Conjuring Cash with Kickstarters

The love of money may be the root of evil, but the possession of money is the necessity of progress. No grand idea or project ever saw fruition from empty coffers (unless you’re a member of the government). It is unfortunate that most folks who have great ideas are not people of means.

There are many great games out there that are nothing more than a small prototype lovingly hand-crafted, or a mere thought in the mind of an aspiring game designer. Unless you’re a game-publishing mega giant like Fantasy Flight Games, attempting to publish a game without a great deal of money is practically doomed to failure.

Thus, the aquisition of funds is the greatest hurdle to the aspiring game-maker.

Easy money is a myth; conjuring money from thin air is not exactly feasible; even for wizards like myself. I never got the hang of that “turning lead into gold” thing. Nowadays, however, aspiring game makers have a new avenue to fund their dreams. Enter the Kickstarter program:

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects.  Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others.

Since our launch on April 28, 2009, over $350 million has been pledged by more than 2.5 million people, funding more than 30,000 creative projects.


It’s essentially an “All or Nothing” program for collecting charities to start projects. If a project hits it’s goal, it’s funded. If it doesn’t, no one is out any money. It’s simple. If a project looks interesting, fans can throw in some money to support their favorite Kickstarters, and see some great prizes for being a part of a project’s genesis. Lots of projects offer incentives for a supporter’s money, like collector’s editions, prizes, exclusive merchandise, etc. To date, there have been many awesome projects that have seen the light of day thanks to Kickstarter. What’s sad, though, is seeing some projects fall on their face. This may be due to the glut of Kickstarter programs that are running; even though nerds usually have a bit of disposable income, donating to so many projects may start to strain one’s wallet. Hopefully, failed projects won’t be too disheartened and try again later.


For now, let’s take a look at some of the current Kickstarters of interest to gamers, as well as some Kickstarter success stories and unfortunate failures:

Type: A 2-player digital collectible card game



The first Kickstarter on this list is also the one that was actually requested to be put on here by a member of the design team of said Kickstarter game.

Some of you out there in TV-Land might have seen a little series called Deadliest Warrior; a series that pit the greatest warriors from accross history to throw down and see who beats who. Some watched the show for the weapons, some watched the show for its seemingly scientific breakdown of the warriors’ weapons and skills, and some watched the show under the mistaken belief that David Wenham narrated it all (I was fooled). Sure, the premise was cheesy, the science was bunk, and David Wenham’s awesome gravelly voice was nothing more than an amazing sound-alike, but it was still one of many a nerd’s guilty pleasures.

Deadliest Warrior has an unfortunate legacy of crappy video games, though. I think this is where a game called KRONO comes in. KRONO is a FREE (always a nice word) 2-player digital collectible card game for the iPad, Android, and PC. You play as a time traveller gathering all of history’s greatest warriors to throw down against your enemies like a militaristic Dr. Who. Each unit has strengths and weaknesses, and their strategic placement is tantamount to your capture of three zones to secure victory!

One of the first things that blew my mind about this project was the fact that it’s a DCCG (Digital Collectible Card Game). What madness is THIS!? How can you expect people to shell out money for the opportunity to get digital cards for their armies?

Then, it hit me…


…I thought about all of the people who drop real money for virtual property in any Facebook game with the word “-Ville” attached to it. Genius.

As fun as this all sounds, with the samurai and the vikings and the kings and the spells to make wizards like me happy, I’ve noticed the price tag of this little venture. Large Animal Games is asking for $200,000 to make this bad boy. Needless to say, that’s a LOT of cheddar LAG is asking for, especially when you consider that a MUCH bigger project, Shadowrun Returns, asked for double that.

As a wizard, I know how much money goes into a good potion, and I have no idea what the start up costs for videogames are, I just thought that the numbers were a little disproportionate. Mayhaps the number is that large to keep the price tag at “free?” It’s an “in-house” game everyone plays, according to the article page, so the game is at least mostly done. Perhpas they have some grander plans for it? Who knows? Either way, with 22 days to go, they have a mere 1% of their goal, and I really think they deserve better. If some of my readers like the concept of this game, then by all means, throw a little pledge money their way! You don’t have to shoulder the whole cost of the game; every little bit helps! There are some nifty prizes for this Kickstarter that are under $50.


If the worst happens, and KRONO doesn’t get the funds they ask for, I tell them to not lose hope. There’s always next time. I hate to see a game fall on its face due to lack of funding. Keep trying, and perhaps perseverence will pay off.
For now, however, donate generously! I saw the impossible happen with Shadowrun Online. This one can make it, too!


STATUS: 22 days left, with $2,593 out of $200,000.


Type: Semi-cooperative fantasy battle board game


I watched the intro video to this Kickstarter and at first was a little underwhelmed. The designer, Rich, was bummed about there being no board games out there that allow you to play as the villains. So, he’s going to make a game where you play as the bad guys!

I hate to break it to you, Rich, but this isn’t exactly a new concept. I can name four off the top of my head in which you play as the baddies… (Dungeon Lords, Dungeon Petz, Chaos in the Old World, and and Nazgul).
However, I’m not going to fault the guy on that. The most important thing to wonder is “does this game concept have merit?”

Welcome to world of Storm the Castle!, a 1-4 player semi-cooperative battle board game where you take the exciting role of one of the four marauding Dark Forces armies in a race to breach Castle Storm Haven’s defenses and claim victory by reaching the keep first.

Players can choose between 1 of 4 Dark force armies each with their unique units, abilities, and ways of winning. Though they share the same goal of defeating the Fantasy Defenders, players are allowed and encouraged to use treachery, cunning, and steel against their team mates to add in their goal of being the first to enter the castle’s keep.
Storm the Castle! is not a heavy war game. Though you have many options each game turn, the rules are easy-to-learn and the game is quick to play. Each turn, players have a wide range of choices to customize how they want to play. Do they buy cheap pawns to throw against the castle walls, devastating siege machines,  lumbering giants, strange equipment, or use arcane magic to turn the tides of battle? These choices and more give the game a unique flavor allowing players to try multiple and varied strategies each time the game is played.

With pre-planned expansions and a nice theme, yes, I see the game has merit. Then again, I don’t think a game that was admittedly inspired by the Battle of Helmsdeep from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers can be all bad, and I’m not alone. Storm the Castle got a whopping $94,226 out of their $12,000 goal.


I think Miracle Max said it best…play me off, Max!




Type: Card-drafting Fantasy Battle game

Lost Legends



Do yourself a favor, folks. Do NOT base your opinions on this game on the video on the Kickstarter page. The video is well crafted, but it has the most blase and obnoxiously banal narrator of any hype video I’ve ever seen. I want to like this game, and I’m sure Mike Elliot designed a fine game, but good Lord it’s hard to get pumped for a game by watching a video that’s beautiful and has an upbeat, percussive music track, but has a narrator devoid of any enthusiasm whatsoever. All I heard out of the entire video was “I have better things to do than to narrate this garbage.”

Video aside, Lost Legends looks like pretty standard fare for a battle game. It does, however, have a bit of a twist: Card Drafting.

In Lost Legends, 3 to 5 players are mighty warriors, developing their strengths in order to battle increasingly ferocious monsters as they quest deeper into danger.

Each player’s board keeps track of all their warrior’s information: weapons, equipment, vitals, experience… their legend points, skills, and their kill trophies and trophy awards.  Each warrior is unique, and starts with varying vital levels and hero points.

Each round of play has its own deck of monsters.  The first monster each warrior encounters is placed in front of them, and then an additional monster is revealed in the center of the table.

Players then draft weapons, armor, spells, special abilities, charms, potions and healing items with an eye toward defeating their assigned monster. Each player is dealt 6 equipment cards.  They choose one, and either add it to their inventory by paying its cost in hero points, or turn it into additional skill for free. Players pass their remaining cards to their left. This continues until each player has one card left. That final card is removed from the game.

You pay for cards you equip with hero points, but the skills you begin with – or attain while drafting – can reduce these costs.  You may also convert an existing piece of equipment into a skill, and further reduce the cost  of the new item.
Now the fun begins! You face your first challenge and it’s your turn to attack. You determine the effectiveness and ferocity of your attack and mete out damage.  If this isn’t enough to take out the monster, mark the wounds you did inflict… and prepare yourself for the monster’s counterattack. This is where your preparation in equipping really comes into play. Did you give yourself enough protection to survive the attack?  If not you are knocked out of the round and will not fight again until the next round.

But be aware, some monsters have special abilities that can affect the battle. For example, a monster can charge you and deliver damage before you even attack.
When you defeat a monster, you might be able to claim a trophy award or two. These vary in kill trophies required and legend points awarded.

At the beginning of your turn, if you do not have a monster in front of you, you must encounter a new one.  You can choose to take on the face-up monster in the middle of the table… or you can draw the top card from the monster deck.  If you don’t think it’s a good idea to fight this monster, and another player also does not have a monster in front of them, you can evade that monster and it will attack them.  But, if you do this, you then must take on the next monster from the top of the deck.

The round ends when all the monsters have been defeated, or all the players have been knocked out.  At this point, all players refresh back to their full levels of mana and health, trophy points are awarded for the round, and you move on to the next round, where you will be able to draft stronger, better equipment.  And you’ll need it, because the monsters get stronger, too!

Three rounds is the game, and at the end, only the warrior with the most legend points becomes the most legendary!



A quick and dirty arena battle game? Alright, Lost Legends. I’m interested.


STATUS: Less than a day to go, but it’s pretty much a done deal. $29,357 out of $10,000.


Type: A competitive simultaneous-action fantasy card game


This Kickstarter has one of those hype videos that proves that you don’t have to have high production values to get people intersted in a game. It’s simply C. Aaron Kreader in front of the camera letting you know about his new game. I can can dig it.

The game itself looks like standard fare for competitive card games, with the addition of cards building a physical “dungeon” for the players to manipulate. I do, however, really like the artwork for the game.
The Details:
DungeonCraft is a game played with 2-4 players: one player as the Guardian against 1-3 Heroes. The Guardian of the Dungeon builds the dungeon and defends its rooms. The Heroes recruit adventurers, equip them, and plan their movement into the dungeon. Each of the two roles is governed by a distinct set of actions.

DungeonCraft takes 45-90 minutes to play. Within a round players spend tokens to take actions in an alternating sequence. Basic in its concept yet elevated in strategic options, the game combines some elements of chance with your ability to read your opponent’s strategy.

At the start of the game the Guardian designs a dungeon using a set of 16 room cards. The Treasure Vault is the most valuable of those rooms. Once the Guardian places entrances outside the dungeon, the game begins.
Each player has action tokens to spend on a variety of actions. Players use tokens to make plays during a round. After all players have spent their tokens, a new round begins with a new set of tokens.

The Heroes use tokens to prepare adventurers, and move them through the dungeon. Heroes earn points by defeating rooms. The Guardian uses tokens to build more rooms and create dungeon effects to slow down the Hero’s progress. The Guardian earns points by capturing adventurers and their gear, and by keeping his dungeon unexplored. The game ends either when the Guardian has drawn all the dungeon cards or when the Hero captures the Treasure Vault.

The Guardian has 4 room types: Traps, Brutes, Evil and Magic. The Hero has adventurers with skills suited to certain room types. The Hero is trying to put the best adventurers in the rooms most suited to their skills—while the Guardian tries to ambush and surprise the Hero with rooms that challenge the adventurers.



It looks like we’ll see this one on the shelves, because out of the $3,000 Kreader asked for, interested parties gave him $22,675.

I have to wonder if there are any planned expansions…

…well, yes and no.

There is a second Kickstarter for the same game in which the goal is to “enhance” the game with better production quality.


They’ve gathered almost three times what they’re asking for, so this is pretty much a done deal as well. If you’d still like some swag for the game, though, you have 24 days to go to donate!


STATUS: 24 days to go, but it is essentially funded.


Type: A tabletop RPG gone MMORPG


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: “I hate it when MMORPGs start bleeding into my tabletop RPGs!” (I’m looking at YOU, 4e Dungeons & Dragons) I usually want to throttle one of my players when he tells others that “he’s the DPS of the party.”





Sorry. MMO terms at the game table annoy me almost as much as texting and updating Facebook with iPhones at the game table.

As much as I hate MMOs bleeding into my tabletop, I may have equally strong feelings against the reverse…unless it’s done RIGHT. For an example of the absolute WRONG way to do this, see the absolutely abysmal Dungeons & Dragons Online. Dungeons & Dragons, to me, was never meant to play like an Elder Scrolls game.

Now, enter Pathfinder Online, bringing the world of Golarion to your PC, along with all of the ADD-addled screaming sociopathic adolescents that come with it. The short video I watched already revealed itself to be yet ANOTHER World of Warcraft in a different suit. My original thought, was “meh.” Then, however, I saw something that made my blood turn to ice:

“In a sandbox MMO your characters are able to make a persistent impact on the game world.  Your characters will be the heroes of legend.  Your character’s actions will determine how kingdoms rise and fall.  They’ll drive trade and commerce.  They’ll explore the world and discover the magic, monsters and adventure that await…

…Pathfinder Online’s robust economy puts players in control with player-created gear, consumables, fortifications, and settlements. Character-controlled settlements can grow into full-fledged kingdoms that compete for resources as they seek to become the dominant force in the land, raising vast armies to hold their territory against the depredations of monstrous creatures, NPC factions, and other player characters.”

Then, it happened…flashbacks of my days in Ultima Online. I remember not-too-fondly my days of coming out of the starting area only to be picked of by a character ten levels higher and looted like a newly-spawned mob. I also remember delving a dark dungeon for hours, weak from my battle and coming to the surface with my hard-won treasure, only to be one-shotted by some asshat at the entrance to have my crap stolen and laughed at and called “noob.” After the third time of having my home looted, burnt to the ground, and my dead cat urinated upon in the smoldering ashes, I finally had enough and rage quit the game.

Player-controlled settlements? Yeah, that worked REAL well in Star Wars Galaxies. Competing for resources, and holding territory against not only monsters, but NPC factions and other players? Are you daft?
There’s a simple fact of life that anyone who has ever played on XBox Live (or any other multiplayer gaming medium) or MMO can tell you is rule #1. People are assholes. Place that squarely in a demographic that is known for being socially awkward, and this can multiply exponentially. If you give that 14-year old basement troll a level playing field and no rules to follow, he can, and will seek to kill as many people as he can, so that he can take what is theirs, mock and belittle them, and generally do to them what he probably sees as being done to him on a daily basis.

Too many gamers out there are not just competitive…they’re sociopathic; they see a game as a chance to dominate other people. It’s the only way for some insecure gamers to feel good about themselves; the complete domination over any other person. It’s a need. Dominating and humiliating people is how some of these guys get off. Hell, if you put an option to “rape/defecate/teabag opponent after defeat,” you’d be shocked at how often that would get used. You can’t police this behavior, either.

Alright, Pathfinder Online; I’m going to predict exactly what’s going to happen in PFO about a month or two after launch if you don’t put some serious safeguards into your game, and I don’t even need a crystal ball…

…a couple of gargantuan online guilds are going to see this game as their next “conquest,” and they’re going to war over every last inch of the game, and like every other game like this, all new players are going to have to choose whether they want to join the Corleones, the Tattaglias, or the Barzinis, or they won’t survive, or have to pay protection payments to one of the great houses, or you can’t play “their’ game. I hope to God that Paizo isn’t doing something as stupid as “the things that happen in the MMO are going to reflect what goes on in the tabletop game,” because that is pretty much the nail in the coffin.

Sorry, Goblinworks, I’m through with playing games where I get virtually dominated and humiliated by sociopathic fourteen-year-olds, competing in an economy driven by people who don’t even know the definition of the word “economics,” or listen to a screaming nuclear meltdown because someone had their Cloudsong stolen. If you want to see how such a concept would be done RIGHT, see Shadowrun Online.


Until I see proof otherwise, I’m giving this a pass.


For everyone else, if this game strikes your fancy, you can donate generously.

STATUS: 45 days left.  $158,000 out of $1,000,000.



Type: Single-player multi-platform RPG video game


It’s no secret that Shadowrun is one of my favorite RPGs, and hearing that Jordan Weisman (Papa Shadowrun himself) got ahold of the electronic rights to Shadowrun again was exciting to say the least. Weisman planned to give us a next-gen Shadowrun experience in video game format. Throw in some healthy love and inspiration from the Shadowrun games for the Super Nintendo and the SEGA Genesis, and I’m on board and wanting this project to succeed.



I learned about the Kickstarter too late to help fund it (and that makes me sad. I would have loved some of that sweet swag!), but Good Lord it’s not like the project would have failed without me…

…apparently every other Shadowrun fan on the planet was as excited as I am, because out of the $400,000 that Harebrained Schemes asked for to get this thing going, fans gave a staggering $1,836,447; essentially funding it more than four times over. THAT, my friends, is community support!

STATUS: FUNDED (and freaking HOW!)


Type: Multi-player Online Tactical turn-based RPG video game

Shadowrun Online

Biting at the heels of the phenomenally successful Shadowrun Returns is Shadowrun Online. It was SO close on the heels of Shadowrun Returns that it was often mistaken for it. Shadowrun Online – is a cross-platform, online PC, Mac, Linux(see FAQ), iOS/iPad, Android Tablet and Ouya based tactical turn-based RPG set in the award winning world of Shadowrun. Create one account and play your game across multiple devices in whatever way you prefer!

Shadowrun Online – like the pen & paper version – is all about experiencing the awesome world and gritty atmosphere of Shadowrun together with friends. Fluid co-op gameplay and intense player vs player faction wars set in a persistent and evolving world – this is what Shadowrun Online is about!

And the best part is: In Shadowrun Online the collective actions of players will not only determine the fate of the online game world, but our unique player-driven plotline will enable you to determine the future of the whole Shadowrun Universe! Events players trigger will also cross over into the pen and paper storyline – so you can shape the future of the Shadowrun Universe!

At its core SRO is a full Unity3D online game, accessible through Windows, Mac, Android, iOS-  and Linux and on Ouya, with high quality graphics and great effects. It is fully cross platform, meaning you can play it on your tablet in the train, then go home to sit down at your PC to continue with the same character. Highly individualizable characters and a turn based system, which balances fast-paced action with deep tactical combat, make it a true Shadowrun experience.

Shadowrun fans had a bit of a scare over this one. As the Kickstarter timer clicked ever closer to the deadline, funding pretty much halted. SRO’s fundage was ever stuck at the 80% mark for about a week. I explained in a previous article that this was most likely due to a glut of Shadowrun Kickstarting; Runners were asked to shell out their hard-earned Nuyen on a Shadowrun single-player experience. After the atrocious abortion-worthy Shadowrun game for the XBox 360/PC, fans WANTED a true Shadowrun experience, and were more than happy to support it. Not a couple weeks later, SRO comes along and asks for even more (naturally, because it’s an online multiplayer game). Well, for fans, the bank is tapped! SRO would have done better if they waited another six months for fans to recover financially.

Then, at the final hours of SRO’s Kickstarter, the unbelievable happened; SRO’s total funds kicked over to $500,000, with a few thousand to spare. At zero hour, SRO accumulated $558, 863. Shadowrun fans produced a miracle in a few scant hours.

That’s all she wrote on that. SRO is fully funded! If you want, you can still send money their way at

STATUS: FUNDED! (See you in the shadows, chummers!)



Type: Single Player Videogame


Not all Kickstarters are created equal, and some end up failures, and Ars Magica is one of them. This one is sad, because Ars Magica is a great game; my favorite RPG of all time, in fact. Black Chicken Studios was set to make a great single player Ars Magica experience, and had the full support of Atlas Games, to the point where they planned on making a hardcover game supplement from the game itself.

Black Chicken Studios, working under license from Atlas Games, is delighted to present a new simulation role-playing game for the PC. After 25 years and 5 editions, Ars Magica will at long last be paid tribute in a single-player, turn-based video game. Authentic to the original, this is a faithful, beautiful, and accurate depiction of covenant gameplay and the RPG’s legendary magic system during a dangerous century in the Stonehenge Tribunal. With your help, we’ll bring Ars Magica: Years of Conquest and its tapestry of wars, intrigue, invasion and, above all, magic to life!

Imagine a world where myth is real. Faeries dance in forest glades, angels protect the Church, demons corrupt the weak, and wizards wield magic beyond the ken of other mortals.

You play one of these mages, and belong to one of 13 Houses banded together to form the ancient Order of Hermes. You’re dedicated to protecting and perfecting your command over magic. Served by knights, warriors, and peasants, you contend with the perils of plagues, beasts, battles, and other wizards to defend your covenant, your power, and your prestige. Your wizard will need to master the perils of life and death itself, if you are to prosper over 100 years of gameplay.

You’ll create your own character, and then try to survive from the first spring of your covenant to a final, epic winter a century later … and possibly renewal, if that is your destiny.

Over the years and decades, the least decision you make may have long-term unforeseen consequences. The bonds of family and friendship will be tested, too, as the years age everyone, new generations arise, and old sins are visited upon sons and daughters.

This is a game of many powers, and the pieces have a mind of their own.

If you are not familiar with the tabletop game, you are in for a real treat. Ars Magica is, quite literally, like no other game you have ever experienced. It has six dimensions: Covenant gameplay, quests, battle, magic, personalities and time.

  • Covenant gameplay is turn and map-based and allows you to do things such as collect Resources, train, research new Spells, create magical items, engage in diplomacy, go on quests and explore. In this section of the game, you have full command over all your Covenfolk, and can direct them to take whatever actions you feel are important. You can also let them choose their own tasks, if you prefer to see them get into their own types of trouble.
  • Quest gameplay is turn and dialogue-based, and allows you to assemble a party to accomplish a purpose. That purpose could be a variety of things: trade, combat, diplomacy, duels, investigations…and they can all lead to battle. Like the tabletop game, you choose the characters you want to come along. Some quests also have a map portion, for those quests with dungeon explorations.
  • Battle are won through a turn-based party system. It’s very old school: your foes are presented on one end, and your party on the other, and you act according to 5E Ars Magica initiative. What sets it apart, however, is the Environment. This is a pool of factors, constantly changing and refreshing, which benefit and penalize all combatants. Where you go in the Environment, and what you do there, can provide you the means of survival – only the most hardy or well protected warrior can ignore the Environment, and even then, probably not for very long. It also turns on and off Spell/Spontaneous Magic options- if an opponent is sniping from a bush, you can set it on fire. If an opponent has taken shelter in a building, you can use the furniture to attack them. Is it raining? Change it to acid. And so on.
  • Magic is omnipresent in Ars Magica, and that’s true of Years of Conquest, too. Whether you are on the Covenant screen, on a quest, or in battle, you’ll find the contextually appropriate Spells available for your mages to use. If you don’t know the Spell, you can cast it Spontaneously. Which Spells you use also makes a big difference: they can provide information which can change the course of a negotiation, reveal an alternate path, or just make your tasks easier. If you have the skills to pull it off, Magic makes everything better.
  • Magic also makes for eccentric, half-mad mages, and it doesn’t help that magically touched people are cursed with social stigmas, too. Covenants are full of personality, and when those personalities conflict, it can have explosive results. Making sure that your people aren’t burning your home down is part of the charm of any Ars Magica game. Depending on what you do, your Covenfolk can form lasting friendships, bitter rivalries, cooperate on magical breakthroughs, or, just as easily, tear it all apart.
  • Finally, the true progression of the game is the toll of the years: at the beginning, you have nothing but a single mage, a ruined Roman villa, and the key to a deeper mystery. By the end, you will have seen four generations go by, and your Covenant will be a dominant magical power, hoarding rich treasures, and maintained by strong and loyal Covenfolk. Then again, it might still be a ruin on a blasted heath, pillaged by your enemies and brought to its end by treachery.

No pressure


Unfortunately, this was not to be. This game was going to be awesome, but it serves as a prime example that even such awesome things as this might end up a Kickstarter failure.


I implore you, Black Chicken Studios, DON’T GIVE UP! It’s disheartening, I know, but something this good has to see the light of day eventually! On the ashes of any winter covenant, a spring covenant can be built!


STATUS: FAILURE (and that’s a damned shame, really.)



The spell is cast, friends, and my time for now is done. I’ll keep watching Kickstarters and try to spread the word for more interesting games!



Happy gaming!


Posted on November 30, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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