Tell us a bit about yourself, Rock manor Games and Maximum Apocalypse.
I’m a Sagittarius and love long walks on the beach and laughing. I work hard, but play even harder – board games that is. In all seriousness though, I’m a long time entrepreneur and gamer that has been involved in gaming for over 10 years. This past year has seen a lot of change for me. I had my 2nd daughter and sold two of my businesses in preparation for dedicated more time to my family. I also wanted to focus on board game design and Rock Manor Games. Rock Manor Games has been a moniker for my personal game projects for years, but I really only started using it again when I took Brass Empire from notecards to Kickstarter.
Maximum Apocalypse was conceived shortly after Brass Empire but really started coming together after the Brass Empire Kickstarter. I first started breaking it out publicly at GenCon last year. It was received well and I kept building it up as I worked on bringing it to Kickstarter. If you missed the Kickstarter, Maximum Apocalypse is a cooperative roguelike adventure game for 1-6 players. There are 4 different apocalyptic scenarios and the entire game was built to be very modular and expandable.
What did you do to build up a following before you launched the Maximum Apocalypse campaign?
Well first off, I had a small crowd from my first Kickstarter, Brass Empire, before I launched Maximum Apocalypse which helped. I feel that the real way I built up a lot of my crowd though was through hitting the pavement and attending a bunch of cons (well over 10 conventions over the past 2 years) leading up to the Kickstarter Launch. I always had a newsletter signup sheet in my booth/demo area to collect email addresses.
Did you do anything different when you were building an audience for your first game, Brass empire?
I attended one convention and showed the game publicly only once (at PAX Prime) before launching Brass Empire on Kickstarter. I’ve always felt that the biggest mistake I made was launching a month after PAX rather than building up more of a crowd by attending conventions leading up to the game. For Maximum Apocalypse, I wanted to show the game at cons for about a year before launch. I definitely learned from this campaign to build a bigger crowd for MA on the 2nd go around.
Did you expect to get so many backers for MA and why do you think that happened?
I was hoping to break $100k that was my personal goal for all the hard work I had put into the game. I thought it was a reach so I was thrilled when I exceeded that goal. Obviously I feel that the game itself is quite good and captivating, but beyond that I believe that my regular activity on Kickstarter kept us on a nice linear trend unlocking Stretch Goals. Somehow, we managed to avoid a major mid-campaign slump which set us up for an amazing final week.
What is your best marketing tip during the campaign?
During the campaign, I think the best thing you can do is be active on Kickstarter and engage your backers. They will be your advocates and if you’ve prepared accordingly you should be funded and sailing to stretch goals with your crowd. I feel like my responsiveness to questions and engagement in the Kickstarter comments is what kept us on the hotlist and trending.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched MA, what would it be?
That Gloomhaven’s 2nd printing was launching an hour after I launched MA.
When did you launch and why did you choose that exact moment?
A lot of the Kickstarter advice states that you want to launch on a Tuesday and end on a Thursday so I picked a Tuesday that was within a month of a con I was attending (in this case PAX East) and made sure I could get a homepage takeover that Wed or Thursday on Board Game Geek. I sort of worked backwards from there.
How do you structure your days during the campaign?
As I mentioned earlier, I spent a lot of time on my phone responding to comments and questions. As we approached a stretch goal, I spent a few hours composing an update, generating graphics, and updating the project page. I had some of this stuff ready before the campaign, but I was always tweaking and working on the updates, page and game throughout the campaign.
What’s the best Kickstarter advice you ever received?
No one piece of advice stands out to me. I don’t think Kickstarter success comes down to one pearl of wisdom either. It’s a lot of work. I guess if I had to choose something it would be that you need to bring your crowd on the first day – that means you need to do a whole lot of marketing and legwork leading up to your Kickstarter launch. You should be very confident that you will fund based on your crowd and the people you can bring to your page in the first week. If you’re confident and have a crowd of fans, then your crowdfunding campaign will just magnify and build off of what you brought to the platform.
What do you think about Kickstarter exclusives?
I like Kickstarter exclusives but think they should be extra goodies and not major game content. I don’t like it when an entire expansion is a Kickstarter Exclusive, but as a backer I like getting little things as exclusives like access to play mats, collectible coins, or a few special cards.
What do you think about paid vs. unpaid reviews and do you launch all the reviews on day one?
Yes, I tried to launch all of the reviews on Day 1. I started out hating paid reviews. I think mainly because I was more familiar with the digital and video games space where that is very uncommon. I still don’t love paying for reviews (plus the cost of the prototype and shipping) but am willing to do it if they are producing a video for it. In those cases, I look at my payment as paying for a how to play video overview or demo with some review content in it.
What´s your main tactic to handle the mid-campaign drop in new backers?
For this campaign, we setup a BGG contest for the middle of the campaign along with some other minor paid advertising. I think it was pretty successful since if you look at our metrics on Kicktraq we didn’t have much of a slump in the middle of the campaign. You can read about our experience with paid advertising a Kickstarter on our blog: http://www.rockmanorgames.com/2017/06/advertise-kickstarter/
You had a very good final 48 hours on MA. What happened?
The final 48 hours is always going to see a surge. At that point in the campaign, you should have unlocked some stretch goals which adds value to the project. There’s a lot more certainty near the end of a campaign – you know all the extras you’re getting, you know if the campaign will fund or not, etc. That combined with the fact that you only have 48 hours left to get the deal, means that your conversions will go up. That being said, I think our consistent linear growth during the campaign set us up for a fantastic final 48 hours.
What´s your tactic regarding stretch goals?
Stretch goals make a lot of sense for Board Games because as you order more copies, your cost per copy to manufacture decreases. If you look at our campaign for Maximum Apocalypse, you’ll see that we had a good number of Stretch Goals. My tactic is to always have manufacturing upgrades and extra content as stretch goals ready to go before my Kickstarter begins. I think you have to go into a project with Stretch Goals in mind especially since your funding goal is typically not necessarily a profitable goal.
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
I’m going to say something off the beaten path here: your funding goal. The amount of your goal is actually really important. You need to pick a number that is high enough to make it worth your while, but is likely still lower than a point that you would ever make a profit at. I also believe that you want to set a goal that you feel like you can easily reach quickly so that you can start value adding with stretch goals etc. I also read some chatter online that adding a ‘Funded in X hours’ banner to your Kickstarter project image increases your click through rate so that is also related to the actual figure that you choose.
Do you regret something you did on your previous campaign?
Yeah I blogged about my big mistakes from my first campaign here: http://www.rockmanorgames.com/2016/06/the-top-3-mistakes-i-made-on-the-brass-empire-kickstarter/
What is your favourite board game at the moment and why?
My favorite competitive game right now is probably Clank! I love the deckbuilding mechanic (hence Brass Empire) and Clank! adds some cool tension and push your luck type scoring to the genre. I also really enjoy the Arkham Horror LCG since I can play solo and it satisfies my love of card games since I can’t play Netrunner as much.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
I think anyone that doesn’t admire Richard Garfield in this industry is crazy. Another big name right now is Eric Lang of Blood Rage fans. They are both amazing designers, but as a smaller indie guy, a lot of my role models are other lesser known peers and friends. Everyone in the Tabletop Co-op with me is incredible and supportive. There are also a lot of local designers that I see every month at Game Makers Guild Philadelphia that help playtest our games and give valuable feedback. Other indies like Tim Fowers and Patrick Leder have seen great success and are building a real career out of making games so I definitely look up to them and try to model my own strategy after them.
Where can people reach you?
You can contact me directly from our website at www.rockmanorgames.com or tweet me @mgnade