Starlit Citadel Reviews: A Very Special Episode

One of the promises we made our Season 2 fundraiser backers was that we’d produce a special episode that was a little different from our usual fare. Just in time for the holidays, here it is!

Join Kaja, Joanna, and special guests Edwin Perez (Standard Action) and Eric Fell (The Critical Hit Show) for an in-character playthrough of The Red Dragon Inn.

Musings: Crowdfunding and its purpose

This post comes courtesy of a mixed-up set of beliefs and a new card game: Audatia, a medieval swordfighting card game.  Let me be clear – this has nothing to do with the actual substance of the game/its playability or my feelings about the authors/etc.  This is more a general musings article trying to sort out some weird dissonances in my own mind.

The Kick-Off Point

I learnt about Audatia via mutual friends in the sword-fighting business.  I looked over the campaign, saw their breakdown on how they were going to spend the money, and my hackles raised.  I found it off-putting.  When I discussed this with Kaja, she pointed out I was being weird.

The issue that I brought up was the fact that a large portion of the funds raised (11,000 Euros) was being used for artwork, rulebook design and packaging.  Only a small portion of the actual funds (4,000 Euros) was being used to fund the actual printing.  That seemed high and just weird.

However, as Kaja pointed out, they are using crowd-funding for exactly what it is meant to do — raise funds for a limited-demand passion project.  They aren’t using it as a pre-order system as much, it really is to raise funds to do their passion project.

Still… it stuck in my craw.

Pre-Order or Crowdfunding

Don’t get me wrong – I understand the concept of crowd-funding for raising capital. In fact, I’ve supported a number of projects based on that – from video games (Wasteland 2) to movies (Veronica Mars) to small businesses (a random lady trying to buy a better machine stamp) and of course, a few board games and the obligatory comic book reprints.

In the vast majority of the cases, I knew I was throwing money at a project that I just wanted seen done.  In some cases, the chances of actual completion was low, but I thought it was something I should support.  Whether it was the online comic reprints for artists/stories I’ve been reading ‘free’ for ages or just to support a friend, how the money was going to be spent didn’t matter.

Yet, this project; it mattered.  I had, somehow, drawn a line in the sand in my head that said board games should be spending most of their money on printing/shipping cost.

Skin in the Game

Musing about it, I think it’s a matter of skin in the game.  As a business owner, I have a lot of skin in this business.   If we ever went out of business, I don’t even want to think about how much I would have lost – both in ‘real’ funds as well as opportunity/time cost.  I have a significant ‘skin’ in this game, which makes me eat/breathe/live this business.

Outside of actual game idea, rules and play-testing (which is in many ways a ‘hidden’ cost as some games obviously haven’t had enough play-testing), sinking funds into the artwork and design is a publisher’s skin in the game.  If a publisher isn’t willing to sink their own funds into a game, what right do I have to believe that they are committed to this?

Of course, skin can also manifest in other ways.  A dancer who has spent 10 – 15 years of their lives training has a lot of skin already when they ask for money to fund a production.  An online comic artist has sunk their time producing the strips, the developers in Wasteland 2 have their professional reputations at stake, etc.

Last Thoughts

I guess for me, board games crowd-funded should at least have their artwork paid for.  It’s obviously not the same minimum level – Guy Winsdor has a reputation to protect too (in the Western Martial Arts community) so it’s not as if he doesn’t have ‘skin’ in the game.  Yet, I guess I am holding them up to a different standard because they are doing board games, probably because I see so many games published with constant delays / etc.

Our 50th Video Review (Seasons) & Fundraiser Update

We posted our 50th Starlit Citadel Reviews video today! It’s a review of one of this year’s most exciting new releases, Seasons. It has the great components and art you’d expect from the publishers of the Dixit series, and offers a lot of strategy and interaction in a short, easy-to-learn game.

We’re also heading into the final stretch of our IndieGoGo Fundraiser for Season 2, with only 12 days left. We’re currently at about 25% of our main goal, and have raised enough to produce an additional 4 videos, making for at least 30 new episodes in 2013.

Since the launch of the campaign, we’ve been posting bonus videos to promote the project, and you can watch them all on our fundraiser playlist over at the YouTube channel. We’ve also received some interesting press elsewhere in the gaming world, including a guest post on review site 2d6.org; a blog post at Game N Train, a Canadian fitness and gaming site that features a “Boardgame of the Week” from us biweekly on their podcast, GameOn, and who will be interviewing Kaja and Joanna in next Thursday’s episode; and a lovely geeklist put together by one of our regular viewers over on BoardGameGeek.

If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands, Richard Bliss, aka The Game Whisperer, has just put up a 20-minute interview with Kaja and Joanna as part of his “Funding the Dream” series. It covers everything from the current fundraising project, to Kaja’s historical swordplay hobby, Joanna’s experiences as an indie filmmaker (including some background on her webseries, Standard Action), and the growing visibility of women in the gaming industry.

The fundraiser is up until November 24th, 2012, at which point we’ll receive all funds collected and get to work planning the next season of Starlit Citadel Reviews. Thanks very much to everyone who has donated and spread the word so far — we’re really grateful for your support! And if you haven’t donated yet? There’s still time for you to help out.

Video Reviews – Season 2 Fundraiser

As our first year of producing Starlit Citadel Reviews videos draws to a close, we’ve been hard at work crunching the numbers and planning for 2013. After a year of self-funding weekly, high-quality review videos, we’re trying something a bit different, and are reaching out to our viewers for help in making another season of Starlit Citadel reviews happen, while continuing to make our own substantial contribution to the project.

By the end of 2012, we will have released a total of 58 videos, or about 1 a week since we started last October (with a hiatus in December – January because of the busy shipping season). The frequency of the videos has been great, allowing us to provide quality new content for the site and engage with our customers — and a broader audience — in a much more personal fashion than is usually possible for an online business. We’d love to continue with that pace of production, but the costs have become a little too steep, especially when you factor in the cashflow needs of a growing business that’s been increasing its staffing and looking at physical expansion (my god, do we need a bigger warehouse!) to better serve customers.

As a result, we’ve committed to funding 26 new episodes for our second season, or a release rate of 1 video every 2 weeks. While this will allow the videos to continue and provide a good amount of content, it does little to address the requests for “More!” that we’ve been getting so often. To that end, we’ve launched an IndieGoGo fundraiser to help bridge the gap between what we can fund, and what our viewers want to see.

Our base funding goal is $7,000, which would fully cover the production costs for another 16 videos: 12 regular episodes, and 4 themed and holiday specials.

The intent of this campaign is to put together as many new videos as we can manage, and to get our viewers more involved in the process by providing new fan-centred content such as the special episodes, giving out perks to all of our contributors, and reaching out to viewers who aren’t Starlit Citadel customers (a sizable chunk, since 78% of our viewers live outside Canada).

We’ll be posting regular updates directly on the fundraiser page, and will be adding new promo videos to the YouTube channel in addition to our regular releases. Let us know if there are perks or stretch goals that you’d like to see us add to the campaign, and please don’t hesitate to spread the word to your friends, family and gaming group if you want to see even more of our videos. Thanks for your support!