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SUSD reviews you don't agree with


I think a question to ask of Kickstarter in general is whether you feel the platform is changing what types of games are available.

Help me out chaps, who would you say are the most ‘successful’ users of the platform in the long term? Not just for a single game, and its constant expansions and iterations but for a varied and interesting output?


Thing is, this argument keeps coming up, but I’m not sure that is what happened with Scythe. I’ve seen people in the forums or the comments section asking for a review of Scythe, but I didn’t get the idea that they all just wanted a confirmation of their purchase, but most of them didn’t own the game and were rather genuinely interested in the opinion of the guys.
Also, with regards to the “best game ever!” trope: when following Scythe’s campaign and the BGG entry, I didn’t get the feeling that was the case. Of course, many people liked it and said so, making it climb to the BGG Top 10 in less than three months. But I don’t see how that is different to what happened with Pandemic Legacy, for example.


Hm, I think that context is what is actually a bit lacking in Paul’s review. To say that a game was a kickstarter game and they generally have lots of components is not really giving context imo, and does not hint at a lot of leg work.
That is actually what I am criticising - to do this specific game justice, it would have taken more than just to allude to some general statements about the business model. Statements that are, in my opinion, not that adequate, or at least are in danger of giving a wrong impression about the game.


One could very easily suggest that Pandemic Legacy got a hefty boost to its credibility as a design off of pure hype. That SU&SD did not is a superficial hypocrisy, like most hypocrisies: they agreed it was a fabulous design and as @walruss put it, they have little reason to look very far outside the game’s immediate impact on them to explain an unorthodox position since there’s was not. It may well be better analysis to consider that sort of thing at every possible turn, but their reviews aren’t something that depend primarily on rigorously consistent analytical technique.

I think they might apply more than you realize. Consider Stonemaier games. All of their major releases have been Kickstarter projects. It sounds like Charterstone is set up to be an independent development and they don’t flog expansions and re-ups in the almost desperate way Indie Boards and Cards seem to but they are certainly a company that depends far more heavily on people jumping the gun on their products than traditional board game publishers. I believe their founder even alluded to this when discussing the upcoming Charterstone; perhaps I’m misremembering but I think Scythe’s own creator might be feeling a bit of this, too. [Edit: here we go. I think it’s reasonable to direct these concerns at Scythe.] There are advantages to this both for gamers and companies, but I have some strong reservations. I don’t see this as predatory, to be absolutely clear. I see it as potentially mutually unhealthy and there’s a lot I’m not sure about with respect to how this kind of crowd-funding-focused business model will proceed in the future.

While Scythe’s design was handled quite competently and it underwent significant playtesting, it leaned decidedly on the tried-and-tested Stretch Goal methodology. Yes there were many component upgrades, yes overstocks were sold after the Kickstarter, yes the most successful merchandise is being made available afterwards. That’s good news for gamers whose primary concern is getting all the stuff and having a complete game or making sure their favorite game publishers are good at business and can keep making games. It’s not necessarily good news for my concerns about how that model affects customer buy in and how it affects expectations about Kickstarter and so on and so forth.

I’m quite a fan of Scythe and I don’t think it quite deserves the kitchen-sink criticism it tends to attract. But that’s not where I’m coming from here, in the first place.


The mistake both you and Paul seem to be making though is treating Kickstarter as if there’s only one business model. Stonemeier, and for that matter Indie Boards & Cards, are both effectively small publishers that use Kickstarter as a means of getting the initial funds required to get the game in print. It’s markedly different from the model Paul seems to be complaining about.
That’s kinda why Paul’s criticism makes no sense. Stonemaier stated pretty much from the point they first announced Scythe that there would be a retail edition, they point out on the Kickstarter page there will be a retail edition. They also point out exactly what the game is going to contain, and explain why they won’t be adding anything else. It’s kinda hard to see how the ‘using more stuff as a means to sell the game’ line works on a Kickstarter that explicitly tells you up-front there won’t be any more stuff and you’re quite welcome to buy the game at retail at around the same time it’ll be available to backers. It seems that would be the exact opposite of what he’s complaining about - the only actual incentive unless you wanted to spring for the deluxe edition tiers (which to be fair is no different from ‘Collector’s Edition’ versions) is a small discount on the RRP (which after you add shipping, probably ends up at around the RRP) Similarly the notion of the Kickstarter hype - most of the buzz from Scythe came from the normal pre-release push you see from pretty much every publisher, not so much from the Kickstarter itself. It’s no different than what you see from FFG when they’re pushing something new, beyond the pre-order being on a separate page to the previews.
The funny thing is his arguments would fit KDM exactly, yet in that one the main concern seemed to have been “we don’t see the point in reviewing something you can’t go out and buy”.

I think it’s purely demographic mismatch at that point rather than Kickstarter itself. The heavier end of the Euro market has been moving in the ‘numerous interlocking systems’ direction since before Kickstarter was a thing. I think the only thing you could really point the finger to Kickstarter for in that sense is it’s encouraged the shift somewhat by allowing people like Vidal Lacerda near free-reign on their designs rather than them having been taken to a quiet room by a publisher to have a little chat on the theme of less being more. Even then though it’s rather odd to involve Kickstarter in that mix - Exploding Kittens is hardly going to win any awards for the complexity of it’s ruleset.


You’re conflating my discussion of the topic with Paul’s and further conflating the focuses of both discussions with the sum total of the respective opinions on Kickstarter. I don’t think Kickstarter is only one business model, but it is one marketplace access point with it’s own demographic quirks and marketing logics. I’m not sure what you’re on about with respect to IB&C and Stonemaier since I intended to isolate precisely that sub-set of Kickstarter publishers for some of my criticism.

I would recommend you visit the Kickstarter page and read the article by Jeremy Stegmaier that I posted. They didn’t think up new stretch goals on the spot that had never before been tested or worked on in any capacity purely in response to a rising backer count. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t more stuff as a result of the Kickstarter being more successful–just that Stegmaier didn’t make his own life and his companies bottom line suffer in order for there to be more stuff. Stretch goals were still unlocked as the campaign accelerated. Furthermore, the game as sold on Kickstarter was provided at a discount. It’s a more complex sort of discount, but one nonetheless. Buying the non-exclusive promo stretch goal content and the base game cost more post-Kickstarter than during the Kickstarter.

My point here, again, is not that this is wrong or predatory but that it nonetheless has downsides that concern me. Scythe partook in this process. The continued insistence that it didn’t is counter to the information available on the Kickstarter page itself.

One of the running themes in that review was that Kingdom Death was impressive but excessive. That it was sloppy and had too many things in it. They also referenced it on podcasts and talked about their reservations about it’s content and cynicism about its business model. I’m not sure if that covers what you mean by his arguments would fit KDM exactly, but the review they published during the KDM 1.5 Kickstarter certainly didn’t focus on it being unavailable for purchase since, at that precise moment in time, it wasn’t.


I jumped on this thread to say exactly this. Concordia is a perfectly balanced and measured game, but my group has found it drier than eating salted silica gel packets and washing it down with a teaspoon of cinnamon. I still cannot fathom why scoring at the end wasn’t lambasted in the review as it makes what should be an exciting finish a math problem.
Say no to Concordia kids.


After buying Robo Rally 2016 I feel dirty. It’s such a poor product. The relatively simple rules almost manage to be poorly laid out against all odd. As expected, the components are pretty bad, but I was forwarned there. Ditto for the graphical design being quite poor. But back to the rules for a second, the two things it most desperately needed–an official selection of variant rules easily accessible in the back new-Wiz-War style and even more importantly a comprehensive turn-order cheat sheet including factory activation order printed separately or on the back of the book–it doesn’t have instead filling the rule-book with an overview of every card in the deck. To add insult to the mess, there isn’t a single extended card explanation from the subset that get one in the rulebook that couldn’t fit on the existing cards with the additional clarifications in the too-small-to-comfortably-read font that was used for said cards. The smaller cards are really hard to shuffle because they’re not quite stiff enough. Even FFG’s standard mini-cards can be a bit of a tough shuffle but these are just ridiculous–again, this alone wouldn’t do it for me since I knew what I was getting into there. But I’m going to complain about it because I didn’t encounter the redeeming features I was expecting.

I very much regret giving money to Hasbro for this version of the game. :frowning: I haven’t played the older version so maybe it was worse before, but the starter board and the priority system conspire to make–especially in short races–the game more about being lucky and savvy on turn 1 than being either lucky or savvy in the rest of the game. The vast majority of upgrades don’t really seem worth bothering and there are rather a lot of them for how much energy players can actually produce in a given round–I’m not sure how anyone would actually acquire the maximum six upgrages! I can do some deck thinning and some PnPing and I can work through variants and the older edition rulebooks to see what can be done … the core programming and movement/activation rules seem fine but that’s lot of the game that isn’t working for me between priority, the board layouts, the upgrades, the components, the damage system (it feels entirely pointless in short and medium races and I haven’t played the longer ones yet) … I think there’s a good game buried in here and it’s light and inoffensive enough that I’m actually kinda excited to test different things trying to find it. So there’s that. If only it looked more inviting to others …

I do like Smashbot’s woogly arms.


My experience so far of RR2016, having played the old version, is that the rules have got the update they desperately needed (especially in the damage mechanic, blatantly lifted from Colt Express and improved on here). I knew going in that the components would need upgrading; I’ve already made a new turn order sheet and checkpoint tokens, and I’m planning to buy card sleeves and to create a new player mat. Upgrades aren’t all that interesting, I agree, but priority works for me much better than the numbered cards did. (“Oh, right, 400, anyone got anything over a 400, wake up Bob…”)


Here’s my question. What would you have to do to use the new (and improved) rule set with older versions of the game?

Are the new boards key to the using the new rules? Are the new (and shitty) cards vital parts of the new and better rules? (How many of the new cards are there? It might be worth it if I was willing to buy some blank cards and make my own…)


As best I can tell, the main thing you need if you’re an Avalon Hill player is a separate movement deck for each player and there may or may not be enough cards to get those movement decks right for everyone. You also need damage cards that can be slipped into everyone’s movement decks Mage Knight/Colt Express/Insert Deck Builder or Programmer Here style. So same card back, descriptive front. My guess is there aren’t enough cards to do all that in previous editions of the game.


That may well be, but I still don’t think it works. :\

I’m not sure what you mean by the damage mechanic being either lifted from Colt Express or improved on here. It’s a pretty standard deck builder game trick and I can’t say I was very impressed by the way damage worked here. On short and medium races you don’t churn through the deck enough times for it to matter and the exotic damage cards are so unlikely to show up in a given game that I’d almost prefer a single randomized damage deck with an array of things that might happen, most of which are standard spam. Not sure.


Gotcha, @Gwathdring .

It might be worth the cheap cost to do some arts and crafts. Still not sure.

(And, for the record, I’ve got a 2nd Edition WotC version of the game. That’s not bragging…that’s me being old!)


Ah. I don’t know about from that version. The Avalon Hill version made a bunch of changes from that version and I’m not sure which of those require component changes and which are purely rules changes.

I’m guessing BGG has a breakdown somewhere.


I bought the previous edition, and it has to be the worst game I own in production quality. So is the new one even worse??

Ah, I’ve since read your whole post and realized you wouldn’t know.
I don’t really get it, this game is considered as a classic by many avid gamers, yet there doesn’t seem to have been a decent version for a long time…


RR2016 is currently $20-$30 in the USA - apparently there was an overproduction that they’re selling off - so it may be cheaper just to get it.


That’s kind of what I’m thinking.


Largely for component upgrades though. I think there’s a distinction between saying “if we hit this amount we add more free stuff” versus “if we hit this amount we can replace those cardboard chits with wooden pieces”.

Is this not the same as the traditional publishing model with it’s discounted pre-orders though? Ignoring the stretch goals for the moment, do you not also have the same concerns when say FFG puts up their next big game for pre-orders with 15% off?


I don’t know what gave you the impression I’m especially fond of traditional pre-orders either. It makes more sense when there are actual quantity limits as with physical products than with, say, video games.

It isn’t the same, though. Kickstarter is a different system with different systems of incentives. If you pre-order Pandemic: Legacy you get a guaranteed copy. If you Kickstart Scythe you get bonus content at a discount. There’s also a distinct difference in pressure; in one case the game gets made either way, in another case the game may or may not be made depending on how soon you back and how many other people have already backed. There are practical differences. If these seem scant, it’s worth considering the differences of frequent practice that don’t have to be true just based on the nature of crowd funding because there are differences there as well.

So I don’t like saying it’s the same, because it isn’t. I’m not trying to argue Kickstarter is a radically different space at all, though. That it has problems doesn’t mean those problems are necessarily unique. The character of those problems changes under different contexts though. FFG does not do most of their business through pre-orders and they tend to provide robust post-purchase support for their games. Many Kickstarter projects do not have these advantages. A company like IB&C relies primarily on pre-sales for their success and this creates a cycle where their entire business model is dependent on getting money from people for games that don’t exist yet. While pre-orders have a host of benefits for FFG, they are not FFG’s primary way of making money. At least, not consumer pre-orders. Retail is a more complicated system that once again changes the context of the advantages and disadvantages of pre-orders.

Also, 18 of the 26 Stretch Goals listed on the Kickstarter page for Scythe are for additional components, not upgrades. Many of these are small additions and all of them were apparently considered and prepared in advance of being proposed–this is about as well as this sort of thing can be done but it is very much being done and I’m not sure why denying that is your angle here. This really isn’t very important to me, but I’m confused as to why this keeps coming up in discussions about Scythe’s Kickstarter when it is not factually accurate.


I think Scythe is often mentioned as a poster-child for a (big) kickstarter board game because there were a number of significant differences to the way a company like CMON operates.

  1. Apart from three promo packs, all stretch goals were included in the retail version of the game. And those promo packs were available at retail.

  2. There were special numbered versions of the game available during the kickstarter, but the components (except the name and numbering which were the only exclusive elements of the game) were all available at retail. They made the game more expensive than the ks versions, though.

  3. Stonemaier had a great reputation for delivering on time and being very responsive to backers before. And with Scythe, they retained that standing, keeping backers up to date throughout the process of planning, producing and shipping the game. Except for Europe, where the fulfillment partner messed up, the game was even delivered one month early.

  4. The end product really spoke to a lot of people. And not only ks backers. The game must have sold more on retail now than ks copies, or is about to do soon, and without having proof, I would estimate that even if you took out all ratings of backers the game would still be in the Top20 of bgg. For what that’s worth. Thing is, a lot of people seem to enjoy playing and owning it. Which, I guess, is what gaming should be all about?