I’ve written periodic pieces about Kickstarter and its relation to the wargaming and minipainting hobbies, and wow, there’s a lot of intersections there. I try not to pay too much attention to Kickstarter (because when I do I, y’know, spend money… but there’s just so much cool stuff out there!) but every so often a topic comes up that I think you lovely people out there in the Blogosphere (are we still calling it that?) might be thinking about, too. Or not. Whatever. Read this anyway.
But seriously, something that’s captured my attention on and off is how some Kickstarter projects seek to create a new wargame – minis, rules and all – from scratch.
Now, when I say “wargame,” let me explain: I don’t mean a board game with miniatures; I don’t mean just sets of minis (however nice and detailed they might be) that could be used with any rules set you’d care to have; I mean a real, honest-to-goodness, no-holds-barred, full-on wargame.
My first reaction, upon seeing such a project, frequently is “Why are they doing this? They do realize that Games Workshop, Warlord Games, Privateer Press, Wyrd Games, etc., etc., etc. are a thing, right?” That’s not an effort to belittle the project, but it’s an honest question: With so much choice out in the wargaming world already, with big name companies dominating the market, how does a (comparatively) small project hope to compete?
Part of the problem is that Kickstarter has a much smaller audience, by and large, than a well-known gaming company. While for some people, gaming Kickstarters are something they live and breathe with daily, I know multiple gamers who have never thought to look on Kickstarter for gaming projects and minis, and who (gasp!) have never. Used. Kickstarter. EVER.
With that smaller audience comes a lack of exposure and the likelihood that your game isn’t going to catch on, even if the project successfully funds. If somebody backs the game and gets their minis and their rulebook after the project has been fulfilled, that’s great… but who are they going to play the game with, if 500 or 1,000 people out of the 350 million living in these United States backed it?
One way that projects have gotten around this is to offer a rewards tier where you can get two armies for a reasonable price, that way you can play and teach the game to somebody else, and they’ll have an army to play with.
Now, in some cases, larger companies do put their wargame projects up to be backed. Mantic Games, Cool Mini Or Not, and the aforementioned Wyrd, have all had wargaming projects on Kickstarter. Which is fine, but, again the issue of having somebody else to play with is a concern. The wargaming hobby already is a pretty small pond, and when you try to winnow it down by a particular game, well, the available fish to roll dice with get pretty scarce.
For instance, in 2013 I backed CMON’s Wrath of Kings wargaming Kickstarter. Very cool minis, cool rules, overall a great project. I got a great army, and I’ve been slowly painting the minis. The project, on a $50,000 goal, raised just over $718,000, with about 3,750 backers.
And, despite that kind of success, I’ve literally only met one other living soul who has minis for the game. And he didn’t even back the Kickstarter (CMON was able to produce, market and distribute the game beyond Kickstarter, as some companies do). I’ve yet to play the game, as a result.
Now, I don’t mean this to be a cautionary tale, or anything like that. Part of the fun of backing a Kickstarter is buying into the daydream-like possibility that you’ll enjoy playing the games that you back.
But there’s also a realistic angle to take on these projects. You might enjoy getting sent them in the mail. But will they see the table?
About the author;
Peter Kuebeck is a writer, gamer and award-winning mini-painter living in the Midwest. He wages a constant battle against the ever-growing tide of unpainted minis in his basement, and occasionally GMs role-playing game sessions with friends. Catch his hobby shenanigans on Twitter at @popculturecube