Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Finding a new game

Or how to convince yourself not to buy more stuff

I'm an obsessive/compulsive gamer.  I think most people who have been gaming for a while are, by default, always looking at and considering what the next thing to buy is.  I would say that for the vast majority of people it will be the next thing coming from GW that will give them an edge, or will at least help them keep up with the power creep.  People tend to settle into their big system, be it 40K, or Malifaux, and a lot of the money they spend on that game.  The decisions that people have are based on if they want to expand what they have now, or buy in to a whole new faction.  I certainly used to be like that.  This year as going to be my year to buy into a new faction in Malifaux, just keeping my Neverborn ticking over with new models and then adding in the Gremlin faction.

Things can easily change it would appear.  Its not that I went off Malifaux, I just wanted something else to play.  Downside is now, I want a lot of things to play.  So, the question is, based on what I want to do, why have I not bothered, and what is it that will make me buy into a new game.  I'm going to look at what goes through my own head when I want something new, and at the end also touch on what I think this means in terms of new games wanting to Kickstarter successfully.  Partly that is on the back of Mythos having a hard time getting across the line at the moment.

Considerations when getting into a game

1 - The models: Lets face it, the first thing that will get you interested in a game are the models.  I can not even vaguely imagine that people get into a game by ignoring everything but the rulebook, and then looking at the models for the game.  Models are the impact point, and so they have to look good to drag people in and over to the books.  So the first thing is they have to have an aesthetic that I like, not necessarily all models, but there have to be enough to make it "look" good.  In addition they have to be in a material I trust.  Now, cost wise I may go for a material I don't like, but certainly I will be more interested in a model range if it comes in good Resin or Hard Plastic, and less interest if they use Soft Plastic, or Restic.  Metal falls in the middle for me, because I hate how hard it is to protect the paint on Metal models.  Thing is it is the easiest way to make reasonably priced models with good detail levels, so I can suffer the metal problems.

2 - Fluff: Otherwise known as background or setting.  A game needs to have some sort of story behind it which captures the attention.  It doesn't really matter what the genre (Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror) is, so long as the stories that have been written for the game get my attention enough.  People tend to gravitate towards what they like in terms of genre anyway, but I need something to get me to want to buy into the game.  For me, this does eliminate historical games, because there is no fluff or story, and that is kind of key to me.  If there is a rich story to start with, then each of my social games fits into a huge chain of events, and I can imagine just how the games narrative will work because of it.

3 - Range: This one is an interesting thing to look at.  I don't mean I want a game with hundreds of different models in it (The issue that 40k has in my opinion), but I want a game where there are enough different "Factions" to make each game different enough that it is interesting.  I also want a game where there are components outside of the models themselves that assist in the game.  Finally, within each faction, I want enough "balanced" choices that I get to mix and match and find different ways to play within my own group of models.  Its a big balancing act, which a lot of companies are now doing really well (and which 40k doesn't).

4 - Price: Don't think I need to explain this, but price comes in as a major factor.  Smaller games with lower model counts are definitely more appealing when you don't have a vast income.  The same applies for things like the books, and being able to download them for free is a big bonus (Steamforged topping the charts here because its not just the rules you can download, but also the fluff, something a lot of companies cut out of their free versions).  Price won't completely stop me getting into a game, but knowing I might have to put a £300 dent in my account to just about have a playable force certainly will make me think twice about it.

5 - Community: This is the killer for me, and kills off a lot of games I want to play.  The issue is that smaller games have smaller communities generally.  I live in Worksop, a town at the very north of the Midlands, and local gamers are few and far between.  Now, this is a Uk perspective, but by local I mean someone who can get to my house or I can get to theirs after a day at work and still fit in a full sized game without missing out on a decent dinner and perhaps some time to relax at home first.  Its that incidental ability to just call someone up and see if they are free for a game when I'm bored.  Smaller games, therefore, tend to be less likely to have the local community.  The solution to that is local clubs... which, sadly in my opinion, tend to be dominated by the headline games.  If I were to show up to a local club I could be 100% certain that most people would be playing 40k or Star Wars: X-Wing.  Any other game would likely be Historical War Gaming.  Anything else would be a shock to me.  I'm not talking gaming stores with wargaming space.  Certainly the Outpost, in Sheffield, and Sanctuary, in Mansfield, are good examples of shops which promote other games and therefore they are seen played in store.  Local community clubs though are dominated by the headliners.  It means that to find a "drop of a hat" game is very very difficult.

What does this all mean

I've been looking at Bushido and/or Dark Age as games I want to get involved in, but its neither game is something I can just show up to a local club and play.  The nearest areas that might play it are enough of a distance away that I'd be looking at weekends or not getting home post work til extremely late.  Plus, the games aren't obviously played locally anyway.  Everything else is a win for Bushido (cost, range, models, fluff) and Dark Age only seems to fall a little bit on price.  It is infuriating that community can be enough to hold me back (though my wallet does like the current indecision).  So, knowing there is a local community can make a massive difference in choosing the actually play a game.

It can be broken, because I picked up Guild Ball when everyone around the local area was abandoning it (except one or two people in my closer social group).  I am going to pick up a starter of Bushido at some point because I love the Ito Clan models and want to paint them in L5R Scorpion Clan colours (as they are both the sneaky lying clans).  In a similar way I love the look of the Fire Dragyri so I will get them as well in the Starter box, but going beyond that is going to be a slower process.  The lack of potential game play limits the funds I am willing to put into it.


Why do I think this matters for Kickstarter?  Well I can probably run that down really easily to be honest

1. Range: More options get people more interested.  From the very basic "funded" point of the game there should be enough options that people who arrange to play the game with each other aren't going to have the same models.  Personally I would say that 3 definable factions are important, and within each faction there need to be "different" characters (so not just a leader and then generic troopers).  It might make the kickstarter have to have a higher initial fund point, but so be it.  Options are interesting.

2: Goals being independent: Factions that are only part unlocked as you go along, if people don't feel that the full faction is going to make it they won't keep funding.  So if you are going to unlock a faction do it as one big lump.  It'll drive people up to the goal, because everyone gets to have everything at that point.  Incomplete forces are not great for peoples motivations.  Now this can also mean you could include stand alone models as unlock targets, so a mercenary character that can join multiple factions is fine, a set of two infected models that people can use in new scenarios rather than just using counters.  So long as the unlocks aren't dependent on things that look unreachable higher up the chain.

3: Gadgets: So, rather than having models in a new faction unlock in stages, but in one go, how to you bridge the gap between stretch goals.. well we could always unlock gadgets (and I don't mind if I have to pay for them separately as well).  Custom faction dice, plastic markers for statuses, measuring widgets, a resin pack of objective markers.  Strangely I think this actually keeps the money going up.  People look at the next faction as the big goal, but knowing other options are unlocking that can be purchased afterwards is also a pretty good incentive.

4: Free stuff: I'm afraid to say this is a shocking indictment on people in general, but we like knowing that as the funding goes up we are going to get more stuff on top of what we already are paying for.  Free stuff is sadly just one of those things that gets people going, and can get people staying in at the higher pledge levels.  CMON pretty much get their games funded via this method.  We initially pay through the nose, knowing that as more and more people go in for the Kickstarter we are getting more value for the money we have put into it.  Obviously these have to be managed well by the company running the Kickstarter, because you simply can't give away stuff without the fiances behind it, but I do think this is a way to keep the funding coming in.

5: Community: Hello, its this old devil again.  So community is a killer for people wanting to play a game that is in retail, I think for a kickstarter it can be life and death.  I don't just mean advertising online etc, I think there is a big call for getting your product out and about and building the community.  Systems such as Malifaux Henchmen, Guild Ball Pundits and Privateer Press' Press Gangers are definitely something you need to put into effect fast, even during a Kickstarter.  Also the presence over the web is a naggingly important aspect.  As an ICT specialist, and (tongue in cheek because its not really part of my job) a business analyst, I know how vital it is to make sure that anything you produce is going to met the expectations of your audience.  Add to that a very low level claim to being in social media advertising, I think it is important to work out how to best promote online.  A lot of good games feed into the social media community as much as possible, and from that build up some good publicity.  Gaslands is doing ever so well on this front, though it has other things (like price) going for it as well.  Its actually a very treacherous set of waters, building a community and a supporting media presence, but getting it right will always reap massive rewards.

I'm not an expert

There are a huge amount of caveats on all of the above.  I'm making an observation from the outside as an Analyst rather than as someone with experience.  I, clearly, have no experience of setting up a miniatures game or a kickstarter.  Business Analysis from outside of a company is pretty much a guessing game, but I do think that there are some basic ideas in the above which do make a difference.

And this was an odd place to get to when I started out with the basic fact that I'm trying to work out if I want to spend money on more shiny models.

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