5 Kickstarter Mistakes We Made on Euphoria That You Can Avoid (and 1 Regret)

27 June 2013 | 49 Comments

This is a follow-up to a similar post regarding 5 mistakes we made on Viticulture.

I recently ran a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign for a game I designed called Euphoria. The project ended with $309,495 in funding and 4,765 backers. Overall I’m very pleased (and pleasantly surprised) by how the campaign went, but it was a learning experience for me. I made some mistakes, and I want to share them with you so you won’t make the same mistakes.

Before I jump into the list, I want to reiterate Kickstarter Lesson #20, particularly the parts about flexibility. Although I knew how important flexibility was going into the Euphoria campaign, I now know that it might be the #1 trait of a successful Kickstarter campaign. If you go into a project with a rigid, stubborn outlook, you might as well not be on Kickstarter. There are many times where you’ll have to stick with your gut and decisions you’ve already made, but stay flexible and be open to your backers’ ideas. You’ll be surprised by the fruit those ideas yield.

Let’s jump into the list, in no particular order:

  1. The stretch goals weren’t as transparent as they should have been. If you look at the Euphoria project page now, you’ll won’t see what I’m talking about. Here’s some context: When the project launched, I had a list of about 10 stretch goals on the project page, but I only posted the threshold for the first goal (3 new recruit cards when we reached 300 backers). My reasoning was that I wanted backers to see the full potential of the game if it overfunded, but I wanted there to be some element of surprise and discovery. However, I quickly learned that this was NOT a good idea, and it went against my core principles regarding transparency. I really wasn’t trying to hide anything, but it came across that way. So the conclusion I’d like to add to my earlier post on stretch goals is that you should either post all of your stretch goals up front with full information OR you should post nothing about them (except that you’ve done your due diligence and have them planned) and then reveal the goal and the threshold only when you reach the previous goal. However, I lean heavily towards the former. I think it’s much more transparent, it shows foresight and proper budgetary planning, and it lets backers chime in with their opinions about future stretch goals, which could result in some great ideas.
  2. International bulk shipping was too limited and individual international shipping was ignored. Early on in the project, there was only one bulk shipping level, and it had a limit of 8 backers. The reason for that was related to our manufacturer’s limit on shipping. Also, there was no way to receive an individual game if you weren’t in the US, Canada, or the EU. I did that because shipping international packages is something we have to do by hand, and it’s an arduous, slow, and expensive process. I figured it would be more cost- and time-efficient if we limited it to 2 games per package (the $135 level). Well, it turns out that backers don’t like being forced to buy 2 games when they only want 1, even if the cost of shipping for that one game is really high. So I added a note for those backers saying that they could get an individual game if they wanted. In the future, I’d make it a reward level on its own: $94 to ship a game to any location other than the US, Canada, and the EU, and add $49 for additional copies of the game. And for the bulk shipping, I realized that I could feasibly ship more bulk packages (either by hand or by using my shipping company before the games left China), so I eliminated that limitation, resulting in 11 more backers at the $499 level.
  3. The first version of the custom backer art was not as good as it should have been. This isn’t a slight against Jacqui Davis at all. She created incredible likenesses of backers generous enough to pledge $125 and more to get their face in the game. The problem was that the faces were much more detailed than the bodies (which were created in advance of the project) and weren’t properly positioned and aligned. The problem here was my own enthusiasm. I got the art from Jacqui, and…well, this game is my baby, and no one thinks their baby is ugly. So with great excitement I posted the art to the backers, expecting to hear rave reviews when I woke up to read the comments the following day. Instead, I found myself in the midst of a bloodbath. Backers were NOT happy, and reasonably so. They helped me take off my blinders and see the art for what it really was. I had a good chat with Jacqui today about consistency between the faces and the bodies, and she went back and fixed every one. We also created a new deck of cards with sketched-face recruits, a backer idea that came out of the custom art update discussion. So the results ended up great. But I should have been more discerning and honest with myself up front. I’d recommend identifying a few backers who don’t care about your feelings at all and who offer fast feedback to whom you can send things like that during the project.
  4. The way I added Viticulture–especially the Kickstarter version of Viticulture–to the project was clumsy and perhaps even inappropriate. If you look at the project page now, you’ll see several reward levels that include Viticulture. They didn’t start out on the project–I wanted to stay focused on Euphoria, not Viticulture, and use Viticulture later in the project as an extra boost. The problem was that I was inundated with people who wanted Viticulture from day one. I kept having to answer the same question over and over: “When will you be adding Viticulture?” So I ended up adding it after about a week, and maybe a week or so later I added a very limited reward for the full Kickstarter version of Viticulture, a reward for 30 backers that literally lasted 5 seconds. So the demand and hype was great for Viticulture. But in hindsight, I don’t think Viticulture had any place on the Euphoria project page. Aside from being designed and published by Stonemaier Games, the two games have nothing in common. Many projects have multiple games on their project page, but I won’t do it again. A big part of it is the money: Selling copies of Viticulture doesn’t help us make a better version of Euphoria. Selling more copies of Euphoria helps us make a better version of Euphoria. The Viticulture funds help the Viticulture product line, not Euphoria. In the future, I will happily point backers to our website if they want copies of our other games. But our Kickstarter campaigns will stay focused on each individual product line (i.e., the Viticulture expansion pack Kickstarter will have ways for backers to get the base game for Viticulture, but not Euphoria).
  5. There was a backer poll after the project. On the last day of the Euphoria campaign, I shared an update with backers that showed the evolution of the board from sketch to full-color rendering. Two of the boards were to be part of the Kickstarter game: The full color version and the B/W rendering. However, there were a few backers who expressed their desire for the B/W sketch to replace the B/W rendering. As I usually do with such ideas, I thought, “Hey, let’s do a poll!” Unfortunately, there was no time to do a poll that day (the final day of the campaign), so I waited until a day or so later. Immediately there was backlash. Some backers felt manipulated that I would put a decision in their fellow backers’ hands after I had their money. Obviously there was no foul play at hand, but I saw their point. They had backed a specific version of the game, and now I was offering a different possibility because of a few vocal backers? The lesson here is twofold: One, share as much as possible during the campaign, not after, even if you don’t think it’s relevant (especially visuals). Two, don’t poll backers after the campaign unless it’s absolutely necessary. The time for decision making is during the campaign, not after.

Last, I have one regret about the campaign. Let me explain:

  1. I wasn’t able to send individual thank-you e-mails to every backer. One of my core philosophies about Kickstarter is to treat backers as individuals, not numbers. One of the key ways I did this during the Viticulture campaign was by sending individual, personalized thank-you e-mails to every backer within 24 hours of receiving their pledge. I made so many great connections this way, and it felt good to recognize each person in that way. It made for a very intimate campaign. However, with Euphoria I realized from Day One that the thank-you notes were going to be very difficult. We raised almost $35,000 on the first day, if I recall correctly, and I was working constantly on the campaign the entire day. As the first few days passed, I kept telling myself that I’d go back and write all the thank-you notes that weekend. But I soon realized that it simply wasn’t possible. I was already replying to hundreds of e-mails and comments and discussions on BGG and blog interviews and playtester feedback every day. Even just typing that feels like a lame excuse for something that is so important to me, but what I’ve realized is that all of those personal outreaches I described above are ways that I treated backers as individuals, not numbers. I feel very close with my Euphoria backers even though they outnumber Viticulture backers 5:1, and my sense is that they share that feeling of kinship with me. So for new project creators, my advice has not changed: Spend the time to individually thank your backers in a personalized way.  There’s no excuse for you not to do that if you’re averaging 20 or fewer backers a day. But once the number climbs higher than that, there are many other ways you can create that sense of community and outreach with your backers so they feel personally appreciated.

That’s a long way of saying 6 things. I’m curious what you think. And if you think the campaign was great, that’s great, but even great can be improved. In these comments I’d really like to hear about how I could have run a better Euphoria campaign.

Leave a Comment

49 Comments on “5 Kickstarter Mistakes We Made on Euphoria That You Can Avoid (and 1 Regret)

  1. Jamey, thank you for your brutal honesty. It is very edifying to see someone that is willing to take a step a back and say, I did some great things but here are some areas I went wrong. These set backs that you generously share with us are great examples for us to not only make our projects the best they can be, but it also helps us to be the best creators we can be. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for posting your thoughts. It’s fascinating, as a backer, to see what you went through and what you learned from the experience.

    Now, may I gush a little? I just played my first game of Euphoria yesterday with four friends, and it was wonderful! The quality of the components blew me away. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I own almost three hundred games, but the point is that there is nothing even close to approaching the level of love, pride, and quality that shine through in Euphoria, both in the gameplay and in the art and components.

    I’ve recently watched another Kickstarter game company ask for over two hundred dollars for a single game by asking for 20 dollars each for add ons consisting of a few cards and a bit of cardboard (that really should be part of the game as stretch goals), and in which the art is unappealing (to me) and worse, inconsistent.

    So, I would like to thank you for doing something different, and special. I want to thank you for throwing so much of the funding back into the game and making it better than I could have imagined. I hope it all comes back to you several times over!

    You’ve won me over as a die hard fan. I can hardly wait to see what you do next!

    1. Starla–Thanks so much for your comment! I certainly don’t mind a little gushing now and then, and I’m really happy you like the entire package of Euphoria (components, gameplay, art, etc). As you said, a lot of love went into it. Thanks for your support, and I look forward to sharing some new games with you all in 2014!

  3. There is a possible solution for those who want an existing game, and a way to give an incentive to backers at the same time. Offer a coupon or discount to backers of a project for stock games, that gets sent out at time of project closing. That way wont get people that pledge for discount and then rescind pledge, and allow backers to feel like getting an extra incentive for backing, without messing up the projects finances. Could tie it to a specific plan to limit the numbers, or offer to all over certain funding level.

    1. Rob–I’m not quite sure I understand. Kickstarter doesn’t allow coupons as reward levels, but are you saying that you’d give all backers a discount on other games associated with the company?

      1. Yes that’s basically what I was trying to say, but not necessarily all. Not positive if its legal, but would allow to sort of give an incentive without messing up the economics side of stretch goals. Maybe as part of a backer kit type addon after kickstarter. Where anyone who backed gets a period of time to both adjust their kickstarter add-ons, but also has options to buy other games at a reduced rate. Just a thought.

  4. Sorry I just noticed this post, Jamey… I referred a new Kickstarter-project creator to the Lessons tonight, and noticed this, and had to read it.
    You know I think you’re da bomb, one of the best project creators and managers on the Kickstarter site. There were a few bumps on the Euphoria road, but you handled them all really well… you were ALWAYS honest, always responsive, always had a great sense of humor even when you must have been really tired and quite frankly, close to sick of the whole thing.
    You can’t do everything for everyone, and you can’t send out that many personalized thank-yous. Nobody expects it. I do think that you connected with everyone who ever spoke up in comments, questions, or other forums, and you have such a warm and engaging manner that you make people feel both listened to and appreciated. You can’t teach that kindness, and it is just delightful to see in a KS campaign.
    Hmm… things to do better.
    1. Stretch goals either revealed two at a time (backer count/$ or in $5 or 10k increments, most commonly) or ALL up front, with additional ones allowed to be added when the project wildly exceeds expectations (too-high stretch goals from the start do look very greedy).
    2. You should appoint a deputy or two next time; a few senior Ambassadors who can officially respond to people… several of us tried to fill in some gaps when you weren’t around but honestly, we shouldn’t have and sometimes we caused confusion and made trouble for you (sorry about that). The sense of ownership and the project belonging to ALL of us was almost a little too high sometimes. LOL
    3. I am so glad that you let my group playtest the game so early, before you even meant to share the PnP. It was fun for us, we felt special, and each of us backed the projects as a result. Maybe that elite group of super-early, non-disclosured playtesters should be expanded a little. You offered us a reward copy of the game for that, but really, you didn’t have to! (We will take it and play it though…. ;-)
    4. Backer-art bloodbath would have been partly avoided by showing the custom art drafts ONLY TO THOSE BACKERS, not the entire crowd. I think it’s great to have a surprise when people get the game, it’s great for those ponying up the extra cash to have the feeling of being in on the inside scoop, and we could have been quietly critical of the problems we saw without shaking the entire community’s confidence. Also, I don’t think Jacqui deserved public punishment either. I’ll admit, I didn’t like some of the first-draft art, but I would have felt more free to be critical in a smaller venue than I did in the entire campaign, which I wanted to see keep forward momentum and positive energy.
    5. Viticulture is an awesome game. I wish that it had been left out of Euphoria nearly altogether. Let it become the solid cult classic among other famous 1st editions, as it deserves, and don’t muddy the waters. Too late now, but the number of copies was so limited that I know it made some people a bit sore. Zero feels fairer than a double-handful or two… people are irrational. :-)
    These are tiny nits on what was otherwise a completely awesome project. I was sad when it was over!!

  5. I think the lessons you took from your campaigns are important lessons indeed, and I think that you were attentive to the needs of both your backers and the project, often at times (I’m sure) debating on the importance of one over the other and feeling a degree of duality when operating). Of the few Kickstarter projects I’ve backed, I think reaching you to backers and paying attention to their ideas regarding certain aspects of Euphoria was key. I didn’t feel that you went the devastating path of “design by community” subject to the “peter principle,” but rather presented us with a series of well-thought options to allow backers to give input and present a case for or against something you may not have thought about while retaining a set direction. As someone who has worked in signage and graphics with clients who often know ZERO about any kind of process, specifically design on a deadline, this is very difficult to do while keeping everyone happy and motivated.

    Per the stretch goals, I did feel some of them were unimportant to the game (like BW art on the reverse of the board), but that’s only my opinion. I seemed others rather enjoyed the idea and presentation of that feature. I guess the point is that when it comes to the stretch goals I don’ t recall any of them that didn’t appeal to a majority of backers and all of them added some value to an already great idea – which was I think made the entire campaign run smoothly – you’re baseline idea was already very good and solid, anything done to it would only make it better because there weren’t rule changing additions or expanded mechanics added – it was all an increase to game ability and aesthetics.

    The most important thing for me was something intangible, though. Anytime you wrote about Euphoria it felt like you had a degree of excitement that only people genuinely excited can exude – there wasn’t false jingoism, no underscore of some money hungry ideal, no hidden drive to be popular – I felt the presentation was a game that you wanted people to enjoy, share time and experience with friends and family, and generally hold something that was created from an idea; I think they call it “heart.”

    Congratulations on the successful campaign of Euphoria and meeting each stretch goal by the way. I greatly anticipate my copy in several months.

    1. Shawn–Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Very well said. I like that you brought up the point about genuine passion and excitement. I decided a while ago that I wouldn’t run a Kickstarter campaign that I wasn’t truly enthusiastic about, and I’m sticking with that. If I don’t love something enough to spend every waking minute working on it, it’s not a good idea for me to run a Kickstarter for it. That’s just me, though, I know several people who run Kickstarter campaigns for other people, and I respect what they do. I may do that in the future. But I would do it very selectively on things that I’m truly passionate about. As you said, backers can tell if the passion is real or fake. You can’t fake heart.

  6. JT – Well said on all points. I hadn’t thought about the PnP as a show of faith in the product, but that’s a great point–without thinking about it, I think that’s one of the reasons I wanted to put it out there to backers.

  7. I started a longer note and lost the page … nuts.

    Here’s the crux:
    * I don’t get why you tossed in the Viticulture; it has enough demand on its own to merit a 2nd edition, perhaps with another expansion. If anything, the expansion was undersold the first time around (and is probably underplayed now – if you posted a video on BGG folks might be eager to pick it up). Sure it was a cool thing to do to keep people excited but you had enough extras to begin with.
    * Yes to transparency of stretch goals. These will drive more and larger backers earlier, which increases the value of the final product. I thought you leveraged social media gorgeously.
    * PnP is the single most physical guarantee of product quality that you can give, other than the full-refund guarantee. Your willingness to establish your product ahead of time is nothing short of a statement of complete faith in your product.
    * Your responsiveness is excellent and is in and of itself a branding for Stonemaier Games. The lessons you learned here on art (and I know you used David the first time and Jacqui the second time, so that was an internal lesson probably learned once by each of them).
    * Don’t take the disgruntled backer as a bad sign; take is a preferred situation to attrition. The backers believe in you enough to tell you their grievances rather than just walk away.

  8. About the stretch goals, I really liked what you had done with Viticulture, having 3 stretch types for shares, number of backers and $. I understand you can’t upgrade components based on “shares” stretches, because it doesn’t directly adds $ to the campaign, while the component upgrade brings additional cost… but it could have been used in a discovery mode, revealing the money related stretches or something along that line of thoughts.

    Your comment about Viticulture and “product line” is totally right. And I felt that way from the start when you asked Viticulture backers if we were okay with you offering Kickstarter exclusive copies in the Euphoria Campaign. There was a stretch about a Cheese expansion for Viticulture, and you also mentioned having intentions of releasing a “big” expansion, with different modules… Things may evolve in a way that they never get done, but as a Viticulture backer, I would of preferred seeing the Kickstarter Exclusives Copies offered through a Viticulture Expansion campaign. Euphoria backers got the benefit from these copies instead of the Viticulture backers who helped funded it in the first place. And I didn’t even think of the $ impact…Each copy of Viticulture sold through the Euphoria campaign helped reaching more stretch goals, but did not help from an economy of scale point of view.

    Otherwise, it was an extremely well managed campaign, you are setting a very high standard for other project creators.

    1. Jean-Philippe – I agree with you about the special Kickstarter copies of Viticulture. Although it was cool to see how excited people were about them, and I didn’t want them just sitting around on Amazon, I don’t think I handled it was well as I could have. I think the two ways I feel okay with selling those copies outside of their original campaigns is on related expansion campaigns and for charity. It’s possible that we’ll have a few KS Vitis left over after the dust settles, so I’ll need to figure out if I should hold onto them for the Viticulture expansion pack campaign or do something charitable with them.

      1. The excitement level must of been overwhelming, the campaign doing so extremely well, and people having interest in Viticulture… Sometimes you prepare for the worst, and then find yourself totally unprepared for the best.

        Another point to consider about Stretch goals… having the 300k stretch up from the start might have been ridiculous…I mean 2000% funding, without miniatures :)
        Even the original stretch goals seemed almost unreacheable to me…

        Some projects start with lots of stretch goals, at very high $ levels, but the pledges don’t come in as expected and the project creator throws them in the base package or as add-ons in a desperate effort to get the project funded. Why did we need to reach 300% funding if in the end it gets included in the original funding goal ? Were they just trying to make more profit on our backs not including the full game from the start or is it just the sign a of lack of project planning… In both cases I would unpledge right away.

        I have no problem with people making a profit with their Kickstarter campaign, its just a matter of how it happens. In fact I hope you you did get a little for yourself, because you definitely deserve it, considering your dedication to your product and your backers…

        And project creators will have a first time, making lots of mistake (even if they read all your Kickstarter Lessons, because some things can only be learned the hard way)… but I think its better for a project to fail and get relaunched with the right adjustments than get barely funded with huge miscalculations putting the project at risk and the project creator on the edge of bankruptcy.

        Anyways, my point is, waiting to see how things go on the first few days/hours before announcing appropriate ($) stretch goals seams like the best approach to me.

        1. Jean-Philippe – That’s a good point about the more ambitious stretch goals. Sometimes I see a project that has raised $10,000, and they have a $200,000 stretch goal posted…it just seems a little premature. Also, for Euphoria, I only planned for stretch goals up to $150k. Then backers came up with awesome ideas to expand beyond that, and I priced it out and was able to make it work. That flexibility is key.

          I agree that it’s quite handy that project creators can cancel projects (or fail), learn from their experiences, and try again.

  9. amazing, that you ran one of the better KS projects for a board games and you’re still finding ways to improve on things. Great to see. Keep improving. Excited to see whats next.

  10. 1. I do not see the problem with the designer hiding the stretch goals or revealing them all at once. I leave that choice to you all.
    3. The customer art was fine, but I am not artsy person so it didn’t bother me as much as others. I thought the faces were little off in the beginning, but the photos were taken in different angles. Perhaps next time tell the pledgers to face a certain way to take their pictures and maybe it will be easier to combine the picture and the art. Or do not include as a reward. I always like the rewards of naming something in the game better than actual picture. Example in Nothing Personal one of the rewards getting a “gangster” card named after you. This reminds me no actual photos perhaps have someone draw the likeness on the card to make it easier to combine pledger and art.
    4. Personally for me I like it when games include their old games for a couple of reasons. One it is usually cheaper than retail and more importantly I may have missed out on a cool game and I can back it there. I help the current game get better and get the other game, too.
    5. Thank you notes are meh to me. You being on everyday still answering questions about everything with backers was best I’ve seen in any kickstarter. I mean you are still there after the campaign, which is pretty awesome.
    6. Poll problem, I did not see a problem with it. Nothing was finalized yet so no big deal.
    7. I got nothing for Ams PnP thing. I am just going to trust in the product instead of printing it out to test it, but I did think it helped bring in many new customers.
    Thank you for reading my ramblings in the morning.

    1. Phasmtis – Actually, for the backer art this time around, backers had a very specific pose they were told to make since they were able to see what the recruit bodies looked like in advance. Not everyone followed those instructions, and I should have cracked down a bit on those people, but by far most backers did. I think it was more of an issue about how the heads were incorporated onto the bodies.

      As for the inclusion of past games that are unrelated to the project, I think what I could do is make sure the other games are on sale on this website during the campaign. That way you’re still getting a good deal.

  11. Jamey, I have to say, kinda disappointed you forgot the PnP thing down as one of the lessons learned. Mostly because I know it is a lesson learned. You view PnP’s as samplers- but to some University student backers, it is all they can afford. You did not make it clear that for your project, the final PnP is not a replica of the “real” game, but is the 99.99% copy of the real game with minor differences. (A big deal to some people). Here is how I believe you can stay true to you, and still keep these backers happy and involved.

    For pledge levels state
    $1 Toast and PnP Play-test experience, with opportunity to have name in rules. Almost exact Final PnP when project closes. See homepage for details.

    For Home page state
    PnP Play-test experience: Stonemaier games invites you to become a pivotal member of our play-testing team. While the game is 95% completed, it can always get better if more people play it and provide feedback. For a minimum $1 pledge, you will have access to our PnP, which will allow you and your playgroup to change what this game will look like. You may notice an unclear rule, a spelling error, a fun variant, or awkward layout. You may just have a great time. By providing us with feedback, and giving us your names, we will be happy to credit you in our rule book.
    Just print the game, play it with your friends, and tell us what you thought along with your names, and your (real) name will be immortalized and published.
    Please note that Stonemaier games prides itself in quality components which allow you to become fully immersed in the game theme. We do not believe this is possible to be fully achieved by a simple PnP, and do not attempt to do so. As such, throughout the play testing, and when the project is complete, we will not be including the official card backs. After we send backers the final PnP, there may be a few small changes to the game. These changes may be the spelling of a word, or the movement of an icon by 1mm. They will not dramatically effect game play. However, if you would like an exact replica of the game, the only way this will be possible is by purchasing the game itself.

    In addition, in the PnP itself, I suggest:
    – a page of card backs which are the same size as the card fronts for which it matches. Only include one card back for each type of card (ex: One recruit back, one artifact back, etc). Only include one for formatting reasons. Backers who want these enough know how to replicate them properly for all cards, but if a sheet of just the backs of one resource is provided, they may expect it to be possible to simply print the cards double sided. This is for the enthusiastic PnP backer, who is willing to cut out card backs in order to glue it to the other side so they can have a fully “beautiful” game. These backs can simply state what it is for in the official font of the game (much like Monopoly “chance” cards) and/or have the icon which represents this card with no other coloring and a simple border.

    – a page of “resource” and/or “commodity” icons. A possibly overlooked hurdle in encouraging people to make PnP’s is that they need to figure out for themselves what to use to stand in place of commodity’s and resources. They may think they are already spending $40+ on the game- why spend $10 on components they will never use again? Or they may just be intimidated by the task. For these people, if you have a backer-only [if you include this, mention it in the play-tester PnP section of the home page] document of all the resources/commodities they need (like for Euphoria, it would be 9 lightning bolts in circles to easily cut out- if it is just the lightning bolt, it would be more difficult), then they just need to worry about finding durable paper, and not about finding all the tiny pieces. If you include this page, also have on the top a disclaimer such as “This page is backer only. In the physical version of the game, these components will be made of wood/solid cardboard. This page is provided for convenience only. We believe that a more fully immersive experience can be had by using 3D components, and encourage your to find beads, bingo chips, components from other games, etc. to take place of what is represented here. Paper can be blown away, we suggest at minimum gluing this page to stiff board, such as that of a cereal box to prevent wear-and-tare”. Trust me- a number of thankful backers will play with these, but others will be happy they are not restricted to them.

    Anyway- those are my thoughts. I was thinking this as I was walking from work today, glad I remembered it to write it down.

    1. Ams–Thanks for commenting about the PnP. I think the way you’ve communicated it here is very effective. I didn’t include it in this list because I really only heard from 3 people that there was some confusion about the PnP–3 out of 4765 isn’t many. :) But it is something I will be clearer about in the future.

      1. Thanks. I agree- I think most people who wanted the PnP were thrilled they could get it for $1, and didn’t care about the specifics, lol. :D Please, do consider the PnP component page in future games- I know I would have been much faster making my PnP if I didn’t have to figure where I would get all the little pieces, and I can’t be alone in that.

        1. Ams–I’ll consider it, but it isn’t really congruent with the intent of our PnPs. Usually when I make a prototype, I just use spare pieces and random cubes for the resources and bits.

        2. Ams,
          I do tons of PnP and I would be irritated if a designer wasted time making resources and stuff unless there was something super-special about their shape, especially since I often print first, examine later. We have and use PennyGems, cubes, coins, lovely rocks from Bibelot games, acrylic gems from the craft store, marble chips, random dice (we have way too many to count), little macaroni noodles or dried beans, and other items as tokens in PnP games.
          If you need to be super low-budget, you can always go to a local thrift store or yard sale and buy discarded games that have lots of tokens, some of them really nice, to use in your PnPs (I have a bunch of these too, and collect wooden letter tiles that are like Scrabble tiles but not from Scrabble; there have been at least six games that use similar but not point-labeled tiles over the past 60 years).
          I offer these suggestions to whet your appetite; I think good PnPs can be a blast and it’s so much fun to be in on the early versions of a well-thought-out game. It’s also entertaining/useful to be in on early versions of honestly terrible games, and it can be just as much fun to play these dogs with the right group of gamers. :-)

  12. “The time for decision making is during the campaign, not after.”

    Dare I say even before?

    I hate projects which says that “We’ll have rules up by …” and likely the same for artwork and even worse details for items you can order in the pledge manager AFTER the pledge manager has closed?!

    If it’s a good product I assume it will get more backers the more they know and can find out about it. If it’s a bad product I guess it’s ok with hiding stuff trying to get away with it (look at Sedition wars and how happy people was with the actual rules they got in the box. In a game such like that some people IMAGINE how it may work and may be played unless they are told how it actually work and their imagination may be much better than the actual product.)

    Having nice art work even if it’s not actually professionally printed help makes things look interesting and keep my interest up in at least my case vs early prototype components which is just more or less a bunch of paper pieces. May depend on how much mechanics there’s into the game (then maybe simple pieces is ok) vs more in the line of thematics, stats, abilities and such because then a paper note where you can’t see the text and so on isn’t all that interesting to look at.

    I guess early products may be correct in what Kickstarter may have been supposed to be but what it really is at least for boardgames seem to be a marketing and pre-order platform and as such make sure your product is ready to be sold.

    1. Johan–That’s a GREAT point. Yes, most decisions should be made before the campaign, not during. But I do encourage creators to leave a few decisions for the campaign itself as a way to engage backers.

  13. For Viticulture you could had added it on a price level which you earned money on and still as such had used that money to make Euphoria better. If they sell at a level where you don’t make any money but still increase the amount you’ve got from your backers then sure it’s an issue (same goes for shipping costs.)

    1. Johan–I see what you’re saying, but it doesn’t quite add up with economies of scale. If more people pledge to receive more copies of Euphoria, the unit price of Euphoria goes down, opening up new possibilities for improvements. However, if people pledge to receive Viticulture, although that increases the overall funding amount, the cost per unit of Euphoria stays the same. All of Viticulture’s costs were calculated separately a long time ago, so funds earned from Viticulture sales are accounted for separately.

      It may just seem like an accounting issue, and it partially is, but the other part of it is that I felt really weird selling Viticulture through the Euphoria campaign. I’m glad that backers were able to get Viticulture, but it didn’t feel right to me. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut. :)

      1. Having thought about this over the summer, I think you could consider offering backers a nice discount on other Stonemaier games by including their KS email and the name of the campaigns they backed (so you can validate that they are a backer). That’s not a coupon, it’s just an offer, so it should be OK with Kickstarter rules. Maybe make it a $5 discount for one campaign backed, $7.50 for 2, $10 discount per game after they back 3 campaigns, with a limit of $10 (you should never lose money with your friends buying stuff, and I’m sure you know what the max possible discount is). :-)

        1. Julia–I like the concept, but that’s potentially a lot of verification. One solution that might be more effective is that I post a backer-only update that sends backers to a hidden page on our website with a PayPal widget with pre-programmed discounts on our other games. That’s what I currently do for people who subscribe to our e-newsletter. It’s easy to implement and doesn’t require me to check each e-mail address individually.

  14. “I’d recommend identifying a few backers who don’t care about your feelings at all and who offer fast feedback to whom you can send things like that during the project.”

    lol, poor guy, harsh reality :D

    But yeah, maybe the best suggestions / pointers come from that.

    I know many persons love Earth Reborn. I also many doesn’t like some of the design decisions in that game (poses of characters, icons and colors of character cards, color choices of player guides, too dark board with hard to see black walls, items on BOTH sides of item deck cards, very informative but maybe to some disturbing iconography on the board.)

    If Boelinger had consulted some people who wasn’t all about cheering his designs and super excited about the possibilities of the game maybe they could had helped identify and fix those issues before the game was printed.

    It’s likely an excellent game but possibly some of those issues keep people away from actually buying it.

    It’s likely similar with the character feets used in his earlier design Dungeon twister. The actual base game came with feets with an indention / reverse bowl underneat which let you store items there which may have sounded like a good idea. The problem is just that those items can of course stick in the bowl somewhat and what’s worse the small “edges” on the top which hold the paper character is very short and doesn’t grip well to the character so they fall out when storing the game. The idea may have been that you pull the paper board out of the plastic feeet when you’ve played and later put them in again but I assume that will wear the paper so it both look worse and sooner or later become too lose. All the expansions got better feet which grip better and don’t have the storage thingy underneath them (they just sit flat on the items) but they isn’t as good as say what Fantasy Flight Games uses in Arkham horror, Battlestar galactica and such. (Neither is the actual card stock for characters or items and likely not the boards either.)

    (In a game with secrets it’s not that awesome that the paper wrinkles close to the cuts of the board either because what if you mix items and characters which have those issues with some which doesn’t? But that’s not all that much of a problem.)

  15. I have to agree with Christopher. Every kickstarter project should be blessed by such trivial errors! You have set a new standard in transparency and sharing that transcends the board game community.

  16. I must say, I have backed many a kickstarter at this point, and your 6 mistakes are what most project managers would love to even attain to. I never doubted your interest in the project nor your commitment to the backers even when the funding went flying through the roof and you had way too many backers to really keep in touch with. The economy of scale can cut both ways, And, it can be difficult keeping that close family feel when your backers nears 5000. The fact that your great success at keeping in contact and active on the various updates/blogs/fora for you notches in as a failing speaks loudly to your investment and devotion to your projects.

    It is your continued professionalism and concern that has made any project you run an instant summons for my money to be thrown your way. I think the response to the art also came from a good place in that most backers wanted your game to be truly the best it could be. It was never the talent of Jacqui in question, just the disparity between realism and stylization. Plus, you dabbled in the dangerous, chum filled waters of democracy: silly boy with your polls. As a true Overlord of Euphoria you should have followed the classic Stalinist approach of the backers vote Papa Jamey decides! :)

    I did miss the personal “thank you” which I had received during Viticulture, but as long as I get an Update authorizing another Stegmaier backed hugging (along with proper hug procedure) like I did during Viticulture, all will be forgiven!

    1. Thanks Christopher! I am sorry about the lack of the personal thank you–it was my intention to do it. And honestly, I really enjoyed the “research” I did when sending those thank yous for Viticulture. I got to see where backers were from, other projects they backed, and read about them if they filled out their profile. I wasn’t able to do that due to time constraints, but I did try to find out about backers in other ways. You may have noticed in the comments that I tried to talk about things other than Euphoria. I genuinely want to know about backers: Games they love, Kickstarters they love, beer they love, etc.

      As for the polls, I’m sure I’ll keep doing them. I think the key (other than timing) is clarity and flexibility. If you’re not actually willing to change something–including if you think something is a bad idea–go with your gut and don’t post a poll. I think that’s the way to go.

  17. Great insights, Jamey (as always!) and an interesting analysis of a successful project.

    While I agree with having a focused project. My only thought: given the popularity of the project, would Not including Viticulture have meant less backers? Perhaps it helped in the overall enthusiasm? Only you can answer that, assuming the project stats show if the Viticulture add-ons came from existing backers or new ones.

    I can see the reason for backer upset on #5. But for projects where the final art is being funded by the Ks (and is thus as yet unseen/ not finalised), I suppose the solution would be to say from the beginning that backers will be invited to vote on ideas throughout the final art stage. That way they back the project knowing this is part of what they are backing.

    What things did you do on Euphoria that worked to create a sense of community when the backer numbers got too high? You clearly did a lot of things right.

    1. I agree- I’d never usually consider Viticulture, but with all the hype, I’m actually considering giving it a go. Which is saying something! Also- spot on in the final art transparency- if backers know from the get go that there still may be slight changes after the project closes, and if they don’t like that choice their money can and will be refunded, I don’t see them having a problem

      1. Yes – the project page lays out an agreement that should be adhered to where possible. Offering backers a chance to change their minds should those agreements change is only fair.

    2. Lloyd–Those are great questions. It’s possible that some people backed Euphoria because they wanted Viticulture, not Euphoria, or perhaps for some it was the combination of the two (they came from a mix of existing backers and new backers). What was interesting to me was that backers could have bought Viticulture through our website during the campaign (until we sold out), and they would have gotten their copy faster that way, but they preferred to get it through the campaign. They probably wanted to push us towards higher stretch goals, but that’s where the accounting issues arise: Selling Viticulture doesn’t help the economies of scale for Euphoria on which the stretch goals were calculated.

      I think that’s a fair solution about the art if we had a slightly looser schedule, which wasn’t the case for Euphoria. But the key there, as you say, is communicating that up front so it’s not a surprise at the end.

      As for the sense of community, a lot of it stemmed from my engagement with backers and the way I tried to encourage that engagement among other backers. You may have noticed that I didn’t respond to every comment (unless there was a question for me) because I wanted backers to feel free to have a discussion without me always butting in. :) I set up a Google Doc to assist the group buy coordinators, which helped build mini-communities. But a lot of it was me just being available and responsive to questions on Kickstarter, Twitter, Facebook, BGG, stonemaiergames.com, and private message. When people know that they’re going to hear back from you quickly, they’re much more likely to post in the first place.

      1. Thanks Jamey,

        I suppose that as demand for a previous dis-related game came in, a project owner could refer them to the store and perhaps announce that it was there on facebook etc for interested parties. That would both promote the other game in response to inquiries and keep the current project clean. I agree about keeping the product lines separate – for the reasons you give.

        It’s very true, economy of scale is a valid and very important point. I see some projects and the things they offer as stretch goals etc and I wonder if I’m looking at it wrong or if in fact they’re going to feel the pinch because of these things driving up the total raised amount but not actually helping the core product become cheaper/better. I wonder how they can afford it and I’m not sure they can.

        Yes, laying down the parameters of the agreement between projecteer and backer in advance. So important.

        Thank you. Sometimes when people speak of ‘engagement’ I think they know something arcane and go looking for this mysterious thing they do. Cheers for giving exact examples to clarify.

  18. For me your kickstarter project was one of the best run projects I’ve seen so far. At least I remember first sayng, “hell, this looks like a very professionally-run project. I do not know anything about htis guy, but let’s spend some time checking the game”. Then I tried it, got hooked, and jumped in. A great campaing brought me in…..and I am sure I am not the onely one thinking this

    1. Thanks, MK–that’s very kind of you to say. I think that’s a good reminder that creators should express their personality through their campaigns.

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