I usually buy board games based on word of mouth from social media and podcasts. Rarely do I see a fantastic "commercial" for one. That is why the Kickstarter for Escape the Dark Castle feels so refreshing.
This video is truly hilarious. I love it. Kickstarter campaigns usually have videos to showcase their games, but this one is uniquely tailored to the game's theme in a way I would like to see more often. Even better, it was a great way to catch my boyfriend's interest. While Escape the Dark Castle is technically playable by 1–4 people, I did not back this Kickstarter for solo play. Escape the Dark Castle is clearly an "experience game" where the fun is in the interactions you have with your friends. Fortunately, it shouldn't be too hard to get people to play this one!
If you're interested in Escape the Dark Castle—and why wouldn't you be after such a delightful video?—there are three days left to back it on Kickstarter.
I've backed a few Kickstarter projects this year, almost all of which were successful. Now that the projects are funded and going into production, I am sitting around and waiting for my new games to come! I pounced on a few projects that seem obvious for a solo gamer, including Gloomhaven and Hostage Negotiator: Crime Wave. Here are a few of the others I'm excited about:
City of Kings
This cooperative fantasy game looks intense. It combines a several different game mechanics, allows for character upgrades and customization, and clearly has a ton of content. Plus it explicitly bills itself as a game for 1–4 players. Hopefully I'll have a great time sinking my teeth into this one in solo mode. I love games with storylines, so this one looks like it will be super enjoyable for me.
This small card game looks like a devilishly good time—as long as you don't mind losing a lot. I am particularly excited that the game will have a campaign mode, and that there will be several different characters whose abilities will spice up the game. Even better, there is an explicit solo mode. As someone who prefers to play alone, I appreciate it when game developers treat my playing preferences as more than a throwaway marketing thing. Even better, this one should be delivered in July or August, so I don't have that much longer to wait!
Grimslingers: The Northern Territory
I missed out on Grimslingers the first time around, so I'm more than happy to get on board now. I love card games, so it felt like a natural choice. I'm also loving the theme, which is basically wild west meets sci-fi/fantasy. The art for this game looks fantastic. Plus, it is going to be a versatile addition to my collection. There are solo and co-op modes for me to enjoy on my own, plus I can duel with my boyfriend when we have a gaming date night. Awesome.
They say that good things come to those who wait. I just wish the wait weren't so long! I foresee many happy hours of gaming in my future.
I am a fan of both solo and deck building board games. I also, like many people, had a childhood obsession with dinosaurs. Apex Theropod, a dinosaur-themed deck building game designed by Herschel Hoffmeyer, was an obvious buy for me. But I bought the game from CoolStuffInc a while back and was never a Kickstarter backer. I'm really glad I did it that way. What has happened to Hoffmeyer is a classic Kickstarter disaster that we are always risking when we back games on the site.
Apparently Hoffmeyer, who took on a HUGE project by handling all aspects of this game on his own (art, game design, printing, shipping, all of it) has struggled to finish what he started. Rather than post an official Kickstarter update, however, he put this statement in the campaign comments thread on October 13:
Thanks Scott for putting out that info, much appreciated (I know you love to put your skills to good use). One thing to note though is I'm closing the company Die-Hard Games and everything will be ran from my own personal bank account. The company has gone bankrupt after what ShipNaked and WinGo pulled on me. I was waiting to bring this up for awhile now but I quoted $15K (during the campaign's run) to cover fulfillment then got hit with a $35K paycheck later down the road (after huge delays from them, remember in November, trying to get the boat to set sail. I kept quiet on it then.). I would highly suggest no one to do business with them. See below for WinGo. Manufacturing alone was over $60K. These payments have already been filed in my taxes last year so they're on record.
As you can see, the future of Apex Theropod is very much in doubt. Hoffmeyer has claimed that he will be contacting all of his remaining backers individually to fulfill their orders, and will be doing so from his personal bank account. He's been getting a ton of flak from backers who want official project updates rather than hard-to-find comments in the comment thread, and frankly, I understand their complaint. Hoffmeyer wants to minimize customer anger and messages flowing into his inbox, but his backers do have a right to real updates on the project they opened their wallets to support.
I hope everyone ends up happy, but this is pretty rough. It's not the sort of thing that would deter me from ever using Kickstarter again. In fact, I backed Godforsaken Scavengers this week. But it does make me think about how much money I'm willing to gamble on a game "company" that isn't a sure thing.
For continuing updates on the status of Apex Theropod, see the Kickstarter comment thread.
I haven't backed Kickstarter projects before this year, but I'm starting to get used to the idea. Although the first project I backed, Darkest Night, had some issues early on, it was successfully funded. I'm feeling extremely optimistic about it, too. Why? Because I just picked up a retail copy of Victory Point's previous Kickstarter project, Dawn of the Zeds (3rd ed.), and it's great!
The second game I backed on Kickstarter, Sovrano, was not successfully funded. It is, however, possible to order a copy of the game directly from Cambium Games. The father and son team behind Sovrano make all boards and components themselves, so it will take a couple of weeks for your game to arrive, but my copy is gorgeous and I'll be telling you more about it soon.
Now I've backed my third Kickstarter project, and I know this one is going to be a success: Hostage Negotiator: Crime Wave. I already own Hostage Negotiator and have written a positive review of it on this blog. The original game was a successful Kickstarter project, and I have no doubts about the quality of Crime Wave, the standalone followup. Clearly nobody else does, either, because the project is about to be 300% funded! Sometime next March, I will be negotiating my way through a new set of harrowing crime scenarios. I can't wait. If you're into solo gaming, but haven't played Hostage Negotiator, I highly recommend that you take advantage of this Kickstarter. Not only can you get all of the new stuff, but you can pick up the original game and all of the abductor packs that have been released for it.
Hmm... maybe I need a rematch with Donna Scarborough, the teacher who loses it when she doesn't receive tenure. Might get me in the mood for a new school year! Check out the video below for a preview from my favorite YouTuber, Ricky Royal from Box of Delights.
The first time the Darkest Night Kickstarter came around, I eagerly backed it only to be cruelly disappointed a day later. Victory Point Games had canceled the campaign and promised a relaunch the following week. I admit I was skeptical—the whole thing seemed like one big trainwreck.
I am happy to say, however, that it looks like I was wrong. The Darkest Night campaign relaunched on May 12, this time asking for only $90,000 (originally the amount had been $120,000) and accompanied by stretch goals that actually add new cards and mechanics to the game. Full funding has already been reached, and the campaign is moving along nicely towards its first stretch goal. By next March or so, I should have something that I really wanted: a copy of Darkest Night with all of the original expansions, all in one big box. On top of that, there will be two new expansions. Plus, I went for a sweet set of miniatures. I am once again feeling excited about Darkest Night! There will be a lot of gaming to do in the not-too-distant future.
Although I enjoy several board games that began as Kickstarter projects (Apex Theropod, Hostage Negotiator, etc.), I have never actually backed a game on Kickstarter. But Darkest Night has been on my wish list for a while. When I heard that a second edition would be on the way soon, I held off on buying the first edition and waited for the Kickstarter campaign to start.
I have long been suspicious of Kickstarter, in part because my boyfriend has been waiting for Mighty No. 9 for several years now. But Victory Point Games has successfully run campaigns before, and Dawn of the Zeds 3rd ed. ought to be reaching its backers in the near future. I expected the Darkest Night campaign to... well... to have its shit together from day one. Darkest Night is already an established game with a faithful following. How could this possibly go wrong?
On Tuesday afternoon, I backed Darkest Night. I was looking forward to that day in March 2017 when I could rescue a blighted world from the hands of an evil necromancer. Other people seemed excited, too, based on the fact that the project was already half-funded by the time I went to bed that night.
Alas, about 24 hours later, I received an email notifying me that the campaign had been canceled. Wait... what?
Apparently, funding for the project had slowed down, and Victory Point Games had received many complaints from would-be backers. So many, in fact, that they had decided to scrap the Kickstarter campaign entirely and restart it next week.
Based on the threads from BGG and on comments from the Kickstarter page, potential backers of the game were upset about three main things:
1) Pricing. The game itself (especially with the expansions) was a bit expensive. I expected that, honestly. But some of the shipping costs, especially to gamers in Europe, were absurdly high.
2) Miniatures vs. Standees. I did not realize that people were so passionate about this issue. Darkest Night was going to be released with pretty sweet-looking miniatures, but several would-be buyers argued that they would prefer standees. Some believe standees would be cheaper, while others just feel minis are overly trendy right now.
3) Awkward stretch goals. Many of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter campaign entirely focused on people who backed the game with both expansions (not those who only went in for the base game or for the base game plus one expansion). They also exacerbated the minis vs. standees problem. The heroes included in the expansions would not have miniatures unless the stretch goals were met, which means that rather than have a consistent game with all miniatures or all standees, players could be stuck with an ungainly mix of the two.
Victory Point Games clearly expected this project to be funded quickly, perhaps even within the first 24 hours. (I wonder if the Dark Souls board game has created some high expectations.) The fact that Darkest Night slowed down by day two seems to have sent VPG into a tailspin.
I have very mixed feelings about this entire situation. It seems crazy to get $70,000 into a campaign and then scrap it. Could VPG have tweaked the existing campaign? More importantly, why didn't they think this out more thoroughly in the first place? Did they trust in Darkest Night's reputation and get lazy about making the campaign as excellent as possible? I'm glad they are listening to their consumers, but the fact that it had to happen in such dramatic fashion is a turnoff.
I also worry that a botched start has destroyed momentum and prevented us from playing the best possible version of Darkest Night. Will buyers truly respect VPG's decision to restart and open their wallets next week when the campaign goes live again? Or did VPG overreact to the complaints of consumers who ultimately cannot be satisfied?
Hopefully, the campaign will come back better than ever, and we will all get to experience the premium version of Darkest Night. But there is nothing premium about a sloppy start. Although the renewed campaign may override my doubts, my first attempt at backing a game on Kickstarter has been less than impressive.
My name is Liz, and I play a lot of games. By day, I am a teacher. By night, I am an avid gamer.