Kickstarter Regrets – Ask the Bellhop

Today we have a question from a Patreon patron about Kickstarter. Specifically, Kickstarter regrets.

Tabletop Bellhop Patron Duran Barnett writes,

Kickstarter regrets? Which Kickstarters do you wish you hadn’t backed? Which Kickstarters do you wish you had backed and why?

I take a look at three projects I regret backing and three projects I regret not backing.

The Short Answer:

The thing with Kickstarter is that no matter what you are taking a chance. No matter how reputable the creator is, no matter how many previous projects they have created, no matter if the game is already finished or just getting started, there’s no guarantee that you are actually going to get what you paid for.

There’s also no guarantee that, if you do get what you paid for, it’s going to be worth what you paid for it. It may be that the game just isn’t as good as you hoped, or the component quality isn’t what you expected, or the game went on sale on Amazon for half the price you paid before your Kickstarter copy even showed up.

The Long Answer

Pretty much all of the things I mentioned in the short answer have happened to me. I’m going to talk about some of the worst below. I’ve got a project that I spent money on and got nothing for. I’ve got a project that while it showed up wasn’t anywhere near what was promised on Kickstarter. I’ve got a project I would have never gotten had I not fought for it. I’m going to talk about each of these projects in more detail below. I’m going to follow that up with some projects I wish I had backed.

A project that never delivered

I obviously would have regrets for any project which I spent money on that never actually showed up. Thankfully I only have one of these. Of all the projects I’ve backed on Kickstarter, only one was a complete wash.

That project was Labyrinths: Customized Modular Dungeon Terrain from Iron Ring Games. This was a project for Dwarven Forge style dungeon terrain. While not cheap it was much more affordable than Dwarven Forge and all of the signs were that this was a solid legit project. Now while I did spend quite a bit of money on this project I didn’t go all in, thankfully.

I was actually in contact with the creators and convinced them to create an add on style pledge as all I wanted was some of the accessories and none of the actual dungeon walls or caverns. After some back and forth we managed to work out a deal where I backed at one level and then did a bunch of add ons. There was no sign this project was going to head south. Even after the project ended there was significant communication and I also had some direct messages back and forth with Iron Ring.

Then the negative updates started to come. Iron Ring was in over their head. The Kickstarter was too successful. There were too many orders to fulfil. While trying to rush and fulfil them they damaged a mold, a mold that didn’t have a backup, a mold needed for the basic core kit pledge level. Backers were getting upset and things turned nasty in the updates. It wasn’t long after that Iron Ring declared bankruptcy. Very shortly after that, they vanished from the web. No more updates. Their webpage was gone. Emails bounced. They vanished.

I do know some people got their stuff. They were focussed on fulfilling the core sets and not the add ons. The problem was that I only backed for add ons. My order never got touched.

In this case, I somewhat feel bad for Iron Ring. They got in over their heads. Their project was too successful. This happens often. Despite feeling bad I’m still out quite a bit of money due to this and I’m not happy about it.

A project that didn’t live up to expectations

Torn Armor from Alyssa Faden is one of my biggest Kickstarter regrets.

I really believed in this project. So much so that I agreed to work for them. I was paid by Alyssa to help promote this project. I talked about this project everywhere on social media. I shared links. I shared pictures. I rebooted my CMON account just to talk about the game there. I did everything I could to help this project fund. I even backed the project myself because I really thought it was worth it.

Torn Armor was supposed to be a miniature battle game with some of the most fantastic miniatures I’ve ever seen designed. Really unique looking stuff that was a mix of anthropomorphic fantasy and steampunk-style Romans.  This project wasn’t about the game itself for many people, including me. It was about the miniatures. While there were gameplay videos and the game looked decent enough, that was secondary. I wanted my $40 Assault Behemoths and my War Golems. I also wanted the 3D terrain, which would be great for a variety of miniature games. It was never about the game.

The problem is that the game is all backers ever got. 561 people backed this project, raising $67,742 and only 128 of them got what they paid for. Those were the people who backed for just the PDF of the rules, or for an art print. No one ever received any miniatures, none were ever produced, well except for prototypes they used to promote the project. The updates are filled with tales of woe about what happened. Issues with sculptures, issues with the Chinese company hired to make the minis. Reaper Miniatures getting involved and trying to help out. There’s lots of speculation out there about what happened and who’s fault it all was.

So, I do have a copy of Torn Armor. It’s downstairs with the rest of the games. It’s a box with map tiles and rules and a bunch of cardboard standees for the basic units in the game. They never bothered to make standees for the add on units because those were all meant to be miniatures. I’ve got to admit I have never played the game. I guess it should really be on the #LessShameMoreGame pile. But I never wanted this game, I just wanted the minis. From what I’ve read online the game itself isn’t so hot either. I guess it’s pretty much a direct copy of the Dust Tactics rule set with a fantasy theme.

A project that I had to fight for

The second Kickstarter project I ever backed was Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack from Joshua A.C. Newman.

Mobile Frame Zero (aka MF0) is a solid sounding miniature battle game that uses mecha built out of building blocks. It uses a rather cool dice pool system where different systems on your mecha are represented by different coloured dice. By using plastic building blocks they were able to have some really cool rules for things like mechs getting damaged and destructible terrain.

Not only does the game sound great, I actually got my rulebook. The thing is I didn’t back just for that rulebook. In one of the many updates, they offered what ends up was a stretch goal. The thing is that back then the concept of stretch goals was new and not everyone was using that term. At one point they said that if they get to X money they were going to release an RPG set in the Mobile Frame Zero setting.

Now I was tempted by it already. LEGO mecha battles sounded cool and the rules looked solid, but it was that RPG that got me to give them my money.

While it was rather late, I eventually got my Mobile Frame Zero Rulebook. I read it. It was exactly as promised. A really nice book. They did a great job on it. But then months went by and I heard nothing about the RPG. Then I basically forgot about it. Years later I was having a conversation with someone about unfulfilled Kickstarter rewards and I was reminded of MF0. At that point, the RPG was four years overdue.

I logged into Kickstarter and sent Joshua a message asking where our RPG was. The reply I got was disappointing. Basically, I was told that there was “surprisingly little interest in the RPG” and they felt like “no one cared about it” so Joshua just never got around to writing it. In the meantime, another indie RPG designer Vincent Baker wrote his own RPG in the same setting called Firebrands.

So it ended up that they never planned on writing the RPG that was promised. I was told that I was the only person to ever complain about this. To make it right Joshua offered to send me a copy of Vincent’s game. Not quite what I signed up for but it was something. But it was something that didn’t show up, at least for another year and a half.

At this point, I’m pleased to say I do have a copy of Firebrands. So I did get an MF0 RPG after all but it showed up FIVE years after the initial project closed had I not said anything I wouldn’t have that game in my hands now.

Projects I wish I had backed

To be honest there aren’t many of these. What I’ve found over time is that for most Kickstarters I’m perfectly happy to wait for the game to come out in retail. In most cases, I can get the game cheaper than backers paid and there often aren’t enough Kickstarter exclusives to make me feel like I am missing out. There have been a few though that I do somewhat regret not backing.

One of these is the Conan board game by Monolith Games. I ended up picking up the retail version of this game and it looks fantastic. While the initial rulebook has some issues, Asmodee has put out an updated set of books you can order online and get shipped for free (even to Canada). While my copy of the game looks great, had I backed the Kickstarter I would have gotten more than double the number of miniatures, a plastic overlord dashboard, multiple other upgraded components, dice. scenery, five more characters, more maps and additional scenarios. Actually, I’m not even going to list it all. It’s a lot. All of it could have been mine for only $40 more than the cost of the base game.

Another project I now wish I had backed is Vinhos Deluxe. I’m a big fan of heavier games and Vinhos definitely fits that bill. While you can get Vinhos Deluxe in stores, the stretch goals they unlocked were really impressive. There were a mix of upgraded components and additional game content, all stuff that you can’t get in the retail version. Now they have said that some, if not all of it, will be released as expansions. As of this point, not all of it has.

My biggest Kickstarter regret when it comes to stuff I didn’t back but that I wish I had is 7th Continent. I hear nothing but good things about this game. I’ve yet to see a negative review. I see it show up over and over again on top cooperative game lists and I actually do feel like I’m missing out by not owning this game. The thing is that the game is completely Kickstarter exclusive. You can’t get it in store or online (unless you pay some crazy price on the secondary market).

So, those are a few of my Kickstarter regrets. Things I backed and wish I hadn’t and things I hadn’t backed that I wish I did. What are some of your Kickstarter regrets?

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4 Responses

  1. I’ve been pretty lucky overall, but there are a few. From a percentage perspective, not so many, and I try to be philosophical about them. However, I can still say which ones disappointed me.

    * Building an Elder God… just didn’t like the game.

    * Illustrating Legend… never really delivered (primary creator got a new job and abandoned the project).

    * Serpent’s Tongue – Become Magi… did substantively deliver, some stuff is, I believe, still in a warehouse in SF because they don’t have the money to get it out and ship it… and communications soured things with backers. Still love the art, though.

    * Doom That Came To Atlantic City… Forked Tongue pissed the money away (oh, Forking Path… I was close), but Cryptozooic _did_ come to the rescue and save the game. I won’t ever see the two sets of pewter figs I backed for.

    * The Reliquary… That just went bad. However, I did get my $150 (I went pretty deep) back. Mostly disappointed because I was really looking forward to it.

    * PURGE: Sins of Science… I was really impressed by how fast I got my two copies of the base game, but never got the expansion material I paid for.

    * Worlds of Magic… not fun and hard to play, mostly disappointed because I loved _Master of Magic_ back in the day, and this promised to be the spiritual successor. They did issue an update, don’t know if it helped.

    * Apotheosis Drive X… as far as I’m concerned, did not deliver. Only $20, but still.

    * Nova Cry… don’t expect to ever see.

    * How to Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck… received it, and guess what? Yep, disappointed.

    … bloody hell I’ve backed a lot of stuff. Almost all of it has been satisfactory or better, including some really, really good ones. There are some more that I’ve backed that are woefully late, but those ones either I still expect to receive, I excuse for good reason (the creator died! but even then, Stewart Wieck and Steven Russell both had people who picked up the projects and continued, I’ve actually received most of them already).

    The list of “holy shit I’m glad I backed this” is way longer than the list above.

    1. That’s quite the list there Keith.

      Building an Elder God, once I realized it was just Waterworks a game my parents owned since the 60s and I inherited I couldn’t back it. I know mechanics aren’t protected but a direct rip off is just too much for me to support. Plus, yeah it’s not the greatest game.

      Most of the rest of those I don’t actually know or I’ve heard about but I never really looked into.

      I also have some very late games but I do expect to get them. I used to get upset about late kickstarters, now as long as they are putting out updates and letting us know why things are late, I’m good with it.

      Thanks for the comment,

  2. Of the “I wish I’d backed that” projects, I mostly don’t feel bad about them because I usually didn’t back because they were really expensive and I didn’t expect I’d get to play them. The Conan tabletop game and 7th Continent ones above are on that list. Monumental (pledge manager just closed) would have been very expensive for what I wanted… but I might have bent and changed my mind about Monumental had I remembered that it was published KS-only.

    I am a little annoyed that I didn’t get the print copy of Godbound, I could have saved myself some money had I done so because I’m going to order a print copy anyway (along with Lexicon of the Throne, and probably a couple others to try to keep shipping costs down — DriveThru POD, the shipping gets spendy fast).

    I feel a little bit bad every time I see Far Away Land and know that I won’t be getting it… but the shipping was more than I was willing to pay.

    I also wish I was getting a copy of CULT from Cryptozoic, but I decided I can pick this one up when it hits the mainstream… which I’ve done for a fair few of my “wish I had this” list.

    Most of the ones I wish I had, I backed and then backed out… which gives me a list of things I wanted but (mostly) ended up not backing. I see some on the “I wish I had this and can’t get it” list, but I think I see more on the “thank gods I dodged that mess” list 🙂

    1. Games I initially backed and then backed out. That was something I didn’t think to put into the blog post.

      I have a few of those. Not a lot but a few. Another interesting list may have been stuff I backed but that didn’t get funded.

      Thanks for the comment,

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