Sunday, April 28, 2013

Post-Kickstarter Recap & Lessons Learned

It's been almost a week since the Pixel Lincoln Bicycle Card Kickstarter wrapped up, and somehow it feels like a lifetime. And it also feels like it was a completely different life, that I could barely relate to today. I'm sure that sounds crazy, but anyone who has been knee deep in a Kickstarter campaign would probably relate. You are ON for the entire campaign. You will post, repost, comment, tweet, push, pull, refresh, and repeat.

I've only had just a few days off but they have seriously been OFF. At first it's pretty hard to get through a cold-turkey end of campaign. The emails slow down. Twitter is suddenly dead. Something feels off or missing, but it's just real, boring everyday life. Once you get past the quietness there is stage that I call the Kickstarter Coma. Although I have a good amount of post-campaign work to wrap up, there were a few days where I didn't even think of it at all. My mind and body needed a break and took it…. I really had no choice in the matter. I'm just getting out of the coma stage now and ready to think & talk about the campaign. 

This one was considerably more difficult than anything I've ever done before. We were offering a Bicycle brand playing card deck based off of the Pixel Lincoln characters, more specifically Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Game. I think the deck turned out pretty awesome. I did the graphic design, so I'm obviously biased, but it has a really cool pixel cardback (a pixel duplicate of the classic Bicycle back) and big fat pixel suits, and a few unique things as well. There are 2 additional jokers, the red and black cards represent good vs. evil / Lincoln vs Booth and his baddies, and finally the Jack, Queen and King also double as Copper, Silver and Gold. I wanted the deck to be a little bit more of a basic deck of cards. It featured all 54 standard cards, but also allowed for a few fun variations.

But even with all of that, I think the prime audience for this deck isn't a pixel art fan, a playing card fan, or even a classic video game fan… it's a Pixel Lincoln fan. And part of why this campaign was tough is that Pixel Lincoln is still working it's way out (as of now it's leaving or just left China). So if this were to launch after the deckbuilding game came out, I think we'd have more Pixel Lincoln fans and an easier campaign. If it were after the upcoming Steam game came out, I think we'd have even more Pixel Lincoln fans and an even easier campaign. 


In the end we made it to 132% of our $8000 funding goal. For a while there I was pretty nervous and pretty stressed out. We hovered at about 45% for a while and that's a real stressful number. Most Kickstarters have a mid-way lull, but this felt like forever. We introduced Pixel Lincoln: Twenty One, a mini-expansion to the deckbuilding game, and we had our biggest day yet. It was available as a pledge of its own, or an add-on along with the Bicycle deck. We had 104 backers pledge for just the expansion, many on that first day. This showed me that we have a handful of Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Game fans, even before the game is out, and that's a really wonderful thing. We also had 150 backers that were already backing the project, which means that they are either Pixel Lincoln fans (awesome!) or new Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Fans (also awesome). 
But why the separation? Well, it came up a few times.

There were fans of the deckbuilding game that said they didn't care for playing cards, but were happy to pledge for the expansion. And fans of the playing cards that were unhappy with stretch goals relating to the deckbuilding game. It was so confusing because to me, they were together from the start. The cards looked very similar, the characters were the same (in-fact the sprites are exactly the same), but to somebody just learning about the project, or not that interested in board games, these were two completely different things. It was interesting to watch develop, and it weighed heavily on me as I tried to please everyone. 

In the end I learned a few things during this campaign that I hadn't fully experienced before.

1) Be clear about what you are offering and who you are trying to reach.
If I wanted to appeal to fans of the deckbuilding game only, this would have had a different approach. It's easy to say that after the fact, but good to know going forward. If I wanted to appeal to generic video game fans, it needed a different approach as well. Our approach was somewhere in the middle and I think that made it a bit confusing for both sides.

2) You can't please everyone.
Even though we had a semi-split audience, it's easy to see that you can't please everyone. Some people are very vocal and although it may be just one person, it can make you reconsider everything you've ever done. People always say "don't read the comments!", but in this position you really have to. It's your customer, but more importantly a person funding your project. Without them, the project doesn't happen. So in this case, I reached out to the backers to see if specific complaints were more common than I thought. But when you do that and you don't see a bunch of people that agree, it becomes obvious that it's just a small portion of the group that's dissatisfied enough to say something about it. At that point you need to make a judgement and decide which way to go. I always try to please everyone, and in his case I think I came as close as possible to doing so in the end, but man… it's tough.

3) Things can change and they will.
Our last few days were pretty intense. It was a ton of work by me, our sea of supporters, and a few others, but it pushed us well beyond the original goal. Everything that was tweeted by Pixel Lincoln was retweeted by a very loyal group. From there, we had people say "oh, Pixel Lincoln, I never heard of that?!", which says a lot about Twitter as a platform. While the same project was retweeted by these people dozens of times before, followers of theirs would discover it at the very end. Tweets disappear or get buried so quickly that most followers probably don't even see them. So if you think you are being annoying by tweeting 2 or 3 times a day, chances are that only your most connected followers are seeing all three tweets. Some will see one or even none of them, based on how often they log in.

We were lucky enough to add some really great stretch goals at the very end, and connected with Boss Monster / Brotherwise Games, Cards Against Humanity's Max Temkin, Flip the Table and Father Geek. With such awesome people involved and supporting the project, we saw a big push in the end. It was also the last 2 days which can be some of the biggest in a campaign, but they can also fall flat. (The psychology of a Kickstarter project could be a full college major.)

And on the other side of the coin, things can change for the worse. I kept Kicktraq on refresh as well, as the site provides amazing metrics. There I could see how much we needed per day to fund. At one point it was like $250. I'd spend hours promoting the project and wWe'd have a great day with $250 in funding, just to drop down $280 just before midnight and end the day with −$30 earned. It happens. And it's gut-wrenching. 

First half of the campaign. Huge start and very slow after that.

Second half. Big day on 4/1 and a big finish when we hit and exceeded funding.

This leads to my last point. 

4) A long campaign may not be a good idea.
I've always thought that 45 days was just about right. Why? Because of #3 above. With most campaigns, you need to get that big day of support where somebody notices you and gets you out to a bigger audience. I saw this first with Velociraptor Cannibalism. It was doing well until the day that it was Kickstarter's featured project of the day when it skyrocketed in pledges in just a few hours. Now that doesn't always happen, but I've always wanted to go with a longer project to make sure there is enough time to even allow for something like that to happen.

I can't disregard that theory yet, but here's a different theory that comes from the other side. If your project is too long, backers may allocate their "Kickstarter funds" to the next cool thing that comes along. Not everyone has an unlimited amount of funding money, so if you're rolling along and something like Krosmaster Arena pops up, some backers may have to drop the funding from your project because they can't afford both. And who wouldn't want to put their money on Krosmaster Arena?

Now losing a pledge is always brutal, but it makes me realize that it doesn't always mean someone hates your project and they are revolting against you. It might mean that there is something out there that they like more. That's not so bad. I'll try to think about it next time I lose a pledge. (Fingers crossed it doesn't happen).

With all of this in mind, I'm getting ready to jump back into Kickstarter next week with Storyteller Cards. I think I've nailed #1 and I'm torn on #4. It's my first personal campaign in a long time and it's pretty big. I need to get out there and the duration is a huge factor in that. While I'm leaning towards 40 days, part of me wants to do it in a quick 20. I have less than a week to decide..

...diving right back into it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Unpub Regional (South Jersey) Recap!

Saturday was the first Regional Unpub event, a large gathering of game designers showcasing their games in South Jersey of all places! While it was about 25 minutes from my home, it felt like it was right in my backyard. 

I've been to the big Unpub events in Delaware and the smaller minis in Pennsylvania, and this one was a solid mix of both. There were about 20 or so designers on hand with a huge variety of games. I saw some kids games, a space mining game, a horse-racing game, a realtime war game, a My Little Pony game, and many more. In typical Unpub fashion, I was able to show off my game a little, get solid feedback, and play a handful of really cool games.

I wish I had more pictures, but if you head to the Cartrunk Entertainment Facebook page, there are a ton (including the one above of my daughter Elle and her game Ponyland).

Web of Fortune
Why not start with my own game? Well, chronologically it was the first that I played. I set it up and immediately had a few players.

Web of Fortune is a press your luck, roll and move game where players trek their way across a giant spider web, gathering gems and avoiding the spider's lethal limbs. It's very simple and can play from 6+ but probably shines with 8+.

I was a little hesitant about bringing the game because it was sitting with a big end game issue. There was basically no end game trigger and the game ended when all gems were collected. This led to a few other issues with the game slowing down and becoming anti-climactic towards the end.

Thanks to the wonderful players at Unpub, I figured everything out. I'll be fixing a few things and testing everything out again real soon. Thanks to everyone who played and to Charlie Hoops for running the KidZone. (There were little certificates for each kid that played your game!)


One of the games that I really wanted to play was Brad Smoley's Phobos. It's his space-mining, tile-laying, tight little masterpiece.

The game has a bit of a Carcassonne feel to it, but only in the tile laying and unit placement. Placing units is similar to the majority rule in the fields in Carcassonne without the limitation of exclusive placement. This makes the game very competitive and very exciting.

Along with placing tiles and units, players can move their units around, but only through areas that they have a stake in. So it's very important to make your paths, and if you are lucky, create some handy shortcuts. That was my method, which didn't win me the game, but it was a lot of fun. It lasted a little under an hour and felt just right. The entire time you could see the end game clock ticking away, along with all of your ambitious plans.

This game was the standout of the event and needs to be published. In the meantime, I'm tracking Brad down so I can play again.

Star Dice
I didn't get any pictures of Matthew O'Malley's Star Dice, but they were very cool. Ships w/ directions, blasts, asteroids and a few other cool items. It reminded me of X-Wing, but if it were a 20 minute dexterity game. WHAT???

You roll inside of a designated play area, choose a few dice to re-roll (not asteroids), and then set aside anything other than asteroids and ships. If you rolled blasts you can use them to flick towards other dice, knocking them out of the galaxy. Some ships can flick from multiple areas or multiple times. It had a touch of Kingbrick to it as well (dice-flicking) but captured a little bit of that X-Wing feeling (space battle) without the feeling X-Wing leaves on your wallet.

I played with Matthew and my 5 year old daughter Elle, and Elle beat the both of us. Lots of fun.

This may have been the only abstract game at the show? It was Rey Alicea's Kasta, a very nicely made wooden box/dice game where you have to remove dice away from a pool of dice in the center of the table. It's tricky because you can only pull dice that are on the edges, and you will take one and give your opponent three.

The goal is to get rid of as many dice sets (4 of a kind, 4 in a row, etc.)as you can, because when the game ends your score is whatever you have left. And low score wins, so you don't want anything left.

There are a few bonus moves that you will need to do to win the game. You can always start your turn flipping a die or discarding a die. This was very powerful, almost too powerful as a free action. Especially for a mathy player. I'm only semi-mathy, but it helped me win by a good amount of points. Even with that said, it gets tense in the last few rounds when there are only a few dice on the table and you (and your opponent) won't likely be able to get rid of them.

I've talked about Tessen before and it's got even better since the last time I played. Tessen is Chris and Suzanne Zinsli's a realtime samurai battle game that is over before you even know it. It's quick and tense and has been picked up for release by Van Ryder Games. I played a few rounds and even tried out a possible expansion card that totally changes the way you think about when you score your cards.

Animal Run
Kevin Kulp was also in the KidZone with his game Animal Run. I've worked alongside Kevin on this game a few times and it's really shaping into this fast-paced game where players try to predict the road that their animal is running down. A correct prediction gets a better place in line, and a better place in line gets you more gold. Gold is in the form of cards, which will win you the game. I'm going to keep working on this game with Kevin, so I'm sure you'll hear more about it.

My daughter Elle took over my table for most of the day with her game Ponyland. It's based on one of her favorite Strawberry Shortcake games and she'll want me to point out that she "made it in a day" while it takes me "a year" to make my games. She had players and everyone was having a good time until she got a little moody (she's 5). She'll probably be back at Unpub with some of her other games sometime soon. She has a card game in the works and a board game based off of one of her favorite movies, The Rock-afire Explosion (crazy, right?).

I managed to squeeze in a few sessions of my Unpub favorite, Wartime. It's a sand-timer based Wargame, where the timers act as your cooldown time for all attacks and movement. But you have more units than sand-timers so your choices are tough, and you need to make them really quickly. The game lasts no more than 8 minutes and is always a treat. I also successfully won by making it all the way across the board for the very first time. My strategy of just running has finally paid off!

Maximum Throwdown

We closed with a round of Maximum Throwdown, my card-throwing battle game that debuted at the big Unpub in January. It wasn't registered this time, but it's quick and I had a few requests to bring it. As you can see, I'm still playing on the old abstract prototype but I hope to have a fancy-art version soon enough. Look for it this summer from AEG!

Check out for information on attending one of these events. They are always a great time for designers or attendees. I can't recommend them enough.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Many Faces of Storyteller Cards

Friday, April 19, 2013

Unpub South Jersey - April 20th

Tomorrow (Saturday 4/20) is the big South Jersey Unpub, a/k/a an unpub event just a few minutes from my home. Because it was so close I knew that I needed to participate, but I wasn't sure what to bring. I have games in varying states of completion, but there wasn't one in particular that needed to be shown or tested. But one of the interesting things about this Unpub is that there is a Kids Area. Charlie Hoopes, designer of Fill The Barn, is running the KidZone and there I will be featuring my child/family style game, Web of Fortune (this name is as temporary as it gets).

World's roughest prototype.

WHERE: Woodbury Heights Community Center (741 Helen Avenue; Woodbury Heights, NJ 08097) on Saturday April 20, 2013 from 12pm to 8pm! The event is free and everyone is welcome.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Card Throwing 101 at

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pixel Lincoln: Twenty One - Daily Updates

A few days ago Game Salute announced Pixel Lincoln: Twenty One, a $10 expansion add-on for the Bicycle cards Kickstarter project. It's a cool combo of Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Game cards and icons of classic playing cards. While it's technically a mini-expansion, it's our first big add-on to the game.

Since then I've been showing off the cards one-by-one at the Pixel Lincoln Facebook page as well as the Board Game Geek blog.

And now I am compiling the first few here for all to see. We've been through 3 of the 21 cards so far with Diamond, Jack and Tarzan Booth, which sounds like a trio that is up to no good. Check out the close ups of the cards below with a little history behind the designs.

As of right now there are 10 days left on Kickstarter and $2318 to go. Eeeek!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Introducing.... Storyteller Cards!

I've been talking about Storyteller Cards here and there, but it's time for some actual information.

What are Storyteller Cards?
Storyteller Cards are playing cards meant to inspire creativity. Each card features an illustration with 4 elements, a CHARACTER, doing an ACTION, with an ITEM, in a LOCATION. And in each of the corners are icons representing a RANK, SUIT, MOOD, SEASON, LETTER, and COLOR.

The deck is more of a toolkit than a game. It's a toolkit for writers looking for a new location for their story, artists looking for a character, game designers, dungeon masters, kids, parents, teachers... just about anyone.

Can you play a game with them?
You sure can! I have a few games prepared and I've recruited an whole bunch of friends to come up with games, activities and examples of uses for the cards. We're going to compile these into a Storyteller Manual filled with good stuff.

Who did that awesome art?
That would be Campbell Whyte. You may know him from his amazing illustration series 8-Bit Dreams, where he illustrated a whole bunch of classic Nintendo Games. I have quite a collection of the originals, snagging up Megaman 2, Blades of Steel and many others as soon as they went on sale. Campbell is a great friend and an amazing artist, so I'm thrilled to be able to work together on this project.

When will these be released?
These will be the very first official Button Shy release (whoa, there's a news scoop), and while I wish I could do it on my own, I'm going to need the assistance of writers, artists, game designers, dungeon masters, kids (via their) parents, teachers and you. Storyteller Cards will be launching on Kickstarter May 6th. It's the day after my twins turn terrible three, so I'm bracing for that and the terror of running a kickstarter project on my own. I've been there many times before, but this one is on my shoulders more than any other. I think the project will speak for itself though, as the missing piece to keep in your back pocket for writer's block, an ice breaker, or a quick game with creative friends.

Hope you guys enjoy these!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Pixel Lincoln: Twenty One

In a little bit of a surprise non-April Fools day announcement today, we announced the newest expansion for Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding game. It's a mini-expansion of 21 cards inspired by our Bicycle Playing Card project and playing cards in general. There are cards of Lincoln fighting with oversized Spades, Clubs and Diamonds. There are alternate Booth and Lincoln cards using the artwork from the playing cards. There's a King, Queen, Jack and Joker as character cards and more. And finally, there is a card with rules on how to combine the Deckbuilding Game and a playing card deck. 

It's available for just $10 at the Kickstarter project. There are only two weeks left, so if you are interested pledge soon! The sooner we fund, the sooner I can relax. Haha, not only that... the sooner we can try and throw more fun stuff into the campaign. 

Hope you guys enjoy this. It was really fun to make these cards and they gave the project a serious boost today. We have over $1000 of funding and are on the way to be the most funded day since the launch of the campaign.

Thanks again! Here is an image of all of the cards in the set.

Maximum Throwdown Site at AEG

AEG just launched their Maximum Throwdown site and it's looking pretty awesome.

Remember the silly silhouettes that I used in the game? Well as you can see they've destroyed those silhouettes (bye, bye unicorn... sniff...) with epic characters from their universe of games. While the Smash Up Alien is a personal favorite, both in Maximum Throwdown and when choosing factions in Smash Up (Alien/Ninja is my go-to), it will be hard choosing which deck to play!

I have some decks with full artwork heading my way so over the next few months we can experience the real deal at events. Origins, Unpubs, and smaller local events are all on the horizon.

Check out the full Maximum Throwdown site over at