I believe that we are living in the golden age of tabletop games. Players have never had more options to choose from. Designers have never had more freedom to innovate and reach the players.
I’ve been a board game fan from the time I was a small boy. My brother and I played countless games of Risk, Stratego, Sorry, Scrabble, and so on—the usual list of games available in the US in the 60’s and 70’s. When I was in college in the early 80’s I bought a copy of Axis and Allies. We played a lot of all-day and all-weekend games. I still have that first printing copy of Axis and Allies. About once a decade I can convince somebody to play it with me. Over the years, my son and I have built up a sprawling collection of board games.
I became a software engineer and, over time, I met other people like me—together, we spent a decade transforming our love for gaming into making the kind of turn-based, computer strategy games we wanted to play and couldn’t find (See Stars!—still active after 20 years—and Supernova Genesis, its uptown, unpublished sequel that missed the window when the industry turned its eye to console gaming.)
Skip ahead a few tracks to me as a software architect for a health services company (still working with gamers!), sent home with a pinched nerve in my spine and orders to try and not move wrong until therapy and surgery could fix things. Imagine a restless water buffalo trying to stay still for weeks. To distract me, my friend Kurt proposed the neogeek version of “Let’s put on a show!”: leverage the rising popularity in tabletop games and design a board game that we fund through Kickstarter. Perhaps use ideas from Stars! and Supernova Genesis. (Kurt was a partner in Supernova Genesis.) Learn from our past and the game makers who shared their Kickstarter lessons. Put our names on boxes and those boxes in trucks and those trucks to depots and at the depots load the quadcopters and fly them to the homes of people desperate for new classics to hand down to their children! Or, just do good, creative work that perhaps a bigger audience would enjoy as much.
Our first try was Nexus, a complex space strategy board game inspired by the universe of one of our favorite authors. It leverages what I’ve learned from building and playing computer versions in the same genre. Nexus involves fleet and planet-based covert operations, politics, and combat in a combination that we feel is unique (and does service to the source material). Our prototype—six months in development–has a dozen decks of cards, a large map, and hundreds of tokens and counters. It eats several yards of table space and begs for a 3D experience.
The more we watched the Kickstarter community and the more projects we contributed to, the more we realized that jumping into the ring with a large game with that many pieces was going to amplify the learning curve to the point where failure wasn’t just likely but nearly inevitable.
Too many things to learn. Too many dependencies. Too big of a startup cost. Too big of a Kickstarter target for an unknown unproven company. For anybody considering kick-starting a project, particularly for a tabletop game, we highly recommend checking out Jamey Stegmaier’s Kickstarter blog.
Games as big and complex as Nexus can be successful. Anyone that has played a game like Settlers of Catan, Cosmic Encounter, or Eclipse with all of the expansions can appreciate what we were aiming for. We have shelved Nexus for now but will return to it when we feel that we have enough experience with crowdfunding, manufacturing, distribution, and the other business aspects of game design so that we can focus on making it a game that hordes of you want to play.