From Concept to Kickstarter: A Teachers path

I’ve been teaching at VFS for just over a year now, as one of the two Game Theory Analog instructors. I’m also a board game designer (sorry – analog game designer!) and have a partner named Sen-Foong Lim, and we have two games currently published: Train of Thought and Belfort (along with an expansion to Belfort called, appropriately enough – Belfort: The Expansion Expansion). Right this moment though, we have two new games that have launched on Kickstarter and I thought I’d give you all a little history on how each of these games came to be!

 

The two games are Tortuga – a dice rolling pirate game, which can be found HERE

and This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us, which can be found HERE

Tortuga was always a dice rolling pirate game, but it started as game about making poker hands with pirate symbols instead of suits. We quickly abandoned that in favour of doing what pirates want to do – fight with swords, shoot cannons and steal treasure! We didn’t like dice games where one person rolls the dice and everyone watches that one player play. Boring! So we knew all along that we wanted everyone to roll at the same time. Once we came upon the idea of assigning dice to a specific action – we knew we were going in the right direction.

The game went through so many different tweaks and adjustments over the 2 years of development. For the longest time you were only allowed to roll 3 times – like Yahtzee – until a fellow game designer challenged us on that and asked why only 3? So we thought about it and now we allow people to keep rolling if they want to – BUT by rolling more you are giving a power-up ability to your opponents, so you have to decide if you want to keep rolling.

The game was finished – in Gamma – when I decided to take that game, along with 5 other games we had designed, to Essen, Germany – the biggest board game convention in the world. I emailed publishers before heading out and set up some meetings with some key publishers. One of them was Queen Games – one of the largest game publishers in the world. They immediately loved the game and wanted to take it back for further testing. After a few months of testing we were told that they wanted to publish the game! There docket was full for 2013 already so it had to be pushed to 2014. And that brings us to today, where it’s currently on Kickstarter. It had a goal of getting $10,000 in funding and it’s already blown past that and is now nearing its $30,000 stretch goal.

If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter – it’s a crowd funding site that allows companies to put a product out there and see if there is enough interest before going to print. They set a goal and if they don’t achieve that goal in a specific time period, then the project has failed. If the project meets the goal – then the usual practice is to add Stretch Goals at higher amounts. Once each stretch goal is unlocked, some extra goodies are given for free to everyone who has or will back the game! It’s a pretty sweet system! Tortuga has already unlocked 3 Stretch Goals and are moments away from unlocking another one (maybe with your support?).

The other game on Kickstarter now, is called This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us. A long time ago when Sen and I were just about to start contacting publishers to see if they’d be interested in publishing our games, I had this idea to include a free micro game with our initial request. You see – I thought we’d actually be MAILING them a letter to see if they’d be interested in looking at our games! It’s ridiculous now to think that’s what we were thinking – but we were naïve about the industry.

So we thought we’d make a small micro game for them to keep – regardless of what we were pitching to them. So we made our first game and it was called Hot Property. A 24 tile game for 2 players. It was pretty sweet actually. We liked it so much that we tried to think what other games could we make with just 24 tiles!

Playtesting This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us – back in 2008 when it was created! Pictured here Jan, Carrie and me – Jay!

Belfort – our first big box game, actually started as a 24 tile micro game! It quickly outgrew that and became the game it is today – but it’s funny to think that it started on only 24 tiles. We created about 7 or 8 of these 24 tile micro games, and one of them was This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us. The game came first and then we stumbled upon that title – the best title for a game ever! ;-) This Town was thought of and then made into a prototype pretty quickly and I can say that the very first prototype was almost the same as the current one that’s available. The only thing we added throughout playtesting was the silver bars – which allows players to relocate tiles. That added a bit more control since the game was full of uncertainty in flipping over a tile and the randomness of that can possibly hurt one player more than others. By adding the Silver bars we gave the players a bit more control and they felt more in control of their destiny in this small game.

We had thought of expanding the game over the years that we’ve had this micro game lying around – as that’s what we did with many of our micro games, but we couldn’t figure it out.

Fast forward to late 2013 when Tasty Minstrel Games (the publisher that published our first two games) emails us to see if we’d be interested in showing them our micro games that we showed them earlier. When I first met them it was at a convention. They were an upstart back then with nothing published and only a prototype of the game they were about to make with them. I playtested their game and they playtested my game of Belfort, and afterwards said they would like to publish it! While we were out to dinner – I brought out my micro game and we had a good time – but it was more just because we were waiting for our food. I wasn’t pitching that game to him at all.

As Tasty Minstrel Games has grown in the last few years, they have found success in Kickstarting micro games – with Coin Age being a huge $65,000 hit for them. So they asked us to submit any micro games we had and Sen and I immediately thought of This Town. Two weeks pass and we get an email stating that they would like to publish it! Huzzah!

It’s now on Kickstarter and has unlocked 2 Stretch Goals with the 3rd goal any day now. What is really interesting about this Kickstarter campaign is that it’s a Pay What You Want campaign! As long as you pay the minimum of $3 you can get them game – which includes shipping to anywhere in the world!

 

So that’s the story of how we got our ideas from inspiration all the way to publication.

To read more about how to get your board game published, check out our website: From Inspiration to Publication.

 

And, one more time, if you’re interested in supporting either of these games you can check them out here:

Tortuga: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1016374822/tortuga

This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/michaelmindes/this-town-aint-big-enough-for-the-2-4-of-us-pwyw


Jay Cormier teaches Analog Game Theory (Board Game Design) at VFS Game Design