Tell us a bit about yourself and Direwild.
I am a product designer by trade. I have spent my professional career developing pretty much every type of product you can think of, from prosthetic legs to aircraft interiors. I have been a modern day boardgamer ever since I played Catan around15 years ago. One day I was at a keynote at PAX in Seattle and the speaker said “if you are a creator, you should create something you are passionate about”. Something clicked and I decided to give it a shot! 5 years and a lot of mistakes and designs later here I am.
Direwild is truly a labor of love. It was one of the first few crops of ideas I had for a game, and it was the only one to make it through the years of rigorous testing and cutting. The basic idea was what if your deck represented your hero in terms of character building? This is no longer a novel idea, as games like Clank and Thunderstone have similar core concepts, but I also wanted the whole tactical dungeon crawling experience. I wanted the character to move about a physical space, thinking tactically and using teamwork. I then realized that collecting cards like daggers, knives, shields etc was a bit boring. The game really clicked when we changed equipment into creatures, and the characters became summoners, who brought these creatures into battle with them. The core idea is still the same – if you want to build your character into a ranger, instead of buying bows and arrows into your deck you buy birds and other winged creatures.
You have a rather high funding goal for a first timer. Were you nervous about not making it?
Not really. I took a lot of time to understand exactly what was needed minimum to have a successful campaign. If it didnt make that goal, then that would just be the reality of the situation. This didn’t take into consideration the money I had invested into marketing and art. I always considered those a lost cost. No one gets into board games to make money – they get in because they love boardgames and want as many people to experience it as possible. To that end, I took a lot of time trying to get the customer price as low as possible. Where we are currently, I am actually covering the art and marketing costs too! That’s a great feeling to know that I didnt lose money bringing this game to people, and our next game in this universe should have a built in audience.
What did you do to build up a following before you launched Direwild?
The best thing I did was demo it for over a year. Just going to conventions and showing it to people. I would ask those people to join the mailing list to be notified of the Kickstarter when it launches. I was very clear that I would use this list only to mail them one email. I would not spam them and would take their privacy very seriously. The craziest thing, however, was when I launched the Kickstarter we had about 100 pledges before I even sent out the email! (We launched at 5am on a Tuesday!)
When did you launch and why did you choose that exact moment?
Good question. November is not a great time to launch a Kickstarter. Additionally, a lot of my potential customers would be at Essen, BGG con, and PAX unplugged. Also, the holidays are right around the corner and it is not the best time to launch a Kickstarter. I did it because I had just finished my most successful convention at PAX west a few months back, and people were chomping at the bit to invest in the game. Add that to the fact that people I had demoed the game to earlier in the year were really starting to wonder when Kickstarter would launch, if ever, so I had to strike while interest was high.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched Direwild, what would it be?
1) Getting reviews take much longer than you think. Give yourself over a month of lead time.
2) Add-ons. I wish I had a better understanding of the logistics required for add-ons. I chose to not do any add-ons in order to streamline the process, but if I had figured it out I could have really made a lot of fans happy. Things like a premium insert, dice, sleeves are all things I would have loved to have as an option, while keeping the base game affordable for everyone.
What is your best marketing tip during a campaign?
I would say make sure people have social stretch goals to work on. Something that doesnt require further personal investment.
Early bird pledging is a hot topic that a lot of people have different opinions on. Why did you choose to have that?
I wanted to thank everyone that came out, demoed the game at conventions, and took a chance on our game. The early bird wasnt a huge discount, more of a token of our appreciation.
How do you structure your days during a campaign?
I am constantly listening to what fans are saying they would like to have in the game. Obviously they are not aware of the problems to game balance their particular suggestions would create, but there is a core want in all their suggestions that I should pay attention to, and try to accomplish in some way, as long as it doesnt impact my manufacturing plan in any significant way.
What’s the best kickstarter advice you ever received?
There’s no single piece of advice that sticks out. There is a ton of information on the web though. Particularly the advice of Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games. I probably would have given up if it wasnt for his advice.
What´s your thoughts regarding stretch goals?
The concept of a stretch goal is that you made so much money, your product now costs less due to economies of scale. With board games, this is a lie. You are producing at minimum 1500 games, so there is no way you are going to exceed that amount unless you are one of the few breakout hits. BUT stretch goals are CRUCIAL to keeping your campaign going. So, you have to be smart with your goals. Make them non-essential additions to your game that only cost you brainpower, not money. Adding special cards and tokens are easy. Adding new miniatures are not.
What is your comment in the debate about paid vs unpayed reviews?
Yeah. Thats a hard one. The problem is all the paid reviewers tend to have higher views. Still, people have to make a living, and I fully support that. I think it should be mandatory though that the reviewers should give negative feedback along with their positive and stay as unbiased as possible. Thus far, all my reviews have contained this, which I think is critical.
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
Out side of art, which is obviously the most important – I am going to surprise you with this one: gifs. Having moving images that convey what each turn does is critical for new viewers. By nature Kickstarter pages are DENSE. If you can scroll through and quickly see an animation that conveys they spirit of whats happening in your game, that is awesome.
What is your favourite board game at the moment and why?
Oof. Hrm. Kingdom Death I think. I am not a big fan of scantily clad women in games, but there is something pretty cool about the juxtaposition of beautiful people doing terrifying situations. Also you can get sucked into a Phoenix’s butthole and travel through time, so thats a hilarious.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
Eric Lang, Jamie Stegmaier.
Anything else you want to add?
Yeah. ANYONE can make a board game. The real trick is knowing your first prototype will be absolutely terrible. Unplayable. Even the second through fifth prototype. But eventually you will get something that will click. Stay with it. Believe in yourself.
Where can people reach you?
Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Direwild is live on Kickstarter now. Check them out here