RSS Feed

Author Archives: Jenny - Woman of Kent

Kickstarter Guide: How to Pick Your Favorite Child – Which of your fantastic ideas is best to launch on Kickstarter?

Kickstarter Guide: How to Pick Your Favorite Child – Which of your fantastic ideas is best to launch on Kickstarter?

Now, there are games which are passion projects and games that are fun for your friends and then there are games with which to launch your budding business. All are valid but you have to work out which you want to do. Working out at this stage, before you’ve spent your money, what you want to do is very important. If you want to have a game which you made and can whip out at parties, then Game Crafter is a great place to do this. Think of it like a hobby, get the art and graphic design that you want, make it, play it, and enjoy but don’t expect other people to want to part with their hard-earned cash for it. For small scale production again, Game Crafter is great, or consider making it into a print and play and putting it into a few competitions, Boardgame Geek almost always has one running. This is a good place to hone your design skills but more on that another time. However, if you’re serious about starting a business or are willing to have 1000 copies of your game to sell for a few years, then crowd funding is a good way to go.

But which idea to develop? For your first Kickstarter you ideally want the one with the least components, the one that’s easiest to playtest, has the broadest player count, has the most approachable theme, least off-putting mechanics and most attention-grabbing components.

So, with regards to the number of components, this is a development skill. Every time you play your game consider if there’s anything you can get rid of, remember during production you are paying for every single card and counter, the fewer the better. This will also help keep your game compact both as a concept and literally. No-one likes a game where you only get to use half the cards before it’s over. Also, if you can keep your component types down this will save you money; once you’re set up to print one card five hundred isn’t an issue, but one card and one dice and one meeple are all different components that require different manufacturing processes. Additionally, remember that you’ll be paying for shipping; the box is the most expensive thing you’ll be paying for so the bigger and heavier it is the more expensive. 

Ease of playtesting might seem obvious but getting playtesters, particularly for blind playtesting, is difficult. If you can make your game on Tabletop Simulator that will really help. If you want to ship your game out to playtesters, again, remember that you’ll have to provide them with all the components at a reasonably professional level; playtesters are generally a forgiving bunch but if you’re sending your game off they’ll need it to be a bit better than the pen and paper version your buddies have been playing. Consider making a print and play as it can be freely shared around the world at basically no expense, however this will limit you on unusual components; playtesters won’t want to go out and buy an egg timer for example.

As to player count, if you have a party game with a count of 6-12 it won’t be a solo game and equally if it’s 1-4 it won’t play at 20. It’s mainly about having the widest player count your game can comfortably support. If you have one idea that’s a 2-3 player count or one that’s a 1-4, go for the 1-4. Solo modes are increasingly beneficial and ubiquitous, but this also means that backers are increasingly discerning of them, include it if possible, but only if you can do it well.

Theme can be a vital element of marketing. Try to avoid things like extreme horror as it will limit your market. Feel free to have something a bit niche, you don’t have to go for the ubiquitous pirate, zombie, anthropomorphized animals, but bear in mind that theme can limit you. Ensure, however, that your theme is worth more than it costs.

With mechanics there are a few things that will hamper a Kickstarter, for example player elimination and old-fashioned roll and move. I’m not saying you have to design a roll and write, but try to make the mechanisms as user friendly as possible. Finally, the components, having just one or two components that someone really wants can be a massive benefit. With our games we haven’t done this yet, our attention-grabbing thing has been mechanics and artwork; however, if you can have custom meeples or dice, or a playmat or dice tower, it can really help a campaign. You may end up spending a lot of money on components that won’t help sell your game, but if you can find a cost effective, eye catching thing that can really be a plus. See Jamey Stegmaier’s blog/games for more on this.

So, you’ve picked the game to be your first Kickstarter, congratulations! But what now? See my next blog on the next step, the wonderful world of Playtesting!

Kickstarter Guide: Concept – The perils of picking a game

Image result for kickstarter logo

This series of blogs will set out to give first time, small scale tabletop games designers practical advice on how to take your game from initial idea to fulfilling a Kickstarter. It’ll focus on Kickstarter for two reasons, one, it’s the crowd funding site that I have experience with, and two, it’s the main one used by game developers.

So, who am I and why am I talking it you? My name is Jenny and I’m part of a husband and wife team that runs Man O’ Kent Games, set up in 2018. We currently have two successful Kickstarters, SSO and Moonflight, and have two more planned for this year (2020). As such, I’d like to share with you all the things I’ve learnt in hopes that it’ll give you the best head start.

The first thing to consider when developing a game is which idea is the best to start with. Most game designers have lists and lists of ideas; now this may not be true for you, maybe you only have one idea which you’re passionate about. But how to develop that idea and take it to the next level?

Firstly, play as many games as possible of the mechanic you want to develop. This is not only fun (who doesn’t want an excuse to buy boardgames for research?) but will help you problem solve through development, and check to see if your idea has been done already. If you find that it has this is not a barrier to creating it, you might just have to find a new angle.

If you have a mass of ideas, first make 3-5 of them into very basic prototypes, I mean stickers, old bits of card and meeples/counters harvested from other games. We have a box full of bits from old games just for creating prototypes bought from charity and Pound shops. This prototype will sometimes throw up issues or design problem that will make it easy to cull your list down. If you only have the one idea this advice still stands, get it made and written up. This will help you think about it in real game play terms rather than just as an abstract thing.

So, you have a comically shonky prototype, what’s next? Play it! Play it and re-write it and play it and re-write it as much and as often and with as many different people as you possibly can. Playing it as early as possible will let you know immediately if your game idea is fun. This can be a bit soul crushing when you realise it’s not fun but you have to move on. Sometimes it’ll seem fun to begin with and like it really, really, no honestly, really will work but it just won’t. Again, soul destroying especially if you’ve spent half your evening shouting “why won’t you work!” but again you just have to move on.

Assuming that your game is fun and initially working there’s one important thing to consider. Have a nugget which you don’t want to compromise on; your game’s soul. It might be a theme or a mechanic it doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, right it down and whenever you have a major re-write or are struggling with the development, check that piece of paper and make sure its still true. The second important thing to consider is that everything else is up for grabs. If it’s a worker placement, for example, then you can’t be precious about the theme, otherwise your neat fun idea will become an unruly mega beast which will be nigh on impossible to make.

Now you have a prototype, what’s next? See my next blog on how to pick a game to Kickstart.

Review: Greenville 1989

3-6 players

Age 16+

Designed by Florian Fay

Published by Sorry We Are French

Image result for Greenville 1989

Greenville 1989 is a narrative co-operative game in which players take on the role of a typical 1980s teenager who just wants to go bowling. However, en route you and your friends are plunged into a weird and horrifying supernatural vision of your home town, Greenville. To escape players must work as team to direct each other out of this world and back home.

In game play terms, Greenville 1989 has much in common with Mysterium. Players all begin in a central location on a board and are dealt a location card. Each player describes their card and, more importantly, where they think they will be going next.

One player, the Guide, takes the role of directing everyone to their next location. The Guide is dealt location cards equal to the number of players +1. They then secretly allocate each card to a player including a red herring player. The rest of the team then try to work out which card belongs to who.

If correct, the new card becomes their location, and the next player becomes the Guide; get everyone through 4 locations and you all escape. However, if you fail to correctly identify your location you move a place along a path on the main board. Should one player reach the end of their path you all are lost to the void forever.

Now I am not a fan of horror. I refused to play the T.I.M.E. Stories scenarios because the first one was so unnecessarily horrifying. However, despite its 16+ age rating, I didn’t mind the horror elements of Greenville 1989. The locations are at best a bit trippy and at worst contain monstrous horror, but they are not openly gory or scary. It helps that they have little movie references in them, which the movie nerd in me enjoyed spotting and discussing.

Image result for Greenville 1989

As I said above this game is similar to Mysterium, and it’s nice to see someone other than Libellud take on the “describe a weird card” mechanic. One of the most enjoyable parts of Greenville 1989 is the feeling that you truly are all in it together. Sometimes the cards are against you and none of the locations match any part of what someone has described, but it feels like you’re in control and share in your teammate’s successes and failures.

Mysterium, though fantastic, can feel a little like the Ghost is in control and therefore is someone to blame when things don’t shake out. Also, after a few dozen games of Mysterium, cards end up having unintentional meanings, so-and-so always uses that card to mean the Groundskeeper for example, which sort of spoils the purity of the game.

This may happen to Greenville, I’ll let you know in a few years’ time, but on an initial playing it feels like this is less likely. Greenville 1989 also feels like a pared down, purer form of the mechanic. It doesn’t have the slightly complicated scoring system of Dixit or the separation in Mysterium between the Ghost and the Psychics.

Everyone gets a turn at being the Guide and it’s simply pick your card and win (or not). So, if you like a cross between Mysterium and Stranger Things this is definitely the game for you. Describe your locations, see what’s behind the mirror, direct your friends into the mouth of the beast and try to get home in time for your TV dinner.

Review: Just One

4-7 player
Age 8+
Designed by Ludovic Rody and Bruno Sutter
Published by Repos Production

Just One is a party game where, in true parlor game fashion, you get a card with a word on it and your friends have to communicate it to you. With Just One, the card is placed on a pleasing white board stand and you pick a number from 1-5, which will communicate the word to your group. The other players then secretly write something related on their white board stands, then compare words. Any repeats are discarded and then these clues are shown to the first player. You then have to work out the word from their brilliant, but obscure clues.

Now my family loves a parlor game. Our copy of Pictionary went on every family holiday with us, but we were rubbish at Just One. Maybe it was just us, we kept going a bit obscure on the clue in hopes that no-one else would pick it, which only led to the first player being utterly baffled.

I then played it at a dinner party and, again, rubbish score. Telestrations, on the other hand, we played endlessly over Christmas, to much hilarity. And this brings me to my point. For whatever reason, we did not find the normal joy in Just One that we do in Pictionary, Articulate or Telestrations, with the usual “I’m sorry that is NOT what a dog looks like” or “How could you not get Blue Tit!!”

There are some games which people struggle with in social situations, Spy Fall for example can reduce people to a mute confusion, while other people lie with such mendacity you worry for your own safety. Just One seems to fall, unfortunately, into the former category.

It was the 2019 Spiel Des Jahre winner, beating out the equally word based Werewords, and L.A.M.A, an Uno style card game. I’ve not played either of the other nominations, so can’t really speak to whether it should have won. What I can say is what my mum said, “its not really in the same league as King Domino, is it?”

As far as SDJs go, it does tick a lot of the traditional winner’s boxes; it’s an entry level, simple, family game with a fun/unusual component. As I said, the elements are all very pleasing, however for a party game it can be very isolating and thinky. Mostly you sit there pondering what a good clue would be (discarding words that you’ve forgotten how to spell) and hoping that no-one else came up with it.

Invariably, even if you come up with something lickety split, someone else will be sitting there for 5 minutes going, “I just don’t know what to put?” During this time you are just thumb twiddling. Maybe if there was a time limit, it might add an element of jeopardy lacking in this part of the game. Then again, the first player sits there with no time limit checking that they can read your appalling scrawl and then head scratching only to guess something totally unrelated.

In contrast, the big boys of the SDJ winners, Ticket to Ride and King Domino are arguably a lot less interactive in their mechanic, however there seems to be more fun interaction. We always end up having joking arguments about who is hoarding all the yellow cards or why you stole the route someone else was CLEARLY working towards.

Just One is a fine party game and for £20. There’s no reason not to own it if you like word-based parlor shenanigans. If your only experience of the SDJs is of Azul and Ticket to Ride, you might be a little disappointed or baffled, but its low price point is a massive benefit. If you find a group who can ace this game with minimal umming and erring then I see no reason why it shouldn’t be a family favorite, just maybe not my family.