4 Tips for a Successful Tabletop Game Campaign on Kickstarter

What is it about games and Kickstarter? If you read last week’s blog post, you already know it’s a match made in heaven. Some surprising statistics about how popular tabletop games are on Kickstarter:

  • More than $233 million were pledged to successful Kickstarter tabletop game campaigns in 2020
  • Tabletop games have, in 2019 and 2020, accounting for about one-third of Kickstarter’s total backer revenue
  • Frosthaven, a game campaign launched in 2020, raised nearly $13 million, making it the most-funded board game on Kickstarter ever, and the third-most successful campaign across all categories
  • 3,163 tabletop projects were funded on Kickstarter in 2020 (1,319 failed to reach their goal)
Photo by Folu Eludire on Unsplash

Clearly, creators of tabletop games — which include board games, dice games, card games, etc. — have found a home on Kickstarter, raising far more money (and launching more campaigns) than their videogame counterparts. But that doesn’t mean having a successful campaign is a cakewalk.

Here are some tips for launching a successful Kickstarter campaign for your tabletop game:

1. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint

In other words, be prepared to put in a lot of time and effort well before your launch date. As stated by Brandon the Game Dev, “Kickstarter is the last step in a long process.” A couple of things to understand right from the start:

First, set realistic expectations for yourself. Before you find yourself dazzled by the idea of earning millions on Kickstarter with your first game, you should know that a significant number of the insanely successful campaigns come from established developers who have had other lucrative campaigns, or even from companies using Kickstarter as an alternative method of releasing new games. Whether it’s games or anything else, a huge percentage of all Kickstarter campaigns raise between $1K and $10K, so while you’ll hope for numbers in the stratosphere, understand where most projects end up and set your goal accordingly.

Second, the single most important predictor of success with a Kickstarter campaign is the size of your audience going in. And building an audience, if you’re a first-time creator, takes time and tons of legwork. This work will pay off in the long run, and most likely it will result not just in a better campaign, but in a better game.

2. Network with other game creators

Start by spending some time on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites, looking at other people’s campaigns. Back other creators’ campaigns, even if it’s just with a dollar pledge. An insightful tip from Brandon the Game Dev: “Pay attention to successes and failures alike, since they can both teach you.”

Go beyond just observing, however, and engage with these campaigns as well: offer comments, questions, and even testimonials when you’re really enthusiastic. You’ll probably notice that game developers often back each other’s campaigns and offer support in many forms. This is definitely a community you’ll want to be part of.

Part of your process in game development should always include rigorous play-testing. To that end, join Meetup playtest groups. At first, you may just want to help others test their games. You’re likely to pick up insights that will help your development process as well as offering support to other creators.

Once you have a solid and fairly polished prototype, you can put your own game to the test. As part of this process, don’t forget to let the participants know that you will be launching a Kickstarter campaign at some point, and get their email addresses! This is a great way to build your email list and also to keep those interested in your game apprised of your early bird deals so they can jump right in on launch day.

Spend time on the BGG site (Board Game Geek): learn about new releases, see what’s hot and trending, read reviews, and become an active participant in the forums.

Find relevant Reddit subgroups to connect with. There are 3.4 million members of the /r/boardgames/ subreddit, and there are numerous more narrowly focused subreddits devoted to board game rules, game design, etc. Begin by observing and engaging — comment, ask questions, post content that is of value to others. Avoid simply promoting your game, but you can certainly ask for input and feedback along the way.

3. Generate prelaunch buzz

Using whatever means you have at your disposal, build your email list during the prelaunch phase. In any of your networking activities, let people know that you’re planning a Kickstarter campaign and you’d like to have their email address so you can keep them posted on developments. Once you have a decent-sized list, you can start a prelaunch email marketing campaign, building anticipation for your launch day.

Once you have a working prototype, try to get your game reviewed on a YouTube channel devoted to tabletop games. There are several, and finding a channel that caters to the same kinds of fans that might enjoy your game is key. If you can get a YouTube influencer to make a video that positively reviews your game, it’s like gold. You can share that video with your own audience, quote from the video on your Kickstarter page, promote it on social media, and so on.

If a YouTube review is gold, then getting listed on BGG, and garnering positive reviews there, is platinum. If you get listed, ask everyone on your mailing list, and of course, friends and family, to leave a good review of your game. And then, promote those good reviews like crazy.

While Twitch might be better known for video games, there are a number of streamers who focus on board games. If you can enlist one or two of them to play your game with you while streaming it, you can further build your fan base.

But don’t limit yourself to influencers with mega audiences. Take the time to seek out micro-influencers as well, contacting bloggers or podcasters to interview you or test out your game. It’s not just the number of fans being reached that’s important — it’s their level of engagement. And you could argue that the fans of micro-influencers are far more engaged than those of mega influencers. After all, they have had to go looking for that smaller blog or podcast, rather than having it served up to them everywhere they look.

Ideally, any reviewer or influencer who talks about your game will share a link to your website or landing page, so their fans who are interested can visit and sign up for updates, thus building your email list even further!

4. Create a stellar Kickstarter campaign

Don’t expect to get fully funded on the merits of your game and the size of your prelaunch audience alone. You’ll also want to put in the effort (and maybe even hire professionals) to create a polished Kickstarter page, complete with a slick and informative video, high-quality photos, and engaging text.

Just as important is how you engage with your backers right from the moment of launch. Expect feedback and be ready to incorporate it, when it makes sense to do so. Either way, respond to backers, even if it’s just to thank them for their interest. Respond even to negative comments with positivity and gratitude.

For more information about launching a successful Kickstarter campaign — and what to do when it’s over — check out “4 Pitfalls of Crowdfunding…and How to Avoid Them,” “Your Kickstarter Campaign Was a Success…Now What?,” and tons of other Woodshed Agency blog posts!