Wednesday, January 6, 2016


My Kickstarter for my board game called Camp Nightmare has failed to fund.  It was hopeless a long time ago, really, but the final countdown has ended with me at 26% of the needed funding.  That sounds like I could have ramped it up somewhat to get over the mark, but that isn't really accurate.  60% of my funding came from family and close friends, most of that in big chunks buying the expensive options.  I needed to get another $15,000 to be successful, and nearly all of that would have had to come from people I don't know paying in $40 at a time.  375 more of those people, to be precise.

That wasn't going to happen.  I could have gone to game nights and pumped the game to people.  I could have posted on twitter, and I could have run around to board game shops desperately trying to find more backers, but realistically I would be lucky to get a single person buying in on each visit, and I simply can't justify spending thousands of dollars and thousands of hours trying to make it happen, especially as there is no guarantee that any of that investment would actually work in the end anyway.

My hope for the Kickstarter to work was pinned on my blog and network generating a huge amount of interest on its own.  That didn't pan out.  I wasn't surprised about this, because I really didn't bet on it being a success, but I thought there was a possibility and that I should give it a go.  Nothing ventured, nothing learned!

There were a few things that made this a really difficult road.  The main one, I think, was the cost.  Lots of people vocally objected to the price, which I understand.  $40 for a small board game is a real barrier.  A lot of them seemed to think I was trying to make money off of it, which simply wasn't the case.  It is just that the scale of production I was looking at cannot possibly compete with widely distributed games.

The base cost of the game is an issue for sure, but shipping was also killer.  Shipping in Canada is heinously expensive, and some people suggested I go to the States and ship from there.  Unfortunately that adds all kinds of other issues, ranging from crossing the border, duty, taxes, storage, dealing with issues / returns, finding space to doing the shipping work, vehicle rental, and more.  There were ways that I could try to save money, but each would also cost me a bunch of money, take huge amounts of time, and introduce all kinds of complexity, stress, and points of failure.

Those points of failure are key.  I already had issues that if I got more funding than I expected I would suddenly have to deal with submitting sales tax, and that would throw off all my figures.  However, every time you add in more complexity, especially when that complexity is being dealt with by a total amateur, there is a much greater chance that something goes terribly wrong.  I was willing to do the work to get the game out there, but I wasn't willing to expose myself to a bunch of financial risk to do it, and I certainly wasn't willing to throw my life savings away to make games for other people.

I think most people on Kickstarter are a lot more desperate than me.  They are willing to take big risks, sign up for for more work than they expect, and set up a financial scheme that will end up with them losing a bundle to deliver.  There are endless horror stories of crowdfunding either not delivering or being a catastrophe for the creator and I was absolutely determined that neither of those things would happen to me.  If I got my money I was going to bloody well deliver and not lose my shirt in the process.  There is no money down the road, no valuable patent, no business venture.  No good reason at all for me to put myself and my family's fortunes on the line.  So I played it safe, made sure my margins had a solid 5% padding for contingencies, signed up for a reasonable amount of work, and ended up with a price that was way too high for the masses.

So what do I do now?

The plan is to make my game available on a print as you go site, probably  People will be able to order it from there if they want it, and I am aiming to do a single large order in the neighborhood of 100 units to get a discount and use that to supply friends and family.  This is a safe route, exposes me to minimal risk, but doesn't get me the same quality I could have gotten from a full production run.

In the end though I am perfectly happy to go this way.  I suspect a lot of creators are crushed when their Kickstarters fail, but I don't feel that way.  I wanted to see if a ton of people I know really want to get a copy of my game.  They don't, not enough of them at least.  So I will do something much simpler to get the game to those who do want it.

I never really invested myself in the success of the Kickstarter because I just don't feel that desperate need to publish that a lot of people do.  It isn't what I wanted to do in the first place... I built the game because I love to build games.  If someone wants to produce it they are welcome to do so, and for a trivial fee.  Hell, if someone offered to produce it for free I would happily sign on as long as I got credit and I was assured they would actually make it happen.

No doubt that lack of desperation, of investiture, contributed to the failure of the Kickstarter campaign, though I doubt very much there was any hope in any case.

What I got out of all of this is that I don't like production, fundraising, financial planning, marketing, and networking.  I love building games, so I will continue to do what I love and forget the rest of it.  When I think of sitting at my computer doing simulations on my games, figuring out numbers, or building playtest models it makes me happy.  When I think of all of the stuff involved in publishing it fills me with dread.

Camp Nightmare will be published, on a small scale, for those who really want it.  After that, I will go back to doing what I love, what makes me happy to alive, what I was born to do.  I will make games, and I will make them beautiful.


  1. So, I mean this with the best of intent, but Camp Nightmare was the most frustrating Kickstarter campaign I have ever seen. And it was frustrating because I really think it could have been successful just by adding things to the page (Some of which would have taken work) rather than the crazy hours you listed above.

    These are things that are pretty much standard for any board game Kickstarter project and were glaringly missing from yours:

    1. You didn't get any independent (or even non-independent) reviews of the game. There was nowhere on your page that suggested that anyone other than you thought this game was good.
    2. There was no clear indication of what the game would look like. What exactly were people buying? What did the game look like to play? The only picture was of the prototype that didn't clarify anything about the game experience but made the production seem amateurish. A single picture of people playing the game would have gone miles.
    3. The game itself wasn't on BGG. Most board gamers live and breathe there, and neither the game nor you are researchable on that site. (I started the process of adding it as a game shortly after it launched and I believe that it will be up soon.)

    I'm only going off like this because I liked the game so much and I am very dissappointed that it didn't succeed for printing. If you relaunched in a couple of months with those three points covered, I think you could achieve your goal.

    That said, all this has probably bored you by now anyway. If it's not your passion to publish, then it's not for you. Still dissappointing when I wanted my copy :-(

    1. This articulates some of my thoughts on the campaign also key problems that, in hindsight, seem obvious now. Will remember this if ever involved in something like this again or if there is a next time for this one.

    2. I share this perspective. I pushed for a more aggressive marketing campaign and wish I'd thought of the ideas Andrew suggested as additional compelling arguments to get you to expend more effort on it.

  2. Interesting. I guess this is partly me viewing it through my own lens - When looking at a game I find reviews to be pretty much irrelevant. I wouldn't even consider them, because I would assume that they were either just the friends of the creator who would put in a good review no matter what, or were just cherry picked. Apparently I am not the norm in this regard. (Probably this disconnect between how people pitch themselves and how I make decisions is part of why I despise marketing.)

    You are quite right though that I should have had pictures of it. In the video I outlined exactly what people would get, and listed the components, but visual representations would have been better. I guess that because I didn't have proper pieces I didn't want to take a picture and say 'this is what you get' because the cards were misprinted slightly, had the wrong edges, and the chits and board were on cardstock instead of proper thickness cardboard. A picture showing the prototype as is would have not done the final product justice. There were reasons for my choice in that respect, but you are probably right that I made the wrong choice.

    Also there is just no way I am going to reach that goal if I for some reason did another KS. It is just too much money to get enough random people on board.

    You are going to be able to get the game still, btw. You do, after all, know the guy who built it.

    1. Good reviews list both the bad and good. Obvious fluff is ignored, but if someone says "this stuff was great, but this other stuff wasn't emphasized as much" then I know whether it's for me because I know the stuff I like.

  3. It may not be in the cards but I might be willing to try another run, perhaps after getting my animation skills up to up the production value of the video and some time was found to create better mockups. I think having a mockup of the game box would have also helped maybe some game pieces too - thus overcoming the having to photograph the prototype. There is a time component to running a campaign, but I don't believe it has to cost a lot. Since joining twitter I have seen quite a few media schemes for indie boardgames that had better success reaching a lot of people (in thousands reach among gamers). Perhaps someone with more social media skills could help out putting such a campaign on the right course, preparing more...getting a following pre-launch. An important point: I don't think people rejected the game. If indie gamers with the right info and presented with a better styled campaign knew about the game there is a good chance they would lay down the cash (people pay $40 for custom dividers for their boardgame game boxes). I don't think the campaign reached those people, at least if Twitter and FB are any indication.

  4. Can't wait to get my (multitude of) copies, however they come.

    I suspect that for people who don't know either of you (Sky and Nathan) they need to see other indicators of quality in a KS campaign as they can't play the game itself. Although those indicators don't actually mean that the game mechanics will be better, they stand as imperfect proxies. The art was super slick and was a big indicator of quality. The video (single shot from a webcam) wasn't. I think a slick video would go a really long way. Testimonials seem dumb but are amazingly psychologically potent. As usual, humans are weird.