This was an interesting summer KS-wise, with one of the smallest overlaps between the set of games I expected to back, and the games I did back in the end.
My heart has been stolen by feral robots
I did back RoboMon. All-In.
I knew this was a possibility, until I saw the price. More than $100 for a deluxified narrative game with an ersatz Pokemon theme? No way. I saw it at launch and ruled it out. And yet, something was nagging me. I tried the demo, which wasn’t mind-blowing in any way. It felt like your typical game where you visit each and every location in the starting town, engage with everyone about trivialities, buy some stuff you will probably never need, and delay an adventure that nothing makes you really care about anyway. The fights looked tedious, with a grid-based tactical skirmish triggered with every single encounter that sounded like a chore.
And yet I kept going back to it, ever and ever. I saw some hard negatives that made it a hard pass, such as stickers and stuff you write over the narrative book so there is a limited amount of plays (which may be problematic if you restart several times, especially if you didn't play for a long time). But every time, the designer/publisher Gabe Barrett came up with solutions. When, by the very end, he revealed a surprise add-on, which I usually don’t like, it turned out that the add-on would be included in the All-In pledge already, so that, for once, the latter seemed worth getting. And, to be truthful, there was just some kind of charm tied to it – an unmistakable flavor that I was part of the intended audience for the game. So I backed it, and I am happy I did so. It’s probably the crowdfunded game I am most looking forward to receiving!
Life is convoluted
Then there is Trailblazers. I did expect to back this one, but here again, it was too pricey, and somehow annoying. The game holds a number of components that caters to 8 players, which is an obvious overkill for the solo player. It felt overly deluxified and expensive for a basically overgrown and fancily elaborated version of Bandido. And I really, really disliked the marketing about playing the game during your hike – you are not playing a game where you have to lay cards to form a 40x40cms landscape outdoors, so stop pretending. I felt it was silly and misleading. So I didn’t back, even knowing that this was a game right for me, mechanics-wise. But then, CrowdFinder sneakily offered a group pledge, making it back to a reasonable pricing tier, so, I did get it there. Sometimes you can't escape your fate.
Next are smallish games that I didn’t know about prior to their respective campaigns, starting with Colossus, a card-only game about climbing and slaying an evil colossus. The game already went through the complete cycle of backed-received-played-sold, which is impressive in its own right. The publisher/designer is Ÿøssef Fårhi, the same as Way of the Samurai. I interacted a lot with him because I had troubles with the Belgian mail service, and I can tell you, he’s a really nice and helpful person, really a gem of a publisher. Alas, just as Way of the Samurai, the game wasn’t for me, but this is a story for another time!
I also backed two PnPs, Roll or Die and Shu’s Tactics. This is wasted money pure and simple as I will just never go through the effort of printing them. And there is Abducktion, a game about making patterns out of colorful plastic ducks to abduct them in a UFO. I just couldn’t resist. Anticipating over the very early days of October, I also had the surprise to see the latest Corné van Moorsel game on KS, right in time for an Essen pick-up: Combi-Nations. This was one of the fastest turn-overs I have ever known, and the game has been already received and played.
It's a Cruel, Cruel Summer
However, the hottest moments of the season were related to games I did NOT back. Starting with the Euthia expansion. Argh. Argh. Argh. Yes, I did pass on this one. I might regret it later on, but somehow, I doubt it. I was first and foremost interested in the co-op-focused expansion, Crawling Shadows, which was supposed to fix some much-discussed flaws of the co-op (and solo) mode. But they decided to bundle it with the “main” expansion, which added a full bucket of useless minis to a game that had close to none to begin with (only a dragon boss and a few heroes). On top of this, returned backers could not get an upgrade pack if they did not pledge right now, in the tiny 10 days window over which the campaign lasted. I felt this was aggressive, backer-unfriendly, and downright predatory. So, I had to take a deep breath, and cancel my pledge, if only to be in line with my dim and shaky principles. And you know what? I don’t regret it. I lay my eyes on the massive box of the core game every day, and all I’m telling myself is “never again!”. At this point, if you need to add so much physical content to give a game some variety, you are better off playing a video game.
Because I was still feeling frustrated and disappointed, I wanted to make up for it with Kinfire. Well, it turned out the game was massive bling, and overly expensive. To promote the game, they hired a great many Internet stars, largely unknown to me. It felt like half the price of the game had been put to use in this big marketing campaign. Each game session (of roughly one hour) got its own whole new deck of cards, which felt like a crazy waste of one-time-use components. All the videos featured the same lame combat against a Wyvern, with the unique and crazily imaginative narrative twist that, when you kill it, it comes back... even stronger!
Finally, the game had to be played two-handed, which I am usually okay with, but here there seemed to be quite an amount of complex cards and effects so that figuring out all of it for two characters felt too much like a chore. I happily passed, even though I was almost sure to back prior to the start of the campaign.
In the same category, Fateforge: Chronicles of Kaan made it surprisingly easier. Even though this has one of the best Fantasy artwork I have ever seen and the gameplay looked neat at first glance, it was app-driven. Hard pass, plain and simple. Just out of curiosity, I still listened to Rahdo’s video (something I usually never do), and I heard it was a game of slow attrition of your characters over the scenarios, a mechanics I absolutely hate. So, here again, no regret.
And as a final note, please, do share your own backs in the comments if you feel so!