The King’s New Armory: Interview with the Creator

13 November 2013 | 16 Comments

Several months ago, I was approached by a Kickstarter creator and game designer named John Wrot about a game called The King’s Armory he was planning to launch on Kickstarter. That became the first of many discussions about the structure and tone about his campaign. I’ll go into details about what happened in the interview, but ultimately the campaign failed to fund.

Flashforward to a few weeks ago when I read this article on GeekDad about the reboot of The King’s Armory. A few things caught my eye right away, namely the new art and the method by with John had secured funding for the new art. I approached John to see if he would share his insights with other project creators as he moves toward successfully funding the reboot, and I’m grateful for his in-depth answers below.

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bad45eb08f011dd6cc5881d1131a4f73_large1.      Can you describe your Kickstarter project and why you’re passionate about it?

Sure can! Well for those that haven’t seen the project, I’ll start at the beginning.  The King’s Armory is a Tower Defense board game for 1-7 players that is fully cooperative, highly adjustable (play time, difficulty level), has endless replay value (with so many variable features), and even has a built-in mechanic to allow players to drop in and out mid game without breaking game balance (making game night more “user friendly”).

Why I’m passionate about it?  Gosh, where to start. …  Ok, let’s start at the beginning again.

First, I made this game very specifically for my friends (including my Wife).  I mean, that’s an amazing motivation.  Further, it was they who have decided that I should share it with the world, and go public.  And since it was made for my friends, and inspired by my friends, I now feel like everyone who backs it is sitting at my dinner table with me.  So I, therefore, get as excited when I see a new backer as I do when a friend comes walking up the stairs into my home (2nd floor dwelling).  I mean.. I’m not making this up.

Is the game good?  Sure.  Is the play exciting? Sure.  Is the Kickstarter a wild and exciting ride? Sure.  Is it a challenging hobby?  Sure.  All of those are “YES!” actually, but even more thrilling is the excitement of having 400+ people (at the time of writing this) hanging out with my family in my home.  It’s an absolute joy.  That’s why I’m passionate about it.  The game and its great game play would be almost entirely irrelevant to my passion, save for the fact that those elements alone have brought the beauty of joy and pleasure to so many already (via immediate friends, PnP, prototypes, reviewers, etc.)

2.      Can you name three other games that, if people like those games, they’ll also enjoy The King’s Armory?

In no particular order:

  1. Castle Panic – (co-op, fantasy genre, defend a stronghold, strategy)
  2. D&D / misc fantasy role-playing game – (tells a story, roll a d20, feel like you’re the character, feel like part of the action)
  3. Pandemic – (co-op, play your role for the team to succeed, spatial/location/timing based strategy, works both as a gateway and for experienced gamers)

3.      You launched the original version of The King’s Armory on Kickstarter back on July 16 with a goal of $72,000, and when time expired on August 26, you had raised $25,279. Let’s start with the positive: What are the one or two best things you did during that campaign?

Launch it.  Period.  I was brave and crazy enough to go for it.  Too many people wonder if they should try.  Better to have tried and failed, than not try at all.

Beyond that I made 360 new friends in 1 month.  Even if this reboot falls flat, I’m regretting nothing; I’ve gained a ton.

da22c5bcbd45a0eb96d4dd6e663f4fb4_large4.      You made the interesting choice to let the campaign run the duration instead of canceling it. As you’ve probably read on this blog, I give the advice to cancel and start working on the reboot instead of waiting out a failing project. However, there is something to be said about the backers you get every day who might return for the relaunched campaign in the future. According to KickTraq, after Day 14 (the day I would have recommended canceling it), you added a total of 126 backers (out of 362 overall). I’m willing to eat crow if I give bad advice, and that may be the case here, as 126 backers is significant: What do you think? Are you happy with your choice to let the project run the duration?

Well, don’t eat crow… that sounds messy and at least a little disgusting.  But I would indeed give the opposite advice.

I am absolutely happy with my choice to let it run out.  I’ve never gone back to look at the names of who joined when, but I can say that I’m certain that gaining such a boost in backers by letting it run to completion was a good plan.  And gosh, the encouragement that came in what people did and said in the last 36 hours!?  By way of example, one new backer pledged $1200 in the last 12 hours.  We all knew it wouldn’t cost him that, but when I asked him about it he said: “I’m not sure I can pledge quite that much if you relaunch, but I wanted you to know that there are people that support you.”

How can one lack the courage and tenacity to relaunch after you have people like that surrounding you, carrying you on their shoulders, cheering for a relaunch?  And that’s just 1 guy.  There were dozens and dozens of pledges and messages with the same heart in the last weeks and days.  I don’t think we’d have the success we do now if I had cancelled, even if we cancelled in the last 72 hours when there was definitively no real chance of funding.

Besides, big red “Cancel Campaign” buttons… no, I don’t believe in you.

5.      You did something that takes a lot of guts after the original project didn’t meet its goal—you went to BGG and asked backers and non-backers alike to tell you anything and everything about the project. How did that go? I can imagine it’s tough to lower your defenses and truly listen, especially when you’re hearing people say things that you disagree with. How did you deal with that? What was some of the feedback you got that other project creators would benefit from knowing? (can you include the link to that thread?)

*Phew*  Let me tell you, it was a choice.  I thought, and if I may say so, prayed, a lot before clicking submit on that bad boy.  I knew I was throwing myself to the wolves, and that’s the type of thing you need to be prepared for before you decide to do it.

How did it go?  WONDERFULLY!  I mean, I got my teeth kicked in… but that was kind of the idea.  With 185 posts, I’d say it was a huge success.  I was truly blown away.

How did I deal with it?  Well for the most part I tried to just stay silent, say “thank you”, “duly noted”, “wrote that down”, etc.  Some of it was very friendly and encouraging; that was nice.  Some it was just constructive and little tough, and I rolled with it.  And some of it was outright insulting, and it was just funny.  I mean, you gotta take text-based feedback with a grain of salt.  I know I’ve written a letter of complaint to x, y, or z company, and it’s always easier to be aggressive and come across offensive in text than it is to a person’s face.  I just generally assumed even the rough ones were really nice people having bad days.  What else can you do?  They cared enough to take the time to actually answer.  You can’t get mad at them for doing what you asked them to do.

There were some issues that resulted from misunderstandings to which I chose to respond, foreseeing the suffering that future project creators would go through if they were left unexplained. Some thought I was being defensive, but I truly wanted to help everyone understand what goes into this process for the sake of future project creators – that they wouldn’t be held to an unrealistic standard due to misinformation.

9526aa5000a023fda1c3968c14377d7a_largeWhat was some of the feedback? Well the top 3 were:

#1 “Your funding goal is too high.”

#2 “Chill out with the exclamation points, it’s unprofessional.”  (I’m a very extroverted person, and as you said, passionate.)

#3 “Your video sucks.”

And throw in a #4, it was probably – “I have a hard time believing that a Video Game translate well to a Board Game, so I didn’t back it.”

My responses to those 4 items that people can learn from:

#1 – You’re totally right.  Have a lower funding goal.  Find a way.  And it’s not going to be easy.

#2 – This one surprised me.  Especially since for as many “chill outs” I got, I received at least 1 “Your enthusiasm is what got me”.  So that was tough to balance.

My advice to the readers: Bear this in mind: A) You get 80% positive feedback from current backers …they’ve already supported you; and therefore B) There’s advice you’re not getting from the people who aren’t backing you.  Think about it.  And finally, C) Even though you’re distinctly not professional, as a 1st or even 2nd time Kickstarter, you certainly need to act like you are.

#3 – Yeah, don’t shoot on mini-dv.  Borrow or rent a half decent digital camera.  If you want more advice on how to make a decent video, email me, I’d be happy to chat about what we have learned, or point you in the direction of the wealth of advice that’s already out there.

#4 – This one, frankly, there’s only 1 answer for: There comes a time to stop disbelieving and take somebody’s word for it.  I don’t mean to sound ‘harsh’, but this is simply not a good reason to not look more into something.  We were reviewed well before the end of the 1st campaign by Richard Ham (Rahdo Runs Through); he not only showed how the mechanics work, stating that it’s a wonderful recapture of the video game genre, but he also loved every bit of it.  Actually, he liked it so much that he even just posted an awesome update video simply to announce that the reboot is up and running with the upgrades he inspired.  That kind of enthusiasm just blows us away.

Anyway, the moral of this tale is: Every now and then you run into something that just isn’t your fault.  But that doesn’t let you off the hook!; you will still need to find a way to address such things more directly in the future, as we’ve tried to do here.  If one person actually mentions it, 25 more are probably thinking it.

Finally the link to the forum.  This will drop you off at the start.  …grab a pen and paper!

https://bit.ly/KSaSuccessfulFailonBGG

6.      Soon afterwards, you did something truly innovative: You went to Indiegogo. Tell us about your reasoning for doing that and the results.

Well there were a couple reasons we went to IGG (IndieGoGo):

  1. We had a several thousand dollar shortfall between what we had ($) and what we needed for a successful reboot (art, graphic design, PR/outreach/reviews).
  2. We believed in the goodwill of our backers and mankind in general.
  3. Frankly, to be wildly successful in the Kickstarter world these days, you kinda need to be innovative.  As you said, IGG was exactly that.  …and a little crazy.

As for the results… well we NEEDED $2,200 minimum.  We asked for $3,500.  And from 65 “funders”, as IGG calls them, we received a total of $3,774.  So, I’d say it was a huge success.

Beyond that, VERY few people requested physical rewards.  They all pledged for electronic rewards or “Game Credits” which they’re now using on Kickstarter towards Add-Ons or International Shipping.  And therefore each pledge is going much further because we didn’t have to commission a single T-shirt, mouse pad, calendar or other misc stuff we were ready to create in return for pledges (there’s a lesson there too if you look for it.); so, almost every dollar gets to go directly toward making the KS better and with a lower funding goal.

But what we ended up gaining most out of it was friendships and loyalty.  When 65 people pledge for something that they may never get… that’s intense.  And it causes you to pour yourself even more into it because, sure, you owe them a debt of gratitude, but beyond that, you owe them a debt of integrity.

Somebody once said, and I felt the same way regarding IGG: “At the end of this they’re going to call me either a madman or a genius.  And that depends on whether or not I’m successful.”  …the jury is still out.

2d8011dd36e3c91c1602ab12bc36dc4f_large7.      This finally brings us full circle to the current project, which is well on its way to funding ($43,855 raised as of 11/13/13). While the art is really eye catching, what really got my attention was the list you included of things that are different about this version of the project compared to the original:

-PnP
-Game rules
-Game-play video
-Third party reviews.
-Box cover art
-EU & Canada-friendly shipping immediately (and with German and Spanish rules translations in the works!)

That’s quite a lot! Now here’s the big question, John. You didn’t have the majority of those elements on your original campaign, and yet you let it run its course, you mini-funded the art on Indiegogo, and now you’re back on Kickstarter, well on your way to funding. Everything is turning out okay. However, would you recommend your path to any other Kickstarter creator? Or would you emphasize the importance of the above items (and great art) from day 1 of version 1?

Jamey, honestly this is a toughie.  I mean…  The obvious answer is “no”, I wouldn’t recommend what I did… at least I wouldn’t recommend PLANNING it that way; though for the truly entrepreneurial (and clinically insane) it could work out.  First, it wouldn’t be worth the hassle of doing it twice if you could do it right the first time.  And secondly, it’d be a courtesy to everyone involved to not intentionally post a KS doomed to fail; you’re far from alone in a KS endeavor, and if you do it just to “try getting backers” you’ll neglect the project, and you’ll find that many people won’t back you again on reboot for that very reason.  So pick your battles, and plan them even better.

But, if you’re honestly in a “I recently failed because…” situation, having tried your best and having truly believed in it the first time… then “yes”, I absolutely would recommend following the path I took.

(I could name at least 3 Kickstarters that failed this year that would be successful on a well worked reboot.  If you’re reading this, you know who you are.)

8.      Thanks so much for indulging my questions and putting yourself out there to help others. Do you have any other words of wisdom for the Kickstarter creators of the world?

You are welcome.  It’s truly my pleasure.  And, yes.  Lots!

I’ll definitely share more at another time when I can sit down and organize my thoughts in a coherent and chronological manner from project idea to project shipped, but for now I’ll share my current thought:

Do it!

I could have said: “Yeah, you guys are my friends, and I’m glad you like it but it might not work out.”  And I wouldn’t be here now.

I’ll also say this: like any tough choice: Make sure you prepare yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, socially (ie: consult with the people in your life who are going to inevitably get involved) and schedulistically before you make that choice.  Like any truly wonderful, all-or-nothing, or life-changing event… (marriage, children, faith, serving your country, running a marathon, …running a Kickstarter, hah) …it’s not going to be easy.  Be prepared inside before you make the choice to start preparing the things on the outside.

I really want to thank all of you for reading this, and I’m always open for questioning.  So, if anyone wants to know more about our current project, our past project, what I’ve learned, what I’m planning, or what I had for breakfast… I’m always open to having people pick my brain.  I would truly truly love to hear from you (keeperofthegategames@gmail.com).  Thank you all again.

This project is live on Kickstarter until November 27, 2013.

16 Comments on “The King’s New Armory: Interview with the Creator

    1. John Wrot is an incredibly good guy…..
      After I had pledged to Kings Armory in its first kickstarter (and it wasn’t looking very good for it to fund) we had a tornado go through our neighborhood. My wife and I decided to trim back on unnecessary expenses until house was repaired etc…..for me that meant 5 of my current pledges would get axed for the time being.
      I typed up an explanation, sent it to those projects as I cancelled those pledges. Within 20 minutes John Wrot responded and not only said that no apology was necessary but asked me if there was anything…ANYTHING….. he could do to help……SERIOUSLY…….the man lives in California, I live in Ohio, and the man was fighting for his KS life….. I should have been the last thing on his mind but we started emailing etc. and he invested time in trying to help me get through it all.

      He also mailed his only prototype to some enthusiastic backers who I am pretty sure he did not know so that they could demo it at GenCon…..that’s REALLY putting faith in your backers.

      Amazing guy…….

  1. Great post Jamey, and great insight. John, I bet when you launched your first campaign you thought most things had been worked out. I had the same experience with my first campaign, we thought everything was lined up, calculated and ready but after working on the project so long there was a few important things we overlooked. We also let the campaign run out and are planning a relaunch in December. Also John, if you don’t mind me asking, where did you post on BGG to get feedback before your relaunch?

    1. Mike–Thanks for your comment. I can offer some insights here that I hope will be helpful. Because in truth, when I originally gave John advice before the first campaign, I advised him to wait and launch until he had fixed a number of issues (that’s why I asked question #7). I think John was well aware that the project needed a lot of work, but–and John, correct me if I’m wrong–that really wasn’t something you wanted to hear at that point. That’s a major reason why I wrote the recent Kickstarter Lesson called “You Don’t Need to Launch Today.” We get it in our heads for whatever reason that we need to go ahead and launch, while really if we listen to the people who have been there, we can wait and launch when we have a much greater chance of success.

      I looked back at those conversations with John–which weren’t easy for either of us, because I was telling him about big changes he needed to make, and John didn’t want to hear it–and they ended with me writing this to John:

      “John, I’m not looking to discourage you. I want to position you to give your project the best chance it has. I don’t know if you followed my Viticulture project, but I went into very frugally. The only element of the game I finished (in terms of art or design) before the campaign was the board, and in the end, I decided that even that art wasn’t good enough, and I revamped it halfway through the project. I stumbled through the gates, and yet I overfunded by quite a bit in the end. I’m a religious man, and there were many prayers of thanksgiving as backers poured in (and a lot of time and hard work on my part).

      However, the reason I help other creators and the reason I wrote those Kickstarter Lessons is Viticulture very easily could have failed because I didn’t go into it as prepared as I should have been—and it could have been considerably more successful if I had presented it better from day one with proper art, design, and third-party reviews. I don’t want others to put their dreams on the line without learning from the same mistakes I did. Because I was where you are now almost exactly a year ago.

      John, I wish you the best, and I appreciate the opportunity to offer you feedback. Good luck on your campaign, and I’ll be rooting for you.”

      I’m incredibly glad that John found creative ways to do the things I originally told him to do, and I applaud his success. I think we all have a lot to learn from what John did here, and John, I really appreciate you being open to this interview. Fellow creators have a lot to gain from it.

      1. Jamey- I appreciate the many hours you have taken to write your blog and share your insights and lessons learned to the gaming community. To tell you the truth when our start date approached I began to feel less and less ready as it got closer but I was somewhat stuck, by my own doing of course. We had been play-testing our first game Space Junk for a while and early in the year decided on a start date for our first kickstarter. We brought it to Gen Con and had a space in the First Exposure Playtest Hall, plus held a few local testing events. In hindsight I should have told people it was a tentative start date, but I didn’t, I told them we were launching on October 12th. Not only had we lined up a magazine article, a BGG campaign and a couple of video reviews but we had promised people a start date. We ran into a time crunch, which I can see now but at the time we thought we had eons to complete everything. Our video reviews got pushed back because we didn’t get the prototypes out in time, this hurt us big time because they were supposed to explain the game. We ended up scrambling to make a gameplay video and an instructional video mid campaign but it was too late. One of our other major hold ups was our funding goal, it should have been lower for a first campaign.

        1. Mike–Thank you for sharing that. I think a lot of project creators can relate to that stuck feeling, so you’re not alone! I’ve written a few entries about reboots, so hopefully they help. John’s advice here is great too. Good luck!

  2. @Mike – The link is at the very bottom of Question #5. It’s a long read! Enjoy it. And thanks for the kind words.

    @Jamey – Thanks for all that. I’m glad to talk about it. In response, ya know, it was a mixed bag of reactions. Not just “don’t want to hear”, there was definitely some of that (let my pride die); but I’d honestly say it was mostly “couldn’t hear”…

    First – I’m as poor as the next guy (or more so). So graphic design (and similar things) doesn’t improve unless there are funds to do it. So areas like those, I heard your advice, I cried a little inside (:P), then I chose to move on because I had no other option at the time. Sometimes you gotta risk making due with what you have.

    It’s like playing with playdough. You make something awesome. Your sister comes and smashes it. You try to make it again. For some reason it always takes more playdough the second time; but it also always ends up looking better than the first.

    Second – I’m a forger, a ground-breaker, and a system not-liker (?). I’m not afraid to try to forge new paths, create new systems, and fly in the face of systems that I don’t see to be perfectly sound. But I simultaneously crave good-authority as much as any man’s heart does. So not so much a rebel, but a remodeler..? See also: the reasons for the above interview. So, there are times I’ll be given advice, and for whatever reason choose to not take it (sometimes good reasons, sometimes pride or as Jamey says “Rose colored glasses”).

    That being said: I LOVE your system! I tout you every time someone asks me for advice. I say “FIRST, go read Jamey’s blog” then come back and ask me if you have any other questions. I only hear back from 1 out of 10. And I know they’re in more knowledgeable hands than my own. But I do believe people need to trust their intuition from time to time; but also know how to discern between a solid intuition, and what is merely a feeling or an attachment (that’s the hard part).

    In hindsight, there were definitely more aspects of your advice that I should have taken than I did at the time. There were any number of road-blocks, but i suppose all the best stories come from a fresh and lively ingenuity with a touch of tenacity in being willing to try it.
    By way of example – I’ve been given a lot of flak for starting “so ambitious”. “You should make a smaller game with a lower goal, and fits a wider market, to get known first.”
    Advice I didn’t take.
    It doesn’t seem right to me to sell a cookie cutter just to make money or notoriety. So, I started big. (This wasn’t Jamey’s advice, but comments I got in many private emails during my first campaign). And it hasn’t been easy to convince people that the tower defense video game genre will work on a table top. But I see no reason that that should stop me. Or you. From making your own brilliant idea come to life.

    Overall – Goodness, you’re crazy if you don’t read through Jamey’s blogs/lessons; read James Mathe’s posts; and study the greats. But I do also recommend “making it your own”.
    By way of example: There are enough Zombie and Cthulhu games out there to keep you busy forever. But how many games are there about Winemaking? About Dystopian Futures? About full on Tower Defense? Not so many.

    Go be creative!

    1. I’m in the same boat John, I love to innovate. To me just because something has been done a certain way doesn’t mean its the only way, or even the best way. This is ultimately a good thing I believe, but can lead to some frustrating failures as well. I’m glad that through the down times I can pray, have the support of my family, and the great advice of those who have gone before me.

      And PS. We were talking about how a tower defense board game would be the coolest thing a few months back! Innovation my friend, gotta love it!

  3. Jamey – Thanks so much for this interview! John – It’s great to hear your story from a different perspective. You guys both rock!

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