What do you think are the worst mistakes a kickstarter campaign can make?

by almo_stanartist. Posted on Sep 16, 2020    36    102

What is it, that let you recoil in disgust.



Ive backed 100s of campaign and I honestly cant think of anything. I pay them, I get a game when its done. As long as that happens Im fine.

  almo_stanartist 2

I guess that makes you the wet dream of any creator/publisher. But I think your approach is reasonable. As long as you get what you paid for...Why get upset? This attitude is definitely good for your blood pressure. ;)

Medwynd 1

Ive received every boardgame ive ever backed so I think the risk is pretty low in general. Are some incredibly late, sure, but I dont check on the kickstarters after I back for the most part.

I think I have only not received one thing from kickstarter and it a lazy susan for boardgames. Would have loved to have gotten that.

BoxNemo 1

Not putting the player count clearly at the top. Just tell me how many people the game is for, keep it simple and upfront.

bullno1 1
  • Too many stupid updates. Just update me on shipping dates or related matters like production proof or pledge manager lock.
  • Gimmicks like plushies and "sound base".
  • Shilling other projects.

    I've cancelled several projects because of these.
Board-of-it 1

I guess it wouldn't be a 'mistake' but I strongly dislike when things are kickstarter only. Sometimes people miss something, and hear about it later, or don't have money at the time, and are then punished for bad luck or poor circumstances. I'm tired of websites having 'the 10 best games of 2019' list and 6 of them are not available for purchase.

catwhowalksbyhimself 2

There was that Dr. Horrible kickstarter where it turns out the creators hadn't even secured the rights to the IP yet.

IntriguedToast 2

Changing the stated shipping charges AFTER the campaign ends. Cranio Creations have done this with the recent Majahara KS...

awesomesauce00 2

It needs rules and/or a playthrough video. At the very least an in depth description of how a turn works. Without that, there is zero chance of me backing.

therealcause 2

Not releasing to retail so consumers can purchase the exact same product at 60% to 70% of the kickstarter price.

NoMoreTimeForGames 3

Don't you mean releasing to retail? Most KS backers are pissed if a game is released at retail at the same (or earlier) time as a Kickstarter.

Gastroid 6

Running out of stretch goals and then adding more on the fly from cool ideas they had. Or just padding stretch goals with those ideas right before the start of the campaign. The end result will typically be wonky, untested and unbalanced promo content that will rarely be used in-game and take up space.

186000mpsITL 10

Punishing backers with outrageous shipping!

malachi_rempen 4

Yeah this one is not really their fault. If there was some magical way to charge Amazon shipping prices, everyone would do it. If you see a game with low shipping rates, most likely you are paying the difference in the game’s price anyway.

f3xjc 1

The flip side is that a normal msrp already include enough margin for a distributor to ship from China to flgs and for flgs to afford free shipping on order 100$ and more.

The logistic distributor used by multiple kickstarter should have access to this kind of volume discount.

idejtauren 1

Even if it's not their fault, it'll give me pause before backing, or not back at all.

I've seen games where shipping is more than the game itself. Why would I want to back that? Not to mention the exchange rate.

TurboCooler 6

Most creators unless they are really large or who are going to be shipping 10K boxes will not get good rates. They are shopping from China, to whichever country, then to backers. They will be charged, shipping, handling and storage costs. All that gets passed onto you. In some cases some people in other countries will be charged more to subsidized others.

What they could do is say, unless we get X backers from this region, we will refund you. The fact is shipping is becoming more expensive every year especially for international and small quantities.

tofudad18 3

Seems like what I had in mind isn't really what you were looking for, but I feel horrible for creators who completely underestimate shipping costs. Also ties in with creators who under price their pledges to appeal to backers but end up eating all of the cost and go in the red.

  almo_stanartist 1

All good mate... It's still a good point. Certainly something to be aware of, both creator and backer. I have not started this thread completely unselfishly, because my first project will be launched in the near future on kickstarter. And it seemed opportune to gather some valuable information from the source. I have a good product and don't want to mess up the campaign with something that can definitely be avoided. So far the thread is proving quite fruitful. So thanks for your input.

Probonoh 1

Stonemeier has a whole section on their website about what they learned about funding games via Kickstarter.

dictionary_hat_r4ck 3

In general, Bad communication.

That includes:
Short on details, no real updates, no rules explanation, no images of game progress, not treating backers as important stakeholders.

oniony 3


ChesterAndTheMeeps 3

When the "game" looks like an sketch...like the 1st prototype

NoMoreTimeForGames 4

In no particular order:

  1. No rules
  2. Vague or nonexistent description of gameplay
  3. No review videos or playthroughs
  4. No prototype components or renderings
  5. Bad art
  6. Creator has not backed any other board game projects on Kickstarter (or only crappy ones)
  7. No or poor communication with backers
  8. Funding goal way out of proportion with what it would cost to make the game at a profit
  9. Absurd stretch goals that either will never be reached or are obviously too expensive to profitably produce at the price point reached
  10. Page suggests that they haven't found a manufacturer yet
  11. Gameplay that makes clear the creator hasn't played a board game made after 1985
  12. Unrealistic delivery goal
  13. Sells the game based on vague theme rather than mechanics (e.g. "An adventure in a fantasy realm!" "A sci-fi deckbuilder!")
  14. Absurd price point for a base pledge
  15. Poor English / grammar on the page (any foreign publisher should hire a native English speaker to review their page)
Murraculous1 2

I laughed at 11 because somehow it’s bafflingly true.

RegalIntrovert 18

When the base Kickstarter will be stripped down even further for retail. Seems punishing for not backing right away.

Sorry, but I'm not buying a game I know little about with no reviews no matter how cool it looks.

Medwynd 10

Well then you deserve less than the people that took the risk. If retail has the same exact thing there is literally no reason to put up your money years in advance, this is basic risk/reward stuff here.

tehneoeo 11

Be a self-described “small publisher.” To really hit this home, tell backers that you won’t be answering many questions because you don’t have any employees to do that. Ask relatively high pledge levels (65+ USD, before shipping) for new games—based on existing games—but for which you don’t exactly have “rules” or “design” or “art” nailed down yet. Set a fulfillment date at least a year into the future.


Unless you have an incredibly popular designer signed. Then do whatever and you’ll raise a million bucks.

  almo_stanartist 2

Fair enough dude... :D

Siggy08 30

The fact that most of the time, Stretch Goals are already factored into the final production price. Creators will charge full price for the game and then dangle Stretch Goals in front of us, like we are getting something extra, when we are not.

Also, I am turned away when I see a core price too high. Kickstarters are becoming this “cool” or “nitch” collectors market, for unique collection pieces. Just because it a “Kickstarter” doesnt mean its worth double retail.

Maxpowr9 7

I've stumbled across some boardgame youtube channels and I swear some people must give all their extra money to boardgame kickstarters; hundreds of dollars each month to buy mediocre games. It comes across as a hoarder addiction.

Medwynd 2

Or maybe just people like games. To be equally hyperbolic, do you say that people who, well used to, go out to bars every weekend are alcoholics for spending that kind of money?

G3ck0 8

Daily unlocks are ridiculous. Nothing is unlocking, you’re just showing a few cards off.

It honestly makes me sad that having daily updates is important to people. Just show me what I’m going to get for my money and then give me updates on development, manufacturing and shipping.

meikyoushisui 2

Daily updates are the best way to maintain interest. No daily updates and you're guaranteed to lose some backers by the end.

TurboCooler 5

Those games that do not do SG or daily unlocks do worse. People are so conditioned to being fooled that they are getting things for free that when it is all shown, people complain "that's it, is that all" - I have seen people post on the weekly KS thread, people need their SG / unlock crack.I

Monolith tried with Claustrophobia and people complained.

The unlocks and SG are part of the FOMO model

raged_norm 20

Niche, pronounced neesh.


But we digress. One can DM to address an issue like this

njingi2 17

May I? Cool.

Ok, raged_norm - may I call you Raged? Raged, you and Tehneceo walk into the Rusty Bucket Tavern, hearts weighed heavy with the horrors you've recently witnessed while fighting against Lord Gladrick and his undead legions. You're both hoping for some much needed rest and rejuvenation.

You walk up to the bar together, and put some coins on the table. The barkeep comes closer, takes the coins, and waits.

"Do you have any Pale Twist Ale?", Tehneceo asks.

"A bit, yeah," says the barkeep. "We keep it over here in this niche."

What do you do?

raged_norm 4

Kill the barman, or destroy the niche

njingi2 3

I like where your head's at, man. Flip a coin?

raged_norm 4

Nah, I better destroy the niche before there’s an argument over how to say it

njingi2 3

Ok, what are you attacking the niche with?

raged_norm 4

With my flagon of Pale Twist Ale

njingi2 3

Ok, so you vault over the counter and grab the heavy flagon of Pale Twist Ale from the niche. As you raise the flagon over your head with both hands, intending to smash it down upon the niche, the barkeep yells 'My niche!!' and moves to get in your way.

At the same time, an argument breaks out among the other patrons in the tavern.

"What's a niche?"

"I think he means 'niche'."

"No, it's 'niche'."



You hear the sounds of a scuffle breaking out behind you, and a beer glass flies past your ear and smashes into the wall.

The barkeep is now standing between you and the niche.

What do you do?

Benjogias 4

Both “nitsh” and “neesh” are actually acceptable standard pronunciations (and also here).

raged_norm 2

Nitch seems US/Canada (not Quebec) centric, so not common over the Atlantic.

I guess I'm used to Frenching up the borrowed French words

SaliasLR 6

As a French guy, I would recommend neesh. I am not sure what would be the point of changing the pronunciation of a word borrowed from a foreign language ^^

Benjogias 1

While a reasonable possibility, its history in English has “nitch” as the more common (and for a while the only) pronunciation for much longer. As Merriam-Webster notes:

> \NICH\ is the more common one and the older of the two pronunciations. It is the only pronunciation given for the word in all English dictionaries until the 20th century, when \NEESH\ was first listed as a pronunciation variant in Daniel Jones's English Pronouncing Dictionary (1917). \NEESH\ wasn’t listed as a pronunciation in our dictionaries until our 1961 Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, and it wasn’t entered into our smaller Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary until 1993.
>All this is to say that the historical pronunciation has been \NICH\, and that \NEESH\ is a relative newcomer that came about likely under influence from French pronunciation conventions. At this point in time in the U.S., \NICH\ is still the more common pronunciation, but \NEESH\ is gaining ground. Our evidence suggests that in British English, \NEESH\ is now the more common pronunciation.

SaliasLR 1

« Under influence from French » Wow I was not aware we still have that :p. I understand then. I thought they were both used since the same era.

Probonoh 2

There's this weird trend in English-English of pronouncing some French words in a very Germanic manner: "FIL-let" for filet, "BUF-fet" for buffet. American English tends to follow the French pronunciation for those kind of common words.

Place names? Well, I competed in high school against the high school in "Ver-sales," aka Versailles.

fatherofhooligans 3

i hate this. When we moved from Canada to the States, hearing our real estate agent refer to the Foy-ur made me crazy. Still does

tehneoeo 25

But both spelled “niche”

Benjogias 3

Didn’t disagree with that - only about your pronunciation claim, which seemed to imply that OP’s spelling mistake was based on a mistaken pronunciation belief as well - which it wasn’t! It reflects a correct pronunciation.

tehneoeo 5

That was someone else. You and I agree about everything.

  almo_stanartist 11

>Just because it a “Kickstarter” doesnt mean its worth double retail.

You´re completely right about that.

The whole Stretch goal-thingy is more of a tool to keep people engaged during the campaign I guess. Bottom line is... It´s a business venture and it´s about earning as much money as possible. But I totally feel you.

ebp921x 1

Well I never kickstart but I do get abit bummed if they don’t plan to go retail. New reckoners expansion is being kickstarted and for a light game I love it and it’s easy to get people to play due to it being easy to teach and it’s table presence. But due to family medical issues I don’t have the money to back it and it’s not going retail.

Ann_Lee14 21

My Kickstarter red flag list:

-Combination of any two of these: first time designer, publisher, creator, 0 previously backed

-no rulebook

-core game still being significantly worked on or most files not ready for printer

-unrealistic fulfillment date (9 months or less)

-comically tiny funding goal combined with "Funded in 30 minutes!" banner

-relaunch campaign that relaunches less than a month after original campaign was cancelled early.

-8bit art

-Typos and poor grammatical communication in the campaign page

-lack of exclusives or other compelling reasons to back now as opposed to waiting until retail.

-poor communication or a pattern of issues in previous campaigns (I'm looking at you, Tasty Minstrel)

Iamn0man 2

With you on everything except for “exclusives”. Nothing pisses me off more than Kickstarter exclusive expansions that can only be had if you get the all in pledge. Screen printing on the meeples or metal coins or some other cosmetic upgrade is fine, up if it’s a functional game play piece that is never available elsewhere I’m out.

SomeLonelyKnight 9

If someone is a first time designer and publisher, what can they do in your mind to help make you more comfortable?

I'm in that boat and what I've thought of is making the game in full available on tabletop simulator during the campaign so that you can make a more enlightened decision. Would that help someone like you change your mind?

Probonoh 1

For a first time publisher/ designer, I want to see that you have backed multiple KS games. That tells me:

1) You are familiar with how gamers expect KS campaigns to be run, in terms of stretch goals, pledge managers, shipping concerns, and the need for communication.

2) You are (probably) willing to take chances on games made by fellow amateurs. Granted, there are enough established companies using KS that you can become a superbacker without taking a chance on a true "indie" game, but if I see a double digit number of projects backed, that suggests you're willing to take risks to help others make their dreams reality. I'm reluctant to take risks on people who aren't willing to do the same for others.

3) It suggests that you care about the hobby. I want my game designers to have played a lot of games! Good games to learn what to do; bad games to learn what not to do.

tartufu 2

If you are a first time designer and publisher. Things that make me comfortable are having a rulebook from the start. Stretch goals are enhancements to current components like Better card stock, uv spot printing marginal increase in components like maybe 4-5 extra promo cards that won’t kill the weight. Because I noticed people tend to get carried away and they end up making a loss or insane delays due to all the things they promised.

Ann_Lee14 2

Knowing it was available on tabletop simulator would be heartening, though I would be unlikely to check it out personally myself (just because I have an extensive stack of rulebooks to read from my Unplayed Shelf without adding speculative games' rulebooks to that list). Avoiding any of my other red flags would make me more likely to overlook a first-time publisher/designer combo. But it's tough for me to overlook that combo honestly, though, because the campaign takes on the appearance of a vanity project to me and makes me wonder why the designer didn't pursue a route of traditional publication instead. Having said that, if the project was a super original theme / mechanic combo with a reasonable cost of investment/risk, I may still consider backing. Or I may talk into one of my friends into backing instead and then back the reprint myself if the game winds up warranting it, lol.

bullno1 5

> If someone is a first time designer and publisher, what can they do in your mind to help make you more comfortable?

  • A complete rulebook and playable TTS mod.
  • A well edited playthrough videos. Even better with the designer actually playing it.
  • Well produced rule explanation video.
  • Optional: production proof.
    I backed Verdun: Steel Inferno from an unknown publisher and designer because they showed that the game is already production ready.
    In the end, it delivered on time even during the pandemic.

    Basically, a complete game sans final components.
GloomyVoidwarden 3

That's pretty standard now though, but helps.

meikyoushisui 9

Remember that red flags aren't necessarily a reason to immediately drop something -- they're signs that investigation is required. Most of the good ideas are making sure you don't hit any other red flags. One thing the poster above didn't mention is that having pictures of a complete or near-complete prototype is a great way to mitigate fears about being a first time creator.

A Tabletop Sim version is definitely a good idea, as it gives people a chance to know what they're getting.

Rhenor 4

Technically that should be a yellow flag then

ShelfClutter 10

Not publicly playtesting is the biggest mistake.
Kickstarter allows designers to go straight to market which cuts out all the vetting that publishers do. The designer should not be the sole playtester.

fatherofhooligans 1

would you be looking for video of people playtesting? reviews? what would give you confidence?

(I ask as someone considering a kickstarter to launch a game I've been working on)

SoochSooch 23

No pictures of the whole game set up and ready to play. Until I see how the game looks spread out on a table, nothing else matters.

skizelo 48

Saying "yes" when Golden Bell asks to arrange fulfillment.

catwhowalksbyhimself 7

Especially since once you say yes once, you find out the snuck a clause in that allows them to take over every future game you ever make, including them owning all resulting future IPs. And no, that's probably not legal, but they still get away with it.

moudijouka9o 1

What's the backstory?

catwhowalksbyhimself 1

Not sure what you are asking? I know that's how they got their hooks into Unbroken. The creator did not intend to use them, but they used the clause to force him to accept them and claimed the IP of that game as well.

smmck 3

They have become well-known for taking over successful Kickstarter campaigns to handle fulfilment but doing it very badly. They also appear to put stipulations in the contract giving them first refusal for future projects from the creators. I've backed a couple of projects by Altema Games; the first one (Cauldron) seemed to go smoothly but the next one (Unbroken) has been a roller-coaster of excuses and drama. The highlights include: adding sheet music to "qualify" for media mail, and sending out multiple copies to people and trying to get those people to forward them to other backers. They are still trying to complete the fulfilment, but it is taking a long time for the people outside of the USA and Europe.

This looks like a good place to start, but there are lots of threads about them on the BoardGameGeek Publisher page.

Kempeth 5

I don't know the backstory to that one but here is the story of the Recipe Game

From what I recall:

  • Young woman designs card game based on childhood memories of cooking grandma but has little success in KS
  • Gorram Bellend asks to take over distribution and designer agrees
  • Beholden Shell does fuck all for years
  • Young woman invokes clause in contract that entitles her to 500$ in case no copies are sold in 2 years
  • Boredom Hell refuses and thus breaks contract, threatens lawsuits and whatnot
  • Both go on "The people's court" Judge takes one look at the correspondence and awards the designer the 500$ as well as returning the rights
  • Coldcan Spell then threatens to sue the show to prevent his slappable face from being shown on TV
  • Lawyer show says: Good Luck with that...
smmck 14

I was going to say "Insult your backers and spend production money on plushies," but that comes down to the same Golden BS.

Tharok 83

80% of the campaign page devoted to render of minis with no mention of gameplay or a rulebook, and a price tag that could let you buy the lifetime production of Uwe Rosenberg.

Robotkio 7

I can live with big price tags and mini-fests being dangled like bait, but it's the lack of solid rules or gameplay that bugs me.

Decent_Worker 31

That's basically the C'MON Kickstarters and people still go crazy over em. Marvel United had a comically light explanation of gameplay that people were actively confused about and man that thing made so much money over having a million Kickstarter exclusive minis.

kierco_2002 13

On the other hand though, I have never been disappointed with any CMON game I've played. Minis are 100% at the forefront of their design, no question; but they still do put a lot of care into the design. That being said, losing Eric Lang is a big blow so we'll see what happens with future games.

Robotkio 18

> losing Eric Lang is a big blow so we'll see what happens with future games.

For what it's worth; he's not necessarily "lost" to CMON, he's just not Director of Game Design anymore. He's doing freelance work with CMON and has three games currently in development for them.

flyliceplick 61

Designing the game during the campaign.

swatterxx 1

This is why I am leery of The Great Wall from Awaken Realms. AR is a great company but switched up so much from the start to where they are at now, even during the 20+ days it was on KS.

Robotkio 2

I've got mixed feeling about this. Is there a point you could draw a line on what constitutes "designing during the campaign"?

I've seen some some Kickstarters reservedly adding in some modular, extra rules (ie. single player rules), some Kickstarters overhaul a subsystem while still staying true to the overall feel and function, and most egregiously, some Kickstarters seem to only start designing after the Kickstarter ends.

The last one I wouldn't touch, but the rest fall in a bit more of a grey area.

Daevar 6

"Design" as in art, component style and whatnot is absolutely fine. "Design" as in game design is just asking for huge issues, simce the stuff is a) pretty much always mindlessly tacked on and hasn't "evolved" alongside the game's natural creation and b) the balancing almost always has to be off unless it's a very, very simple game.

On the flipside, if the devs actually take their time to balance stuff (although I can't even think of an example), it'd take years to get it to the backers anyway.

ijustwantedvgacables 3

Cole Wherle has been giving active dev diaries since the Oath Kickstarter closed - and from what I can tell large parts of the game have been overhauled - while others more finely tuned. There's definitely something to be said for having a good product before you take it to market, but if the funds from Kickstarter give a dev the money they need to live while they continue working on a design I don't think that's too much of a crime.

Kickstarter - for pretty much anything other than board games - clearly ain't a pre-order service. It's interesting that for this community it has largely become that (for some very good reasons mind you, but it's still odd to me for it to be the same platform that helps zine authors get their idea funded, for example).

flyliceplick 1

Yes and they did that for Root, and much smaller changes backfired quite badly there. I appreciate the changes Oath has made, but it's just not the same as having the design at the point where further huge overhauls are impossible and the designer admits they are just fiddling and it's time to publish. Wehrle admitted he was exhausted towards the end of the dev cycle for Root, and it showed.

As much as I love Root, I didn't appreciate having changes made and locked in because it was time to go to print, when the solution to those problems created, was a rollback of the changes, a year later.

Daevar 3

To be fair, Wehrle is an accomplished designer with loads of good to great designs under his belt - if he sits down and starts to work as in designs, I trust him in that he comes closer and closer to a finished, good, balanced game. Most other developers have, quite frankly, no fucking clue what good game design even means and will just throw shit at the proverbial drawing board and look what sticks.

herpbot 3

Personally I would think that games should essentially have their mechanics, art, and costs should be figured out before posting the Kickstarter. Changes might come up during the campaign, but that's different than just like posting art for a game that hasn't even been thought out yet.

This could be different than what is standard though. We're working on our first game right now and this has been our approach. But we're also a relatively small team, so it's a lot safer to have as much as we can figured out before we actually post the KS.

  almo_stanartist 2

Totally agree on that. Being a even smaller team (just myself) I think you should have figured out the important stuff and have your game working before hitting kickstarter. Not only in order not to scare away potential backers, but for your own sake. During and after the kickstarter campaign you should be able to focus on other things than making the game work. After 3 years I am now ready to make sense of a kickstarterkampagne. Can't imagine to start the core work (and it's a lot of work) during or after the campaign. This would not end well for any of the people involved.

herpbot 1

Yeah that too! If there's one thing consistent across research I've done of launching Kickstarters, it's that the work afterward will swamp you. I don't know that there will be time to be playtesting and designing after you're already contacting backers, ordering production, possibly fulfilling the pledges yourself, etc.

Robotkio 3

Your approach is what I prefer most. I don't need a game to be fine-tuned at KS launch, but as close as possible really helps sell me on a game. I can accept that wide-scale playtesting can be expensive for designers that don't have an established audience and funding that playtesting with Kickstarter money can go a long way.

herpbot 1

Yeah getting playtesting without funding is very hard, especially right now with quarantine measures. Though it is very important for design; most of ours has been informal testing. Adding a Tabletop Simulator temporary demo active during the Kickstarter seems like a cool idea and can help any small designer team with testing I think.

Something I learned from a friend of mine who coaches entrepreneurs is that you want to keep scaling up the sample size and quality of product tests alongside your business's growth. That way you are getting feedback as early as possible about your design practices from people representing who might actually play your game (or use your product I guess for non-game industries).

Spauldingspawn 20

Or even the 'expansion' that is being offered at a higher price point or as a stretch goal. Adding content as a stretch goal just means that the content is going to be rushed out, and if it's bundled with a base game, you need to know what content to exclude from the base experience so that you can actually play with all the actually designed and playtested pieces.