Kickstarter is now a vital revenue stream for small and medium scale creators to launch businesses or business projects, but the supporters have evolved as the platform has evolved and not always for the best. Because of the quality and success of a number of excellent Kickstarter projects, the games of Monte Cook Games starting with Numenera or the Battletech video game come quickly to mind, some people have come to believe that all projects should be as professional as these and that backing a project is more like being a pre-ordering customer than being a dream fulfilling patron. To be fair, there are huge projects like Critical Role's recent animated series project that make the patronage component very clear, but as much as I love Cool Mini or Not their highly professional projects have muddied that water somewhat.
None of this is to say that Kickstarter is "only for the small." Indeed, the platform was designed for projects of all sizes and scopes. It was meant to be used by businesses big and small as a means to fund projects that might not otherwise be funded.
And that gets to the crux of the platform. It's for projects big and small that might not otherwise be possible. It is a project enabling platform and not a pre-order system. A perfect example of the kind of small project that Kickstarter was created to enable is the Star Eagles project by Ganesha Games.
Ganesha Games is the kind of one man shop game company that could not have existed before the internet made international communication fast and easy, changes in global banking allowed for the instant sale of international products possible, and batch print on demand services enabled the cheap printing and shipping of rulebooks. The company is currently based out of a flat in Italy and is run by the one man game designing machine Andrea Sfiligoi. They haven't hit the big time, but they make excellent game mechanics and their designs have an excellent reputation. Andrea's Song of Blades and Heroes has inspired an entire community of spinoffs and even resulted in a couple of rule books using the basic mechanics published by Osprey Publishing, a major publisher in the wargaming community.
Andrea managed to build his successful business for years without a Kickstarter, but eventually ran a project called Star Eagles in May of 2017. My guess, I haven't asked him, is that Andrea saw that there was an opportunity to grow his small company into a medium sized company and if this is the case the Star Eagles seemed a good candidate. Star Eagles is a 1/285th scale game of tactical star ship battles that uses a version of the Song of Blades and Heroes system modified by Damon Richardson to be a perfect fit for tactical space battles. The project sought a modest budget of $16,000 with which Andrea would publish a paperback version of the rulebook, tactical movement templates, condition markers, and both resin and metal miniature space ships for use with the game. It was pretty ambitious and it's clear from the marketing material that Andrea had plans for the project should it succeed at a much higher level than initially asked. For example, you can see the proposed game box Andrea hoped to manufacture if the project managed to benefit from economies of scale.
Good news for backers was that the project received enough funding to be fulfilled as promised, but the bad news for backers was that it didn't succeed at a level high enough for Ganesha Games to benefit from economies of scale and transform the company from a small to a medium sized gaming company. The project received $26,688 in pledges from 330 backers, of which about 10% would have to go to Kickstarter corporation and whomever processed the payments. That left Andrea with about $24,000 to manufacture the project, but there were some additional complications. First the 330 backers were divided into 11 categories and each of the categories were promised different packages of material ranging from only the pdf of the rules to full sets of minis, templates, dice, etc. All of this from a one man shop with no ability to benefit from economies of scale.
So...how did they do?
There have been some backers who have complained, but from my perspective I think they did an exceptional job. Given that the scale of the project pretty much meant that some of the items, the resin minis, effectively had to be molded by hand, I am really impressed. I imagine the molds were based on 3D printed models based on Damon's computer designs, but the molds likely had to be hand pressed by the production company. Let me walk you through my package, which was the "Two Squadron Starter Package."
Let's start with the quality of shipping. The fulfillment company was Alternative Armies in Scotland and as you can see, the box had a bit of a rough trip.
Rough as that box looks, it's actually one of the better looking boxes I've had shipped from the U.K. Some day I'll discuss just how brutal GamesQuest shipments have been for my merchandise. Regardless, it's not the exterior that matters, it's whether what was inside survived intact and Alternative Armies wrapped the items up securely.
Layer upon layer of bubble wrap protected the items inside and they were a sight to behold.
From my initial glance, it looked like everything was in the package and a later inventory showed that everything was there. While there were some small issues with the "color" of the resin casts, they were fully able to be assembled and had nice detail that will look very good when painted. Of course, "when painted" is a loaded term for miniature gamers as that might be never.
The shot below gives a good sense of what the ships will look like when assembled.
And a wide variety of ships were provided to allow for a good gaming experience.
Close up, you can see some nice details and you can see how some thought went into making assembly easy for hobbyists.
As nice as the resin figures where, it was with the metal figures that the set really showed its quality. These casts were fully complete and didn't require any assembly.
They also featured some pretty cool designs.
If I did have one small complaint, it would be that the bases were of the same resin as the miniatures rather than the clear plastic shown in the initial Kickstarter. It's not a deal breaker, and these will look good painted, but they would have had more utility as clear plastic. That aside, the ability to set the dice in the bases is a nice modification.
The cards were of good cardstock and had good illustrations of the ships and all of the statistics you need for play.
A real strong point was in the templates. It's likely that these were done by Litko Plastics, since Ganesha has some templates available from that supplier, and they always do good work. Many of these templates work for all Song of Blades and Heroes based games.
The turning template is really well designed and intuitive.
Overall, I think that this is an excellent project from a small company. I wish they had been more successful as I would have liked to see what they could have done benefiting from economies of scale, but this is a yeoman's effort and is exactly what Kickstarter was designed to allow.