Tell us a bit about yourself and Epoch!
I’m Marc Neidlinger, a branding consultant, graphic designer, and designer of Epoch: The Awakening, which is a study in the concept of heroism. The narrative of the game is that you begin the game a guilt-ridden scumbag, thrown overboard your ship for a life of cruelty and corruption. Moments before death, you’re discovered by a traveler. In the near-death experience, you decide to restore your lost honor and rewrite your tarnished past.
Your first campaign for Epoch failed. Why do you think that happened?
My first campaign might have funded by whimpering over the finish line, and I pulled the plug early because I thought we could do better. In retrospect, I could have done a better job building community (specifically on BoardGameGeek and certain Facebook gaming groups). I also think my shipping could have been thought through better, and the timing of our launch put us against 2 mega-games that pulled budgets away from our target audience.
What did you do to build up a following before you launched the first time?
I built up nearly 1400 Instagram followers, nearly 1000 on our email list, and studied crowdfunding for 18 months. To be honest, I felt prepared. The micro-adjustments made a huge world of difference in our second launch.
Did you do anything different when you were building an audience for the second time?
Yes, we became extremely active in the community and asked questions that we were willing to respond to. We listened. It has made all the difference.
Why do you think you succeeded in your second attempt?
The second attempt gave people less reason to be on the fence…a clearer understanding of the game, a lower funding goal for momentum, more attractive shipping, and fewer mega-brands to compete with.
What is your best marketing tip?
Build relationships organically, one-by-one, and value the feedback of every person. No crowdfunding effort can succeed without a crowd who believes in the product AND the creator.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched the two campaigns, what would it be?
I wish I knew how important it was to saturate the community with pre-campaign exposure to the game, it’s story, and it’s uniqueness. Fielding questions and applying feedback from the online community is more efficient than local play-testing.
How is it to run a relaunch campaign? Is it any different?
Mine were 2 weeks apart, so not a whole lot different. Replying to every message, email, and comment personally is critical. I did that in both campaigns.
When did you launch and why did you choose that exact moment?
I wanted to dodge the mega campaigns (let Zombicide Green Horde and Lords of Hellas fall off) and then finish prior to GenCon. It was the perfect window.
How do you structure your days during the campaign?
Pre-planning has gone a long way. I was very prepared in terms of stretch goals and so forth. I have a full-time job, so my days are pretty much 6am until 10-11pm every day at the moment.
What’s the best advice you ever received before the relaunch?
Reading Jamey Stegmaier’s crowdfunding book is a must. It holds nearly all of the secrets. His blog is probably the most valuable resource in the industry for crowd-funded board game projects. #1 tip? Don’t launch until you have it all dialed.
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?
Engage the community, listen to them, involve myself with them, and give them something worth sharing on social media channels.
What´s your tactic regarding stretch goals?
Just make them worth having. Too many campaigns try to make a few cards seem like a stretch goal and I believe that they need to be worth fighting for. Significant. The community needs to want them.
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
Authenticity. I’ve found that my backers are engaged and excited because of all of the extra work I’ve put into the game to make it uniquely valuable. Being real with the community allows backers to feel like they are part of the campaign—that they have a voice. In my campaign, they really do.
Do you regret something you did on your previous campaign?
Not really. I made the micro-adjustments and bounced back. I’m kind of proud of how the team responded.
What is your favourite board game at the moment and why?
I am really enjoying Anachrony, Scythe, and T’Zolkein. Anachrony has a myriad of action selection with resource management and a cool time-travel twist. My game group enjoyed that one a lot and we play it often.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
Jamey Stegmaier (Stonemaier), James Hudson (Druid City), and John Zinser (AEG) have all contacted me directly with encouragement and advice that is selfless and good for the industry as a whole. I respect the heck out of those guys.
Anything else you want to add?
The passion behind the work must show. People aren’t buying a game — they are buying the story, the why behind the development and they want to make it relatable to their lives. It’s a huge responsibility and privilege to make something worthy of their table.