Crowdfunding is great – a way for creatives to avoid the hassle of publishing companies and other bureaucratic obstacles, instead simply making what they want and delivering it to fans. And I am not the only one who thinks so. Over the last few years, the crowdfunding phenomenon has exploded, with sites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Pozible becoming flooded with projects. To help you wade through this flood, I will share with you my pickings from the Tabletop section of Kickstarter, in the hope of providing an interesting and varied sample of projects you may find exciting.
Dark Ring: Hong Kong
by Man Yau
Dark Ring: Hong Kong is a semi-cooperative, strategic card game for 4-8 players from solo-designer Man-Yau. This game caught my eye for a few reasons. First, the impressive scope of lore that is included in the project’s video. Second, the quality, not only of the video, but also of the prototype design, as shown in the video. Third, the key design motivation; to create a game which is both strategically complex and does not have a chunky rulebook. There is a noticeable trend of game designers trying to achieve this feat via Kickstarter projects. Usually, the types of games that are able to achieve a high level of simplicity rely, at least moderately, on a luck based mechanic, which tends to sacrifice strategic depth.
This is not the case for Dark Ring. Dark Ring features three different ‘roles’ or factions and in order to win a game your faction – not just you alone – must have the highest total score. Each card in the game has two functions – an action and a score value. Each round, one player takes on the role of host. All players then choose one card from their hand to pass to the Host. The Host then re-distributes these to the other players. Some cards have positive effects, some negative. After this phase, the core of play begins, with players using the cards in their hand to try and ensure that their ‘trace card’ (the card that was redistributed to them by the Host) has a good effect. After two rounds, each player must decide whether to keep or discard their trace card. Even this short description of play makes it evident how Dark Ring possesses Poker-esque bluffing and deep strategy, and how players must carefully monitor the moves of their opponents in order to be on the winning side at the end of the game. An intriguing title with impressive production values and depth to theme.
StrataSphere 2.0: The Simple Game of Strategy and Gravity
by Family Games America
Shuffling Horror! A Creepy Card and Dice Game
by GameWick Games
The cool twist on this title is that players who fall and become zombies don’t stop playing the game; instead, they continue to play as zombies. While some of the tiers of this Kickstarter project will get you a copy of Pittsburgh 68, it is not the focus of this campaign. The focus is on something called the Shuffling Horror Shuffle Board, a ‘deluxe game board’ which is designed for use with Pittsburgh 68, as well as three other Horror themed card games which GameWick Games have in the works: Roswell 51 (alien invasion theme), Innsmouth 32 (Lovecraftian) and Baltimore 94 (Edgar Allan Poe inspired). The development of the Shuffle Board seems to be a response to playtesting feedback and GameWick Games’ innovation in seizing the opportunity to improve their game while simultaneously getting the word out about future titles, plus their dedication the their theme all has me deeply impressed.
Battlemind (formerly Cyvase): Battle Strategy Card Game
by Wyatt’s Torch
Cyvase is a strategy game a tiny bit like Chess. There are ten different unit cards, and players must take turns moving these across the board in order to capture their opponent’s King. What makes Cyvase interesting is the board, which is made of cards representing seven different terrain types. At the beginning of the game, players secretly set up their home side of the board using 32 terrain cards. Next, each player places their ten units around the board, with the King having to start in the fortress. Once these steps are complete players reveal their set-up and the game begins. This first step means that every game of Cyvase is bound to be different. It’s awesome that somebody has gone to the trouble of bringing this strategy game to life, and it appears as though both the visuals and the gameplay of Cyvase have captured the feel of the A Song and Ice and Fire universe.
Amendment: Since the time of publication, the team at Wyatt’s Torch have opted to change the game’s title to Battlemind in order to avoid potential confusion over affiliation with George R.R. Martin or HBO. The game’s design has remained the same and still looks to be great tactical fun!
The Sky is the Limit
by Luden’s Lab
The Sky is the Limit is an educational board game which aims to teach South African children the dangers of becoming a part of gang culture. The game strives to teach children to invest in themselves in order to reach their dreams, rather than taking the easy option of engaging in illegal activities to make money. Gameplay-wise, The Sky is the Limit reminds me of old-school titles like Monopoly and The Game of Life, or maybe even a Sims style board game. According to the Kickstarter, the crime rate in South Africa is very high – over 17,000 people are murdered each year (compared to the approximate yearly total of Australia, which sits around 250) and many of these tragedies are caused by gang violence. After travelling to South Africa and speaking with many youngsters who had experienced gang culture, the team at Luden’s Lab realised that one of the main reasons young people join gangs in South Africa is a lack of awareness. They are not aware of their potential or the future they might make for themselves via an education, and thus are easy prey for recruiters.
While the team at Luden’s Lab are deeply aware of the fact that one game isn’t going to end gang violence, their initiative in designing something that might help is admirable. The Kickstarter page is a little light on information regarding how the game actually plays, and you will need to pledge a €100 to actually be sent a copy yourself. The main aim of the project is to fund copies to be sent to schools in South Africa, which makes this project part Kickstarter, part charity project. If you’re feeling generous, it looks to be a great cause.