When I bought my Geek Chic table back in 2012, it was about the only option for a dedicated gaming table. Since then, other options have become available, including Board Game Tables, who are at the tail end of a Kickstarter project to fund a lower cost game table. The Duchess, which will close tomorrow night at midnight, Central time, is a nicely sized table that is available for just $499.
Yes. A gaming table for under five hundred bucks.
When looking at the project, I discovered that the guy behind Board Game Tables and the Duchess, Chad DeShon, lived in my city. I reached out to him and last week, Chad showed me a prototype of the Duchess and answered some questions I had about his company and this very successful project. (With two days to go, DeShon has backers for more than 2,000 tables and nearly two million dollars in pledges.)
When I arrived at DeShon’s home, he was showing the prototype to a backer and the backer’s wife, who were from New Mexico and just happened to be in town and wanted to see the prototype. I sat back and listened to the questions the (very eager) backer asked and the answers DeShon provided. I was impressed with the table and what a deal it was for $499. When the backer got his final answer, it was my turn to ask questions and DeShon and I gathered around the prototype and got to talking about the Duchess. All that was missing was a board game …
GeekDad: When did you begin making board game tables?
Chad DeShon: I’m not a woodworker, I’m a gamer. And so I started working on these in October 2014. I wanted a table and I found some woodworkers and I got to talking to them and instead of just building one, I figured there were a lot more people who might want a table too. So I said “let’s build some more and try to sell them”. So, we’re coming up on two years now.
GD: You’ve had a good deal of success. Are you doing this full time now?
CD: I do this full time. I take care of the web site, marketing, sales, all that kind of thing.
GD: In that time, what was the most common complaint you heard?
CD: Oh, price! Price! Price! Always price! People wouldn’t even really complain about the price. They’d say “I see the table and I know it’s worth it. I just can’t justify it” or “I don’t want to spend that much on a table.”
GD: What expectations did you have when you were getting ready to put the Duchess on Kickstarter?
CD: I was thinking what most people who put something on Kickstarter think: “I hope it doesn’t barely fund.” Because that’s kind of the borderline scenario that you run into where you just barely have enough support and now any miscalculation is going to be a lot of trouble. Fortunately, we’re in a much better position where we’re well past our funding goal and so there’s more money there to make sure we do things right. We don’t have to worry about doing extra quality control and paying for those things that ensure that stuff’s done right.
GD: I was reading your guest blog post at Stonemaier Games and was curious about the surveys you sent to members of your community about the Duchess prior to your Kickstarter project. Can you talk about those and how they impacted the rest of your campaign?
CD: Sure. The surveys were huge for two reasons. One is just to make sure we were on the right track before the Kickstarter begins because you could get into a case where it turns out this is kind of what people want and a few people pledge, but you’re not getting the home run you were hoping for and so that’s really what the surveys were for. I already had in mind what I thought I wanted to do when the first survey went out. And then you send out that survey and it reinforced most of what I already thought and I did change a few things. And then another great thing the survey did was it really narrowed down my exact target customers, who are going to be interested in this table and then I got to have one-on-one conversations with a lot of them to understand exactly what they wanted to do: what room they wanted to put this table in, what kind of budget they had, what compromises were they willing to make and what weren’t they willing to make. So we refined based on what those people wanted. And then the bonus for me is that all of those people have been talking to me for a month before the Kickstarter launched and they were willing to back on day one and that, obviously, helped generate a lot of buzz for the campaign.
GD: Those first couple of days of your project were huge, but what do you think about the response since then?
CD: Since then has surprised me even more. I’d done all that groundwork with those survey responders, so it wasn’t shocked by that initial bump, especially the first couple of hours. Because I knew that they had told me they were going to back. But then the first day kept going and going and going. And you’ve seen a lot of projects that have a big first couple of days with their core audience and then it basically flat and doesn’t gain anything for the rest of the time and some projects even go backwards. But we’ve been really steady every day, adding lots of new backers and that’s really exciting to see.
GD: What was the initial number of people you’d sent the survey to? Were you expecting all of them to back on the first day of the project?
CD: I knew I had 80 people who told me they would back within the first day. So I knew they would be there because most of them I had back-and-forth emails with them and some I had talked to on the phone. But it’s grown well beyond that initial group.
GD: You have about 2,000 orders, probably a bit more, depending on where it ends up when the project ends tomorrow night. All these tables are scheduled to be delivered in seven months, in February 2017. Does that scare you a little bit?
CD: It worries me in the fact that I know there are a lot of things between now and then that I need to stay on top of. There are a lot of steps between now and then and they all have to be monitored and done right. But it doesn’t worry me in the sense that I don’t think it’s possible or I don’t think it’s going to happen. I get a lot of emails from people who are concerned and say “Hey are you still going to be able to make this work” or “Are you worried that the project is too successful?” And I’m not really too worried about that because most of the risk in this project is not actually cranking out the tables once we get everything refined. It’s in the setup and the refinement of the prototype and getting the perfect prototype. It’s in the quality control afterward and in the importing. And those are all things that the success and the extra funds are going to help me to be able to spend more to hire expertise and to do those things right.
GD: The other tables are manufactured in Joplin, Missouri. But these are going to be manufactured in China. Have you manufactured overseas before, maybe parts of the other tables?
CD: No, the other tables are all done domestically. So this is different in that regard, so that’s why I’ll be working with companies that have experience with manufacturing in China.
GD: Have you seen any spillover effect from this table, causing a spike in orders of your regular tables?
CD: I definitely have heard from people who say “I saw your table on Kickstarter and that led me to your web site and I thought those tables are nicer and I want one of them instead.” Or “I want a bigger table and I want options that are only available on a custom table.” I think it will continue to happen both ways long term. It’s really two different models. Some people want to get exactly what they want and some people want something that’s a little more affordable.
GD: On the Kickstarter page, you say this is really the only chance to get the Duchess at a really low price because you’re not going to be able to get that economy of scale after the initial order. Do you have future plans for including the lower cost table in your product lineup?
CD: My plans now are to continue to offer this table long term, but at a slightly higher price. Nothing is set in stone, but we’ve put an MSRP on this table at $600 and the Kickstarter price is $499. So jump now if you want it at $499.
GD: Will all of the future lower priced tables also be made in China?
CD: Yes. There’s no way to do it in the US because of labor costs and there aren’t really factories set up to take orders from outside companies that, what we’re doing is still relatively low quantities.
GD: And remind me, exactly when does your project end?
CD: Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 12, at midnight, central.