5 Current Kickstarter Projects with Unique Strategies

23 March 2015 | 15 Comments

In this series, I highlight some of the interesting choices current crowdfunders have made regarding their project’s reward levels, stretch goals, and overall campaign design (the projects themselves, not the content or product). This isn’t meant as an endorsement of these projects (these creators did not ask for me to promote their work–I disregard all such requests); rather, I’m looking for unique elements of projects that might inspire other creators to do the same (or do the opposite, in some cases).

fd43dd6bd11ddd7df0c248302ec9ef98_original1. Tesla vs. Edison: prioritized shipping for the first few backers, transparent explanation

When I originally looked at the preview for Tesla vs. Edison, it had a typical early-bird system of giving the first few backers a discount compared to all the other backers. I made my case to Dirk to get rid of that system, then I waited to see what he would do when the project launched.

So I was elated to see that Dirk not only got rid of the old-fashioned early-bird system; he replaced it with something much more interesting (and less offputting to backers who discover the project “late” after launch day): Day 1 backers will have their rewards prioritized for shipping over other backers.

That said, there’s still a lesson to be learned from the way early birds were executed on this project. The original Day 1 level was restricted to 250 backers. When the project funded just a few hours after launching, a new Day 1 early-bird reward level was opened up to “make room for more early birds.” This new level takes up precious room in the reward sidebar, and it kind of defeats the purpose of a limited early bird level.

Let this be a lesson: If you have an early-bird reward (which I’m still not a fan of, neither are the majority of backers), make it unlimited, and close it either (a) when you reach your funding goal or (b) after the first 24 hours.

Tesla vs. Edison does one other thing worth mentioning here: There are a few paragraphs under the Shipping section that basically say that if the games are ready by Gen Con, they’re going to sell them at Gen Con even if many backers don’t have their copies. I think this is a great example of transparency. If a backer doesn’t like that a Gen Con attendee will get their copy before they do, they know this information up front and can choose not to back the project.

52e1394db6037257db01af7e12a58c17_original2. Wizard’s Academy: thematically and mechanically representative stretch goals

I love it when projects incorporate the feel of their product into the feel of the campaign, and Wizard’s Academy has a fantastic example of that.

In the game, players are combining glyphs to create magic they don’t understand. It’s kind of like alchemy–you combine to different ingredients and see what happens. Sometimes you create a spell that helps you fight a troll; other times you accidentally summon troll instead. Cool concept.

The stretch goals on the project use the exact same system. Backers can share the game on social media (these are the “glyphs”), and through a selection process a new “spell” is cast, unlocking a new stretch goal. It’ll make more sense if you look at the chart to the right.

Perhaps this mention of Wizard’s Academy will count as one of the glyphs (Google +, perhaps?) to help the backers!

75c56009c7b02bf64de853f20a1757aa_original3. Camino: focused funding on a specific portion of a project

Camino, a film project, employs a great strategy that I think could be used more often on crowdfunding. Instead of raising tens of thousands of dollars to cover all production costs associated with the film, the creators are focusing the Kickstarter funds on two specific areas: the cast and production design.

I think this is brilliant. Not only does it let them keep their funding goal low, but it also gives backers ownership over a very specific aspect of the filmmaking process. It’s a concrete element that coveys to backers that the creators know what they’re doing.

536c109829104d880816219d54c083a9_original4. Thunderbirds: collaborative rulebuilding

The Thunderbirds board game project is doing something I haven’t seen on other projects (but it’s possible it’s been done before). Matt Leacock, the famous designer of the game, put the unformatted rules online so backers could comment on them in real-time.

Basically, Leacock is crowdsourcing the clarity of the rules using Google Docs before the graphic designer formats them. That’s a really neat way of engaging backers.

If you’re interested in doing something like this, but you want to use formatted rules, I would suggest a platform I’ve been using for collaborative proofreading called DocHub. Both my proofreaders and my graphic designer have found it very easy to use.

9ea2c7ea073024aa0eb2cdd05dd569af_original5. Battleborn Legacy: group discount on our Treasure Chest

I’ve saved this one for last because it’s overlaps a bit with Stonemaier Games.

Battleborn Legacy is an epic fantasy game that launched a few days ago on Kickstarter. The creator contacted me to let me know that many of the resource tokens in the game could be upgraded by backers using our Treasure Chest, and he remembered seeing a note from my on our website about collaboration with other companies and designers.

The idea is that if there is a game that uses a number of our special resource tokens and the creator of that game wants to refer a bunch of their backers/customers to buy the Treasure Chest, I’m more than happy to offer them a group discount. It’s like a wedding party getting a block of discounted rooms at a hotel–it creates a win-win-win situation for everyone involved.

So if you have a game that uses the special resource tokens in the Treasure Chest and you have a bunch of customers to share it with, let me know. I’m happy to offer group discounts.


Something you can’t see from the above post is that several of these unique elements were shared with me by backers of those projects (thanks Craig and Stephen). If you ever back a project in any category (and on any crowdfunding platform) that has something really unique about the project itself–not the product–tell me about it at contact@stonemaiergames.com. Thanks!

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15 Comments on “5 Current Kickstarter Projects with Unique Strategies

  1. Always enjoy these articles; you should be required reading for all board game kickstarter developers. Crowdsourced rules or at least proofing is, to me, a MUST. Basically every (okay, I may be slightly exagerating) KS that doesn’t employ their backers for proofing ends up with some kind of easily-avoidable typos or rules errors in their manual. Why not utilize your biggest, most crazily meticulous fans who will happily perform this service for FREE?

    Priority shipping, either via first-come or an optional payment (Bezier did this with Daybreak) should be available wherever possible as it puts the kibosh on a lot of inherent angst when you have a queue of many hundreds or thousands of names that can’t possibly all ship at once.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Xenothon. I agree that backers can be great proofreaders–I consider them a big part of putting the finishing touches on my games.

      For the first Treasure Chest, we had a $33 level for normal shipping and $39 level for air-freighted prioritized shipping. It was a little tough to deal with, and much more expensive than the $6 difference, so I don’t know if I would do that again. In general, though, if you’re using a fulfillment company, it’s easy to ship everything all at once (and thus it’s also easy to hold back some games and ship the rest “in advance”).

      1. Hey, thanks for the response; I remember reading about your experience with the Treasure Chest, now that you remind me.

        I actually popped in here to again thank you for everything you do for the Kickstarter community. I just saw your comments on a non-game campaign I backed and it meant so much to me to see you tackle that situation head on and with respect for the platform and backers as well as potential creators. The care you demonstrate with all this stuff is uplifting.

        1. Thank you! I know the project you’re talking about, and I hope those creators take my comments (and many of the constructive comments from other backers) to hear. The entire crowdfunding ecosystem means a lot to me!

  2. Tesla vs. Edison’s latest blog post further punctuates the transparency. They spelled out every step of the process with their manufacturer (Panda) to let us know where they were in the process and what everyone should expect. As a backer, I love having a good grasp on where they are in the process. It’s definitely something I’ve shared with my team for planning our future kickstarter

  3. Great article Jamey, yeah I am really curious to see how backers like what Dirk did with the TvE early bird. As a day one backer myself, I think it’s really cool! Another note, if backers still want the game early, he made another reward level (at a much higher cost obviously) to get the game in June.

    I think the mechanized stretch goals in Wizards Academy is pretty cool. Im going to go look into this a bit more :-)

    I think the putting the rules on a Google Doc is a great idea, but I wonder if it could also result in a big mess. No need for examples, I think there a couple ways this could go over well, and many ways it could go badly. But Kickstarter backers I have found are usually very helpful than not. Though, I do wonder what percentage of backers actually read the rules and try and play a game before they receive it. I personally am no good at trying to understand rules unless I have the components in front of me to push around.

    1. John: Thanks for your comment! I agree that group proofreading can turn messy (not just the quantity of comments, but also the risk of people deleting/editing each other’s comments).

      1. The way Matt Leacock’s been doing it is ‘please only use the inline comment feature, otherwise the document is liable to become an unreadable mess. I’ll look over the suggested changes and do things about them as appropriate.’

        …I’m hoping after he closes that rules editing down he posts the results of his experience of doing it somewhere, even if in a post-project update rather than on his blog.

  4. We also put our “semi-formatted” HOW TO SERVE MAN rulebook on the KS page for backers to look at and give feedback about. This is something that I will be doing every single time, since it not only explains the game very well (by letting people read the whole rulebook), but also lets me see where further explanation is needed. Nothing beats 800 people helping you proofread and edit your rules to make them clearer.
    The “Stretch Goal Game” is a very interesting and fun approach. Stuff like that is awesome and definitely gets people talking about the campaign. I’m definitely going to look into doing something like that for our next game.

    1. Thanks Jamie! I’d highly recommend DocHub for group editing/commenting on a PDF document–it made it so much easier for me to look over the changes and approve/reject them (opposed to having 800 people e-mail me their thoughts) and for the graphic designer to check them off one by one.

  5. This was a fun one—I enjoyed it the examples.

    Jamey, out of curiosity, how do you see a “strategy”, as described in #3, working in the board games? In the earlier days, I can remember a few times where creators tried only funding the art, for instance. Was there something like that that you had in mind, or was the mention more general than that?

    1. Jason: That’s a great question. The classic example is John Wrot’s Indiegogo campaign for the art for The King’s Armory (which he followed soon after with a Kickstarter campaign for the full game). I think it works best for board games when a mini-campaign leads into a bigger project.

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