Reaping the Rewards: A Year of Kickstarter Tabletop Games

Kickstarter Reviews Tabletop Games
Kickstarter Tabletop 2014
Here are, as far as I can recall, all of the tabletop games I acquired in 2014 that were funded on Kickstarter. I probably missed some. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Whatever your opinion of crowdfunding, there’s no question that it has become a big trend in tabletop games. Countless new indie game designers have jumped at the opportunity to publish their own games without going the traditional route, and even some bigger publishers have turned to Kickstarter to offset the up-front costs of printing games. I write a lot about Kickstarter game campaigns, but I don’t always go back and write up the final project when it arrives.

Here’s a run-down of the Kickstarter-funded board games that I actually received in 2014 (listed in order of project funding date). Warning: It’s a long list–even longer than I expected when I started out. I kept thinking I was done, and then I’d spot another game on my shelf and realize it was also Kickstarter-funded. Some of these I’ve opened and played; some I’ve opened and looked at all the shiny bits; and some, sadly, are still in shrink wrap, waiting for the day when I don’t have a long queue of new prototypes to review.

(The title links go to the original Kickstarter campaigns. Where available, I’ve also included links to purchase the finished game–purchasing through my affiliate links helps me, um, offset my Kickstarter habit.)

Are you ready? Buckle up.

Damage Report
Damage Report: we try to rid the ship of (non-trademark-infringing) Furballs. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Damage Report by Break From Reality Games

Funded October 2012, expected January 2013, delivered June 2014. Have played.

When I backed Break From Reality Games’ first project, Disaster Looms, it was largely because I really wanted them to make their next game, Damage Report. It’s a real-time cooperative game … in space! Unfortunately, Damage Report apparently suffered some real-life disasters and it arrived a year and a half later than expected–by which time I’d also played a few other real-time cooperative space-based games like Dice Duel. Still, I’ve played Damage Report a few times, and have enjoyed it, though there can be some “hurry up and wait” moments that aren’t quite as exciting. Available from Amazon.

Lost Valley
Lost Valley: exploring along the river, looking for gold. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Lost Valley by Pandasaurus Games

Funded October 2012, expected April 2013, delivered April 2014. Have played.

I didn’t write this one up, but I backed it myself–largely because it’s the only game I’ve come across with rhombus-shaped tiles, which I had used in one of my own (now-aborted) game designs. I really liked the way that rhombus tiles could be put together, and this exploration game uses them well. Lost Valley was an older game that got an update, but this project was also subject to various delays. I haven’t played it much, but I did like it, and hope to try it again. Available from Amazon.

Machine of Death Game

Machine of Death Game by David Malki

Funded March 2013, expected August 2013, delivered January 2014. Have played.

I was a big fan of the Machine of Death books, anthologies inspired by this cartoon, so when David Malki launched a Kickstarter for a game based on the idea, I backed it (and wrote about it), despite the fact that, at launch, there wasn’t really anything about how you actually played the game. I still love the premise: you’re all assassins, tasked with killing off your marks while adhering to their improbably bizarre death predictions. However, what I found in practice was that I’m not as fond of games that are more about improv and less about well-defined rules, so I ended up selling my copy off. It is fun if you have a good DM–but I’m not one, so I didn’t need it in my own collection. Available from Amazon, along with the Side Effects expansion.

Emperor's New Clothes
Do you see what I see? Playing Emperor’s New Clothes. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Emperor’s New Clothes by Jonathan Liu/Game Salute

Funded April 2013, expected August 2013, delivered March 2014. Have played.

Right, I also designed this experimental meta-game, with a Kickstarter project intended to be a bit of an alternate reality game in itself and a commentary about Kickstarter and board games. Why did it take a year to deliver a blank white box of blank white pieces? I still have no idea, though if I run another Kickstarter project in the future I’ll handle more of the process myself, so at least if there are delays, I’ll know more about what’s causing them. You can’t buy Emperor’s New Clothes (it was a Kickstarter-only thing), but if you ever catch me at a convention or game night, I’d be happy to teach it to you.

Galactic Strike Force

Galactic Strike Force by Greater Than Games

Funded May 2013, expected October 2013, delivered May 2014. Have played.

Greater Than Games, best known for their Sentinels of the Multiverse series of games, published this cooperative deck-building game. I like deck-building and I like what they’ve done in the past, so I backed it (but didn’t write it up). It took a while to deliver, I think largely because of the add-on miniatures (which I didn’t buy). I’ve only played once so far, and found the rules a little confusing, so it’s been sitting on my shelf, but I figure I’ll give it another shot before deciding if I want to sell it. Available from Amazon.

What's He Building in There?
What’s He Building in There? As it turns out, Insane-o-Gas. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

What’s He Building in There? by Baksha Games

Funded May 2013, expected June 2013, delivered January 2014(ish). Have played.

Technically, this one started shipping at the end of November 2013, so North American backers may have received it in December 2013, but many backers got it later. I’d missed the Kickstarter and got my copy after Gen Con, so I’m fudging it a little, but it was close. What’s He Building in There? is a worker-placement game of evil mad geniuses building doomsday devices, and you can read my review here. Available on Amazon.

Wok Star

Wok Star by Tim Fowers/Game Salute

Funded July 2013, expected March 2014, delivered September 2014. Haven’t played.

Ah, Wok Star. It has an interesting story: it’s a real-time cooperative game about managing a Chinese restaurant. I first wrote about it way back in 2010, when designer Tim Fowers was trying something new: running his own pre-order campaign to pay for printing of this game. This was before everyone flocked to Kickstarter. Well, that print run got funded, and I got a copy, but then it was out of print and hard to get. In 2013, Fowers worked with Game Salute to publish a new version, including an electronic timer that would be designed specifically to work with the game so you didn’t have to use double sand timers. That digital timer became a huge headache, and was the primary reason the game was late. I haven’t played the new copy, but I already know I love the game and I’m glad I have it. Available from Amazon.

VivaJava Dice: a prototype played at Gen Con 2013. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

VivaJava Dice by Dice Hate Me Games

Funded July 2013, expected January 2014, delivered June 2014. Haven’t played.

I haven’t played my finished copy of VivaJava Dice but I did play it at Gen Con 2013 when it was still in prototype form. And I’ve backed nearly everything that Dice Hate Me Games has released, because I like Chris Kirkman’s taste in games. VivaJava Dice is a quick-playing dice version of the longer worker-placement game VivaJava. (I backed both, despite the fact that I don’t drink coffee. Or beer, but I backed Brew Crafters, too.) Definitely one I’m keeping, even though I haven’t had time to play it yet. Some delays due to issues getting the dice colors just right, but it looks pretty nice now. Available from Amazon.

David and Leana Galiel
Father-daughter team David and Leana Galiel show off Antimatter Matters at Guardian Games on International TableTop Day. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Antimatter Matters by Elbowfish Games

Funded July 2013, expected November 2013, delivered May 2014. Have played.

Antimatter Matters is a game built on basic concepts from quantum mechanics, designed by a local father-daughter team. The components are huge, chunky, wooden bits, and the design of the game took color blindness into consideration from the start. Another fun mash-up of gaming and STEM education, which I reviewed after the game was released. Available on Amazon.

Chaos & Alchemy
Playing Chaos & Alchemy (original print run version). Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Chaos & Alchemy by Michael Iachini/Game Salute

Funded August 2013, expected March 2014, delivered October 2014. Haven’t played.

Chaos & Alchemy is a cards-and-dice game about transmuting lead into gold. Iachini had a self-published print run with black-and-white illustrations, and then launched a Kickstarter through Game Salute for a full-color edition. I mentioned it in this Kickstarter Tabletop Roundup. (Side note: he also hosted my family for a night when they got stuck in Denver on the way home from a trip, so besides being a game designer he’s also a good Samaritan.) I haven’t played the new copy yet, but the artwork is a huge improvement. The box is also huge, period–but Game Salute seems to be using a standard box size for even its smaller games. Available from Game Salute (along with expansions).


Tessen by Chris & Suzanne Zinsli/Van Ryder Games

Funded August 2013, expected and delivered February 2014. Have played.

Tessen is one that I didn’t write up but backed on a whim–I knew there were demo copies at Gen Con 2013, but I missed it. It’s another real-time speed game for two players, and after watching the How to Play video I decided to give it a shot. After all, it was only $12. It delivered on time (!) and is pretty fun to play, if you like frantic card games. (I do.) Available from Amazon.

A Duel Betwixt Us
A Duel Betwixt Us: use ingots to build your weapons, then take them into manly battles. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

A Duel Betwixt Us by Laurob Studios/Game Salute

Funded August 2013, expected January 2014, delivered August 2014. Have played.

I’d seen this one on Kickstarter but hadn’t backed it or written it up–too much going on in August already–but Game Salute sent me a finished copy. It’s a funny two-player card game in which you send miners to get copper, silver, and gold, which you then use to buy and build weapons and armor, and then take them into duels. What that description leaves out, however, is that the game is incredibly funny, with over-the-top manly men doing manly things. The whole game fits into two tuckboxes … but it comes with four, in an enormous box. Come on, Game Salute! Available from Amazon.

Water Balloon Washout
Water Balloon Washout: Take out the other teams of kids before your kids get washed out! Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Water Balloon Washout by Jason Slingerland

Funded August 2013, expected December 2013, delivered April 2014. Have played.

This is another one I missed during the Kickstarter, but Jason Slingerland, co-host of the Building the Game podcast, caught me at Gen Con and gave me a copy to try out with my kids. It’s a pretty simple game about eliminating the other players, but my kids thought the illustrations were hilarious–particularly when you flip the kids over to show the soaked side. Not a very deep game, but I love making my kids laugh. Available from the Building the Game website.

Belle of the Ball
Chris Kirkman with the demo prototype of Belle of the Ball at Gen Con 2013. Photos: Jonathan H. Liu

Belle of the Ball by Daniel Solis/Dice Hate Me Games

Funded September 2013, expected March 2014, delivered September 2014. Have played.

Belle of the Ball, designed by Daniel Solis, is particularly notable for all of the really wacky names of the dignitaries attending your fancy schmancy parties. I played a really early prototype a while back, and then a nearly-finished prototype at Gen Con 2013–the two games were significantly different. I mentioned it in a roundup post, but didn’t have a prototype for a full review at the time. The finished version has beautiful artwork, funny names, and a clever set-collection game with plenty of tricks to pull on your opponents. Available from Amazon.

Battle Merchants

Battle Merchants by Gil Hova/Minion Games

Funded October 2013, expected February 2014, delivered June 2014. Haven’t played.

I liked the theme of Battle Merchants for its dark humor: you play arms manufacturers in a fantasy war, selling weapons to orcs and elves as they battle each other. You don’t really care who wins the war–you just want to make the most profit from it. I didn’t get a prototype to try it out, and ended up backing it toward the end because I wasn’t sure it was going to hit its goal. But since I got it in the summer while gearing up for Gen Con, I still haven’t taken the time to read through the rules and learn to play it. Available from Amazon.


Cubist by Alf Seegert & Steven Poelzing/Gryphon and Eagle Games

Funded October 2013, expected March 2014, delivered July 2014. Haven’t played.

I mentioned Cubist in a tabletop roundup even though I hadn’t gotten to play it yet, because I’ve had a lot of fun with Alf Seegert’s game designs. They always feel really different from most other games I’ve played, and even from other games he’s designed, so I know I’m going to get a fresh, new experience from them. Sadly, because this arrived in the summer shortly before Gen Con, it got shelved and hasn’t made it to the table yet.

Ninja Dice

Ninja Dice by Greenbrier Games

Funded October 2013, expected and delivered April 2014. Haven’t played.

I mentioned Ninja Dice in a tabletop roundup: it’s a press-your-luck dice game, but in this game the position and orientation of the dice matter. Plus, if you roll enough times, your opponents get to throw threat dice, potentially stealing treasure from you. The finished product is pretty cute: a little pocket-sized ninja cube holds the dice and little plastic coins. I actually got a copy from Greenbrier at Gen Con, but haven’t played the finished version yet. Available on Amazon.

Marrying Mr. Darcy
Marrying Mr. Darcy. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Marrying Mr. Darcy by Erika Svanoe

Funded October 2013, expected February 2014, delivered April 2014. Have played.

If you love Jane Austen, you really should try Marrying Mr. Darcy. I missed the campaign for this, but managed to get a review copy of the finished product, and even though I’m not an Austenophile, I enjoyed playing the game. It’s witty and plays with the theme well. Plus, you can throw in zombies if you get the urge. If you act quickly, you can download the beta version of the Emma expansion now. (Erika Svanoe was only planning to make it available for a couple of weeks.) Available on Amazon.

Lords and Ladies
Lords & Ladies: Did you hear the latest gossip about Lord Muttonchops? Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Lords & Ladies by Jason and Jen Corace/Gryphon Games

Funded October 2013, expected February 2014, delivered September 2014. Have played.

This game pairs nicely with Marrying Mr. Darcy, so I reviewed them together. You’re trying to earn the most prestige for your family by marrying well, having wonderful children, and hiring the right servants. Or, failing that, spread some gossip about your neighbors. Plus: you get to name your kids, thanks to the whiteboard cards. Available on Amazon.

Shadows of Brimstone
Shadows of Brimstone: my first attempt ever at painting miniatures. (Not quite done yet.) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Shadows of Brimstone by Flying Frog Games

Funded November 2013, expected August 2014, partially delivered November 2014. Haven’t played.

I’ve been a fan of Flying Frog’s games since Last Night on Earth. They have big, unwieldy rulebooks and they fall pretty firmly into the “Ameritrash” genre, but I love the way you can really get into the theme of their games. When they launched their first Kickstarter project, for a massive Wild West horror game, I decided to back it despite the hefty price tag (though I didn’t go all out for the Mine Cart reward level). The base sets were delayed somewhat, but the big waits are for all of the extras from stretch goals that were hit during the campaign–but since I didn’t pledge for those, I’ve got almost everything I was expecting. I haven’t played it yet, but largely because I’ve been assembling the minis and–for the first time ever–painting them. Above you can see the four hero figures from the “City of the Ancients” set. They’re not quite done yet, and I haven’t even gotten to all the monsters. Both base sets available on Amazon: City of the Ancients and Swamps of Death.

The Great Snowball Battle
The Great Snowball Battle: I love my daughter’s poker face. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Great Snowball Battle by Snink Think Ink/Game Salute

Funded November 2013, expected September 2014, delivered July 2014 (early!). Have played.

This one reminds me of Water Balloon Washout (see above) but, you know, with snowballs. There are some similarities, but The Great Snowball Battle has some other interesting choices because your cover gets exhausted–do you stay put so you can keep throwing snowballs, or do you run for new cover (but lose your gear)? My kids and I have also enjoyed this one, which Game Salute sent to me. My biggest complaint: another huge box for a small card game. Available from Amazon.

Run Fight or Die
Run, Fight or Die! Those zombies just keep coming. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Run, Fight or Die! by 8th Summit

Funded November 2013, expected June 2014, delivered August 2014. Have played.

A Yahtzee-style dice game with piles and piles of zombies. Run, Fight or Die! had a pretty successful Kickstarter campaign, and I saw a lot of folks picking up their copies at Gen Con. I got a review copy later and wrote it up here, along with a few other zombie-themed games I saw at Gen Con. It doesn’t have the story of Last Night on Earth, but it does a pretty good job of conveying the horror of the endless hordes of shuffling undead. Available on Amazon, or you can pick up the base game as part of the Kickstarter campaign running currently for the expansion.

Pandante Cards
Pandante: Panda poker

Pandante by Sirlin Games

Funded December 2013, expected May 2014, delivered June 2014. Haven’t played.

Pandante is David Sirlin’s take on poker. There are specific ways of lying while you bet and challenging somebody, and even rewards if you get away with lying. So there’s more bluffing and lying, less folding, and some special abilities that come into play. Plus the deluxe version is really beautiful, with clay chips and a fancy leatherette box. I haven’t played the finished version, but my review of the prototype is here. (The original campaign was canceled and tweaked, and the reboot succeeded.) Amazon has the regular edition, travel edition, and deluxe edition available.

Coin Age

Coin Age by Tasty Minstrel Games

Funded December 2013, expected April 2014, delivered September 2014. (Tasty Minstrel ran several microgame campaigns and shipped simultaneously, but I got the wrong thing shipped at first, so this one came later than for most backers, I think.) Haven’t played.

I mentioned Coin Age in my Rise of the Microgame article: it consists of a single card, plus some pocket change. The funny thing is, after the stretch goals, there were more cards added to the game–though these were alternate maps, and you still only needed a single card at a time to play the game. I still like the idea, but since my two-player games don’t usually get much play, this one hasn’t made it out yet. Available from Tasty Minstrel Games.

Coconuts Crazy Monkey
Coconuts Crazy Monkey: You wouldn’t know it from this photo, but these guys went a little nuts with the monkey catapults. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Coconuts Crazy Monkey by Mayday Games

Funded January 2014, expected April 2014, delivered March 2014 (one month early!). Have played.

I love these crazy Korean dexterity games (like Tok Tok Woodman, which I also own), so of course I backed Coconuts Crazy Monkey, a game about flinging little rubber coconuts with monkey catapults. I thought I’d have to worry about my kids going crazy (and losing a bunch of the small, bouncy coconuts) but instead it was my adult gamer friends who starting flinging them at each other as soon as I opened the box. It’s a riot–and kind of hard, too. Available from Amazon.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms
Tiny Epic Kingdoms: by the time the campaign ended, many of these components had gotten significant upgrades.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms by Gamelyn Games

Funded February 2014, expected and delivered September 2014. (Actually, I got a review copy earlier, and then the copy I paid for later.) Have played.

The first in the Tiny Epic series, Tiny Epic Kingdoms blew past a pile of stretch goals and grew into a much bigger game (that, thankfully still fit into a small package). I reviewed it based on a prototype version, and then backed it myself, too. I’ve only played the finished version once so far, but I was really impressed with how it turned out–and that it managed to deliver on time despite all of the stretch goal additions. It’s since been followed by Tiny Epic Defenders (currently shipping) and Tiny Epic Galaxies, which I just wrote up last week. A great series of really fun games. Available from Amazon.

Zombie 15'
Zombie 15′: It’s a long road ahead, and it’s full of zombies. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Zombie 15′ by Iello Games

Funded February 2014, expected May 2014, delivered July 2014 (though there are still some add-ons outstanding). Have played.

I hadn’t played this before the campaign, so I just put in a brief mention in a roundup post. Zombie 15′ is a real-time cooperative game that takes 15 minutes to play–or less, depending on how quickly you lose. The artwork is fantastic and the gameplay is fast and furious… but setting up the game can take nearly as long as the actual play. I’m eager to try this again, now that I have a table that’s big enough to hold the larger maps. Available from Amazon.

This Town cover

This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us by Tasty Minstrel Games

Funded February 2014, expected June 2014, delivered August 2014. Haven’t played.

Another of Tasty Minstrel Games’ microgames, This Town is a tile-laying game that I reviewed during the campaign. Tasty Minstrel was also trying out a “pay what you want” campaign for this and its other microgames–but I think they’ve since decided against it. Still, a fun game for a low price, and it’s now available for just $5 from Tasty Minstrel Games. I haven’t played my finished copy yet.

Draco Magi dragon cards
Draco Magi: beautiful dragons, fascinating gameplay

Draco Magi by Robert Burke & Richard Launius

Funded February 2014, expected September 2014, delivered October 2014. Have played.

I wrote up this two-player dragon-battling game just before the campaign launched, and was excited to get my copy. Again, since I don’t play a lot of two-player games, I haven’t played it a lot, but I do have a good friend who’s also a fan and we’ve battled each other a few times. The game turned out really well, though the stretch goal foil cards can be a little hard to read so I just keep them as a fun bonus. Available from Amazon. [Update: There’s a new Kickstarter campaign currently running for some new dragons–in poster form or prototype card form.]

Eons expansions

Eons: Cosmic Expansions by Gamer Nation Studios

Funded February 2014, expected June 2014, delivered December 2014. Haven’t played.

This expansion to Eons, a game about cosmic creation and destruction, adds some new twists to the original game–more ways to destroy things, for instance. I wrote up the base game, but hadn’t gotten a chance to try out the expansion before the Kickstarter campaign ended. Now that I have the finished copy, I’ll have to break it out again. The base game is available from Gamer Nation Studios’ web store; the expansion should be available soon.

Province: A Eurogame in your pocket. (The standard-sized die is not included, just there for size comparison. Mini-meeples from Meeple Source.) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Province by Laboratory

Funded March 2014, expected May 2014, delivered July 2014. Have played.

Laboratory, which also created the single-card “CCG” Shift, put together this two-player micro worker-placement game. It’s a pocket-sized game (no packaging; just a resealable bag) with little cardboard tokens, but it does have a nice Eurogame feel. I ended up ordering some minimeeples from Meeple Source’s Kickstarter campaign, and I also got a few copies of Province that I gave away as gifts. For you digital gamers, Province is now also available as an iPad app, or the physical game is available from Amazon.

Lagoon: Land of Druids

Lagoon: Land of Druids by 3 Hares Games

Funded March 2014, expected August 2014, delivered November 2014. Haven’t played.

If you want a gorgeous, thinky game, Lagoon fits the bill. You place hex tiles down as you explore the land, but you also “unravel” locations and remove them from the game. There’s a fascinating dynamic in trying to influence the final landscape while making sure you have points of the right element to score. I reviewed the prototype and really loved this one, but haven’t gotten to play the finished copy yet. Available on Amazon.

Zeppelin Attack
Zeppelin Attack: Prototype shown. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Zeppelin Attack! by Evil Hat Productions

Funded March 2014, expected and delivered August 2014. Haven’t played.

In the past year I’ve enjoyed a new trend in deck-building games: fewer cards. As much as I enjoy massive stacks of cards (I really do!), I’m fascinated by games that use deck-building but with a more limited inventory. Zeppelin Attack! is one such game: up to four players take control of a fleet of zeppelins, scoring points by successfully attacking opponents or buying cards. My original review is here. This one was delivered to backers in August, but I got a review copy just in December so I haven’t played the finished copy yet. Available on Amazon, along with the Doomsday Weapons expansion.

Pijin tiles
Pijin prototype. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Pijin by Travis Feldman

Funded March 2014, expected and delivered June 2014. Haven’t played.

Pijin is another game by a local Portland designer, who had used Kickstarter before but for an electronic instrument rather than a board game. (See my review here.) It’s a word game, but it uses phonetic spelling, which leads to conversations about dialect and linguistics that you might not get while playing Scrabble. The laser-cut bamboo tiles and homebrew packaging set Pijin apart from mass-printed cardboard. I haven’t played with my finished copy yet, but I like how it turned out. Available on Amazon.

Oddball Aeronauts
Oddball Aeronauts (prototype). Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

oddball Aeronauts by maverick:muse

Funded March 2014, expected August 2014, delivered July 2014 (though some arrived later). Haven’t played.

This two-player card game had one feature that was particularly interesting to me: you didn’t need a table to play. It’s designed so that you each hold a deck of cards, and splay out the top three while making your choices, and then discard face-down to the back of the deck. That makes it great for playing in line at a convention or when you don’t want to put cards down on a sticky restaurant table. The campaign itself was filled oddball humor, as was the followup campaign for the expansion that ran last month. I haven’t played the finished copy yet, but I imagine it may get more play after the expansion comes (since it adds up to two more players). Available on Amazon.

Dice Hate Me Games
6 pocket-sized games, one Kickstarter campaign.

Big Games for Small Pockets by Dice Hate Me Games

Funded April 2014, expected August 2014, delivered December 2014. Haven’t played.

If you know me, then you can tell why I was so excited about this Kickstarter campaign. Small-box games from Dice Hate Me? Sign me up. Of course, since they delivered at the end of December (along with piles of the other games you see on this list), I haven’t gotten beyond opening some of them up to look at them, but these will sure to be good games for travel. I don’t see them on Amazon yet, but you can order from the Dice Hate Me Games website.


Tuscany by Stonemaier Games

Funded April 2014, expected November 2014, delivered December 2014. Haven’t played.

Think of this as Viticulture: Legacy. This expansion to the wine-making worker-placement game is actually a set of twelve small expansions that you “uncork” every few plays. (Though, unlike Risk: Legacy, you don’t ever have to tear anything up, and you can undo an expansion and put it away again.) Dave Banks reviewed it favorably for the Kickstarter campaign, and since I was a fan of the original game, I backed this one, too. It’s another one that just arrived in December, so it’s still in the shrink wrap, even. Eventually! I’m hoping that Tuscany, like a good wine, will only improve with age. Available on Amazon.

Coup Reformation

Coup Reformation by Indie Boards & Cards

Funded April 2014, expected and delivered August 2014. Haven’t played.

Indie Boards & Cards runs a tight ship when it comes to Kickstarter campaigns: they’re often short campaigns, the reward levels are basically for a copy of the game (in this case, you could also throw in a copy of the base game), and they try to avoid feature creep so that things get sent out on time. This expansion to Coup, a bluffing and hidden-role game, adds some new twists. I own the original, and even though I haven’t played it a whole lot, I like it enough that I figured I’d enjoy the expansion, too. Again, one that I haven’t played yet because I’ve been too busy reviewing new Kickstarters… Available on Amazon–some folks are also selling the Kickstarter Edition, which has some exclusives in it.

Madness cards
Madness: playing a prototype at GameStorm. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Madness by Very Vivid Innovations

Funded April 2014, expected June 2014, delivered September 2014. Haven’t played.

I first tried this at GameStorm, and immediately backed it when I got home (and wrote about it). It’s another speed card game: you’re trying to match your formula to the cure in the center, but in the meantime the cure can keep changing, thanks to your opponent. It’s fast and furious, and makes a good pair with Tessen (see above). I haven’t opened my finished copy yet, but it’s there for when I need a quick two-player game. Available directly from Very Vivid Innovations.

Sentinel Tactics
Sentinel Tactics: My friend Matt totally pimped out his version of Sentinel Tactics with 3D terrain. Mine doesn’t look nearly as cool. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Sentinels Tactics by Greater Than Games

Funded April 2014, expected December 2014, delivered August 2014 (four months early!). Have played.

As I mentioned in my tabletop roundup, this is the game I wanted Greater Than Games to make: it still has the great world and comic-book superheroes they created, but now in a tactical battle game. I didn’t pay extra for the miniatures (which do look great). It’s a fun game–there’s still a bit of upkeep, like Sentinels of the Multiverse, but I like moving around on a board and rolling dice more than just the card game. Available from Amazon, plus Greater Than Games will start taking preorders for an expansion this week.

Board Games: Now Blind Accessible

Board Games: Now Blind Accessible by 64 Oz. Games

Funded April 2014, expected December 2014, delivered November 2014 (one month early). Haven’t played.

Technically what I got from this Kickstarter campaign was a copy of Yoink!, a card game that uses textured white cards, meant to be played with your eyes closed. But the main reason for backing this project was because it would allow 64 Oz. Games to make upgrade kits for lots of other games, adding braille with card sleeves, creating braille player aids, and so forth. I haven’t played Yoink! yet. 64 Oz. Games now has their web store open for business, where you can get accessibility kits for over 20 games, with many more planned for the future.

Storyteller Cards: Fantasy

Storyteller Cards: Fantasy by Jason Tagmire

Funded April 2014, expected October 2014, delivered November 2014. Haven’t played.

I just liked Jason Tagmire’s first set of Storyteller Cards (also with illustrations by Campbell Whyte) so much that I went ahead and backed this one, which has fantasy-themed characters. I haven’t used either set a bunch yet for any particular purpose, but I keep them in my travel game bag–both so I have a deck of cards, but also in case I need some random inspiration. The original deck and fantasy deck are both available through Amazon.

Epic Resort
Epic Resort: Me with Ben Harkins of Floodgate Games at Gen Con. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Epic Resort by Floodgate Games

Funded April 2014, expected September 2014, delivered December 2014. Haven’t played.

Epic Resort, which I reviewed during the campaign, is a combination deck-building and worker-placement game about managing a resort where fantasy heroes come to relax in between monster-slaying adventures. Of course, here be monsters, too. Of note: Ben Harkins of Floodgate Games had some copies at Gen Con, but they were specifically for Kickstarter backers to pick up, not to sell, since not everyone had received them yet. Another one that arrived in December, so it’s still in shrink so far. Available on Amazon.

Dragon Slayer
Dragon Slayer: Forgive me for the crazy tablecloth–we played this on a camping trip. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Dragon Slayer by Indie Cards & Boards

Funded May 2014, expected and delivered August 2014. Have played.

Another fast campaign by Indie Boards & Cards, Dragon Slayer is a press-your-luck dice game that’s a little more involved than Zombie Dice but is still a pretty quick, light game. Roll dice to hunt down the blue, green, and red dragons, but watch that you don’t get burnt! A fun feature is that other players can challenge you to keep going–take the risk or lose face (and points). Available on Amazon.

Eggs & Empires
Eggs & Empires: Get the good eggs, avoid the exploding ones. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Eggs & Empires by Gryphon Games

Funded May 2014, expected November 2014, delivered December 2014. Have played.

In case you didn’t know already, Eggs & Empires was my pick for 2014 Game of the Year. Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback have worked together on a couple games already, and this latest one is my favorite. A nice, quick game that still has some intriguing strategy available, all in a box that fits in your pocket. Available directly from Eagle-Gryphon Games.

Good Cop Bad Cop
Good Cop Bad Cop: Which of these guys is the Agent, and which is the Kingpin? (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Good Cop Bad Cop by Overworld Games

Funded May 2014, expected and delivered August 2014 (though I got mine directly from Brian Henk at Gen Con). Have played.

This one’s another one that made by 10×10 Tabletop Challenge list and was a contender for Game of the Year. Good Cop Bad Cop is a hidden role game, but what sets it apart is the way that the integrity cards work. Remarkably, it’s a game that you can play without lying (unless you want to), and the various equipment effects allow for some fantastic twists and double-crossing. Read my original review here. It’s available from Overworld Games, but if you don’t have it already you may want to wait until later this week when they launch their Kickstarter campaign for the first expansion.

Yardmaster components
Yardmaster prototype. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Yardmaster by Crash Games

Funded May 2014, expected October 2014, delivered December 2014. Haven’t played.

Yardmaster was a hit when I took the prototype to GameStorm last year, but I had to keep quiet about it until Crash Games was ready to make the announcement as the Kickstarter launched. It’s a quick game about building out your train, but each train car has to match Uno-style to the one before it. I haven’t played my finished version yet but I did open it up, and it turned out really nicely. It just delivered to backers, but should be available in retail and online soon.

Linkage: A game about DNA. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Linkage by Genius Games

Funded May 2014, expected July 2014, delivered September 2014. Haven’t played.

Linkage is a card game about DNA: you’re trying to build out your RNA copy of the existing DNA template–but meanwhile your opponents can try to mutate your strands so it no longer matches. The game is fairly simple, but helps teach some basic concepts about genetics. I’ve only played the prototype version so far, but I did get a finished copy to try out, too. Available from Amazon.

Code Monkey Island
Code Monkey Island: teach your kids basic programming concepts. Bonus: cute monkey figurines! Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Code Monkey Island by Raj Sidhu

Funded June 2014, expected August 2014, delivered November 2014. Have played.

I wrote about Code Monkey Island (along with Prime Climb, below) in a post about teaching STEM through games. Although this one didn’t take off like the Robot Turtles campaign, I think it’s a great followup to that game. It’s appropriate for an older audience (Robot Turtles was too easy for my older girls) and gets them thinking about if-then concepts, as well as planning ahead and setting up conditions so that your cards have the biggest effect. And there are cute plastic monkeys. Available from Code Monkey Planet.

Primo game board
Primo was renamed Prime Climb due to trademark issues.

Prime Climb by Math for Love

Funded June 2014, expected October 2014, delivered December 2014. Haven’t played.

I sometimes say that I majored in math, but I’m not really a math person. There were only a few moments in college where the clouds parted and I could see why people got excited about math–the rest of the time, I was just trying to pass my classes. Prime Climb (formerly Primo) is a game that helps you see the beauty in numbers–in this case, prime numbers–and I wanted to share that with my kids. Just received recently, but we’ll break this out soon. Available on Amazon.


Heat by Asmadi Games

Funded June 2014, expected August 2014, delivered December 2014. Have played.

I’ve been looking for a good heist-themed game for some time now, and when I saw Heat one I figured it was worth a shot. I’ll admit: I didn’t write it up because I didn’t spend a lot of time beforehand looking it through–I backed it toward the end of the campaign. I’ve played it once so far, and although it’s still not the heist game I’m looking for, it was clever and I’ll play it again. It does seem to be the type that is more fun once you’re all familiar with the types of cards in the deck. Available from Asmadi Games.

ESSEN cover

ESSEN by LudiCreations

Funded June 2014, expected November 2014, delivered December 2014. Haven’t played.

ESSEN is about selling games at the biggest gaming convention in the world. (Not to be confused with Essen: The Game, about buying games at the biggest convention in the world.) When I wrote my review, I’d only gotten to play the game online using a Vassal module, so it was without artwork. I’m happy to report that the finished version (which I’ve opened and punched out, but not yet played) is much more attractive. Available directly from LudiCreations.

Dinosaur Cards

Royal Dinosaur Playing Cards by no reply design

Funded June 2014, expected July 2014, delivered August 2014. Haven’t played.

We had a giveaway for two decks of these dino-themed cards, and after the project closed (and, as far as I can tell, shipped to backers), it took me a couple months to track down the giveaway copies. The designer is actually an arts student and went back to school–eventually his mother is the one who took care of the giveaway winners. On reflection, it may not have been a great idea to back a project by a company called “no reply design.” But, hey, the cards turned out great and they look snazzy.

Yardmaster Express
Playing Yardmaster Express (prototype) with my kids. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Yardmaster Express by Crash Games

Funded July 2014, expected October 2014, delivered December 2014. Have played.

On the heels of Yardmaster, Crash Games launched another campaign for this even smaller take on its already small game. I reviewed this quick card-drafting version during the campaign, and it made it to the top of my 10×10 Tabletop Challenge list because anytime I got it out I’d play a few rounds. The final version uses square cards (unlike the prototype you see pictured above), but is otherwise very similar. Like Yardmaster, it just delivered recently and isn’t available for general purchase yet, but will be soon.

[Redacted]: The board shows three floors of the embassy.
[Redacted] by LudiCreations

Funded August 2014, expected November 2014, delivered December 2014. Haven’t played.

A second campaign from LudiCreations in 2014, this one shipped at the same time as ESSEN. It’s a clever spy game with several modes of play, and one of the key aspects is the way information stays hidden: if you get interrogated, you mix your identity card with another card, so your opponent isn’t guaranteed to see the real card; but after peeking at one card, your opponent mixes the two before handing them back, so you don’t know what was seen, either. This was a tricky one to play on Vassal because it’s harder to keep track of what’s being passed around by other players, but I liked it enough that I gave it a positive review. I’m looking forward to playing this one now that I have the finished (physical) version. Available for preorder from Amazon.

Roar-a-saurus: Roll dice, roar, smash your opponents! Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Roar-a-Saurus by Indie Boards & Cards

Funded September 2014, expected November 2014, delivered December 2014. Have played.

You might have noticed that this is the third project from Indie Boards & Cards on this list–and that all three of them were launched and delivered in 2014. (There was a fourth, too, another expansion for Flash Point, but I missed it.) Roar-a-Saurus looked like a fun real-time dice game, and it arrived just in time for me to stick it under the Christmas tree. We played a few times over winter break, and it’s pretty fun if you like rolling dice and roaring like dinosaurs. Who doesn’t? Available from Amazon.

So that’s a total of 56 projects received in 2014, more than one game per week on average. It’s a bit ridiculous, really, but keep in mind that when I backed them I wasn’t expecting the deliveries to pile up in one year like this–these were games that had expected delivery dates spread out over two years.

Of these, I’ve played 29 (slightly more than half) of the finished versions. Many of them, of course, I have played in prototype form but haven’t played in the finished form, and of these I’ve only gotten rid of one of them so far. Obviously, I’m receiving more games than I have time to play (particularly because I’ve got the next batch of Kickstarter prototypes waiting to be reviewed already), but I did get through half of them–and nearly a quarter of them only arrived in the middle of the holiday season, so there’s still time.

Time to Deliver
Some companies were much better at estimating how long it would take to deliver the finished game after the campaign closed.

I compared the number of months project creators estimated it would take to deliver the game with the actual time it took. Not surprisingly, most creators underestimated how long it would take–which is why most projects deliver late. However, I also saw that the overall time to deliver projects, at least for these that were delivered in 2014, has gone down. (The graph above is listed in order of project funding date.) My guess is that this has to do with the availability of better information on production and delivery–as more people have already been through the Kickstarter process, there are more people who know how to optimize things and have more things lined up before the project even launches. (I know, this isn’t entirely rigorous because these are games delivered in 2014, so the ones toward the end necessarily had shorter delivery times, and older projects that had short delivery times wouldn’t be shown here because they arrived before 2014.)

Number delivered
A lot of projects were delivered around convention season and the holidays.

The biggest month for delivering games, not surprisingly, was December: many of the games showed up at the end of the year, with publishers rushing to get things delivered for the holidays. There were also many that arrived in late summer, right around Gen Con and before Essen: it’s the best chance for publishers to sell their games, and most had promised that backers would receive their games before they were sold to non-backers. But I know that many publishers had to renege on these promises because the games arrived too late to ship before Gen Con.

Early On Time Late
A handful of projects delivered early or on time, but most were at least a month later than the posted estimate.

The games delivered in 2014 were from projects over a wide range: as early as October 2012 and as late as September 2014–nearly two full years. And the estimated delivery times were equally spread out–the earliest expected date was January 2013, and the latest was December 2014. There were a handful of projects that delivered early or on time, but the average was still three months late. That should indicate to both backers and project creators that the estimated delivery time needs to be extended. This year there have been other factors aside from everyone forgetting (again) that Chinese New Year shuts down factories for a week: for one, dock workers have been on strike all up and down the west coast, which has caused a bottleneck for games that had shipped from overseas and then sat in the port waiting to be processed.

I wasn’t sure how much other data-crunching people would enjoy seeing from my admittedly limited data set: funding goals vs. final funding levels, number of backers, cost per game, etc., so I’ll leave it at this for now. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go clear off my game table so I can play some games!

In the interests of full disclosure, I do receive demo prototypes of nearly all of the Kickstarter games I review, and in some cases I back the project myself if I really want to ensure I get a copy. In some cases, the publisher sends me a finished copy after the project is complete, so I just back the project at a dollar to follow the updates. (And, in some cases, I have my fingers crossed that I’ll get a copy later, but then I don’t get anything. I can’t afford to back everything I write up.) And, finally, there are a few games (mostly from Game Salute) that I didn’t cover during the Kickstarter and was sent a finished copy for review after backer rewards had shipped–for these, I referred to the campaign page to estimate when backers would have received them.

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6 thoughts on “Reaping the Rewards: A Year of Kickstarter Tabletop Games

  1. That’s a crazy amount of games. I’ve had quite a few delivered this year as well – some overlap with your list. I really enjoy Viva Java … Dice. It’s a fun game, though my wife doesn’t appreciate it as much. Ninja Dice is appealing to the daughter, but I haven’t picked it up at this point.

    I started to back Wok Star, but pulled out because of the outright deception from Game Salute. “We’re on track”, “radio silence”, then “Oh, we’re delayed because of a, um, timer issue”. Add in that awful new art (somewhat redeemed by the stickers thanks to the designer) and I was just tired of them telling us one thing after another and seeing what would stick. Their handling of that project pretty much ensured that it would be my last Game Salute project for quite some time. There’s a HUGE thread/geeklist on BGG if you really want details.

    I’ll have to keep my eyes out for a couple of these – Coconuts and Code Monkey sound interesting and with a little one around, a good dexterity game is probably needed in the not-too-distant future. 🙂

    1. Yeah, I know about the huge thread on BGG about Game Salute—I found out about it shortly before launching Emperor’s New Clothes about them, when it was too late to change tracks. Although there were certainly some extremely frustrating things about working with them, it also meant that I shifted the risk of financial loss to them, too, which made sense for my project but might not for all game designers.

      I know a lot of people in your situation, fed up with Game Salute and determined never to back another one of their projects, including some who felt that way after backing my own project. I’m still on the fence—largely because despite their failings, I’ve also seen quite a few really fun games come through their projects, and I do feel like they’re getting significantly better at getting the production/delivery process right. (Though I can’t say that I’m terribly fond with the way they communicate to backers.) Currently my biggest beef with them is the big boxes for small games—but that’s a story for a different post, I think.

      One caveat about Coconuts Crazy Monkey: those little rubber coconuts really look like chocolates, so … depending on how little your little one is, you may want to hold off until she’s not tempted to pop one in her mouth. 🙂

      1. Well, I’ll admit Game Salute isn’t on my “never again” list, but it will require seeing a significant change in their practices. I’m okay with delays in KS campaigns and things going wrong, but I feel like I was deliberately misled and lied to during the Wok Star campaign. I also wasn’t overly impressed with the apparent behind-the-scenes of another project. Alien Frontiers – more than a year overdue (finally received, but that’s an insane delay). If I see that they’ve started being more forthcoming, providing regular/reasonable updates, not outright lying in their projects – I’ll consider backing another project. Until then – if I see Game Salute in any role other than fulfillment, I just can’t in all good conscience give it money. I have no real issue w/ their shipping division – that’s gone relatively well.

        As for Coconuts – we’ll be waiting a while for those sorts of games. Animal Upon Animal is likely to come first and we’re still a little ways off from that. I do look forward to those days because there’s something about the little fingers able to move stuff around better than daddy’s that is really fun for the little ones. Of course, doing that in moderation is tricky. My eldest had a love for Carnium’s “Balloon Lagoon” that drove us parents a bit nuts – lots of minigames and flying plastic pieces that thrilled her and just didn’t do much for us. Looking back, I probably should have played this with her a bit more often.

        1. Re: Game Salute: Yeah, I think their fulfillment service has gone much better than the whole-campaign approach did—it seemed to me that for a couple years there they bit off more than they could chew, and they did take a step back after that. But they’ve still got campaigns with rewards outstanding, and until all of those are fulfilled, I can understand why backers of those projects would be particularly hesitant to back anything else from them. On the other hand, their overall record for delivering projects is pretty good—but they ran SO MANY of them at once, too.

          One of my favorite for little sticky fingers was Gulo Gulo, a German dexterity game that involved pulling tiny wooden eggs out of a bowl without knocking over the “alarm” stick. But it’s apparently out of print and nearly impossible to find now, so I’ve stopped putting it on my recommendation lists.

          1. Gulo Gulo would definitely be on my list if it were still in print or obtainable for a reasonable price. I’ve seen that in play before and it looks like a great game for little fingers. I’m keeping an eye on the HABA line for now – there are some great games targeted at younger players but still fun for older gamers to play along.

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