a simple yet addictive card game of deception and strategy
THE IMPOSTER KINGS

goal: $9,000 / ends: thursday, april 2, 2020 8:58a pst. / created by sina yeganeh

here we have a game about royal assassinations, where cards are played on each other progressively higher, with special abilities for different cards and some ways to reset the count when cornered. it sounds like it will play out similarly to hugo kawamata’s/button shy’s HIERARCHY, but for up to 4 players instead of 1-2. there are some similarities in art style, color choice, and rules that suggest perhaps this game has drawn heavily on the latter. judged on its own, the game has fantastic art.

i’m curious about THE IMPOSTER KINGS but feel that the kickstarter could be polished up quite a bit. the subtitle of the game, THE NERSETTI ARCHIVES, feels tacked on needlessly; i believe subtitles rarely add value unless they’re in pre-established intellectual properties or canon. to make it worse, while nersetti is the name of the setting, the word “archive” doesn’t even appear anywhere else in the project.

there’s a lot of flavor text that honestly adds little, other than to justify that the game can be played out in a best-of-7 scenario, and feels like it could have used some editing down. i don’t imagine the text will play much part in the game itself, so it probably won’t matter anyway.

they also make the mistake of stating that there aren’t many risks to the project, which is never true. take this project with a grain of salt. it’s brought in a lot of money very quickly, which i attribute to the beautiful art and straight-forward rules, so i’m sure it will fund. there’s enough proof of concept that i’m also sure it will be produced, but i wouldn’t hold my breath on it fulfilling by the projected date. that’s okay though, this is their first kickstarter project and there are always lessons to be learned.

a strategic fantasy card game from the creators of UNSTABLE UNICORNS.
HERE TO SLAY

goal: $10,000 / ends: tuesday, february 11, 2020 8:59a pst. / created by ramy badie

a new project from ramy badie, i had planned to write this up for its release but got sidetracked wanting to throw support at some games that didn’t have the guaranteed frenzy of this one. i had previously backed UNSTABLE UNICORNS, a very cute, very fun social/party game (which is rare for my game collection), and i’m familiar with their fan base. this project was ready to fund before it even hit the page.

i’m excited to see how the designer’s skills have expanded. the project calls out some of their learning experiences from the past, especially the unpredictable play time of UNSTABLE UNICORNS (to which i can attest; it varied so wildly by number of players, level of skill, and the luck of the draw), and has worked on tightening up the rules and expectations. designers that can only improve their skills by openly discussing their mistakes and learning from them; as the company grows i think we’ll see this more and more.

the kickstarter itself is very polished, from a designer with 4 previous projects, all of which not only funded but received kickstarter’s “projects we love” accolade. by virtue of the cute-but-(mildly-)irreverent theme, the game has a broad spectrum appeal while turning some conventions on their head. the rules are light, so the bulk of the variety comes from the class structure and items. HERE TO SLAY incorporates traditional rpg archetypes with its anthropomorphic animals in a strategic monster-crawl showdown. if you have the itch for a fantasy roleplay setting with less of the commitment to setup and player configuration, focusing primarily on combat, magic, and player-vs-player challenges, this is the contemporary answer.

and the art, come on. so fucking cute.

i do have one point of contention with the construction of the project: all of the female-presenting designers on the team are sandwiched between the male-presenting designers. it’s too strange to have been a list put together by random shuffle, and i’m curious what process resulted in this happening. i’m glad the team, especially as large as it is, has a diversity of gender representation, but i feel this is something worth calling attention to.

funding expectation: funded on the first day, and just hit half a million today! no surprises there!

a two-person trick taking card game with closed bidding and a twist
HERRLOF

goal: $1,109 / ends: tuesday, february 4 2020 10:00a pst. / created by jolly dutch

this is the second jolly dutch game i’ve backed on kickstarter, the first being CHARTERED. if you’re unfamiliar, i sell it to friends on game night as “dutch monopoly” (except it’s actually great game). the mechanics are spectacular and scale very well as more players are added, the two player mode is just as tense and exciting, and randomness is controlled by a deck and hand of cards (rather than dice) which allows for much more control over strategy. it’s a great staple game in my collection and so easy to pick up and play.

since i backed CHARTERED, i received notification of HERRLOF and was immediately sold by the art and color story and of course my experience with the company. a history of successful development, funding, and fulfillment goes a long way in building loyalty.

i anticipate HERRLOF will join the repertoire of quick, fun, accessible pre-plays on game night, while i wait for everyone to show up for bigger games (often CHARTERED). this is a company to keep an eye on!

funding expectations: already funded at time of writing!

build your team of adventurers to slay monsters, snatch up loot and win glory fighting a dungeon boss!
DUNGEONS OF OLD

goal: $14,317 / ends: sunday, february 16 2020 2:00a pst. / created by adam burgess

a deck-building card game with three (very clever) factions and five bosses, featuring some unique game mechanics. i love the food and fatigue system, shifting the resource cost of playing cards instead to when they are used; i’m curious to see how the morale (replacement for life points) works but am optimistic that it will offer a nice change to more traditional health.

the art style is really cool, the iconography is clear, the factions are color-coded, the box art is fabulous. my favorite aspect of the game is the beard mages: no need to delve into the (freudian) underpinnings of them as a character class, or “hal, the unshaven,” one of the dungeon bosses, but i wholeheartedly approve. 😉

another example of a great kickstarter project, especially for a first-time creator. the video and art assets are great, everything is listed out clearly, fulfillment expectations are set, and the creator is engaging well with the community.

funding expectation: success!

a light, co-op card game about taking down the mob in prohibition-era lake city.
PROHIBITIONISTS

goal: $4,000 / ends: sunday, february 16 2020 6:47a pst. / created by ed turner

another local project: PROHIBITIONISTS comes from everett, just north of seattle. i of course disagree wildly with prohibition, or the concept of limiting bodily autonomy in any way (and yes, i’m aware the game is just a theme); this looks really fun. the art style is superb, utilizing black-and-white with a single accent color on each type of card. the effect is stunning and keeps the mechanics immediately apparent.

the kickstarter itself is put together immaculately. everything is clearly spelled out, the videos are well produced, the game is virtually complete, fulfillment expectations are set. i’ll be following along, eager to play when this arrives, but will also be checking out their previous games and patreon!

additionally, they support kickstarter united, the movement to unionize kickstarter staff, which i thoroughly support as well. i’m glad to see so many projects supporting the people!

funding expectation: definitely will fund!

1492: the holy see is a bank. rob the rich, give to yourself. a board game for 2-4 foes-to-be.
HABEAMUS

goal: $26,025 / ends: tuesday, february 11 2020 5:00a pst. / created by spielmannspiel

a game of deduction and deception, sounds great! one of my favorite childhood games was CLUE, minus all of the ameritrash components like the dice and board. in other words, i like logic puzzles and social bluffing games.

the art for this game is exceptional. “ink-stained aged paper” and “hand-drawn mixed media” give the game a renaissance theme that is irresistible. i especially enjoy the attention to detail: the cards have been optimized for both right- and left-handed players. this kind of inclusivity is at the forefront of art in our age, and is poignant for a game about the church. the fact of the matter is, forced handedness is a historical oppression mired in shame, hatred, and fear, and it has creatively stifled our entire species. it is also a seemingly innocuous way to subvert a population into yet another binary category, making future binary mindsets easier to enforce. for a recent portion of our history, stigmatizing left-handedness (which is a neurodivergence currently) was tantamount to lobotomizing neural pathways. recognizing these stigmas and doing better is the essential role of art in society.

my favorite part of the game is by far the four houses, featuring “unlikely heraldic animals”: snail, magpie, squirrel, and kraken. games that blend in a bit of the experimental reflect studios willing to try something new, which is what i look out for.

regarding the kickstarter, it’s pretty well done. they’ve laid out the story, the financials, and the team. the “risks” category is a bit weak, because this is their first physical game, but the points they hit don’t concern me (though i can foresee this project will definitely be a learning experience for them; but that’s okay!).

i will say that the stretch goals are a bit far-fetched, hoping to capitalize on (creatively, well-written) thematic blurbs. i love the option to incorporate backers’ faces into the game, but tying it into reward tiers with multiple copies of the game will probably minimize the number of takers. i’d recommend pulling down the prices of the higher reward tiers by removing additional copies of the game, and having an art inclusion option potentially separate from a game copy at all.

funding expectation: i anticipate the game will fund, and i really look forward to getting my hands on it. one caveat: i’d anticipate at least one delay on fulfillment, but again, that’s okay.

an affordable and portable dungeon delve card game for 2-3 players
RUINS OF THE LORN KEEP

goal: $900 / ends: friday, january 24 2020 9:59p pst. / created by andy hand

alright, here we have a very simple project with a reasonable goal, a basic plan for production, stylized art and a palette that i adore, and an author with former game design and crowdfunding experience.

i would, however, very much like to see more of the cards before i would commit to fully to the project. since there are only 18 cards and the hook box (the art for which is superlative), only seeing 3 (and a half, if you zoom) on the project page is a bit of a red flag. my concern is that the idea of the game is largely complete, but that the actual deck has not yet been fully realized, possibly waiting on funding before the next phase of creation.

i would also recommend to the creator to allow players to read the rules. they’re visible inside the hook box, and they look tight and edited. a full size zoom or layout image would give significant insight into the game.

i think making these changes to the project could stretch the funding twofold, for minimal added effort.

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.

pussy families. a cardgame of political beauty.
CLITERACY

goal: €5,600 (~$6,250) / ends: tuesday, january 7 2020 12:27a pst. / created by jonny & hanna dittmann

cliteracy

what can i say, i’m a feminist. obviously i’m going to support a sex-positive game about clitorides. the art work is simply gorgeous, the color scheme intentionally avoids use of skin tones, specifically acknowledges trans bodies, and the goal is to celebrate, empower, and destigmatize. pretty much my mission statement.

this is such an important piece of work: there should be as many vulvae drawn on walls as there are penises, if not more! i think rgb said something along those lines once.

from the perspective of mechanics, it plays as a game of collecting tricks, where the trump is decided by players discussing their bodies. i absolutely love the concept.

the kickstarter itself is built with so much care and love. they took a lot of time crafting this project, from the scientific and aesthetic research, to the drawings, photography, animation, and styling of the page.

despite the meticulous care, this game is a tough sell. the future may be female, but the present is still overwhelmingly patriarchal. with only two days to fund before i found it (and this blog is too new for me to make much of an impact sadly), i think it’ll be difficult for this crowdfund to hit its funding goal, but i have the utmost confidence the game will still be produced and distributed in time. projects of this caliber only need the right time and place to succeed. i will be following their progress, whether they continue through kickstarter or otherwise!