7 Thought-Provoking Kickstarter Projects

9 December 2016 | 28 Comments

In this series, I highlight some of the interesting choices made by recent crowdfunders regarding their project’s reward levels, stretch goals, and overall campaign design (the projects themselves, not the content or product). This isn’t an endorsement or promotion.

kingdomKingdom Death: Monster 1.5

  • Not a Retail Product: I think the biggest takeaway from this project is that it’s not a retail product, and it’s not trying to be. Kickstarter is perfect for this type of product. As a result, the creator isn’t trying to balance a retail version of the game with the Kickstarter version (and all of the various decisions that follow when you’re trying to appeal to both audiences).
  • Black Friday: This project was launched on Black Friday, an audacious (and thematically appropriate) move. Black Friday is a day known for people spending money on things that they can get by Christmas, which is not the case for Kingdom Death (some elements of the game aren’t scheduled to be delivered until 2020). But it was kind of a brilliant move, as not many projects launch on Black Friday.
  • Gambler’s Chest: Some of the stretch goals are unlocked by a random die roll. Again, this is a nice thematic element, as it demonstrates the impact of die in the game.
  • Mega Projects and You: I always worry about the lessons new creators learn from mega projects. As is the case with many of these projects, the creator of Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5 has done some brilliant things, and the success is well deserved. But there are also a number of elements here that would have sunk most projects that have so much pent-up demand leading up to the campaign. So if you’re studying a mega project for elements to incorporate into your campaign, please read this first.

Pebble 2

  • When Another Company Buys You: In an announcement on Wednesday, Pebble–one of the most successful Kickstarter projects/companies ever–revealed that they were being bought by Fitbit. If you’re negotiating an acquisition for your company and you’re wondering about how it might impact backers, read Pebble’s update and some of the backer comments for a lesson about how not to do it.


  • Backer Input: If you want to learn about how to improve a product during a Kickstarter campaign, the read through the updates on the Pieces Board Game Cafe campaign. I’m so impressed by how they listened to backers (both publicly and privately) and incorporated key elements of that feedback into the cafe.


  • Preparation: This isn’t anything new to readers of this blog, but I just have a lot of appreciation and respect for creators who prepare for months and even years leading up to their first project. It’s just neat to see someone’s passion manifest into such diligence, and even better when it results in a successful campaign. Mark prepared extremely well for his Feudum campaign. You can see this in various ways on the project page, and he was also really active in various Kickstarter Facebook groups and at conventions over the last year.

Wizards of the Tabletop

  • Team Spirit: I’ve written in the past about how anthology projects can be effective because they potentially leverage the reach and expertise of dozens of people instead of just one. The key, though, is that the creator is really the only person responsible for the project (and the only one benefiting financially in most cases), so it’s not fair for them to expect that the anthology participants do anything. As one of the designers who has a few pages in the Wizards of the Tabletop book, I think it’s neat that Douglas has sent out several updates to the designers (as a group) during the projects. By doing so, he’s created the feel of team spirit without imposing anything upon us, which is great.

vastVast: The Crystal Cavern

  • Second Printing Crowdfunding Considerations: Reprinting a product on Kickstarter is a precarious choice, as you risk alienating retailers who like to be able to sell future printings of popular games. The creator explains his choice in the FAQ: “I had a great deal of pre-orders and money saved from Gen Con in a PayPal account. PayPal decided the liability of the pre-orders was too much and moved my money into a reserve to protect against chargebacks. It took some convincing and they still haven’t released all the funds. I have a bridge loan and in fact printing is already rolling, but some people said they still wanted to show their support, so I built this campaign.”
  • Upgrade Pack: I always think it’s great for revised versions of games when a creator makes an upgrade pack for those who want the most up-to-date content without having to buy the entire product again. It’s no small task for a creator to do this–trust me, it’s much easier not to, but it’s often the right thing to do for the community you’ve worked so hard to build. Patrick offers a $10 upgrade pack and a $35 upgrade pack + miniatures, and those rewards have garnered over 1000 backers.

The Red Dragon Inn 6: Villains

  • Less Waste: An alert reader shared with me that this project is offering backers a variant pledge level called the “ECO Edition.” Instead of coming in a fully printed box, it’s sent with minimal packaging.To date, their reasoning has resonated with 953 backers, so they might be onto something here: “Why is this a good thing? Well, first off it saves you some cold hard cash cause we don’t have to charge you for manufacturing packaging for your copy of the game! Perhaps even cooler than that is you also help reduce the total amount of waste material your friendly local recycler or landfill will have to deal with.”

For those gamers who read this, when you buy an expansion, if the contents fit into the original game box, how often do you throw away the expansion box?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments on the projects mentioned in this post, as well as any other projects you’ve seen recently that have been thought-provoking.

Leave a Comment

28 Comments on “7 Thought-Provoking Kickstarter Projects

  1. Just another thought that occurred. I don’t personally have a problem with projects like Kingdom Death that are Kickstarter only, but to anyone who writes blogs and reviews etc, can you make very clear when reviewing them that they’re not available to most people. I got really excited reading a 7th Continent feature in a gaming magazine that was about four pages long and made the game sound amazing, then I went to try and buy a copy. I don’t blame 7th Continent for that, but I wish the magazine had filled those pages with new and interesting games I could actually buy.

  2. I always keep good solid boxes, but then I’m always looking for ways to store prototype or print and play games. A shout out also to the Small World expansions that often come without a box at all. It really annoys me when a game has tons of empty space in the game, especially when lots of that space is filled by a pointless inlay that I have to throw out before I’m even allowed to use the space.

  3. I will always put the expansions into the main box (Pandemic, Viticulture) or vice versa (Lords of Waterdeep). I usually end up keeping the expansion boxes, they might get used for storing PnP games or spare components or reboxing excessively large games (most of Race for the Galaxy + 1st expansion, sleeved, fits into a King of Tokyo expansion box).

  4. Was wondering what your thoughts were on the Mythic Battles: Pantheon KS campaign? I was really impressed with how it was conducted, though the sheer volume of add-on content is a bit intimidating.

    1. James: I must admit I didn’t pay attention to it much–the minis look cool, but that isn’t a hook for me. But it looks like it was very successful! Despite the early bird, the rewards are very streamlined. Perhaps I’m missing something, but are there really no reviews of the prototype? That would scare me away as a backer. And 114 project updates since November 1? Is anyone still subscribing to them? :)

  5. I’ve never tossed empty expansion boxes. But I’m not opposed to purchasing an ECO version to save money, space, and resources.

    What I most appreciate about game boxes is when they are specially designed for all the components and reduce the time to setup before play. If there are cards involved with the game, give a little extra wiggle room to have them sleeved. Make sure everything is snug and if expansions are planned, throw in some removable foam blocks. I am willing to dish out a few extra bucks for some well designed forethought on holding a game together.

    I think Iron Kitten Games did a great job with the optional tray for Lunarchitects. It had a place for all components to be separated and the game board snaps in place keeping everything from shifting around as the box is lifted, moved, tipped, etc.

  6. Those expansion boxes mostly get another function in my gaming group. Going from ‘box to throw the dice in’ to ‘place to keep that specific faction’s cards/dice/… in. So most of the time, things won’t get thrown away, although i do like the idea of an eco version. A version with 100% recyclable materials would always get my attention. Less package is great, a fully recycable game is even better.

    And thanks for the great post Jamey. Although nog intented as a promotion, it led me towards Feudum – thanks for that!

  7. I’ve seen the complete opposite of the eco approach: a board game with a huge box and very few pieces inside. It irritated me a lot for some reason. The box was light and I knew roughly what it contained, but the wasted space still managed to bring a frown on my face.

  8. Being unique here I have not thrown out most of the expansion boxes for the games that I have reboxed in wood. I just can’t bring myself to do it, what if I want to trade it down the road?

    However I do not keep the games in the boxes, and try to put the game itself all in one box if possible. Also Do like the Beizer route where there you do just put in the main box.

    I actually wondered about your decision for the Viticulture Moore expansion to put it in such a big box. Whereas it could have fit in a small card box ala Superfight/Cards Against Humanity/ MTG expansions. I’m guessing with a smaller box size you could make a retailer version that has a small display that holds like 4-10 of them so it gives it more space for the retailer, but at the same time is small to the consumer

    1. Sean: Well, “big box” is relative–it’s like 4 inches wide! :) We thought it might have better shelf presence that way, and we already had a nice template for that box size because we had used it for one of the Viticulture upgrade packs.

  9. Always toss expansion boxes when I can. When I can’t, I prefer the expansion box fits the base game so I can chuck the base game (or ‘an expansion box that fits the base game and all previous expansions as the second or third expansion box – especially if it does it with a neat insert)

    Something I realized I like recently is when updates provide something more than just talking about the game, be it telling me something about the game’s world I didn’t previously know (so, e.g. if kickstarting a story driven game with 7 characters, preface 7 of the with the backstory of those characters that’s not in the rulebook or print and play, but will be on the back of the final character card), or something in the real world that connects to the game (As The Birds Told Me To Do It did, prefacing each of the ‘here’s a detailed look at all the cards in this suit’ with some info on the real world bird that inspired the art for that colour of bird in the game.

  10. I usually toss the expansion boxes. In fact, I just threw away the Invaders From Afar box this morning… sorry!

    And then there’s the case when the entire game and first two expansions fit into the expansion boxes, and I can toss the original box… Seven Wonders, I’m looking at you.

  11. To date, I typically keep all my expansion boxes. Developers often put some excellent artwork on those boxes, and I can’t bring myself to just toss it. But I very much like the idea of “boxless” expansions, and if the base game and expansions were planned around that idea, I’d absolutely prefer them. Many expansion boxes are basically just taking up precious space on my game shelves.

  12. Interesting article, as usual, thank you for the analysis. I haven’t noticed the ‘ECO Edition’ on their campaign until now, I think it’s a great and practical idea. Nothing but congrats for all the tabletop creators mentioned above.
    The news regarding Pebble was quite unexpected to me; I don’t own one, but I was following them for quite some time. Here, in Romania, not so many people know about Kickstarter and the concept of crowdfunding; each time I had to explain it, I was giving Pebble as an example of a successful story. Now I think I have to find another example.

  13. I always toss expansion boxes. I think Bezier Games does it best, at least for some of their expansions: they just come with the punchboards shrinkwrapped with the rules on the front, so there isn’t even a box to throw away. You are just expected to put the expansion bits into the main box. They’ve done this with at least Suburbia and Castles of Mad King Ludwig.

    1. I loved how they were able to have a punched out section in the cardboard to put new wood bits in their packageless expansion! That struck me as pretty awesome planning.

  14. “Throw away” expansion boxes as in: If it is solid I keep it around as a container, e.g. for shipping something. The Alien Frontiers Factions box for instance is sturdy like a brick! You could build a house out of those.

  15. Good, thoughtful commentary as always Jamey, especially in regards to telling people not to take hints from Kingdom Death.

    I can only imagine how disastrous some of the moves Poots and crew would be for just about anyone else, especially if they don’t already have a proven track-record, although I do think his approach (trying to make the Kickstarter a month-long entertainment piece) is going to be emulated by other people.

    I really like the idea of the ECO Edition, as I expansion boxes are usually at best wasted space for me, and at worse they end up being thrown away.

      1. Definitely. Do you have a project that has gone that route that you think is a great example of how to do it properly?

        p.s. Sorry about the structure and verbiage of that first post. Voice recognition failed me pretty badly there, as did my lack of proof-reading.

          1. I’d point to Leaders of Euphoria as well, the naming artifacts brainstorms and polls were fun to participate in.

            (And Gil Hover’s recent Wordsy project sort of did similar, with @WordsyBot on twitter, but that exists to market the game outside of Kickstarter via social media rather than as part of the game. Still, really interesting thing that he’s able to demo the core gameplay loop of the game, if not the actual game structure, via a twitter bot)

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