This is the third installment in what I’m honestly surprised has become a multi-part meditation on how the wargaming hobby and the crowdfunding service Kickstarter work together. The last time, I wrote about how the trend of various tabletop gaming kickstarters offering a huge number of miniatures in their pledges can lead to a literal flood of unpainted minis languishing on shelves.
Today, I’d like to take the opposite approach and look at small wargame-related kickstarters – projects that aren’t backstopped by a major company, and that offer up a handful of minis at a time.
Not all that long ago, I wrote up a paean to the small hobby companies – the mom ‘n’ pop operations that, usually, are just a couple of people putting out often highly unique items that you can’t get anywhere else. These kind of businesses usually operate via webshops, where they can be more easily found by a worldwide audience, and avoid the overhead of having a shop and a bunch of other employees.
More and more, I’m finding that a lot of these businesses are looking toward Kickstarter for revenue, funding their projects through crowdfunding.
It’s a point of pride for me that I’ve backed just as many “big company” hobby-related Kicksarters as small company ones. Some of them have been domestic, but many more of them have been located overseas (mostly in England, but some in Europe proper).
What I love about these projects is the excitement and energy that their creators bring. They’re fully engaged in the comment boards, answering questions and getting into discussions with their backers, who are just as excited and having as good a time as they are. It’s a far cry from how the comment sections of so many big-time hobby kickstarters devolve into carping and factionalism by the time a project has finished.
Something else I’ve found: Kickstarters from small companies ship fast. They’re not worried about getting thousands of backers, their product is already largely ready to go, and they can get it out to you lickety-split. One project I backed go their minis to me in just a couple months, which is unheard of with big companies – some of which have a lead time of years before you’ll have plastic in hand.
There’s also the creativity. I’m not saying that big companies like Mantic, Cool Mini or Not, etc. aren’t creative. They certainly are. But their offerings have to be marketed and keyed to as large an audience as possible. The smaller kickstarters don’t seem to be hampered by this; they just want to get their vision out into the wild, and the fastest way to do that seems to be crowdfunding.
I’ve seen a bevy of unique and interesting miniatures kickstarters from small companies over the last couple of years: Undead skeleton armies based on the paintings of Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel; lady Vikings; Cthulhu-headed pirates; zombie conquistadors; warrior rabbits; reimaginings of HeroQuest heroes and villains; unique fantasy football teams; “Oldhammer”-style sci-fi heroes; nifty-sweet terrain of all kinds; and the list goes on and on.
Backing these kinds of projects does two things: First, it puts food on the table for, and helps pay the bills of, these small operations; Second, it encourages them to put out more unique, fun and exciting offerings. For instance: As I’m writing this, I’m backing a project for 3 “Blanchitsu”-style minis from a first-time Kickstarter creator. As of this, the project, which had a goal of $655, has received over $4,600 in pledges. The creator has been overwhelmed by the support and is saying that the enthusiasm for these first offerings is giving him the confidence to make more.
Small matters. Especially on the tabletop.
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