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Rough Month for the BHAG


I’m 5.5 months in and just 4 Kickstarters down. On the good side, all of them have funded, 2 of them have already shipped, and the last one went much better than I had hoped. Bam!


On the bad side, I’m 5.5 months in and I’ve only got 4 Kickstarters going.


The KS I had planned to be next had the creator back out. I had some big plans for some socially interesting projects, but those will take a longish time to cue up – they can’t be rushed. The time taken up by shipping has left me with a pretty tough decision that gets to the core of what I was trying to accomplish with the BHAG. Was it to do 12 Kickstarters just to hit that number, or was the real goal to do 12 Kickstarters that create an arc, a story, and that leave me with a greater insight into what is possible with crowdsourcing?

I know one thing I won’t do, and that’s rush a project so that it ends up as something that I’m not proud of. Product mistakes live with you forever – there is zero point in doing that just to hit a magic number. Bad things happen…


So, do I re-scope my projects so that I can get 12 done or do I reduce the number and try to more “relevant and interesting” projects. Tough call. Going to have to think about this for a while.

Luckily, I’ve got a project that I am putting time on now that I think has great potential (a partnership project with a good friend of mine). I’m thinking this one could be ready for KS fairly quickly, and if I can do some parallel development on another idea in the meantime, I can get back on track to 12… maybe…


Update on Existing Campaigns

Meelpe Deck – All shipping done.

How to Human – All shipping done.

Holiday Break – All artwork in-house. Time for heavy word-editing.

More Castles – Campaign closed very strongly, particularly for an expansion. Over 150 copies of the base game sold through this campaign, which portents well for retail sales going forward (it also means Fun to 11 isn’t doing a good job at getting the product into retail stores, but it’s not like we try that hard…).


Update on Shopstarter

I have a love/hate thing going on with Shopstarter right now. There are a few UI quirks that drive me nuts. But what it does well, it does  well. I’ve already logged over $2K in add-ons and store sales. That said, the amount of time it’s taken me to work with the odd UI and data entry issues has been kind of extreme…

Diners, Dives, and PAX – No Rest When Kickstarting Dangerously

With the goal of 12 Kickstarters in a single year, certain things had to give. On the work side for instance, relationship building trips I would normally take, are off the calendar now. On the “life” side of things, I’ll need to drop certain commitments as well as a BHAG just takes a lot of time. However, certain life and work things can’t be put-off or cancelled. Since my last post, two of these non-negotiatables hit.


On the work side of things, the PAX East trade show was last weekend. It slammed right up against the launch of my next Kickstarter – the one for Holiday Break, the MIskatonic School for Girls (MSfG) expansion. Gearing up for a consumer show takes time and doing that while gearing up for a Kickstarter launch is stressful to say the least. In the end, I ended up launching the campaign from a hotel room in Boston. Normally, I spend the three days after launching a Kickstarter going bonkers with social media to support the campaign, but I had work to do in Boston. And PAX is serious work – the board game area is open 14 hours a day – and that’s where our booth was.

PAX turned out to be a blessing though, as we got the chance to demo MSfG for three solid days along with Castle Dice, Flame War, and Fairy Mischief. Playing MSfG with that many people really pumped me up about the expansion – that game is just FUN. The game does something pretty unique as it creates a real feeling of losing control, which is exactly what the game is about in its own humorous way. Table after table demoed MSfG, had a great time, then bought the game. We actually sold out early on day 3 after accidentally bringing MORE product that I had planned. Towards the end of the day, we had to tell people we were sold out “but you can go on to Kickstarter and get a copy through the expansion campaign.” And it looks like that had a positive effect on the campaign. So I lucked out. The work thing that interfered with my BHAG seems to have been a blessing in disguise.

I was actually very worried about this campaign before it launched. It’s for an expansion to an existing game, which means the target audience is limited to people who already own the main game. That is a small target. With all the options available on Kickstarter, reaching that small target was going to be tough. I could send people who backed the original Kickstarter program, but those people have probably long ago turned off their updates (or they get so many from all their previously backed campaigns, that they just ignore them). MOST people who own MSfG, bought it at retail and I have no idea where those folks are.

The family interruption, while distracting was pure awesome.



My youngest daughter is a budding chef who won a magazine cooking contest last year and on a whim applied to be on a TV show on the Food Network (Rachael vs. Guy Kids Cook-Off). She filled out the form on-line Sunday, and amazingly got a call back on Monday!  Wednesday we had a Skype interview with the casting agency, then on Thursday and Friday we had to put together a video submission complete with B-roll, her cooking something, and interview questions being answered by both of us. It was quite a rush and a super fun thing to do together, but it shot 3+ days to hell as far as the BHAG goes.

The odds of her making the show are still very small, but if it happens, I will have to go to CA for 2-3 weeks of shooting in June. I’ll cross that bridge happily when/if we get there.

The important lesson of the last two weeks for the BHAG is that I need to be ready for more of these interruptions during the year. The only way to lessen their effects is to make the absolute most of the time I do have. If I have any chance of making it, the only way to do it will be focus, focus, focus.


Update on campaigns

Meeple Deck – No change since last time. Waiting my turn for press, way ahead of schedule

How to Human – Cards in hand! That doesn’t mean it’s done though. We still need to finalize the rulebook layout and get that printed/folded locally. Then we need to assemble the packages, do the survey and ship. Still way ahead of schedule though

Holiday Break – Ran a short campaign – just 19 days. $12,500 goal, 13 days left and we’re at $9,500. Looking good, but I need to do some real marketing this week as I think I’ve got the easiest to reach people already.


More Castles – Castle Dice expansion. Very happy with design, doing more artwork now. Need to work on the campaign this week so that it will be ready to launch right after the MSfG one ends.

Zombie/Princess – Art in process. Designer is tough to get in touch with due to his very busy schedule. Starting to worry that we won’t be ready to launch this one when the Castle Dice one ends.

Next Project Alpha – I only want to do 1 more “normal” game-type project this year, then on to some more radical ideas hopefully. I’ve got two options in front of me for the “normal” one – both involve working with other people, so it will likely come down to their schedules. Need to nail it down soon though.

3rd Party Backer Solutions

I was planning on doing a blog on videos this week, but as with many things this year, something else jumped in front of the queue – picking a backer interaction solution.

Kickstarter is an amazing platform. It is clearly one of the business revolutions of our time. That said, it is not Microsoft or Apple. It is an odd bird.


For a tech company it is not in the same league revenue-wise with companies that have 1/100th the social or business impact. There is a loooong blog entry I can do there, but I’ll summarize that KS is not the type of company that many think it is and it’s not minting an army of millionaires and spewing cash all over the place. The venture capital backers that put $10M in to KS in 2009 would have likely made a better return if they invested their money in the Dow Jones Index at this point.

This is all my nice way of saying “don’t be surprised if KS doesn’t do everything perfectly for your venture.” And one area they are sadly lacking in is creator support AFTER funding. The model now is that you send a survey through KS asking for needed info to get rewards to backers and that is it. The survey is lacking in features and you can only send it once. Just recently KS made it so backers can update their address responses after the survey is filled out (people move). This is a nice feature, but it’s one creators have been waiting for – for a long time.


In the vacuum of proper support, some creators have created custom software that allows them to better communicate with their backers when campaigns end. And since smaller companies don’t have the resources to custom build software, 3rd party solutions have popped up to help small and mid-sized companies. These solution-companies offer a variety of services, but to creators the most important are these;

1)    Get out of the Kickstarter survey system. Instead of having backers fill out information on the KS survey, the only bit of info you need is their email address. Then, you can send the backers a custom survey through the 3rd party solution.

2)    Ability to handle changes. Once the backer is in the system, they can change their reward selection at any time. This is particularly helpful with add-ons offered during the campaign.

3)    Make shipping easier. Many of these programs can output directly to thermal shipping label printers and some connect to on-line postage offerings like Some can print out “pick and pack” slips as well which is super helpful for complicated campaigns with lots of options. Some even have custom outputs for popular 3rd party fulfillment houses (fulfillment houses actually DO your shipping for you, at a cost of around $2 a package + shipping cost)

4)    Up-Sell. This is probably the most important feature. It allows your backers to RAISE their pledge level and add to their order. The things you upsell can be from your campaign or from previous campaigns (or really anything). Big campaigns can end up with 15-30% of their total revenue coming from these up-sells – they are a BIG deal for lots of people.

5)    Backer Management. Most of these services offer much better management tools than KS. This includes immediately after your campaign and at other points during your fulfillment timeline. In addition, they offer good ways to let your backers connect with your company through mailing lists and other methods so you can keep in touch with backers who hopefully will become life-long customers.


These 3rd party solutions cost money to use, but you hope to make it up in saved time and most importantly with up-sells. There are four different “moments” when you could be charged with a fee.

Fee #1 – Set-Up: Most are free, but at least one charges a set-up fee to even start.

Fee #2 – % of Money Raised on KS: Some charge 1% for money you already raised on KS. This is basically a fee to use a better tool.

Fee #3 – % of Money Raised after the KS: This is money from add-on and up-sells that you get when you send your survey. In addition to the fee from the 3rd party, there is a fee for credit card handling. Most use a charge solution called Stripe which charges 2.9% + $.30 per charge. As Amazon – the default payment solution through KS – charges about 4%, this seems very reasonable. It’ll be a bit more expensive on smaller charges (less than $25), and bit less on larger ones (more than $25), but it’s close.

Fee #4 – Web Sales: Some solutions go a step further and create a web-store for you along with blog widgets and other tools that allow you to take orders completely outside of the KS system. This is good for folks who missed backing both prior to shipping KS and after. This charge is usually equal to the % money raised after KS fee above.


For my BHAG, I was going to use the standard KS system for my first project as a baseline. After some thought, I realized that I’ve already done that several times, so I decided it was time to try out a 3rd party solution. I had sort of decided on BackerKit – it has the widest name recognition in the circles I run with and it seems to do what I need. But right before I was about to hit “go” they announced that they were raising their “Fee #3 and #4” to 5%. That is as much as KS charges, and while I see the logic of them charging what KS charges as we’ve all built those fees into our businesses as “acceptable”, it just felt high to me. While BackerKit does offer value which they should charge for, I don’t see that value equal to what Kickstarter brings to the table, so why should I pay as much?

So I went looking at options. What became quickly apparent is BackerKit is not the right choice for me. For every fee type, they are the highest or tied for the highest. If fact, they are the ONLY one I found with a set-up fee ($300). And just as importantly, nothing they offered was unique as far as I can tell.

Backer kit charges $300 set-up, 1% of KS money, and 5% of after KS money.

There are new options entering the fray all the time. I looked seriously at 5 systems. I explored their set-up tools, starting campaigns with each, and examined features. One was too limited as it didn’t replace the KS survey. BackerKit got the boot for being too expensive. The other Three I looked at were Celery, ShopStarter, and Fundafull. I had to pick one to use of course, but after looking them over, I can say that all three are excellent choices. They all use Stripe for payments. They all essentially replace the KS survey. They all allow for add-ons and up-sells as well as handling new backers/customers after the KS ends. None charge an up-front fee, and the fees they did charge were all in the same ballpark.

Let’s look at the fee differences…

ShopStarter: No fee on KS raised money, 2.1% on money from add-ons/upsells/other

Celery: No fee on KS raised money, 2% on money from add-ons/upsells/other

Fundafull: 1% on KS raised money, 1% on money from add-ons/upsells/other

Some individual notes. This isn’t meant to include everything, as there are a lot of features in these software packages, these are just some things that stuck out for me.

Shopstarter. Easy to set-up everything. I like how they are set-up to print on a Dyno 450 thermal label printer. This printer is sort of a standard in the business and it doesn’t use ink! It doesn’t print large enough labels for USPS (, but for the smaller stuff from my first two campaigns, it would be helpful.

Celery: Big benefit here is that it can take PayPal. That’s kinda huge. They also have widgets that you can add to blogs to sell product. If I was hosting my WordPress blog with another service, this would have been enough for me to choose it I think (you can’t add widgets on wordpress when you host with them – security issues).

Fundafull: This one is different. On one hand the on-line tools are not as slick. They also have a $250 minimum, so if your campaign isn’t $25K, they might not be the right choice (they are willing to work with you on this as they are new and are looking for traction – so it’s worth asking). However, for folks that run multiple campaigns, there is a feature here that I think is super killer. You can do your data entry with excel (or any .csv file). You’ll need to be just a little tech savvy, but there just isn’t a comparison – it is sooooo much easier to enter data this way than any of the other on-line methods. Fundafull feels like “a hard working guy making a great functional tool” while the other ones feel like they are led by brand manager types (this is not a smack down against Brand Manager types – I was one for years).

One feature that ALL of these products shared was surprisingly excellent customer service. They were all quick to get back to me and helpful with questions.

All three of these would be fine choices. I’m going to start with ShopStarter as it seemed the easiest to set-up. If I had just a bit more time or was a bit more tech savvy, I would have picked Fundafull. If my blog was hosted somewhere else, it would have been Celery. Depending on how the year goes, I may try a few different ones out later to compare them in actual use.


Update on Existing Projects

Meeple Playing Cards: Way ahead of schedule production wise – should give me time to ship comfortably. At the printer now.

How to Human: We tested out two different card stocks, made our choice, and then ordered our print run. Again, ahead of schedule!

Miskatonic School for Girls – The Holiday Break Expansion: Campaign is waiting for approval from KS. Hope to have it live this week – even though most of Fun to 11 will be at PAX!

Castle Dice – More Castles! Expansion: All the “people art” is complete, now we’re working on the “castle bits” art.

Zombie Princess – Drawings in process. The designer of this game is external and he leads a very important/hectic life outside of game design, so this one is limited in how fast we can move. A really fun game though that I’m excited to be part of sharing with the world.






Bumps in the BHAG Road

12 Kickstarters in 12 months. That should be 1 a month, but month 3 is close to over and the third campaign hasn’t started. What’s up?

Direction is Clear, but the Road is Bumpy

Direction is Clear, but the Road is Bumpy

I had a third campaign planned for this month, but hit a snag when I found out that it required more artwork than I thought. The game was designed by a friend of Dave and Kai, my Fun to 11 partners. It has some challenging production elements – basically printing on a substrate that I’ve never printed on before. We couldn’t launch the KS until we had that process totally locked down with very firm procedures and pricing. Getting that type of thing wrong is the type of mistake that can destroy a campaign; making it a financial and/or quality disaster.

We finally got the process down, but the cost ended up being higher than we think the audience will bear. So in the end, we had to go a different way with components. We also needed to get some 2D artwork done that I hadn’t planned for so that the product in the video will look more complete. That artwork is now working it’s way through the process. All-in-all, the delays are likely to push the campaign back at least 6 weeks.

Luckily, I’m always working on more than one project at a time, so I should have a live campaign up within two weeks. This will be the 1st expansion set to Fun to 11s best selling project – The Miskatonic School for Girls. This project is interesting to me for a lot of game design reasons as the expansion will really shake up the play environment. The playtesting is already done and the last piece of art came in last week, so I think we can be ready to go pretty quickly with this one.


I decided to run the campaign with an abbreviated schedule length of 15-20 days. Campaign length is an interesting variable. 30 days seems to be a good length for a game campaign, but there have been some other campaigns that have experimented with shorter ones. There is some logic to a shorter campaign. Here is a “backer graph” of a typical campaign.

Note the "Dead Middle"

Note the “Dead Middle”

As you can see most of the money is made in the first 3-5 days and the last 3-5 days. You can see why just skipping the middle might be a fine idea. That said, some campaigns can do very well in the middle. A good middle can end up contributing 1/3rd of the total raise. Longer middles also give you time to build valuable awareness and hopefully the folks that learn about the campaign in the middle, back it at the end.

On the down side, longer campaigns suffer from a two important things. First, they are simply longer and you have to work the campaign whole time. That is a lot of time spent on hustle. Running KS is almost a full time job (and can absolutely be MORE than 40 hrs. a week of work). Long campaigns limit the amount of other stuff you can do during that time.

The other very real downside of long campaigns is that they can definitely hit your confidence and take an emotional toll. You hustle all day trying to keep up interest only to get a single $30 backer. It’s a rough day when you do the math and realize you would have done better spending the day working at Walgreens and throwing that money into your campaign… Some days you LOSE backers and money. For a close campaign, those days make you doubt the entire idea.

For the MSfG expansion, I feel the right way to go is a shorter campaign. Because it is an expansion for an existing game, I already have a good way to communicate to most of my most likely backers – I can contact them through the original MSfG Kickstarter. So the real value of the long middle – raising awareness – isn’t really that critical. I haven’t seen many expansions on Kickstarter before, so I’m not 100% sure what will happen, but I expect to find out quickly. I’ll be able to contact a lot of potential backers and either they will like the idea of an expansion or they won’t. I don’t think I need all 30 days to find that out.

Another Stark Realization

I’m starting to realize that the various trade-shows I go to every year are going to have an meaningful impact on the BHAG. I’m going to lose days. I already lost days at MagFest, Unpub, Toy Fair, Dexcon and GAMA. I’m going to lose more days at PAX East, GenCon, and many many more shows. I’ve also been asked to go overseas in the Fall to talk to some studio execs about games, I need to go to LA a few times to keep in touch with my toy industry clients, and I need to stay on top of the class I teach at Harrisburg University. All-in-all, those shows, work travel, and teaching are likely to take almost 3 months of work days out of my year. Not much I can do about it except plow forward and work harder!

Update on Current Campaigns

Meeple MSFG update

Meeple Deck: Contract signed, approved files at the printer. Expect to have decks in hand with plenty of time to ship and be on time. Yea!

HtH card on table

How to Human: Files at the POD printer. We’re running a test run on both the “standard” and “premium” paper to see which we like better. Premium playing card stock is sometimes thinner to the point of felling flimsy. I guess you could call it “elegant” but with such a large POD run, we thought it best to try out both. Price really won’t be an issue as it’s a small difference, we just want the best feeling paper.

We did deliver “Level-Up!: the Elevator RPG” PDF to all the How to Human backers. That game is fun – we’ll probably guerrilla run it at PAX East and GenCon…

Next Up: Videos and how they have changed over the last 4 years of Kickstarter.

The Least Interesting, but Maybe the Most Important Post of the Year.

How did I spend last week? What great work did I do to keep the wheels churning on my creative-output-enhancing BHAG? I did taxes.


To be clear, I didn’t DO the taxes, I use an accountant for that. What I did was untangle a more-complicated-than-it-should-be year of financial data so that what I turn over will be checked and double checked. If you think taxes take a long time, try getting audited.

In 2013 I did consulting for toy and computer game companies through Geek Dynasty (never simple when it comes to taxes). I also was a majority owner of Fun to 11 where we continued to do Kickstarter released games and sell those games through distribution and at trade shows.

My record keeping is very good, but due to a few missing statements, getting it all organized was a huge PITA. I also utilize cash based accounting which caused me confusion with regard to credit card expenses (“do they go in the year where I charged, or the year where I paid the credit card bill”).

Anyway, the long and short of the week was that I spent basically 1 day on Kickstarter related stuff, and 4+ days on taxes. I have one more tax day left, then probably a couple of meetings with the accountant before it will all be done.

When you engage in Kickstarter, there are many product related issues that can cause delays; customs, slow artists, printer issues, etc… But there are many – MANY – non-product related issues. Some of these are personal (“my kids soccer team is going to the state championships!”), and some are like taxes.

It is important to leave room for those non-product-related delays. They will happen. Some like taxes you’ll think “I should have known that was coming up” but others like the soccer example are pure life randomness. Also, understand that if you have a team working on your project, any one member of the team can cause delays with non-product-related issues. The larger the team, the MORE of a risk this is. With a large team, your risk of having folks quit mid-project is also much higher as some members of the team will not have the same sense of loyalty to the project/backers as the creator. Even if a team member is “loyal,” he/she might have an opportunity present itself that is so good that turning it down would be downright irresponsible for them and/or their family (“good” in this example might even be external to your team member, like a spouse who takes a job in another state).

Being late on a KS tends to snowball. Once you have to start dealing with angry backers, your lose even more control over the situation. Time spent stamping out fires grows, and your once loyal team members get itchy to move on. What should have been a 1 month delay turns into a 4 month delay.

This leads to the most relevant advice I can give this week, and perhaps the most important of the year…

Pad. Your. Schedule.


Project Updates

Meeple Deck: Several rounds of back and forth with the printer. All moving ahead well.

How to Human: We hit the stretch goal for adding Level Up! AFTER the campaign closed (we let PayPal donations count towards the goal). Jordan has started turning the graphics into a PDF file, which I expect we’ll be delivering in 2-3 weeks. I still need to get the rules document done and edited which always takes longer than you think it should.

For the main deliverable we had an issue come up where our contact at the POD printer went on a long vacation, but our schedule can handle it.

Upcoming Project Prep Work: Fun to 11 has three KS campaigns planned for 2014. The first one up requires a good bit of pre-work with a printer. Basically, we’re doing a kind of printing we’ve never done before, so it’s taking more back and forth on quotes than I would consider standard. If all goes well, we should be up by the middle-end of March. I’m looking forward to this campaign as it’s a test of a very interesting theory IMO.

How to Human and the Thin Margin Stretch Goal Challenge

As I write this, How to Human is in it’s final few hours. It’s well past our very small goal of $500. We had a tough time with stretch goals on this one as we have so little financial room on the project. We have already made a set of digital downloads (screen desktops, phone lock screens, icons).

We did add a fairly unique stretch goal for this campaign already – we decided to open source the art if we hit $4K. What does this mean exactly? Well if any game developer out there wants to use any of the images from How to Human, they are free to do so. They don’t have to pay us even if their project is “for profit.” The only limitations are that they have to credit Ali who did the art and they can’t use the name Dr. Blobbleplop when referring to his image (names/characters are hard to open up like this). We hope that this is a good resource for other game designers both analog and digital who might not have access to art like we did.

We hit that $4K goal this morning. So with just 5 hours left, I wanted to make a new stretch goal. Which brings me to the story to how Jordan and I spent this last weekend. The two of us, along with JR Honeycutt of “DFW Nerdnight” fame went to Dreamation – a great smallish game convention in Morristown NJ. Somewhere along the way, and very unplanned, we had an idea for a “game jam” type of game. At about 5pm, we decided to jump in and actually design the game with the goal of running it at 10pm.

The idea was to design an RPG you could play in the elevator at cons. It ended up as an experimental RPG dragon slaying adventure. When players entered the elevator, they would see a large image of a Dragon, along with 4 character sheets on the wall. Your EM (Elevator Master) would then quickly tell you the story. “The Dragon will be eating the convention at 11pm and it’s up to all of us to deal enough damage to the dragon to defeat it before then.” The Riders/Adventurers would then pick one of the character classes, and choose which of the actions on the character sheet to take. A roll would be made which would result in some amount of damage to the dragon based on the choices of all of the party members. If all went well, the convention goers would defeat the dragon by 11pm.

Jordan took the reigns on the art – making 4 characters and a poster sized dragon that was just awesome. JR and I worked on the abilities and how to handle combat. We knew we had to both teach the game and play the game in the time that it takes to ride an elevator – which was limiting, but also a great challenge. We were done at 9pm with an hour to spare, so JR and I took the “Otis” dragon poster that Jordan had made around the con letting folks know that we would be running the game in the middle elevator from 10pm to 11.

photo 3

The end result was ridiculous and ridiculously fun. The players loved it at a level that far exceeded our hopes. Elevators are an odd place to play a game. Usually even talking in an elevator is uncomfortable, so to take folks from uncomfort to a team-based RPG adventure in such a short time really tickled our players. We had a line the whole time and players coming out of the elevators had great big smiles on their faces.

JR was the EM in the elevator and decided to give extra damage bonuses to the LARPers who had weapons. This resulted in one of the early parties returning like this for their second trip.

photo 2

It created this fantastic moment in time that I won’t soon forget and that I think those players will be talking about for years.

What does that have to do with the Year of Kickstarting Dangerously? Well, as our final stretch goal for How to Human, we’re going to include a free PDF download of “Level Up, the Elevator RPG con game” complete with all of Jordan’s awesome art. This project so “fits” the idea of what How to Human is, that I’m super happy to include it as a stretch goal.

I set the stretch goal at $5000 (about $800 will be needed in the last 4 hours to get there). I would have made it easier, but it will take Jordan a good bit of time to take the work we did at the show and turn it into something more polished. The goal is going to be challenging, and it will ONLY be achieved if there is actual demand for a crazy con elevator game.

If a campaign has very thin margins, you have to think outside the norm to create stretch goals. Don’t make the mistake of killing your margin by including lots of free stuff and hope to “make it up in volume” unless you really have your numbers down solid. For this campaign, we had to avoid free physical stuff at all costs, and in the end, I think we came up with some very thematic and appropriate stretch goals.

Other Campaign Updates

Meeple Playing Cards: First set of files off to the printer. We expect a good bit of back and forth here, but we’re right on time.

Next Up: Miskatonic and Meeple Action!


Fallout: Pushing Meeples Over the Line

Last weekend was a tough one here. The Meeple deck was well below it’s $6200 goal and my hopes were pretty low. I had a tough call to make – should I put in money to help it over the line?

As I discussed last week, this is called “Straw-Man” money as you have to coordinate it through someone else because you can’t use your own Amazon account. It gets done all the time, and while it does ring of dishonesty, under some circumstances I find it hard to blame folks who do it as long as they still have the capability to deliver the project. KS can still be about dream fulfillment, and the idea of getting close and not making it is a soul crusher.

If a person needs to spend a few weekend nights with Netflix and ramen instead of going out for dinner and a movie but gets to make a product, then who am I to call that sacrifice anything other than dedication to their idea?

This is the call I was having to make. I already have an underfund goal, so I didn’t expect the Meeple Deck to make money out of the gate, but was I willing to go deeper in pocket if I had to? I decided yes and no. I was willing to give up something to help make the project fund, but I was not willing for that to be cash. I looked around my office and found this..

Adrian Smith Painting

It’s a really nice original painting done for a CCG I worked on years ago. It’s by a very well known Games Workshop artist named Adrian Smith and it’s killer. I own a fair bit of art from my time in the industry and this is one of the better pieces I have. Adrian’s drawings tend to go for $150-$200 and his paintings like this are easily in the $600-$800+ range (his big cover paintings are much much more expensive). I told myself that this is what I would give up to have the meeple deck fund. I figured I should be able to easily sell it for $500 on ebay if I had to sell it quickly, so that was the maximum I was willing to put in.

I was contacted by a reader of the blog who asked if I would swap funding with her. Each of us funding the other’s project at $22. After looking at her game, I did it right away. I really like the type of game she had made, so I was all good with this swap and don’t consider it anything other than supporting another creator.

Then I asked my friend to put in what I thought would be the first $100. I wasn’t proud of this, but I love this project.

Important to note here – I had not given up. In fact, my hustle increased to a ludicrous level that final weekend. Other than zipping out to see Frozen with my family, I don’t think I left my office for anything other than sleep and meals. I probably tried a dozen ideas. Some worked a little, some worked not at all. I was gaining momentum, but it still looked like I was going to be short – by more than $500. Then I tried one more idea – give stuff away.

High quality playing cards require a minimum printing of 2500 decks. The decks left over after fulfilling KS pledges is really where my profit lies. At my funding level I was going to have a LOT of decks left. Most of my work that last weekend had been to get new backers. For this tactic, I decided to used those decks as an incentive to get current backers to up their pledge – 1 free deck with order of six, 3 free decks with an order of 12. The only out-of-pocket cost to me would be shipping as the printing was a sunk cost. I would only notice those decks not being around when/if I was very close to selling out of the entire run – a point I don’t expect to get to for 18 months or more.

The result was strong and immediate. Pledges were very strong in the minutes after the update. I had my friend take out the $100 he put in (it was only in for about 4 hours or so I think). We funded with a few hours left and ended up a few hundred over what was needed with NO straw-man money.

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 12.00.13 PM

In the final days, I noticed quite a few 1-deck backers becoming 2-deck backers. My assumption is a lot of folks really did want to help so they personally stretched themselves. After the campaign was a few hundred dollars over what was needed to fund, many of those backers lowered their pledge back to the lower amounts. I want to use this space to thank those folks – it means a lot that you were willing to help us make this project and I’m glad you got to back off your levels to something that more accurately reflects your wants.

Odd side-note. After the campaign was over, I looked at the painting and realized what it now represented to me – a thing that I am willing to sell so that I can make something else. I put it on Ebay this morning. I’ll use the money on whatever the next project is I do – either to lower the goal or just make it cooler.

How to Human Update:

244 backers, $2400 (goal: $500)


If the Meeple Deck was an odd campaign, the How to Human one is from another galaxy. Due to the compressed time-line, we had no time to think about “stretch goals” or even put down a plan for updates where we leak out information over time. As it is, this campaign has no financial room for stretch goals unless we move from high quality Print on Demand (POD) to traditional printing. That would mean either lowering the quality, taking a HUGE inventory position, or printing overseas (which has it’s own complications).

We’ve also got some publisher interest in the game – so we’ll have to see how that plays out. As this is a game we have no intention of making available at retail, a publisher could be nice, but it would be one more complication for what was supposed to be a one-off “event” product.

Trying to keep with the larger event/purpose of the project, we’re using updates to interview other microgame creators and trying to pull back the veil a little as to what it takes to make a project like these. We also want to point out things that digital designers can learn from working on analog projects.

If I could change one thing about this campaign though, it would be to shorten it. I think small games feel more right with short campaigns. They are impulse purchase decisions at their core, not ones that should require 30 days of info for potential backers.

Next Up: The Fame Game