Hello everyone, this is Robert Shofkom of Hack and Slash Games.

On this April Fools’ Day, we initially wanted to post a clever prank or joke, but decided that it was time to level with our fans, and start to give some peeks and what we’ve got going on.

StoneMaier Games puts out some great games (such as Scythe), but they are also well-known for their blog posts detailing their experiences with crowdfunding.  Jamie has written over 240 blog posts about Kickstarter alone (Kickstarter Lessons). I highly recommend reading them if you have any desire to take a game to launch on Kickstarter.

Like Jamie, I have my own opinions about Kickstarter based on lessons learned, so I thought I would write up an article about my experience and the changes I am making because of that experience.

How to deliver your Kickstarter project perfectly and still lose 60K in the process. 

My team and I launched our first project on March 8th 2016 for Ophidian 2360; a non-collectible revamp of the Ophidian 2350 CCG originally released by Fleer in 2003.  This included investing in a large amount of Ophidian 2350 inventory to help promote and launch the game.  While we made our funding goal and eventually sold about 30 Thousand dollars’ worth of product (16K though Kickstarter and 14K though distribution, subscription box, and convention sales), we didn’t turn a profit.  In fact we lost a LOT of money in the two years since the game funded.  How did we do that you ask?  We made several large mistakes.  Here’s the ones we could have avoided:

  1. Paying way too much to produce the game.
    • Our game has some FANTASTIC art! As it should!  We paid over $20K to artists for the art in our game.  Average price per piece was quite high, and when you are producing over 140 unique cards, plus box art, playmats, and graphic design for ads/web content it adds up really f’ing quick.  The biggest complaint about the original game was about the art. The original game has more bad art than good, so we wanted to be sure to address that problem.  Our hope was that we would be able to make up this loss though game sales after the Kickstarter but unfortunately that didn’t happen.
  1. Printing the Game in the United States instead of printing it in China
    • We really thought that people would be happy and flock to our game if they didn’t have to wait a year (or more in some cases) to get it.  We also wanted to show support for U.S. companies and U.S. workers by manufacturing and printing everything in the US.  We did BOTH and delivered the game to our backers in less than 4 months after funding.  Unfortunately, neither of these things helped bring an audience to the game, and the cost to us was significant.  There are very few places in the US that are one stop shops for game production so we had to use multiple manufacturers to deliver the products and combine them in one place to ship them.  (Cards and box were printed in Florida, Game mats in Oregon, and Laser cut Rage tokens in Tennessee.)  If we had printed in China, we could have literately doubled our profits as production costs were so much higher than printing everything overseas.
  1. We overbought game inventory and didn’t calculate the storage and insurance costs.
    • The way printers work is the more you print, the less the print runs cost per unit. We put way too much faith in being able to sell the product AFTER the Kickstarter and invested six grand of our own money above what we needed to distribute to backers.  Most of this inventory is still sitting in a warehouse, where it costs us in monthly storage and insurance bills.  We have tried to mitigate that cost by reducing inventory through making donations to great causes like Military Moms and Wives of Brazoria County, and Operation Supply Drop both of which have programs to send games to troops deployed overseas.  We have also donated to several other charities including Extra Life and this year we plan on making a sizable donation to Goodwill.
  1. Not doing more market research before launching our game.
    • This is mostly on me, as I was the guy who started the entire project based on what I liked and remembered from the original game being played in my store many years ago.
      I failed to realize that times have changed and that the gamer market has changed as well. Back in the “good ol’ days” games were more “cerebral” as the folks playing them tended to fit the stereotypes of “geeks and nerds” much more than they do today.  Gaming culture as moved more “mainstream” and the playing styles have drastically changed.  The types of games the mainstream gamers seem to prefer today are often less competitive and more cooperative.  By and large, they don’t like games that take a lot of time to “think” about their moves and involved games can trigger something known as “Analysis Paralysis.”  Gamers enjoy games with limited rules, or they tend to call them “Fiddley”.  They don’t like the “Take that” type of game, which is what most competitive games do.  The label of “card game” vs. “board game” carries a lot of weight when it comes to funding levels on Kickstarter.
    • Because it was based on continuing the original game of Ophidian 2350 released by Fleer, people assumed and automatically branded it a TWO-PLAYER CCG (even though we repeatedly stated and marketed it as non-collectible and playable with up to four people). Granted, we didn’t spend any time really showing the four-player side of the game as it was easier for editing purposes to just show two people playing and that was a huge mistake for us.  Our packaging choice, while initially designed to set the entry point as low as possible by offering playable preconstructed decks in pairs, also hurt us on Boardgamegeek as they separated each challenge set into it’s own entry, effectively dividing the audience.
    • Because of the above we couldn’t get any “big name” reviewers to showcase the game. (Rahdo, for example, flat out told us he wouldn’t review a two-player fighting game.) and without that exposure you just can’t break into the mainstream.  In fact, so much of a game’s success is based on initial crowd participation, and things like BGG’s Hotness, and Hot 100 lists. You really must have something to bring in the initial crowd (Major licensing, miniatures, pre-established followers, etc.) and unfortunately the Ophidian 2350 brand just didn’t carry enough weight to motivate folks to get behind the game in large numbers.

OK, enough gloom… I want to take the rest of this article and tell you what we are going to do to address all of the above.

While the Ophidian 2350 license didn’t really help us in making 2360 a success, we cannot ignore that the license has both unique properties and special characters deserving of a back story.  We see GREAT potential in these characters and will be rolling many of them into our new game universe “Galactic Warriors”.

The supporters we do have are fantastic and love the characters and universe of Ophidian!  So much so that many of the artists have offered to donate art, or provide it at very low cost for the release of Galactic Warriors!   We as a game company have a great relationship with our artists and they want Hack and Slash Games to succeed as much as we do.   This is a huge win for us and will help us be able to afford to put out this game with a HUGE card set, way more than if we had done just an expansion or two over the next few years.  Did I mention the Galactic Warriors game will contain over 300 unique cards with a massive total of over 1000 cards in the in the box?

We are changing the game to better fit the “mainstream” BGG crowd by doing all the following:

      1. Focusing on presenting our game as a “Board Game” instead of a “Card Game” and releasing the game with the entire base set of cards (OVER 1,000 IN THE BOX) rather than continuing the LCG/ECG model of subsequent releases. This means including more components in the box rather than having separate game aids (like playmats, tokens, etc).
      2. Marketing the game as a 4-player game and creating promotional videos showing 4 people playing rather than just 2. The game will still be playable with 2 players, but with the options listed below, it offers far more in the way of options.
      3. Adding a Cooperative Play option to the game!
      4. Adding Solo Play rules and components (Including BOSS fights!) Now you can play even if you don’t have a gaming group! (This means you will be able to play with 1-8 players and not just 2 players!)
      5. Adding Drafting as an option.  (You can still play preconstructed if you like, or even deck build for more competition, but the new game will likely be enjoyed most through drafting.)
      6. Finally, combing the options above will create even more ways to play!  Drafting cooperative decks to fight bosses, and more!

We know that these changes should bring in more people and build the audience that this game deserves!  With luck, this will get the attention of those big-name reviewers we need for visibility in this market.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and add your email to our mailing list for contests, prizes, and special events as the game’s development progresses.

Thanks for reading – I am looking forward to bringing you “Galactic Warriors” so stay tuned!

We’ll see you in the arena!