Tell us a bit about yourself and your last game, Statecraft.
So I started off my life of tabletop gaming up in the far North of England, in a backwater town called Carlisle, in the local Games Workshop, completely hooked on the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000, and the culture and community that surrounded those games.
I started getting into the board games hobby specifically after one fateful GW ‘Games Day’ (a massive Warhammer convention held in the NEC in birmingham every year), where I picked up a copy of the then fresh off the press Chaos in the Old World, which me and my mates played to death.
Cue university and time away from hobbies and more time spent bored in a library. Fortunately, Thirsty Meeples, the first UK board games cafe opened up just round the corner from where I was at uni, so instead of revising me and my friend Matthew loaded up on carrot cakes and craft ales and played every game we could manage.
At that point we got stuck into designing our first game, Molecular, which was a fantastic success on Kickstarter a few months later! After we tasted success we started work on our next nerdfest of a game, Statecraft. This one was a lot more complex, with a lot more academic stuff rammed into it, but it was amazing fun to design. Unfortunately, the first time around when we launched Statecraft, it was a bit of a flop, getting just 6k out of the targeted 15k 😦
We then spent 3 months building up for the relaunch…
What did you do to build up a following before you launched?
EVERYTHING. As the first campaign attempt went so badly (comparatively), it shook us quite a bit, so we kinda went a bit bezerk. We joined pretty much every facebook group we could find to get advice and guidance on the project and the campaign, we sent letters to every game store and 6th form college in the country pitching the game as a retail asset and educational tool, built a tabletopia version of the game so that everyone could have a go, distributed print and plays, trialled the game with schools, sent prototypes to reviewers both sides of the atlantic, redesigned the entire campaign page…sleep didn’t happen too much…
What is your best marketing tip?
Let people in on your story. It sounds corny, but the more human you let yourself be as a company identity, the more relatable you are. When I was failing with the Statecraft campaign, I started ending all my emails with my name ~Peter, which produced an incredible response. People realised I was just a person! I got floods of encouraging letters, messages, advice etc.
Let yourself be vulnerable in the pursuit of your idea, and people will join you to protect its success.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched, what would it be?
The outcome of the EU Referendum…haha I got comprehensively clusterfucked on the exchange rates there…
When did you launch the campaign for Statecraft and why did you choose that exact moment?
It was 8am British time on a Tuesday. Very specific I know. Logic was:
Start it early in the week but not a Monday, so everyone who’s board (haha) at work is scrolling through their feed looking for something interesting to brighten up their day
As I’m a British designer, Brits are likely to be my biggest fans (and mostly friends), so giving the most time in the British day for the first day seemed sensible
Starting at 8am means that you’re just at the start of the Kicktraq/Kickstarter ‘day’ as they’re based in the US – so you don’t accidentally make it look like you made 3 quid on your first day.
Basically, a weighted version of the maximum overlap between the two main audiences, North America and Western Europe.
I could have gone with 6am, but lol no.
The beginning and the end of the campaign are when most of the backers pledge. What is your main tactic to handle the mid-campaign drop?
There doesn’t have to be one! Make it exciting! Engage your backers!
Seriously, we got the slump too, it happens, but we did something a little different – we designed an entire new expansion and playtested the hell out of it, based on suggestions we had from backers, then we released it mid campaign as a cheap add-on.
The backers loved what we did, and went crazy for it! It really helped us keep the momentum up towards the end, and made it much easier to hit the 1000 backer goal we’d set for ourselves.
The main point is engagement. Make your campaign something the be a part of for your backers. Use polls, competitions, discussions. Just chat with them!
I remember that you were quite active at the end of the Statecraft campaign. Can you tell us what you did the final 48 hours to get as many backers as you did?
Similarly to the run up, I went absolutely nuts on social media, sending letters, emails, nudging friends who promised they’d back, cajoling family to back for a quid. I also put a few big goals up on the page, like if we get to 1000 backers, I’ll unlock 3 whole stretch goals, irrespective of funding level.
Suffice to say, it worked.
How often do you send out updates and what do they include?
Whenever there’s something interesting to say, which hopefully is every day, in the middle of the campaign more like every couple of days.
Whenever there was news on a new add-on being available, more artwork to show, more cool stuff to interact with, or a new stretch goal unlock – we talked about it! We also tried to be as thematic as possible with the updates, kinda keeping in character as much as we could.
What is you tactic regarding stretch goals?
Give people cool stuff that you wouldn’t normally be able to risk doing. Simple as that. Don’t use stretch goals as an opportunity to make more cash, use it as an opportunity to genuinely reward your backers for their help in making your thing.
What is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
The bit you missed off.
There are a million and one things you can include, but the only thing that really matters is the thing that people think should be there but isn’t.
1. Rulebook download
2. How to Play Vid
3. Shipping Prices
You recently ran a small kickstarter campaign for another game called Quickdraw. The campaign failed. Why do you think that happened?
So yeah, this one was a complete failure.
Simple answer, we went off-message. I started ITB to be a tabletop publishing company that discusses, challenges, and creates ways to interact with, ideas. Quickdraw was something a friend had designed that I really enjoyed and thought made a great value product, but ultimately it wasn’t what people expected from ITB.
Additionally, we’d spent so much time promoting Sub Terra, that the stuff we did do for Quickdraw got drowned out, so no one really heard about it.
Similarly, I think the pre-christmas effect meant that people were less willing to spend small amounts of money on things they weren’t super enthusiastic about, which is fair.
Do you regret something you did on the Quickdraw campaign?
Nah, not at all, we learned a lot by doing badly.
So you mentioned Sub Terra, tell us a bit about that
This one’s our next big title, launching on the 10th of January, and it’s been a massive project.
It started off when I was a judge at the UK Games Expo’s ‘Wyvern’s Lair’ a Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank-style event where designers pitch their ideas to a panel of indie and mainstream publishers in an attempt to get them to publish their thing. Tim Pinder, the designer of Sub Terra, made an incredible pitch and after a bit of negotiation, he came on board with ITB.
Sub Terra is a 1-6 player coop survival horror game, where you take the role of cavers who’ve been trapped underground and have to find their way out before they get lost in the darkness forever, or get killed by the horrible hazards beneath the Earth.
It’s been an incredible undertaking, as although it’s an elegant game with a huge amount of strategic depth in spite of its accessible play style, the amount of careful work that’s been put into tweaking the game’s mechanics and art direction has been taxing. We spent a lot of time before developing the artwork on discussing what we wanted from it, what feelings we wanted to communicate, what function it had in the game, what we wanted players to do with it.
Hopefully, though, all that effort has been worth it!
Click here to get more info on Statecraft and Sub Terra.