Kickstarters are Like Buses…


…you wait around for months and then seven come along at once!  Having had nothing but eerie silence for several months, I have received seven different Kickstarters over the past few weeks.

The interesting thing is the range of dates over which I originally backed them.  It’s not like I backed seven projects all within the same month last year and now they’re all delivering.  I backed the first game from this group in July 2017 and I backed the last one in March 2018.  That’s an 8-month period!

I’ve been backing Kickstarters for several years now and I’ve noticed this trend before: like buses, they tend to clump up and all arrive at once.  Why is that?  I keep trying to space out my backing in an effort to space out the arrivals, but it never works!

Well, I think there are two key reasons for this.  Let me tell you…

Architects of the West KingdomThe first, and most important, is Essen.  Essen is the largest boardgame fair in the world and it takes place at the end of October each year.  An astonishing 1400 games were released over the Essen weekend this year.  Why would publishers do that?  Why not release your game when the market is quiet and people are desperate for something new?

Much like movie blockbusters competing for our attention over the summer, the reason publishers all want to release their games at Essen is because an incredible number of people buy games at Essen.  I was one of them!  Despite the fact that the competition is stiff, there are still so many people buying games (nearly 200,000 this year!), that it’s still worth releasing games in time for the iconic convention.

As a publisher, if it’s humanly possible to get your game out in time for Essen, you want to pull out all the stops to make sure it happens.  Publishers will typically print more games than they need for their backers.  The extra games can be sold at retail or at conventions like Essen.

The second reason is Christmas.  At first glance, you might think this is obvious: clearly people buy more games in the lead up to Christmas so you want to have your game out in time for Christmas.  However, there’s another, more subtle reason you want to have your game out in plenty of time before Christmas: shipping.

The Kings GuildPostal services struggle every year with the colossal increase in demand in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  I can’t remember where I was reading it now, but I was looking at some stats on the frequency of lost parcels and it goes up by a factor of ten over the Christmas period!

Not to mention the significant delays to parcels even when they don’t get lost and December is the absolute worst time to attempt delivery of a Kickstarter.  It’s the Bermuda Triangle of delivery months.

So if you’re planning to deliver a Kickstarter towards the end of the year, you really want to deliver by the end of October in time for Essen, but you absolutely have to deliver by the end of November to avoid the Christmas chaos.

Net result?  An awful lot of Kickstartes all arrive within the space of a few short weeks in October/November.  I’m not sure there’s anything anyone can do to avoid it.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering which games I’ve received, here’s the list:

Too Many Bones: Undertow

Western Legends

A sandbox adventure game set in the Wild West.  You can decide if you’re going to be a marshall or an outlaw and then you run around wrangling cattle, playing cards or robbing the bank!

Monster Lands

A dice/worker-placement, resource-management game about fighting monsters.

Too Many Bones: Undertow

A standalone expansion to one of my favourite games of all time.  Too Many Bones is a co-operative adventure game with the best levelling system I’ve ever seen.

VindicationChampions of Hara

An adventure game with unique player-characters and a clever action-card system where you run around killing monsters and completing quests.

The King’s Guild

A resource-management Euro about crafting equipment, sending heroes on quests and upgrading your guild.


A heavy Euro with some tricky resource management and action selection, rounded off with some area control.

Architects of the West Kingdom

A novel take on worker placement with plenty of interaction (you can capture opponent’s workers!) from the designer of Raiders of the North Sea.

Well that lot will certainly keep me busy over the Christmas period!  Have you backed anything on Kickstarter that has arrived recently?

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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