It's hard to judge a book by its cover, or a game by it box, but sometimes you've just got to make the call. Such is the case with a Kickstarter.com project, where the crowd-sourced fundraising site allows you to see a concept and be confident that it will work, but forces you to pledge dollars in order to vouch for a project's success.
The concept of Kickstarting board games is simple. Pledge enough to cover the cost of printing one game and you will receive a copy, typically packed in with some sort of Kickstarter-exclusive components or expansion content. After the project is completed, there is also usually a delay between the availability of Kickstarter pre-orders and actual retail copies, meaning you are paying for the ability to own a title months before it hits store shelves (if ever). If you miss out on the Kickstarter and it turns out to be this year's hot game, you'll just have to wait.
Two of the most prominent examples of Kickstarter board game success
Particularly after the recent successes of games such as Alien Frontiers and Eminent Domain, gamers have been quick to jump on board with promising new projects. August has been yet another month filled with such interesting games, and while I haven't actually been able to play any of the titles I'm about to mention, I've backed several of them and each deserves a minute of your attention:
There is not a more natural theme for the co-operative board gaming genre than that of a team of firefighters battling an inferno. The gameplay is fairly self explanatory here: players take turns moving, extinguishing fires, and carrying victims to safety. To extend the concept a bit further, players can select one of eight specialized firefighting roles to gain a special ability and add a bit of realism to the experience.
If you believe in the concept of capitalism, then know that 765 gamers cannot be wrong. The game has been extensively playtested (there is even an online java version to try out), impressions have been shared all across the web, and the verdict is that this game is incredible fun. The original fundraising goal was only $5,000, but the project currently has over $43,000 raised! Trust me, this is not something that happens often, as can be attested to by the long list of unfunded board game projects on Kickstarter. Jump on this one quick, though. Funding ends at Noon EST on Thursday, August 18th, so by the time you are reading this, there should only be mere hours left to join the project.
Recommended Backing Level: $45. This level gets you one copy of the game, a promotional specialist card, and a double-sided board with two new buildings to play in. This additional board will greatly enhance replay value, and makes the $45 level well worth the cost.
Billed as a "deck and dice game," Carnival is exactly that. Players compete to build rides along their own personal midway, while deciding between the luck of the dice or the luck of the draw and strategically using tickets to affect the results.
There are a few factors that make this game so noteworthy, the first being its origin. It is the first title from the newly formed Dice Hate Me Games, helmed by the game blogging and podcasting couple Chris and Cherilyn Joy lee Kirkman. If Carnival looks this good, it's hard not to eagerly anticipate what they come up with next. There is also the matter that it was initially conceived on June 11th and has gone on to a Kickstarter campaign only a few weeks later. This is an incredibly tight development schedule, much less for a game that actually looks like it is worth playing!
As for the game itself, it literally does look beautiful. For the first game out of the gate, the component manufacturing choices are top-notch (think punchboard, linen finished card printing, etc.), and the graphic design is highly professional. Check it our for yourself:
At the time of writing this post, Carnival has only been up for funding a mere 16 hours, yet it has already achieved its $5,000 goal. With 45 days left to go, it will be interesting to see just how far this project can go.
Recommended Backing Level: $35, the "Roller Coaster" funding level. Includes one copy of the game, and three extra rewards that will never be made available outside of Kickstarter: custom dice, a 6-card expansion set, and Lucky Dice, a small bonus game.
The full name of this game is Oh My God! There's An Axe In My Head. The Game of International Diplomacy, and the theme is just as silly as the title. Set in a wacky alternate-history version of the 1920's League of Nation meetings, the game incorporates mad axe-jugglers who have disrupted the diplomatic proceedings. If this sounds vaguely familiar, you may realize that it is loosely based on this internet meme.
The game claims to be the perfect mix of European and American gaming styles, as players must both engage in tense political negotiations while, of course, dodging flying axes. Anticipation is also high for this game being that is have been demoed at conventions for approximately two years now. Unfortunately, the rights were tied up with publisher Bucephalus Games, who was never able to follow through and bring the game to market. Now the original creators have had their game's rights returned, though, so Kickstarter is the perfect solution to finally deliver this game to the fan base it has built up over the years.
Recommended Backing Level: $10/$45. For just $10, you can get a print-and-play pdf version of the game, which is a great option for gamers on a budget just looking to play a fun game. If you've got the money, though, spring for the full version with three exclusive bonus cards for $45.
August has been so chock-full of quality games that there's no way to possibly give them all a full preview. While the three games above are the most promising in my opinion, these others are also worth a look: