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Making a Board Game - Part 3: After the Cancellation of the Kickstarter

I this final part of the series I reflect on how the Kickstarter failed to achieve its goal. But I also talk about the physical components of the game and how we were at the mercy of a number of circumstances some self-made others wholly unexpected.

We gathered up many quotes for Expansionist. As we developed the game, through play testing. At a basic level we needed hex and triangle tiles and the number changed as we tested length of play and phases of the game. We found that sometimes players’ might not get tiles out until the fourth or fifth turn and so we added an additional foundation tile. We saw that some of the event names may well be too sensitive and so we changed the design. These were things that time helped us realise and it is this that you need with your game. Time. Live with it and ask questions of it. The actual game play can blind you to some of these design elements that could slow a project or put people off.

Loads of tiles in the Expansionist design
The decent printing quotes came out of china, which is not to say we didn’t try other places. My wife Jo, the now appointed Logistics Manager, was excellent here and gathered the quotes in from other places as well. America and Europe were all three times as expensive and so we opted for China, like most publishers do. Of course, this was when coronavirus was taking hold and we simply had no idea what impact it would have. I’ve had backers suggest to me that this was the reason why people didn’t invest and it no doubt had a factor, but I think there were many other factors that meant we didn’t achieve the full funding goal.

I think the biggest was quite simply that we just had not put the game out there before we released it on Kickstarter. We had some social media talking about the hex tiles and the promise of a game, but it was by no means enough. Putting out there can also mean so many things as well. The biggest one is not having prototypes to send to reviewers. This in our opinion made a massive difference and cost us big. We contacted reviewers and they asked for copies, but we had none. Obviously, we had our prototype, but that was not going to be shipped around to be lost in a reviewer’s pile of games. The main reason, though, why we did not have copies was because we have no cash flow and the time it was taking to have things coming back from China was a big problem, even if we had had the money to print them. In future we will have prototypes printed.

Another massive element is we just were not part of the Board Game Geek network. Something asked of us from reviewers was a BGG page link. A massive mistake was not to be part of this. I have had a life of tabletop games and gaming but had never really invested in BGG, a platform that is so vital for a game’s credibility. It was painfully stupid and so I began to fill my BGG profile with stuff which I found fun and started to grow this community. My game collection has waxed and waned over the years, as well as my RPG collection, and here is a great way to record it. BGG is awesome.

A separate Twitter account for DR Games was also important and no way as established as it should have been. It still isn’t and this is because it takes time. I have thousands of followers on Dark Realm Maps where the drawing all started, but that has taken years to establish and even then, those followers follow the maps and are not as interested in tabletop games as I had hoped. They are my awesome map peeps and they hadn’t expected me to suddenly start talking about making games. I hope they are patient with me because this is now as serious part of my life.

Probably the hardest thing for me to face was the Secret! I wanted to keep Expansionist a secret, as I felt the idea was too good and could be copied but I was naive and overly cautious. There are tonnes of games out there with great ideas, why would anybody steel mine? It was foolish and I wish now that I had just tried to tell the world and create the vibe!

That’s what it comes down to: THE VIBE. We had not created a vibe about Expansionist. All the above things contributed to the game remaining unknown and, in a sense, still as secret. Ironically by choosing to keep the game mechanics a secret it remained so even after I wished it otherwise.

We decided to cancel the Kickstarter, as we wanted to control when it stops and when it restarts and be able to keep our supporters informed. I am not bitter about this. I have learned a lot and will carry if forward into the next project which is Dark Force Incursion a free game, I released a week ago and one which has already seen some interest. The expansions for this will go onto Kickstarter next week with a much lower target goal and with a totally different agenda. Keep an eye out for it.

I can list the negatives for sure, but much has come out of Expansionist our first Kickstarter. Probably the most important is the new followers who have shared their ideas, given me feedback and are keen to find out about future projects. They are the real people here, voices who make me want to push forward and keep designing. Thank you, I very much appreciate your support and hope you have loads of fun and entertainment out of future DR Games products.


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