On Friday I backed Eminent Domain: Microcosm on Kickstarter. I’m not a fan of Eminent Domain, but this isn’t an expansion, it’s a separate game set in the same “universe”. A copy is only $10, and it looked like it could be cool, so why not?
This morning I un-backed it, canceling my commitment.
What changed? Well, this weekend I played two games that I also backed on KS which arrived on Saturday. There really isn’t much of a need to go into exactly what they were; it’s enough to know that neither was particularly good. Along with the eternal Kickstarter issue of poorly-written and vague rulebooks, the games themselves were just nothing special. In neither case did I see this as something I’d play over and over again, or even think about much.
Several months ago I decided to go ahead and back a few tabletop games on Kickstarter, just to see what the fuss was all about. I picked games that were inexpensive, had interesting themes, and looked pretty good. I admit I didn’t do a lot of due diligence such as pre-reading rules when I backed them, but that’s mostly because I seldom can get a feel for a game from reading rules. These games I pre-ordered have started coming in and I now have all but two of them in my hands. And out of the six I have so far, one (Marrying Mr. Darcy, which is not a great game, but it’s a lot of fun) I like a bunch and a second (Coin Age) is kind of neat. The rest aren’t terrible, but aren’t anything special. Certainly I haven’t felt like I would have missed out on anything if I’d let them pass by.
Normally, all that would tell me is that I need to choose projects I back better, but I’ve also recently played things backed by friends of mine and again, there’s been absolutely nothing special there. It’s almost always overproduced and half-baked games that won’t be remembered three months from now.
It’s true that there have been some huge Kickstarter success stories. I own Battle Merchants, Flash Point, Triumvirate, Dead Man’s Draw, Eight-Minute Empire: Legends, and a few more. I recently got Ground Floor and Battle For Souls, which both started as Kickstarters and I liked on my first plays. With all of those, however, I purchased through regular game-acquiring means instead of backing on KS. I was in no need to get them quickly, pay more for them, or feel like I was helping make the magic happen. And I certainly didn’t need a bunch of sparkly gee-gaws added in as an afterthought because there’s no better way to use money above and beyond production costs than to supply backers with solid brass start player tokens the size of a hubcap. With maybe the exception of Battle Merchants, I don’t feel like I missed out on anything by getting them through normal channels instead of backing on Kickstarter.
What I’m finding is, when I filter Kickstarter by “Tabletop games > I’m interested in > That are well-done > At that cost > I need as soon as possible”, well, that’s an extremely small number of projects. Take only a couple steps back and you’ll be hard pressed to tell that the needle is above zero at all. So I’m good for now. I can let Kickstarter do its thing and when it produces a decent game I’ll find out in time without too much trouble. And in the meantime I won’t have to waste time on the large amount of chaff.
Kickstarter lets people avoid the traditional gatekeepers of the industry. I guess I’m okay with having those gatekeepers.