Keith is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for Roll player – Monsters & Minions Expansion
Tell us a bit about yourself and Roll Player.
Well, I’m gamer who decided to try his hand at designing and publishing a boardgame. My interest in the hobby re-surged in 2009 with the discovery of euro games like Puerto Rico as well as my desire to find a replacement for RPGs like D&D. Around 2013, after some coercion from a friend, I tried designing my own game. The first effort I felt worthy of publishing was, Bullfrogs. It was small enough that the publishing risk was low, and it allowed be to learn a lot about running a kickstarter and publishing. My second project was Roll Player. It started as a seed of an idea about making RPG characters. I felt the idea had a lot of legs and decided it was going to be my next project. I ran an successful Kickstarter for it in Nov 2015 and it is now about to enter it’s 3rd print run and the expansion is now funding on Kickstarter.
On top of that, I’m a father is an amazing 6 year old son and a husband of nearly 15 years to my fantastic wife. During the day, I work as a Producer/Project Manager at a video game developer – Raven Software.
How did the campaign for the original Roll player go?
It went fairly well. It out performed my previous project by a significant margin, though it is a much more complex game in terms of production and gameplay, as well as more expensive. I ended up running the campaign in November, which in hind-sight probably wasn’t a great idea. That time of yeah, may people are dedicating their money to the holidays and aren’t as interested in backing Kickstarter projects. I also think Roll Player is a pretty unique game that players sometimes have a hard time understanding where the fun in the game is until they play it.
What did you do different kickstarter wise on the newest edition of Roll player?
Well, I didn’t launch in the holiday window! 🙂 I did even more external playtesting than on the previous project. It was a lot easier to generate interest in the expansion, as the base game already has a fan base to draw upon. I did more advertising on the web than the previous project and learned a lot more about Facebook advertising, which is helping get the project in front of more eyes than the previous one. I also invested in a much more “slick” video for the campaign. The original campaign’s video was me just standing in front of my game collection trying to communicate how cool the game is. This time around, I hired a great animator to help me present it with more appealing visuals. The expansion campaign is shorter than the original campaign. Doing 4 weeks, is just too long. Something closer to 3 or 2 weeks generates a similar number of backers without the slump in the middle.
When did you launch Rollplayer M&M and why did you choose that exact moment?
RP: Monsters & Minions was launched on May 23rd, 2017 at 10am. This is a good time, as many people are in front of their computers at that time of day in the US. Also, Mondays tend to be busy weekdays after the weekend, so I always hope people have more wiggle-room to be distracted by a cool Kickstarter project then. I picked the end of May to coincide with things starting to slow down a little at my day job. Running a Kickstarter is a ton of work, and you need to be available to answer questions, make adjustments, and chase potential backers. I needed to feel comfortable taking some time off of my job to manage that, at least for the first day. The first and last days of a Kickstarter are madhouse. It’s best to give them your undivided attention.
What is the best time to launch a campaign according to you?
Mid morning. This gives folks in all time zones in the US to be awake and potentially in front of their computers when the project goes live. Also, it give me a chance to sleep in a little that day. It’s important to be well-rested before the launch of project.
How did you build your following for the Roll player reprint?
The first printing of Roll Player was pretty small, so outside of the Kickstarter backers, it was pretty hard to get a hold of. The fans of the game have been very vocal about how much they like it, so they’ve been helping keep the game in the minds of gamers, even when it was unavailable. Even after the 2nd print run hit, it sold out super fast. I like to think my engagement in the community and pro-activeness sharing the game with people has helped as well.
What do you think is the best way to build up a following before launch for first time creators?
Do lots of demos. Be involved in social media, especially on Twitter. Engage with the community. Share you development process with other people. Share artwork as it is being completed. Write a blog. Get influencers to talk about the game by sending out preview/review copies with nearly finished artwork.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched Roll player M&M, what would it be?
Stretch goals are a big part of the Kickstarter experience these days. I wish I knew how well this Kickstarter was going to do and have more stretch goal content ready out of the game. I prepared quite bit of content, but it’s a tough one to manage, if it goes really well. If you invest in content that is designed for stretch goal material, but isn’t used, as the campaign doesn’t do amazing, then you’re pouring a lot of time and effort into content that isn’t needed. On the other hand, if you don’t prepare enough, then you end up scrambling to find new things for backers to get excited about, which often times requires artwork or additional quote information from your manufacturer. Getting the timing correct on that is also tricky, as your artist might not be available, or your manufacturer may not get back to you as quickly as you would like to make sure your plans are solid.
You had a rather big funding goal for the original version of Roll Player ($ 35 000). Where you nervous about that?
It was a financial requirement. Roll Player is an expensive game to make and ship. If I wanted ensure I end up in the black on the project, that’s what I needed. I had already invested in a lot of artwork for the game. It was time to see if people actually wanted it. Luckily, they did. 🙂
Blend Off is a tough one. I really like the game from designer Scot Eaton, and I believe there’s a place for it in the light/family market. I expected it to do better, but in the end, it wasn’t something a lot of gamers were interested in. I ended up canceling it and relaunching with quite a few changes. 1) I added a kickstarter exclusive min-expansion. I’m not a fan of exclusive content, but I decided to try it on the relaunch. I created more opportunities for backers to get involved in the development, as they were able to offer suggestions for recipe names. Some of the best recipe names in the game are from backers, so that was fun. I lowered the funding goal, which meant I took on more of the risk of the project, as I really believed in it, and wanted it to succeed.
What is your best marketing tip during the campaign?
Mid-campaign slump is a problem most campaigns have. In the middle of the campaign, the best creators can do is try to maintain the momentum as long as possible. One tip is to get translated versions of the rulebooks done during (or before) the campaign. This engages backers who are interested in trying to help the project, as well as makes the campaign more accessible to more players. During the Bullfrogs campaign, the French transition of the rules lead to a great review on a French gaming website, when then lead to an outpouring of pledges form France. It turned to tide on the campaign. Without that one review, the project probably would have been canceled and Roll Player probably wouldn’t exist.
How do you structure your days during the campaign
I make it up as I go along. I have a list of things I want to do. I try to get as many as possible completed on the first couple days, but sometimes they fall off the list and end up sliding into the down times. Opportunities come up that give you new things to do or talk about in updates. Reach out to other creators for advice. There are a lot of use working in silos. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there, and people are willing to help/share. You just need to ask.
What’s the best kickstarter advice you ever received?
Be prepared. Running and fulfilling a KS is complicated and there’s a lot on the line. Know your costs. Know your expenses. Buffer everything (time and financial) by at least 20%. Under promise and over deliver. When you’re running a Kickstarter, you’ve putting your neck out there. Your reputation is on the line and you’re asking for people to trust you. Respect that.
What´s your thoughts regarding stretch goals?
They’re very important to a lot backers. They create engagement and are important to encourage people to spread the word about your project. But, as a creator, if you don’t have a good plan and don’t know your costs, you can get into big trouble real fast. In the end, find stretch goals that have minimal scheduling impact, and have the best “bang for buck’.
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
The art. This includes the box art and all the sample artwork. We are visual beings. And since players often don’t get a chance to play the game, the artwork often is the thing that people are pledging towards. Without amazing art, it’s hard to get anyone’s attention.
What is your favorite board game at the moment and why?
War of the Ring is my favorite board game. It creates a different narrative of good vs. evil every time you play. The dice selection mechanic is limiting and super interesting. Plus, it looks amazing. 🙂
Glory to Rome is my favorite card game. I love the insane number of broken combos in the game, but somehow it feels balanced. It is also the most successful use of multi-use cards, which is a favorite mechanic.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
I look up to Reiner Knizia quite a bit as a designer. He is great at creating games with complex and interesting decisions while keeping the mechanics super simple. Ra is my favorite game from him.
I admire Jamey Stegmaier, as he was a pioneer in the logistics of running and fulfilling a Kickstarter and kindly shares all his knowledge and experience with other folks trying to find success.
Anything else you want to add?
Thanks to everyone for their support of my games. I wouldn’t be able to do any of the cool stuff I do without my backers.
Where can people reach you?
Thunderworks Games website: www.thunderworksgames.com