Monday, May 13, 2013

Boardgame opinion : Kickstarter/ Battle for Alabaster

I pledged again on Kickstarter...
A year ago, I joined the hyped Kickstarter and funded my first game, Battle for Alabaster. A good concept and a nice game, on paper by then.

I had been looking for Sedition Wars mini for a long time and curiosity/innovative business model achieved to overcome what resistance was left. As a wargamer, I am weak by default when it comes to mini.
This opinion will review my Kickstarter feedback, the communication from the Kickstarted and the final product. It won't review or analyze the game mechanics themselves, I am no game mechanics expert nor historian, just a player.

.::The Kickstarter::.
My first reaction on most kickstarter
 Back then, the MRSP was at $89.99 (+25$ for shipping), so backing at $100  (+25$ for shipping) did not seem overpriced.

The game was presented in a very good way and it was understood to be only conceptual. The differents stretch goals were adding a lot of goodies, some of them payable, some of them free. Because of the success and the number of stretch goals achieved, 2 shipping periods were set.

That was back then.

Buying it only today would cost me US$62.52 on Amazon with free shipping. That would be the game without the goodies earned during the kickstarter. That's still a $42.48 savings from the Quarantine Pledge and for the 55 people who pledged it. Sorry guys, you've lost. To me that's bad.

The shipping and the deadline were far from committed. The game was advertised to be sent for Xmas, and I, like I believe many people, bet on that, buying our little present in advance. This seemed to be a general kickstarter issue, so I would stay neutral even if I am very disappointed. Usually company who plan a distribution for Christmas do their outmost to do it on time, but maybe because the money was already paid with no refund possibility, there is less pressure to deliver on the committed dates or even close to them.

.::The Communication::.
CMON postsales communication
So when a company screw its commitments, they usually have the typical "Sorry guys" and good communication to bring back people back to the comfort zone.

Not with Cool Mini or Not. They have a very bad Public Relation team/guy. Even if the delays may not be its fault, as they said it is industry standard to be late, I would dare to say "Who cares? That's your job to know and fix it. If it is a standard to be late, start early!". Usually, you buy a product for different reasons, and some criteria are trust, price/quantity-quality, delivery date.
Emailing unapologetic emails that there will be delays because it's "weather-tool-ship-customs-manufactory..." is not professional. That is their job to foresee these issues and solve them before they happen. I am not working in the manufacturing but a toy maker who miss the Xmas period has usually lost 50-75% of his business potential and really try to be more proactive, less "Shit happens"

Big minus for Cool Mini or Not for that.

.::The Game::.
- Game cancelled, still not ready - Shall I cancel the pizzas?
The game has a good atmosphere game, pleasant to play but messy to get around (one of the few modern game without a "quick reference sheet" included or a simplified version of the rule to play right away).

To be fair, it is NOT possible to play right away, independently of the rules. And I should have been careful about that and I am now careful about it. The miniatures are not ready to play.
The issue lays in the DNA of McVey and Cool Mini or Not. Cool Mini or Not is a pure marketing company, and they do it well. It is able to cut a product into meaningful stretch goals, generate excitement about the game and the kickstarter, great graphics. When the kickstarter is running, you really want to pledge. It's a compulsive buy.
So Cool Mini or Not is a marketing company, it does not design game, just know how to sell them. Production, shipping and communication is not their best skills. McVey was (and still is) a small miniature wargame company run by a talented guys and a few people company. It is a high-end miniature design company. They do mini the way miniature game industry is done: multi-part, finely designed, unpainted. It is a hobby, a long term commitment.
Unfortunately, it is not the way miniature-based boardgame are done.
I spent about 4-5 evening only to take the mini, trim them, discover what piece goes where, glue the pieces together, so then I could play.

That's a lot of time to get started for a boardgame. Miniature game, I don't mind, you build your army your way, feel attached to the little grunt and build it a story as you glue and try to give it a pose to illustrate it. Boardgame is not about feeling. After the game, Grunt A will never have a name or a recurring "Again, Grunt A save the day with an incredible roll". Because in a boardgame, Grunt A and Grunt B are the same, they are clones, they have no feeling. So Battle for Alabaster has about 24 grunts, with roughly 3-4 different poses, that's all. So either McVey does a miniature game, or a boardgame, but not a mix of both where only the inconveniences (gluing and trimming, limited personalization of the models) are provided and the joyful parts forgotten (play out of the box, loving the miniatures).

I will still play with it, but it will be less than planned, and with less excitement as I keep on recalling that amount of plastic minis that took so much joy away...


  1. Sorry to hear about the problems. I had heard bad things about the Sedition Wars Kickstarter, but it was already over. Did you pledge for the THW ATZ Indiegogo? I did.

  2. The Kickstarter had a lot of good stuff and delay seems to be the base in Kickstarter. I kickstarted Zombicide 2 and before I took a look at the mini to see if they can be played out of the box without modelling.
    I am planning to maybe take the card decks (I am not gaming in 15mm) around early June when the gaming budget is back online :)