Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dungeon Saga Kickstarter: Final Thoughts

If you have been following this or many gaming blogs recently you will know about the recent Dungeon Saga Kickstarter from Mantic that closed this past weekend with like 5000+ backers and 1M+ dollars pledged.  This makes it their most backed and second highest funded kickstarter for a company that runs like 2 kickstarters a year.  They often are running the next kickstarter before finishing shipping the previous one.  Mantic is still a small company but many feel that their way of doing kickstarters is not aligned that well with the propose of kickstarters but it seems to work for them.  They get great social marketing out of it, it helps get around their poor trade sales presence, it minimizes their risks allowing for ambitious projects, and does appear to allow accelerated development where if they had to wait on the revenue from the first releases to work on the next it would be significantly delayed.  Here they get all of it a head of time.  They probably could have funded the basic game internally but now a much bigger package is available in one go for players to pick and choose from.  I know I bagged on them in the beginning of this kickstarter for the way they were doing the stretch goals and such for the basic set where they set the initial funding value very low and used stuff that was obvious already developed as stretch goals.  They plowed through all those without a problem so in the end it does not matter so much.  Unlocking stretch goals is probably more interesting than just setting the basic set at the real 300K funding level.

Looking at the overall value of the Dungeon Master pledge it seemed to work out fine.  While they did not overload people with miniatures like the first Reaper Bones kickstarter with like 200+ minis they ended with like 80 plastic pieces which is respectable and makes them about match 2 of the D&D coop games which you can get from about 50 dollars each online.  Evalulating on plastic they have like a 50 dollar base game, 3 15 dollar monster booster packs, a 10 dollar hero pack, 5 dollar doors, 15 dollar furniture, 15 dollar Big Undead monster, and 15 exclusive mini set.  So like 150 dollars total yielding like a 33% discount for cutting out the retail and distributors which is a reasonable number but again not spectacular.

The value though seems to be much more in the rules and scenarios provided.  The base game has a 10 mission campaign which is supplemented in the dungeon journal with 12+ missions, plus 2 more 4 mission packs which are all playable out of the box.  They then add in a 6 mission pack which goes with the different tile set which is an add on but could probably be modified to fit the basic tile set.  They also throw in 14+ missions from the Dwarf Holds line.  You do no get the minis for these games in the box but they put them in as add on for between .66 - 1.40 dollars per piece where the expensive set has a metal model shifting its price point.  I picked up Green Menace directly from Mantic during the campaign for clearence priced 25 dollars so 5 dollars more than the models in the kickstarter but I have the game right now to play tiles, rules, and all.

The the advanced rules which seem to mainly focus on designing your own missions, heroes and such converts a traditional boadgame into more of an RPG style game.  They also are providing rules for miniatures from some of the Kings of War line (and some elves and dwarves from the Kings Hold) and generic monsters.  These could probably be used to generate a dungeon based skirmish game also.  There is a ton of game designing to be done and I hope they give the designer enough time to really make the AI and random dungeon generators work well including maybe more cards and such to fit his design which is still very much on the drawing board.  I personal would rather have a little later delivery and get this right than rushed out to meet the August 2015 data.  I am just hoping for Christmas 2015 which gives them a couple months to play with.  I have pledged about the average amount with the chance to add in a little more later depending on what information is available about the different add ons when the pledge manager comes on line.

My biggest issue with the kickstarter was really about the presentation of information.  Outside the rules designer who gets an A++++++, I give Mantic a pretty poor grade given how experienced they are at this.  There front page graphics were constantly out of date.  Even when the campaign was unlocking like 1 thing every day or two they would often be inaccurate.  They were also incredibly and intentional vague about the contents in terms of scenarios, cards, and tiles.  They had built a separate dungeon saga website but they essentially abandoned it mid way through the campaign when they could have been using it as a resource for information about what the various books and expansions were about.  Some of this information might have appeared in the updates but those get tough to go through after they get more than 10 or so.  Obvious running the kickstarter is a ton of work and they did answer some questions in the comments sections but those grew to unwieldy size very fast.  A little better organized and presented information could probably have eliminated a ton of questions from those comments.

Details on the scenario counts did not show up until after I specifically complained about it to the designer site.  I could not comment on the kickstarter site at that time as it is only open to backers and I was not backing such a vaguely presented game at that point.  I built a list of all the things promised in terms of rules and scenarios by combing through their updates and posted it on the designer site.  The tile set information is still very vague.  I talked about this in my previous post but with reiterate it here.

This is the image they present as an example of "some" of the tiles for the game so I expect more in the basic game.  These represent essentially all the tile designs from both Dead Rising and Green Menace who have some duplicate of the wider hall way stuff.  As they are also including the Ancient Grudge rules hopeful they will include those tiles.  But honestly I have no idea what they intend on providing, the designer mentioned that right now he was working out if the Dead Rising set which is less rooms than presented above.

To this they have added 3 game expansion sets which have just partially shown shadows of tiles and a new tile and dungeon decor set with also shadows of tiles.  No real information about how the tiles differ and currently in the Dwarf Kings Hold or Dungeon Quest Alpha rules the stuff on the tiles is just art with no game play associated with them.  They are just pretty movement boundaries.  There are really only so many interesting shapes that can be made from a 6 by 6 square grid with linked squares.

I have personally suggested to the rules designer that making features on the tiles matter to the game would be not just a great way to make the different sets for the expansions worthwhile but could add more depth to the game.  This can come in two ways since really this game is about moving and fighting(shooting/spelling).  The square on the tile can affect combat (harder to fight while standing on ice or in water) or they could affect movement options where some demons might be able to walk on magma while the heroes either have to jump across (using special rule) or go around.  It does not take a lot maybe 1 or 2 rules for each of the three full expansions and then cross over and an additional 1 or 2 for the new tile set add on.  Obviously the rules designer would have to work with the artist on the tiles then but I think this is not too much to ask given that people have pledge over a million dollars for this game series nearly sight unseen.

Overall I am excited by the possibilities this kickstarter opened up and hope that Mantic waits a few months to develop the tiles and rules information more before putting out the pledge manager.

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