I Backed a Backer: Michael Mindes of Tasty Minstrel Games

16 March 2013 | 1 Comment

Dungeon Roll logoIf you’ve been on Kickstarter over the last couple of weeks, you may have noticed a tabletop game that keeps growing and growing, both in terms of components and backers.

Yes, I’m talking about Dungeon Roll from Michael Mindes of Tasty Minstrel Games and game designer Chris Darden (who happens to live in St. Louis, where we are). At the time that I’m posting this blog entry, Dungeon Roll has 7,161 backers and has earned $158,384 in funding.

But back when I interviewed Michael for the blog, it was launch day, and I think he only had about 300 backers at the time (not that funding was a concern–he easily reached his $15,000 goal on Day 1). It was such an interesting project that I wanted to get Michael’s perspective to share with you. Plus, he has generously been an incredibly source of feedback as Stonemaier Games has gotten its feet off the ground, so I wanted to spread the work about his project.

Here’s my interview with Michael. I think game designers and future Kickstarter creators will really enjoy this:

Dungeon pack1. Can you describe your game in a few sentences?

How about a few words. An awesome dicey dungeon delve.

2. What is your favorite mechanic in the game?

The mechanics are simple, but I love all of the heroes which modify how you can interact with the dice.

3. What are three games that, if people really like those games, they’ll love this game?

Martian Dice, Munchkin, Descent. I can explain each of these explicitly if you would like that for your blog.

People that like Martian Dice will like Dungeon Roll because it is another quick dice game which has interesting decisions to make.  There has been a sacrifice of some of the simple elegance of Martian Dice for the opportunity to have sheer awesomeness.  The awesomeness coming from the heroes which provide variable player powers, looting treasure, and the well integrated dungeon delving theme.

People that like Munchkin will like Dungeon Roll because of the way that the dungeon delving theme is well integrated into Dungeon Roll.  People will not find any of the “take that” nature of Munchkin and Dungeon Roll takes much less time.  And yet, there is still the opportunity for table talk and encouraging people to go deeper in the dungeon even when it might be a bad idea for them based on what the dice are showing.

People that like Descent will like Dungeon Roll because it really scratches that dungeon crawl itch and in much less time than a game like Descent.  Obviously, we won’t have the nice minis in Dungeon Roll, but you can still get that feel in much less time.

Dungeon art4. Whenever I design a game and playtest it, the reality is always very different than how it played out in my mind. What was the biggest disconnect between your vision and the reality of playtesting, and how did you solve it?

In development, the treasures became too powerful. We simply changed them to be able to provide their effect OR points at the end of the game, but not both.

5. What are a few key elements and principles you incorporated into your project that you think future Kickstarter creators could benefit from knowing?

Short video, simple reward options, short project text. There is too much going on in life to waste it scrolling through a Kickstarter project. You probably have seen some.

6. As always, your Kickstarter projects are extremely polished, reasonably priced, and easy to understand. I noticed you kept the funding levels very straightforward for this one–what was your thinking behind that?

Do people really want more than just the game? They do want to hit those stretch goals, and lots of gimmicks can get you there. I would prefer that backers find a need to share with their friends instead of just throwing in $5 for a do-hickey.

[JAMEY 3/16: At the time of the interview, I think there were only 3 funding levels. Now there are 10. I agree with Michael’s philosophy on keeping it simply (for the most part), but I think the unintended lesson is that Michael started with so few reward levels that when backers started recommending other levels, he had the flexibility to open more up without diluting the originals.]

7. How did you (Michael) discover this game? Any advice for game designers who want to reach out to publishers like TMG to publish their games?

Chris Darden who I know from his work with Geekway to the West was at BGG.con in 2012 and told me that he had a dice game to show me. I looked and I took it, and we developed it with extreme speed and diligence. Know the publisher and be their friend in advance.

Ask to show a prototype, I can’t say yes if you don’t ask.

SECRET: I often prefer to play unpublished games to published games. I only have so much time, and the more games that I see that TMG can potentially pick up, then the better the average quality of the games we publish should be.

If Dungeon Roll intrigues you, the project is set to end on March 20, so go check it out now!

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