follow the rumors, fend off pirates, and navigate through storms–all in the hopes of beating your opponents to fame and fortune.
SALT & SAIL

goal: $26,500 / ends: thursday, april 9, 2020 10:45p pst. / created by kazoodoo games

so, life has been pretty rough here in seattle. i work in the food industry, and we’re seeing dramatic losses in wages and scores of businesses are closing. it’s been emotionally exhausting. there are a lot of consequences to the coronavirus that are going to ripple through the city for the foreseeable future. i am trying my best to keep to my normal routines, but it’s really difficult. i will probably next week off from the blog, just to recharge.

until then, i’m going to give what i can, and showcase SALT & SAIL. my apologies for not being able to give this #backandblog more time or energy, as i do believe it deserves it!

a game of discovery and adventure on the high seas, players will navigate rumors across a hex-board and face off against challenges and obstacle, like storms and pirates!

the game book allows for customization of maps based on number of players and desired length of play. the art is gorgeous and thematic. kazoodoo has kickstarted successful games in the past, and the production values here show. they’re about 2/3 of the way funded with more than enough time to hit their goal!

take on the role of a half-forgotten god and compete for reverence in this deeply immersive area control game.
THEURGY

goal: $42,242 / ends: tuesday, march 31, 2020 3:59p pst. / created by ministry of meeples

a beautiful produced area control game for 2-6 players, packed with fantastic art and assets, including tarot-sized monster cards, detailed map hexagon tiles, cool tokens, and tons of meeples (makes sense, given their company’s name!). you take on the role of a mythological deity, with unique powers, monsters to summon, and miracles to perform, trying to gain faithful followers. i especially like aeoris, god of time, who is able to manipulate the discard pile.

THEURGY has three victory conditions, all revolving around building temples: becoming the official faith, partly by placing your temple in the capital; fulfilling your calling by completing a hidden objective; or by spreading across the land by building many temples, based on the total number of players. this is done through one of four actions on each turn, with the caveat that they may not take the same action on their next turn. the different actions consist of sending out your followers, spreading word of your religion, divine intervention, and testing the faiths of the land. the inability to take the same action twice in a row is a very cool strategic twist.

the game also has no dice (NO DICE!), which is huge to me. i don’t often enjoy strategy games of this type because of too-random elements, and i hate dice in general. instead, the variety of deity powers, over 30 monsters with unique abilities, and the random selection of capital event and miracle cards, give the game replay and unpredictability within a structure of true strategy.

this is a very well executed project. the game appears to be thoroughly tested, reviews suggest it is incredibly well balanced, the assets, again, are spectacular, and everything feels accounted for. i have no doubt this game will fund and fulfill, and i definitely look forward to playing it when it does!

a 2-5 player, hidden movement game of clever deduction and teamwork. this game also introduces the new SHIFT system.
MIND MGMT

goal: $33,513 / ends: thursday, april 2, 2020 9:00p pst. / created by off the page games

there is a lot going on with this game. MIND MGMT features hidden movements, deduction, team work, dry erase, more components than most games i’ve played (wellllllll), and even sealed components akin to legacy games that are opened and added to the game after successful plays.

the retro psychedelic art style really comes to life with all of the assets: the map board, playing cards, pieces, and supplemental comics. every piece clearly hides detailed back story and innuendo, which i imagine is revealed slowly over the course of many, many sessions. the base game only, before stretch goals, has 10 sealed packages which add more content. it’s a really clever alternative to legacy mechanics that destroy or permanently alter game pieces.

the kickstarter itself is overwhelmingly intense. there are so much components to showcase that the project page is huge, after which are rather involved breakdowns of game mechanics. beyond all of this, there are almost a dozen videos and a ton of blurbs from reviewers. there’s even a live sample of the game being played in the comment section for backers.
it’s a lot to process. i could personally have done with a significantly truncated page, but the project has more than funded very rapidly, so i could be alone. it sure doesn’t seem to be hurting them any!

the only aspect of this game i question is the play time. 60 minutes seems optimistically short.

designed by cole wehrle, an innovative strategy game for 1 – 6 players about remembering the history that would’ve been forgotten.
OATH: CHRONICLES OF EMPIRE AND EXILE

goal: $50,000 / ends: tuesday, february 4 2020 8:00a pst. / created by leder games

as someone who has been playing and design games my entire life, it’s always satisfying to see the evolution of an art form trending in directions that reflect my own aims. OATH is not a legacy game, but has legacy capabilities (legacy being a new enough term for us to bicker about whether or not that still makes it a legacy game; i don’t really think that matters, though). in other words, this game has (the option of) a persistent campaign, though without requiring it. a lot of legacy games utilize permanent changes, stickers, sealed components, destroyed/removed assets, etc., to physically alter the game itself during or after play. OATH uses card mechanics and a chronicling phase to retain the save state. i’m not certain yet if there is an option for multiple save states, by way of a reference sheet or similar asset; i imagine a supplement for just that will materialize quickly if not.

one of the features of their legacy i especially enjoy (and have been building systems toward in my own games) is the flexibility to switch players and characters between games, within the same chronicling, as well as advancing the game world through a solo campaign (a feature core to the design of my game, THE VIOLET SANCTION). when i had a version of that idea for my games, it was in response to the challenges of gaming in adult life: unable to get the same group of people together, time after time, campaigns were harder to manage. this feels like a natural evolution of games in response to the way we play them. art imitates life.

OATH comes from the same team as ROOT and VAST (love the naming conventions!), and continues with their signature asymmetrical systems, which i adore. they’ve got an established history of producing games, an evolving art style, a virtual guarantee of expansion content based on track record, extensive playtesting, and the current rules can be perused here.

funding expectation: they’ve already funded by over 800%, so no concerns there. this one is just a matter of waiting for it to arrive!

a revised language-independent edition of this exciting interactive spielworxx eurogame for 2-4 players.
THRONE OF ALLEGORIA: THE QUEEN’S EDITION

goal: $30,000 / canceled @ $24,098 / created by game brewer

THRONES OF ALLEGORIA

because this is a new blog, i can’t really say things like “i don’t normally do this, but…”. but…i have been following games on kickstarter with this level of focus for a very long time, even if i haven’t been posting my thoughts to the internet, so i’m going to say it anyway.

i don’t normally do this, but… i decided to write about a game that just canceled their project. i probably won’t do this often, but this is a special case. first off, i was really interested in this game. it looks beautiful, the assets are clever, i typically love euro games, and the kickstarter is very well laid out. i would have backed it sooner, but already had other projects in queue for the blog.

it also helps that this is an upgraded edition of a game that has already been completed, so there was minimal risk of it not seeing completion. with the exception of what actually transpired, of course.

what happened? after just a couple of days, they were nearly at funding with 290 backers, but they posted an update canceling the project. the reason i’m blogging about it is this update specifically. it outlines a lot of important things not to do in your crowdfund. learn from these mistakes!

so here’s what happened: they undersold their project. huge mistake. their minimum production run was 1000 units; hitting their funding goal would only account for about 400. in other words, hitting their goal was not enough funding to actually produce the game.

why didn’t we set the funding target higher if that was the aim? because it’s a rather common practice on kickstarter to keep the funding target artificially low, to be able to say after a few hours that the project is “funded”. you can disapprove of this practice, but it is what it is.
THRONE OF ALLEGORIA: THE QUEEN’S EDITION

i hate to say it, but no, it isn’t what it is. artificial is an interesting concept when raising money, since money of course is entirely artificial in the first place. taking that into consideration, don’t inflate or deflate your numbers. it’s bad business, and now 290 backers have been let down. i’d be curious to see if any of these pledges convert to purchases of their original edition game; i doubt it will be many.

the comments section for the project is pretty harsh. backers are upset by the practices used because, frankly, they went against the spirit of kickstarter, and then blamed it on their misinterpretation of how kickstarter truly works. the projects that deflate their target goals are always less likely to fulfill. i’m glad they chose to cancel when they realized that they wouldn’t be able to make this project a reality, and i hope that they learn a sorely-earned lesson from this project.

a hand-drawn adventure game of petty politics, flimsy alliances and overall backstabbery!
QUESTICUS

goal: $11,000 / ends: wednesday, january 15 2020 10:52a pst. / created by austin lopez

a fun, whimsical medieval-fantasy-esque board game featuring hand-drawn art, possibly water colored or in that style. the tile art, used to depict the map of the game, is by far my favorite. i think it best captures the artist’s unique style, and the color palette, with a few exceptions, is concise and thematic. i’d like to see the art better utilized on some of the event cards, or the text at least reworked to better use the space, but this is their first game.

the rules, available to peruse freely as pdf, are conversational but easy enough to follow. further editing could definitely help tighten it up, and i’d definitely recommend a quick-start reference guide and some diagrams of the game board fully setup.

overall, i think this looks like a fun, kid-friendly, euro-inspired-but-very-american board game. the kickstarter is well put together, though not noticeably changed from their initial launch, but i think the funding goal is still too high for a first project (much better than the $36k originally asked for!). if it does fund, the biggest red flag is found in the “risks and challenges” category.

quick segue: a successful kickstarter is made up of many disparate components. they all come together to give the “crowd” a reason to “fund” the project. this requires selling a story, not a product. this bit of wisdom is lost on a lot of people, but you are never selling a product. ever. we have more products than we could ever know what to do with, as a planet. what we crave is narrative. artists we can relate to, depicting characters we can empathize with, showing us glimpses of worlds that illicit new emotions. it is the basis of all imagination games, and thus, the basis of all games. it’s how books create images in our mind’s eye. the brain is wired to produce, interpret, and crave stories.

anyway, one of these disparate parts of a kickstarter can always be found right at the very end: “risks and challenges”. amateur crowdfund creators often overlook this category as trivial, unnecessary, or don’t take it seriously. as a crowdfunder, i make this recommendation to you: always read the “risks and challenges” response thoroughly, then read it again before you pledge.

if this section comes off as an afterthought: red flag. if there are typos or it doesn’t scan: another red flag. if the creator tells you there are no risks: huge red flag.

so, what should you be looking for? a well-thought response, not to the question, “what are our risks and challenges?”, but to “how will we face the inevitable risks and challenges?” because, of course, as with all artistic…no, with all endeavors, there are obstacles. period. minimizing this truth either means the creator is unaware, which makes them a risky person to give your money to, or they are aware and have not put the time into their answer, which makes them a dangerous person to give your money to.

look for kickstarters where the creators outline a few things that they anticipate will go wrong, and listen to how they will respond. there’s a reason this category is at the end of every kickstarter: it is the final piece of information to give you insight into the future of the project.

back to QUESTICUS: as i said, this is the creator’s first game. it is a relaunch from a few months ago, with few changes made to the project other than intro text and the funding goal. they were right to bring their goal down, but should have stepped back further. they’re hovering at $6k currently with 9 days; $5-6k would have been reasonably amibitious, to be blunt. the only real red flags i see is the obvious blindspots to what production of this game is really going to look like. for all the thought put into the rest of the campaign, as a backer i have (informed) fears that they don’t know what it will cost to make and ship. who’s printing it? who’s shipping it? what does the box look like? this is information a more seasoned kickstarter would have posted, because they know that experienced crowdfunders are looking for it.

my last comments: i think this is a very well done first game, and look forward to the creator learning from it.