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Subject: Post-Mortem - Necronauts Kickstarter rss

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Maher Sagrillo
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Hi everyone, I've seen some post-mortems recently (I love the one from Trevor) and thought I'd share what I learned from my team's unsuccessful attempt to fund Necronauts on Kickstarter.

We're re-launching in June with the issues I'm describing here fixed, among others, but I thought it would be valuable to share these lessons/realizations for not only feedback but for other creators to learn from.

Here's a link to the old campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tempesttome/necronauts-...


Without further delay, here are the main things I feel we did poorly:

Community
We didn't spend nearly enough time learning about, and becoming a part of, the global board gaming community. While I knew about Board Game Geek and similar sites/forums, I didn't realize the extent to which the community is helpful in providing feedback and supportive of up-and-coming designers and games. Additionally, being involved with BGG has taught me a lot that I would not have learned about otherwise, from design to pricing to expectations from Kickstarter backers and board game players. I think this was one of our biggest blunders, but a good one to have, as now I am way more into the board gaming community, and the spirit of both players and designers here is both invigorating and kind.

Exposure
We spent a bit of money on a BGG ad, we have a Facebook and a Twitter too, but we didn't spend time making meaningful connections with people and communities, learning people's expectations, what works and what doesn't, who to talk to, and the atmosphere of the community. As a result, we launched with very little momentum or exposure. We didn't even have our BGG page up with anything on it (right now it doesn't have much, but we're working on it ). Much more time should have been spent nurturing and getting feedback on our Kickstarter. Further, we should have been substantially more transparent, showing people our playtests, the design process behind the game, etc. We're making a BGG blog outlining the very start of this game to present day with lots of pictures, attending a lot of cons around the country, opening up the game to way more public players (digitally and physically) and generally doing more to naturally spread the word about Necronauts without being shills.

Goals and Pricing
For a new designer and company, even with cool minis and a content-packed game, asking for $88k is far, far too high. In that same vein, we asked for $133 for our core game, and while some people felt that was fair due to the amount of content and unique (some very large) miniatures, that is simply a very high price tag for anyone to pay, especially when games with comparable content often sell for $75 to $100. This is something we're really working on for the re-launch, as we want the game to be affordable and have the same quality and content we planned but with a far lower price tag.

Reviews and Videos
We launched without a single video. No trailer video, even a talking head, no reviews (written or otherwise), no gameplay explanations for what is clearly a very content-packed Ameritrash game! This was a huge mistake. We had plenty of reviewers lined up and ready for review copies, but we rushed our Kickstarter out before having them, thinking we could add them later. That too was a mistake! Next time around we're going to have at least 3 reviews from notable reviewers showing physical, finished copies of the game. When all people have at their disposal to understand your game is a text-based gameplay section and a PDF of a rulebook, it's a tall order to expect anyone to understand (and thus possibly be interested in) a game beyond its immediate art quality or the people making it.

Add-Ons and Stretch Goals
We launched with stretch goals and a very high initial goal, which was already a poor move. Then we added some stretch goals that gave all backers, should we reach the goals, a ton of free minis and content. While that is cool, not having reached our goal prior to doing that made the issue worse by giving us the appearance of expecting trillions of dollars, when our main goal was to drive people to share the game. Meanwhile, our add-ons were just things you can find in the main game. Things like the Deities of Death that we had as stretch goals would be much better suited as add-ons, and give people better availability to them without making us look greedy.

Kickstarter Exclusives
We didn't take into account how polarizing KS exclusive items can be. We offered a special mini and map in our $400 dollar tier which turned some backers off. Our intention was to give our biggest backers a cool reward, but to many people it did not appear that way. From our perspective, we were offering some bonus content and a bonus mini that are not integral to the core game. From some backers' perspectives, it appeared that we removed core content from the main game in order to gouge people into paying more for the "real game". This wasn't our intention at all, but in hindsight I can totally see why some people felt that way, as when I look at some KS projects I feel that way too.


There's always plenty of other stuff to think about and change for a re-launch, but those I feel are the main things we really did not do properly before launching, a result of rushing and ignorance as to the board gaming community and Kickstarter expectations.

Thanks for reading everyone, and feel free to tear it apart here and give us feedback, we greatly appreciate it, and it may be of some help to others who are trying to put out KS games.

We'll be around a lot more, and hope to see you all at cons in the US and at our re-launch in June. Stay weird. goo
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Stephen Gibson
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Appreciate you sharing your experience. Hopefully you do better next time around!
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Maher Sagrillo
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You are most welcome! I think we will. The art resonated very well with people (which, funny enough, was my biggest concern since it's so niche) and people love the idea and minis. Everything AROUND that is the issue.

Thanks Stephen.
 
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Major Havok
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I seriously wanted to back the game on the art style alone. But you pretty much nailed the reasons I never pulled the trigger. I'll be looking forward to your next KS.
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Maher Sagrillo
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Thank you! Also, sweet avatar. laugh
 
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Jorge Alvarez
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I was almost sold on theme and art alone! What a great theme, it really caught my attention. I read the rules and they looked good.

But I definitely would have liked a gameplay video and a couple of reviews.

Here's my take on KS exclusives. I do agree that ks backers are sometimes taking a bigger risk in buying a game from an unknown publisher or designer, and with a chance of no fulfillment, so I appreciate something extra to entice backers and thank them for the support. Now having said that, I despise exclusives that affect or add to gameplay (if it's just temporarily exclusive and later sold separately it's fine), especially since they could actually affect the enjoyment or replay value of the game and are next to impossible to find later on.

A nice way around this is to give exclusive components, like cool first player markers, alternate art, wooden bits or things like metal coins that are not in the retail box (a quick example could be the wooden tokens from Freedom: The Underground Railroad). A lot of times these are still very desirable and would push people to back the game, and backers are very glad to have the exclusive bits, but people that find out late or couldn't back the original project can still play the game with full content.

Anyways, good luck on the relaunch and I'll be waiting for the notice to check it out!
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Not Todd This Space For Rent
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Very insightful post, good luck on the relaunch.
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Matt Price
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Funny, I clicked through to the forum "recent posts" and wow, what a cool banner ad for a cool sounding game! I clicked to open it to check it out... Then my eyes noticed the same name was in the recent posts... With a KS postmortem!

So yes, work hard to get the word out. Your base pledge comes with a *lot* of minis (or I should clarify: a lot of unique molds!). Could you work to get the base pledge down to $100, by reducing the number of unique figures you include in the base game? Some folks really do get bent out of shape when they think the base game is too lean, and you "add stuff back in" as stretch goals, but could you add more of the same models (i.e., fewer molds, and thus lower costs for you) and still have a fun game? Even just two or three molds fewer, and you might come close to needing only $50K to get started?

Dungeon Saga: Dwarf King's Quest did this: a rather bare bones base game that got padded out with stretch goals. Mantic, the makers of DS, have a very large fan base, and so have the luxury of knowing their KS projects will probably do quite well.

Also: be careful going the route of the minis game! I backed Teramyyd Earthsphere. They funded in 2013, with a goal of $20K, and got all excited about delivery hobby-style miniatures for a boardgame. With your higher goal, this might not be an issue for you, but be careful. This seems to happen again and again with games that are minis-heavy. Minis are expensive, and it will take you 3-30 times longer to have them made than you initially think it will take... You planned to deliver in Dec 2015? Are your molds complete, company lined up, and production models in their queue? Not quite yet? Please change that to December 2017!

But the art style is fantastic, and this is the type of game I like. I'll be watching your bgg page for more information, and check out your project once it launches. Best wishes!
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Maher Sagrillo
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OldTallandUgly wrote:
I was almost sold on theme and art alone! What a great theme, it really caught my attention. I read the rules and they looked good...

Thanks Jorge! I'm really, really surprised how many people love the art style. I love it and think it is fantastically well done, but you can imagine my surprise at seeing such reception to what I would consider a very niche visual theme (heavy metal horror?). It's awesome and I'm really happy about that. Our artists are super amazing (check out Brandon Geurts especially, who did all the 2D imagery on cards and sheets).

I hear you on the KS exclusives, and I think that is exactly what people were thinking with the Gashnoradon miniature and Realm of Death game board we offered. The general tone I got was that people felt shorted on key gameplay stuffs. I think the suggestions you've given are more what we're going to go for the next time around. Nice upgrades to things everyone has instead of stuff that affects the game (even if it's just a scenario or mini) instead of sequestering part of the game off.

Thanks again, we'll be very active here soon on BGG.
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Maher Sagrillo
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mattprice wrote:
So yes, work hard to get the word out...

Thanks for the feedback Matt! You rock for posting on this game so much, I really appreciate it.

Yeah, we had everything lined up for manufacturing and production, but now we're going to see what we can cut or consolidate or change from the game without actually hurting the design (often doing that actually helps in my experience anyway with trimming "fat").

The base game comes with a lot of minis and definitely lots of kinds of mini, which as you said means more molds. However, the nature of the game is that the Deities of Death each have their own unique monsters and stuff to work with, so to entirely consolidate that would not work out well for the game. It would be that much closer to being any other "players vs overlord" minis game. We'll definitely figure something out though to lower the core game price point and still deliver a lot of sweet minis from different Deities.

Thanks so much for commenting, and we'll definitely be adding more to our BGG very soon here, especially when we have physical copies printed and minis.
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Matt Price
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msagrillo wrote:

...
heavy metal horror
...


SOLD
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Warren Fitzpatrick
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What I can tell most about you, and by connection, the company you represent, is that you're open to feedback. This is such an amazing community, and I love to see people utilizing it for what it is - a place for like-minded people to gather.

You're openness in the mistakes, but more importantly, professionalism in analyzing them is refreshing in a creative market (creatives can be cantankerous at times). While your theme isn't my cup-o-joe, your company will have to be one I watch. Kudos and I can't wait to read your results in the summer.

wf
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Jamey Stegmaier
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I think Jorge, Matt, and Warren all gave some great feedback here, and I think the points you make in your postmortem are spot-on as well, Maher. There's nothing wrong with failing to fund, learning from the experience and from other resources you discover along the way, and rebooting on a later date with a more refined project and a community you've built along the way.

In case you haven't seen my article about KS reboots (it includes a spreadsheet with a lot of data from projects that have successfully rebooted), the link is here: http://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-50-how-to-rebo...
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Jorge Alvarez
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jameystegmaier wrote:
In case you haven't seen my article about KS reboots (it includes a spreadsheet with a lot of data from projects that have successfully rebooted), the link is here: http://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-50-how-to-rebo...
As someone who aspires to try out KS at some point with some ideas of my own, I think that article helps just as much with reboots as with creating a new project. Thanks!

msagrillo wrote:
Like others said, this post-mortem was very informative and appreciated. I hope you keep us posted from now till June about any developments with Necronauts. Good luck!
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Michael B. Hansen
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I click on a Kickstarter banner maybe 4 or 5 times a year. I clicked on yours. The somewhat unusual art was the initial draw. What turned me off, was the exclusives and what i perceived to be a rather steep price for what i would like to have to get the full experience. Shipping cost, handling fees and the obscene taxes we pay in Denmark figured into the equation also.

I sincerely hope you get the game funded in the future.
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Maher Sagrillo
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warrenfitz45 wrote:
What I can tell most about you, and by connection, the company you represent, is that you're open to feedback...

Thank you Warren, we're sincere people but we definitely did not spend enough time with the community to establish that. I appreciate your kind words.
 
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Maher Sagrillo
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jameystegmaier wrote:
I think Jorge, Matt, and Warren all gave some great feedback here, and I think the points you make in your postmortem are spot-on as well, Maher...

Thank you Jamey! Your articles and website are fantastic, not to mention your games. I appreciate you popping in and linking that article - I will give it a very thorough reading tonight.

We're definitely excited to re-launch with all of our ducks in a row, as it were. Thanks again.
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Maher Sagrillo
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OldTallandUgly wrote:

Like others said, this post-mortem was very informative and appreciated. I hope you keep us posted from now till June about any developments with Necronauts. Good luck!

Thanks Jorge, I'm glad you enjoyed reading it and found it useful. Post your game ideas on BGG sometime and let me check it out.
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Maher Sagrillo
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Architeuthis wrote:
I click on a Kickstarter banner maybe 4 or 5 times a year. I clicked on yours...

Michael, I really appreciate that, especially since you are not often drawn to those ads. I definitely agree with your feedback, and those are certainly things we're addressing in the re-launch.

What kind of prices/mark-up/taxes are you used to with games shipped to Denmark? Maybe we can look into some sort of solution to that, as I don't want to leave anyone out if we can help it.

Thanks again!
 
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Michael B. Hansen
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msagrillo wrote:
Architeuthis wrote:
I click on a Kickstarter banner maybe 4 or 5 times a year. I clicked on yours...

Michael, I really appreciate that, especially since you are not often drawn to those ads. I definitely agree with your feedback, and those are certainly things we're addressing in the re-launch.

What kind of prices/mark-up/taxes are you used to with games shipped to Denmark? Maybe we can look into some sort of solution to that, as I don't want to leave anyone out if we can help it.

Thanks again!

Well, we have a 25% VAT, which usually constitutes the biggest part of the extra expenditure. Boardgames are not subject to custom fees, but i have been hit by misunderstandings in the past(boardgames confused with other products). The danish mail company, then adds a fixed price for handling the whole tax/customs part, this is around 25$. Shipping is a variable factor, of course, but prices has increased a lot in recent years. This is the case all over the World. The last game i had delivered from the USA cost more than 40$ in shipping/handling.
I have seen the "EU Friendly" term being used in relation to some kickstarter topics, and without knowing the details, i would imagine that it is a way to lessen the impact of these things, at least for Europeans. Something similar probably exists for other parts of the World.
As i mentioned, i have no experience with Kickstarter as such, and i hope that some who do, can elaborate and maybe clarify some of these issues from a European/Rest of the World point of view.
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Scott Hansen

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My first KS is currently underway... I tried to address all those issues before launch, but some are tough. For example, I couldn't have a final game produced because I need the KS funding to pay for the art. Another headache is shipping out of the US... $25-30 a pop is a killer. I've seen some projects simply add the shipping cost to the price of the game, and claim 'free shipping'... I think that's cheating, personally. I tried to start the funding level at the bare minimum to get the best per unit price possible.

Here's link if you want to check out my game

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1281167547/posse-wild-w...

What I will do for the next game is get more review copies made... I ran out very quickly this time and some reviewers can't play because of this, making my job of promotion tougher.

Thanks again for sharing!

S
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Trevor Lehmann
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Thank you for sharing this your post-Kickstarter analysis. I can appreciate the frustration of trying to fund a miniatures game, as a few years back I received some training in Injection plastic molding with the idea of manufacturing miniatures myself. No matter how you look at it though, miniatures design and production is a monumental effort and my kudos to you for getting so far. Admittedly, miniatures do create a high Kickstarter goal relative to other board games, but good for you in pursuing your dreams.

Their is plenty of resources out their for running a Kickstarter, some things you just learn from running a Kickstarter campaign, as you have outlined in your post.

Your 3D renders look great (minimal amounts of potential for undercuts, diverse designs, etc.) and really compliment the gothic-metal (in my mind) style of the game.

When it comes to community building, one thing I found helpful was printing out this page from Jamey Stegmaier's site:

http://stonemaiergames.com/10-daily-actions-to-build-your-cr...

along with this one:

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/07/feet-on-the-...

and hang them on my computer desk. They remind me of what I can be doing to build my community on a daily basis.

When considering add-ons in the Kickstarter, I would consider the logistics of packaging and shipping add-ons. If possible, try to get the add-ons inserted into the game boxes at the point of manufacture or in warehousing as the alternative is either multiple shipments (extra cost) or a lot of elbow grease repackaging products. You may have a contingency plan for this, but I just thought I would mention this.

Also, while you do offer a making-of reward in your Kickstarter (an awesome idea), I would recommend sharing some of your creative endeavors online as a means of building support. I created a series of Developer Diaries that outlined the reasoning for my game design and art decisions and it was a nice way to engage and give back to the community throughout the Kickstarter.

You are clearly very passionate about your game and I encourage you to keep working at it. Many Kickstarters don't make it on the first run, so I think taking a few months to build your community is a great idea.

All the best in the coming months and have a wonderful day
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Maher Sagrillo
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Architeuthis wrote:
Well, we have a 25% VAT...

Thanks for the info Michael. I didn't realize it got so expensive for you. We had planned to ship from within a number of countries, but we're looking further into our shipping options now.
 
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Maher Sagrillo
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scottandelli wrote:


Thanks again for sharing!

S

That's great! Nice Kickstarter, though would love to see some more cards and such shown at a quick glance. I know the issue of having to have a lot of KS art money up front, for sure.
 
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Maher Sagrillo
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Trevor_Lehmann wrote:
Thank you for sharing this your post-Kickstarter analysis.

Hey Trevor, it has definitely been an adventure to try to put together a game with many miniatures and not much background from our end. We can definitely do it, but we're seeing where we can better structure the components and game to make it substantially cheaper without sacrificing material or mechanical quality.

Thanks for the compliments on the renders! Personally I think they are great sculpts but sort of muddy looking in the KS. We're going to be investing time into better renders, but also making physical miniatures for photo examples in our next Kickstarter (review copies will use stand-ups to be inexpensive).

As to building a community, I love Jamey Stegmaier's philosophy of adding value and keeping your feet on the ground to build a community. Being transparent. Very good advice from both a pragmatic and social standpoint.

I'll be starting a blog soon on BGG detailed Necronauts from past to present, which will give people who do not test a good idea of the game prior to our video reviews, and help a bit in spreading the word.


Thank you!
 
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