Is This Board Game Kickstarter Project Legit?

10 April 2024
While crowdfunding is a staple in board gaming, there are no guarantees backing something on Kickstarter will result in you receiving the game. Of course, most will fulfil perfectly, or it wouldn't be a model so many of us use, but there are flags to look for that might help you figure out if you trust the project before backing. Chris Lowry offers some tips on what to look for in crowdfunding to avoid being burned.

Written by Chris Lowry, updated for web by Charlie Pettit. 

There’s no doubt about it - Crowdfunding can be an exhilarating world to enter. There’s something visceral about the feeling of making a game happen; taking it from an imaginative idea to an actual item you can hold in your hand. The best projects take you on a journey, asking for card suggestions, art feedback, and social stretch goals that you can help them reach by sharing the news. I think, for many of us, it’s the closest we ever get to being a game designer and bringing our own cool creation to life.

Related article: Crowdfunding insights from the Head of Games at Kickstarter

Unfortunately, the flip side of the fantasy can be failure. Projects that raise hundreds of thousands of pounds, and then disappear. It’s actually very rare that a creator runs off into the sunset, never to be seen again. Much more often an undelivered game leaves an obtuse trail of missed deadlines, half-believable excuses and conflicting promises lying in its wake.

Here are things to look for in a crowdfunding project to avoid an expensive disappointment...

Has the Creator/Company previously delivered a campaign successfully?

Many of the worst stories come from inexperienced creatives having an unexpectedly popular project; causing a vast amount of additional work that’s beyond their ability to cope. After all, the person who can design a brilliant and fun game is not necessarily the same one who knows how to build a database, arrange foreign manufacturing and orchestrate worldwide shipping.

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Are there regular updates?

Even in a campaign lasting two weeks, it is usual to expect a few updates from the Creator on how their campaign is going. In their previous projects, monthly updates are a good norm to look for. If the creators have a history of going unexpectedly silent for months on end without warning? Alarm bells should start ringing.

Related Article: How to run an RPG Kickstarter by multi funded designer Anna Blackwell

Does it seem too good to be true?

Lots of campaigns simply run out of cash when unexpected expenses hit home. Several well established companies, with solid crowdfunding track records, went under when global shipping costs increased tenfold during the Pandemic - most notably Holy Grail Games, creators of Rallyman: Dirt. That’s not the usual experience, but if a game that looks like it’s worth £50 is offered for £20? Let that be a warning sign. Plastic moulding custom miniatures can cost tens of thousands of pounds; it’s not unusual that a model-heavy game might need to raise £100,000+ to cover initial setup costs. If their target is £5,000, then they - and their backers - are in for a rude awakening.

Related Article: How board games conquered Kickstarter

Does anything actually exist yet?

Part of preparing for a complex manufacturing enterprise is prototypes and samples. If there is real-world footage of cards, pieces and models, that’s a much more encouraging sign that the creators are properly prepared for launch. If the only images of the proposed parts for the game are digital renders - however beautiful - there’s a much higher risk that they’ve not fully factored in every element required.

Do independent reviewers like the game?

The more written and video reviews on the campaign, the better, in our experience. Not only does it show the creator team’s commitment and organisation - printing prototypes and posting them out - but it’s the only way to truly find out if the game is actually fun! There are many expensive, expansive games that have made it successfully to backers’ hands only to prove laughably bad in play.


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