A Heroic Attempt: A Close Look at a Current Kickstarter

11 March 2019 | 16 Comments

A few days ago, a creator reached out to me with an compelling message: Wesley Woodbury of FunDaMental Games sent me a list of 3 unique elements of his current Kickstarter campaign, Legends of Novus. I have an open invitation for creators to do this, but few follow through, so I thought I’d dig deeper into his project.

What I found was rather interesting. Legends of Novus has been live for 14 days, and its backers total is slowly increasing…but it hasn’t reached its funding goal. So in addition to sharing Wesley’s insights (along with my thoughts), I’m going to share some notes about why the project may not quite be on target to fund.

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1 – Small Game Launch – Before attempting to launch a major boardgame, I created a small cardgame to gain a better understanding of how Kickstarter works, how community interactions work, developing manufacturing specs, etc. It was a short and small KS (Duel of the Dragons), and although this approach has been used by many, I still think it is relevant to share with new creators who attempt large games as a first launch. I logged a lot of my progress for my game creation through a blog, which I have shared with many (and have a link to on my websites).

[Jamey: While I think there are various factors to consider in selecting your first Kickstarter project, the “humble project” approach is one that has a proven track record for allowing a creator to learn the ropes and grow their audience without risking too much. I like that Wesley used this method, and I’m curious how many original backers are supporting Legends of Novus.]

2 – Pre-Game Delivery Offers – Within the pledges I have made available early offers that would be sent long before the actual game. One offer is an art/story book (would be delivered up to 4 months earlier than the game), another is the neoprene world map/game board (which could be used for other purposes, such as playing MTG on or using as a campaign map for DnD). This gives backers something sooner vs later, and can build excitement for the game over time.

[Jamey: I think this is an interesting strategy, though I don’t know if it has much of an impact on a project’s success. The main downside is that it creates more of a logistical hassle for the creator, especially if you’re shipping to hundreds or thousands of backers worldwide (I experienced this with my first Viticulture campaign, as I offered early shipping on wine glasses and custom engraved bottle openers.]

3 – Daily Update Video + Game Training – This goes against everything I have read or heard about for Kickstarter updates. It may even deter or cause some people to cancel their backing, but its hard to say how many. Each day I send a short email, accompanied by a 2-3 minute personal discussion, followed by a 4-8 minute video teaching and showing people more about Legends of Novus. Only so much can be explained in a short campaign, and most people would not waste their time watching an hour long play video, so this breaks it into smaller, digestable chunks. Although there may only be a 10% consumption rate of the video, I believe it raises the engagement of those backers, who may be more inclined to share the KS and want it to succeed.

[Jamey: It sounds like Wesley is aware of the potential downsides. I think this method is fine as long as backers have the option to watch a full playthrough video from Day 1 on the project page, whether it’s made by Wesley or a content creator.]

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Despite the foresight and planning Wesley put into this project, it’s struggling to fund. I appreciate how open and vulnerable he is, though, as he even joined Richard Bliss recently for a frank discussion about the campaign. They invited people to share their thoughts on why the project is struggling, and I think several of the results are worth sharing with other creators (my notes follow each suggestion):

  • Move reviews/testimonials higher up on the campaign page (this has since been done). To take this a step further, I simply think there’s too much content on the project page. It’s a bit overwhelming, and I think it could be considerably more concise and succinct via a deft graphic designer and editor.
  • Have fewer reward tiers. Currently there are 7 reward tiers, which isn’t too bad, but I think a more streamlined approach would benefit backers. It’s notable that 43 backers have selected the print-and-play option (an option I wouldn’t have recommended offering at all), but I wonder if those backers are really there for the PnP or if many of them want to support Wesley in a more substantial way than just $1. I think it’s worth polling them very carefully to decide if it’s worth keeping that reward tier.
  • Feature more prominent reviewers. Sure, it never hurts to have a few reviewers with a huge audience, especially for a newer creator.
  • Font and graphic design. This wasn’t in Wesley’s notes, but in my opinion it is the biggest reason the project is struggling. I think the font choice used on images throughout the project page doesn’t provide a good first impression. Graphic design makes a huge difference–it can make or break a project–and I would recommend that Wesley look through my list of graphic designers for an upgrade.

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I really appreciate Wesley’s vulnerability and openness in sharing a peek behind the curtain at his project, and I hope you gained something of value by reading this. Feel free to check out Legends of Novus and share your thoughts!

If you gain value from the 100 articles Jamey publishes on his blog each year, please consider championing this content.

16 Comments on “A Heroic Attempt: A Close Look at a Current Kickstarter

  1. Honestly, the biggest miss I saw was how buried the gameplay section was. When I first hit a campaign page, the first thing I check out (other than the visual style) is a quick overview of how the game is played to see it it would appeal to me. He has a good section with animated gifs, but it’s so far down. I almost left before I even saw it. I skipped right past the large blocks of text at the start (too much). I always prefer quick, overviews of how the game is played (kind of like how Tang Garden did theirs), and then if I want to know more, I’ll dive into a video.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts Tony. I have done some redesigns on the page recently and this was one important move . Let me know what you think of it .

  2. I’m 1 of the 43 backers of the PnP, and I’d also be curious to see the thoughts of the other 42. I’ve been following Wes’ project for several months (when I began joining board game groups), and decided to back for several reasons: 75% to support Wes, 25% to support the project.

    I can’t support at the physical copy level, so for me it was this or nothing. The PnP is kind of like a cool “thank you, check out this great artwork.” I wonder how many of the other 42 are planning to upgrade their pledges later, or if the PnP is enough value compared to a physical copy? I’m not suggesting make backers angry by cancelling this tier (I’m new to the KS world, so not even sure if that’s how it works), but definitely reconsider. If it means losing my support at a level I can’t afford, I’d be grateful for the project funding, and look forward to picking it up down the line.

    I’ve been really impressed with all the traction Wes has gotten with the interviews since the game has launched, but I have to believe it would have had more effective before the campaign started.

  3. Truly want to appreciate Jamey for spending the time to read a random email from a new game creator such as myself, decide it had information worth sharing, and put forth the blog detailing his thoughts on it. There are most certainly things I can improve upon for the KS page, how I run my campaign, and what I did leading up to it as mentioned in a comment above.
    The last year of game development and self learning has been an intense one (while working my FT job as a retail store manager), but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and plan to keep boardgames as both a hobby both to play and create new games.

    Thanks Jamey!

  4. I just wanted to say my two cents about the campaign. I really liked the video, it showed a physical prototype, that I think the campaign site is sorely missing. I want to see tangible, and not just mock ups. I also enjoyed the last part where the creator was talking to me as a potentially backer.

    My only nitpick; why the boob display on the priestess? It looks so cheap and immature.

    1. I agree on the boob-thing: that actually turned me off (ironically). It really cheapens the game imo. Heck, we just had international women’s day, and the lack of a realistic, strong female character feels very pre-2019.

      1. Those are very good articles as well. I think the most interesting and differentiating aspect of Fail Faster is that the badges aren’t tied to specific stretch goals. Everyday a poll is sent out for the backers to vote on either spending the badges now to unlock a stretch goal, or keep saving them for a more expensive goal.

  5. As a casual gamer, i.e not very often, I would say the main issue on this campaign is price, most board games sell for £20-£29 in the UK, at £37 it’s a bit steep..
    The creator seems to have boxed himself in ( excuse the pun ) by including so many different elements ( 5 different packs of cards alone etc) which inturn has driven up the production cost and therefore the campaign target.

    On the plus sides there are a decent number of backers so worth having another go.
    I would see if it’s possible to reduce the content ( and therefore the sale price ) and offer these as expansion packs later.
    I would also get rid of the $1 dollar reward and reduce the rewards in general to around 4 to keep it as simple as possible.. best of luck with next attempt.

  6. Hey Jamie, I was able to clean up some of the fonts and images based on yours and others feedback .I have seen a fair amount of growth in backers over the past four days, but the next two days are the true decision days before determining of the project will need to cancel and relaunch in the summer. Thanks again!

  7. This looks like an amazing tool for people like me – the I want to be a game designer where should I start – type of person! Backed and anxiously waiting!

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