickstarted!", a printed rule book, or a box to hold the game.
Board gamer: I'm interested in purchasing "Final Conflict: Hobbits v. Jedi."
Kickstarter: You've come to the right place!
Board gamer: Could you tell me a little bit about the game?
Kickstarter: Of course. The game represents the final battle between two storied franchises.
Board gamer: Sweet!
Kickstarter: The winner gets to make a new trilogy of movies...
Board gamer: I think I just made Last Train to Wensleydale in my pants!
Kickstarter: And the loser signs an exclusive 20 year contract with Mac Gerdts.
Board gamer: Dear God, no!
Kickstarter: The game costs $60 and takes less than 90 minutes to play.
Board gamer: Hmm, $60, could you tell me about the components?
Kickstarter: For $60 you get a box filled with sand.
Board gamer: Filled with sand?
Kickstarter: Yes, that makes shipping to Europe obscenely expensive.
Board gamer: That seems fair.
Kickstarter: Our support levels start at $10 and go up to $1000.
Board gamer: I want the cheapest level that gives me a playable game.
Kickstarter: That would be $1000.
Board gamer: What do all the other levels provide?
Kickstarter: Each lower level gives you one piece of the game, to get the whole game you need to pay the whole price.
Board gamer: But you said the game costs $60.
Kickstarter: That was the price it would have cost before Kickstarter.
Board gamer: That doesn't seem like a very good deal.
Kickstarter: Did we mention the exclusive stretch rewards?
Board gamer: Stretch rewards?
Kickstarter: If you pay the $1000 we include a drawing my three year old daughter made of a hobbit dressed like a Jedi.
Board gamer: Kickstarter is awesome!
***Special Bonus Step***: Lords of Bacon: The Edible Deck Building Game — Support Levels
Now you have them hooked and it is time to reel them in. The following list of rewards is what you will typically find in a Kickstarter board game campaign...
Level 1 — Vegetarian (Pledge $10 or more...)
You get nothing!
Level 2 — I'm on a diet (Pledge $30 or more...)
You also get nothing, but you can tell your friends that you are better than those stupid $%&ing vegetarians.
Level 3 — Dry, burned, and brittle (Pledge $60 or more...)
You get an empty box with the words "Lords of Bacon" scribbled on it. Oh, you want an actual "playable game?" Keep scrolling down, cheap-ass...
Level 4 — Eminent Domain (Pledge $75 or more...)
Remember Level 3 when I mentioned receiving an actual "playable game?"
Well, this isn't it.
Backers at this level will have their shipping address forwarded to all those poor bastards that funded Eminent Domain. When you pledge $75 or more... I keep the money, you pay the shipping, and the Eminent Domain backers rid themselves of 2.3 lbs. of useless cardboard that has been sitting on their shelves for over a year as a constant reminder of how you could no longer trust Tom Vasel to "review" unpublished game prototypes. Do I seem bitter?
Level 5 — Artificial bacon-flavored topping (Pledge $100 or more...)
Now you are just pissing me off. $100? Really? For a measly extra $25 (a $75 value) you could be at the much-more-awesome Level 6.
Level 6 — Lardons et Speck (Pledge $125 or more...)
This is a special reward level just for our European supporters. For $125 you get the same thing that American supporters get at the $60 level. Vive la Kickstarter!
Level 7 — Triple Bypass Surgery (Pledge $200 or more...)
Let's get something straight, I hate you. Now that I'm a game publisher I finally understand why you whiney, needy, dorks are so despised by industry professionals. You don't deserve this, but since you are paying to put a new extension on my house here is some hastily written dialog posing as a stretch reward. Enjoy.
***** Kickstarter Exclusive ***** Bonus Crappy Dialog Feat. Klaus Teuber!
The scene opens in Phirax's apartment where we find Klaus Teuber shirtless and asleep on Phirax's couch. Note: This is how everyone should always picture Klaus Teuber, shirtless and asleep on Phirax's couch.
Phirax enters the room for their daily game design brain-storming session.
Phirax: (yelling) WOOD FOR SHEEP!
Teuber reeks of fresh sweat and stale ideas. He wipes the sleep from his eyes as Phirax places their lunch on the table in front of the couch. It is the usual game night fare of sizzling bacon and assorted Dominion expansions. If there is one thing that gamers love it is greasy snacks and "shuffling"...
Phirax: Another nightmare?
Teuber: Yeah, same as always... hoard of gamer zombies attacking me.
Phirax: They wanted more Catan?
Teuber: It was horrible.
As Phirax begins the soul-destroying process of arranging the stacks of Dominion cards Teuber leans over to grab a slice of fried pork lusciousness. It is then that he first notices the sleeves.
Teuber: Are those slices of cheese?
Phirax: Yeah, I decided to sleeve the bacon instead of the cards.
Teuber: That's brilliant!
Phirax: I took two slices, crimped the edges... and voilà!
Teuber: You should sell this as a board game on Kickstarter.
Phirax: But I don't know anything about making or selling board games.
Teuber: Ever heard of Tasty Minstrel Games?
Phirax: Oh... good point.
They settle into lunch as both players deal out a five-card hand of cheese-sleeved bacon.
Teuber: I still really think there is a great idea in there somewhere.
Phirax: (chewing) The trouble is that as a game it seems great at first but in the end it is all fat and empty calories. There is no substance to it.
Teuber: Are we talking about the cheese-sleeved bacon or Eminent Domain?
Phirax: Oh sure, people will hunger for it — they will wait longingly for the first opportunity to get their hands on the new pieces — letting their tongues test and explore the surface of each piece.
Teuber: This is starting to sound like a Fantasy Flight game demo.
Phirax: And the sick part is there is no replay value, once you taste it, there is nothing left.
Teuber: This definitely sounds like a Fantasy Flight game demo.
They are both silent for a while eating their sleeved bacon snacks. The process is slowly killing them.
Phirax: You know, this really does remind me of Eminent Domain.
Teuber releases a victorious belch, leans back and wipes his hands on Phirax's couch. His perspiration — now glistening with oily bacon residue — makes him look like the shining game design star that he is. Note: This is how everyone should always picture Klaus Teuber, shirtless and glistening on Phirax's couch.
Teuber: The nightmares are getting worse.
Phirax: Your fans just want more games from you.
Teuber: I have nothing left to give them.
Phirax: Then give it to them.
Teuber: What? Nothing?
Phirax: Sure, after Power Grid Friedemann Friese made a career out of selling us nothing.
Teuber: Hmm... "Catan Nothing"
Phirax: You could sell it on Kickstarter.
Teuber: So, I would take their money and give them nothing in return?
Phirax: People will love the fact that they are getting a new Catan game and they will also love the fact that they aren't forced to suffer through actually playing another Catan game.
Teuber: Win-win for everyone.
Phirax: I love Kickstarter!