Kickstarter: A Source for Quality Games?

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Background

Previously I reported on some statistics for excellent games that have been published through Kickstarter and how Kickstarter has provided the opportunity for some new designers and publishers to launch successful game development companies. (Game Designers: Impressive First Impressions). One of the comments/criticisms that the article received was the common refrain, “Sure there are some Kickstarter successes, but just not many of them.”

Not one to stand by while anecdotes and opinion are used to substantiate claims, I dug into the Board Game Geek ratings for Kickstarted games compared to all games published in the years 2010-2014.

Game Designers: Impressive First Impressions

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Setup

I was listening to a recent podcast… Gino of the Talking Tinkerbots podcast mentioned his frustration with the caveat, or even caution, applied by reviewers about games or Kickstarter projects by first-time designers. The discussion caused me to think about some of the successes and failures of first-timers and to do a little research that might prove interesting. I understand the concern related to “unproven” designers or publishers, but appreciate the perspective that I think Gino was applying.

Not that this article is intended to be a logical argument, but in logical argumentation the problem Gino has pointed out is known as a Genetic Fallacy. Something is bad/good because of its origin.

It would be too easy to focus on the negative here: First-timer Kickstarters that funded but ultimately failed and games that didn’t meet gamer expectations, etc. or to defend first-timers by focusing on “known” designers and publishers failing on the same criteria. The fact is, examples of both are plentiful – I regretfully have some of each (first-timers and known designer/publishers) in my game collection as evidence.

Instead, I want to:

  1. Take a positive approach to first-timers and provide a few examples of “Impressive First Impressions.”
  2. Provide a few examples of the games by established designers that were their first or early designs.

So each player starts with a 3 x 3 grid of cards…

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Listening to a recent podcast, I heard that a certain game design contest had received quite a few entries for which “a 3 x 3 grid of cards” was a main feature. Those discussing this event sounded derisive to those designers who presented these designs. Now, maybe that was just my impression, but that impression was the seed for this blog post. So let’s take a look at “a 3 x 3 grid of cards” as a game feature. Note: I was not one of those designers entering the contest, so this is not a case of sour grapes; just an observation.

A Nickel’s Worth of Game Play

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Over the last few weeks I have come to the conclusion that playing a game 5 or more times has disproportionate significance in my distorted little world. First some background, though, before I can explain why.

Since I track my game plays on BoardGameGeek, it is easy and interesting for me to see which games meet those common gamer geek thresholds of nickels, dimes, and quarters (5, 10, and 25 plays). Of course, to do this, I also track my game collection. You can see what my game plays in 2014 were in my 2014 Review: Playin’ Games article.

All this tracking provides the, maybe regrettable, ability to see what games I have acquired and not played; what some call “The List” or “The Stack.” I might just be looking for excuses, but I think that “The List” for me is not horribly embarrassing – 11 games (excluding expansions – see, I am already looking for ways to make this look better), compared to my collection, 121 games (again excluding expansions) – right at 10%. Further justifying, I have had only 3 of those games in my collection since before Christmas 2014 (a notable benchmark since I received more games than I could play that day).

Mechanics Focus: Dexterity Games

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Definition

The BoardGameGeek Glossary defines Dexterity Game this way: n. A game where the major skill needed is a physical action, such as flicking (Crokinole), balance (Topple), or deft manipulation (Jenga).

General Appeal

Many people of all ages enjoy dexterity games and since they generally require skills that are not necessarily acquired with age, people of all ages can usually enjoy them together. Usually the “smarter” adults can’t stomp on the younger players just because they have more gaming experience. In fact, young players often have the dexterity necessary that can deteriorate with age, so in a dexterity game they may have the upper hand, as it were.

Game Makeover: Nines – Further Exploration

Design Workbench

Introduction

With the Picky Packrats game essentially design-complete, I do not intend to dedicate much more time on the Nines game framework – at least for now. However, through the design process several other alternate uses of the framework came to mind that might be explored. Some of these mechanics seemed like great ideas, but were left out of the design for various reasons: They didn’t fit the original game of Nines and its target player, they added unnecessary complexity to a game that was intended to be dirt simple, or they didn’t fit the feel or theme of the game. I describe them here with a minimal amount of detail in part for posterity, but also in case one of them insists on my attention. Game design pieces conceived in the process of one game’s design process tend to find their way into other games. In fact, I describe a different game at the end that incorporates some of these lost ideas.

Game Makeover: Nines Micro – Final Round

Design Workbench

Design Objective

A theme and a name.

As discussed in the early entries of doing these makeovers, I prefer to start a game design from a theme, but by their nature, these makeovers start with one or more mechanics. Finally, though, I am theming this game as the last improvement for this first stage of development.

Game Makeover: Nines Micro – Round 7

Design Workbench

Design Objective

In the last round, I proposed some rules changes to address a couple issues that had come up in testing that, though rare in occurrence, were frustrating problems when they did occur. In this round I will discuss how I have addressed those issues and what appear to be some final refinements. We are nearing the end of this game’s design phase and are at a level of refinement that can only progress through hundreds of playtests by dozens of people.

BoardGameHour Digest: Introduction

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As mentioned previously, I try to participate in the weekly BoardGameHour discussion. Since the “hour” of choice hits at noon in my time zone, I am usually able to attend. However, my office sees a fair amount of traffic and from noon to one I am first an employee and being a human interacting with the outside world comes second, so I often miss at least part of the hour.

Update 04-30-15: I can create these digests quickly for any BoardGameHour (within a day or two), but expressed to the Minister of Board Games that I would not openly post these digests without his blessing. So I am posting the ones I have created behind a login so they can be available upon request. If you would like to have access to these, simply request a login and mention the BoardGameHour as one of your interests. I will then let the  Minister of Board Games know that you have requested access. This way, if there is an interest we will know about it. Note: You can always go to Nurph and replay the event, but I find this to be tedious. Even if you participate in an event it is hard to follow all the conversations. The beauty of the digest is that it collects all posts into their respective conversations.

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