I’ve bought into more than my fair share of board games on Kickstarter. I’ve begun to back off on using Kickstarter, except for relatively known companies or developers.
Just for kicks, and went back and analyzed the board game Kickstarters I’ve been involved with, to check out who’s delivered, who hasn’t delivered, and how long some of the deliveries took. I’m not discussing the quality of the bits or the gameplay, just how well the companies did when it came to delivery. The numbers here are approximate — probably +/- ten days, but the intervals are substantial enough that the trends seem relatively accurate.
Since 2012, I’ve participated in 72 board game Kickstarters. This number excludes projects which failed to reach their funding goals, were canceled by the owners, or where I bailed out on them. Of the 72, 13 remain as active, unfulfilled projects which look like they should eventually ship. One other may never ship, but I’ll get to that shortly.
Of the sixty games I Kickstarted that shipped, the shortest interval between funded and shipped is 88 days, the longest is 943 days. The honor for shortest time between funding and shipping goes to Dungeon Roll, at about 88 days. At the opposite end, the dubious honor for longest interval to actual shipment belongs to Incredible Expeditions, at 943 days. To be fair, Dungeon Roll is a pretty simple push-your-luck dice-rolling game with moderate component quality. Incredible Expeditions went through some fairly serious teething problems with its development team, including what amounted to a ground-up redesign. But give the team credit, the game did finally ship (or mostly — a few backers still seem be out of luck).
The even more dubious honor of completely screwing the pooch remains Teramyyd: Earthsphere, a classic case of the original developer biting off far more than he could chew. One of the backers stepped in and is valiantly trying to complete the project, but I’m skeptical that it will ever see the light of day.
Let’s take a look at a chart which summarizes the overall time-to-completion. This is just a summary chart, which doesn’t list every title.
Note that 48 of 60 games shipped in 400 days or less. Sandy Peterson’s Cthulhu Wars required 544 days, but given the tremendous complexity of the options and the elaborate miniatures, I’m not surprised. It’s also a pretty good game. Somewhat more surprising is the 810 days needed for the Tokaido Collector’s Edition to wrap up. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, since I funded the version with the painted Chibi-style miniatures. Backers of the unpainted version received their copies months before mine.
What I’ve learned through all of these various Kickstarters is to avoid overly elaborate projects, particularly be inexperienced designers. Having a vast array of options, particularly Kickstarter exclusive options, will extend completion time. It sounds great to have a boatload of different and exclusive miniatures, but every added option adds several weeks to the time delay. Another significant red flag is free or underfunded worldwide shipping. Shipping can be hugely expensive and will eat into a board game’s funding before you can say “Fedex”.
I’m much more cautious these days, and I hope anyone reading this will take a similarly cautious approach.