Home Rumblings From The Deep How Kickstarter Killed the Completionist in Me

How Kickstarter Killed the Completionist in Me

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My journey into tabletop gaming is probably similar to many others. At some point in the early 2000s, I was introduced to The Settlers of Catan. Up until then, board games made me think of Risk, Axis and Allies, and Monopoly. Yet things changed when I played my first euro game. After one go, I knew I had to have more. Carcassonne, Zombies!!!, Munchkin, Mage Knight Dungeons, and the Renier Knizia Lord of the Rings game often graced my tabletop. I was in love.

In 2003, Gen Con moved from Milwaukee to Indianapolis, and it was there that I got re-introduced to promo cards. I don’t quite remember the games, but I loved the concept. Free cards for games I either had or might someday get. It was both fun and a way to get more content for games I already loved. This also tugged at my inner completionist.

I used to be a comic book collector, and I LOVED getting full runs of series. Nothing bugged me more than missing one issue out of a run of 20 (thanks Powers #2). So, when I got into board games, I not only checked out if there were any expansions, but also any promo cards I needed to find. It was a game within a game.

CmonFast forward to 2012 and what do we see? Zombicide hops on Kickstarter. I had backed a few games here and there on the platform, but never really spent that much time browsing it. I remember seeing Zombicide’s price tag of $100 for the “all in” and thinking that was a CRAZY price. Who would pay $100 for a board game sight unseen? (oh, sweet summer child) Well apparently almost 5,000 people were on board for that, because the Kickstarter was not only a rousing success, but it also changed the way many future Kickstarters were ran. Enter the age of stretch goals and Kickstarter exclusivity.

CMON figured out the secret sauce of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). They threw so much plastic at backers, that it was often too good of a deal to pass up. And years later, after the game finally ships, you know what? Those backers were making a lot of money on the secondary market. It wasn’t unheard of to see the Zombicide pledges going for $800-$1000 on eBay! That’s a heck of a return on investment.

Zombicide PromoBut here’s the rub. If you were just average Joe gamer, and you wanted those gameplay addons. The ONLY way to get it was the secondary market. The content was locked behind the Kickstarter exclusive badge. It didn’t take long for many creators to take notice of this trend. Suddenly there were promos and exclusive items in every campaign. Add on to that early bird pricing and FOMO ruled the day.

While that didn’t spark the end of promo hunting for me, it did create some frustrations. To be honest, it was a few things that made me call it quits on being a completionist. First, was that it just became WAY too hard to find everything. Not only did you have to try and hit up conventions to find promos, and be aware of Kickstarter exclusivity, but then you had Kickstarters that were only promos. Many content creators were making deals with publishers to offer promo cards to backers to fund their endeavors.

Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t support your favorite content creators, PLEASE DO! But when they each are offering some card or mini for your favorite game, it just gets to be too much. And sometimes it might even be a creator that you didn’t really even like all that much. So, do you throw money at them just to get the card or pass on completing your collection? It was another stone in the wall of frustration from what was once fun and now more of a chore.

Among the StarsWhat finally ended it for me was when I realized that having these promos just really didn’t matter. A lot of times you are talking about 1 card in a deck of 100+. Do I really need to pay $5 for a card I might never even use in a game? And sometimes the cards you do actually use in the game are either unbalanced or just flat out dumb. The Unfair (2017, Joel Finch) Gen Con promo card felt so powerful, we eventually just stopped using it. I remember seeing another promo card for Among the Stars (2012, Vangelis Bagiartakis) that awarded points for the number of games in your collection or if you had the most facial hair. What? I get that they might have been trying to be funny, but these felt pretty useless to use in a game. Promo cards would be great if they lived up to their name and it was about getting them for free at conventions or from a publisher, but the costs of getting them all can really add up.

And the end of my days with being a completionist isn’t only because of promo cards. Kickstarters today have gone so overboard with the expansions that I’m getting a “Day 1 DLC” feel from them. You have the base pledge, you have the deluxe pledge, and then you have the “All In” pledge. Whether or not the All In is a good value is irrelevant. Most of the time, I just don’t need all that content for a board game, especially one I haven’t even tried yet. The All-In pioneer CMON is a prime example. Sure, they throw tons of plastic at you, but do I really need 37 heroes for a game? Let’s be real. Unless you are the type of person that buys 3-4 games a year and plays them endlessly, chances are you don’t need all that content. If you are a card- carrying member of the “Cult of the New”, I’m guessing many of those expansions won’t even make it to your tabletop before a fine layer of dust settles on top of the boxes.

MiddaraInstead of going all-in for hundreds or sometimes $1000+, I take a step back and decide how much of the game I really need. Look at the current CMON Kickstarter campaign for Marvel Zombicide. The pledges range from $130 to $410 for the all-in. That high pledge level comes with a 2’ tall figure of Galactus that, while undeniably cool, feels fairly unnecessary. It feels like something I’d play with once and then it would sit on a shelf taking up space for the next few years until I decide to sell it. Yet, at the time of this writing, there are over 5000 people parting with $400 for that pledge level! And it’s not like CMON is the only publisher with cost creep. Last year there was a Kickstarter for Stefan Fled games that had an all-in of $715. The all-in on the Middara reprint was $500.

So, you might be thinking, yeah, but, what if you end up loving a game, won’t you regret not getting everything for it. First, nope. I can sleep comfortably knowing I’m missing an expansion here and there. Heck, even if there is a game, I do wish I had gotten more expansions for, the money I save from not getting everything all the time will more than make up for getting a few things on the secondary market here and there. But it’s very rare now that I play a game enough times that I really need four big expansions immediately upon unboxing.

If you love chasing promos and owning everything, that’s great. But for me, the money and time just aren’t worth it anymore.

While he will play just about anything, Tony loves games that let him completely immerse himself in the theme. He also is a bit of a component addict.

17 COMMENTS

  1. A lot of the day one expansions, and to a less extent promos, often end up feeling like a move to baffle the players with BS. I shouldn’t have to have to wade through half a dozen expansions to figure out if your game is good based on the right combination of bonus content. Either they have a solid base game or they don’t, the rest is either fluff or obfuscation.

    • That’s a good point. I’ve definitely encountered games where it feels somewhat incomplete without at least one expansion.

  2. I’ve been tempted many times on KS for games, figures and terrain. Then I keep looking at the price and bail out eventually. The basic price of a game you might not like when you play is off putting, to me at least. Gloomhaven, especially, was one I liked, except for the price

    • I’m in the exact same boat. I used to be stuck on FOMO with all kinds of hobbies but it has burnt me enough times I am done with it (FOGRO… Fear of getting ripped off?).

      Exclusive art and packaging is cool, but that’s where I draw the line. Any additional content feels like a money grab and especially seems like poor content when they never intend on printing it again.

    • Ugg, don’t get me started on those. I remember all the gimmick covers in the 90s. Those were terrible.

  3. I was hyped for CMON Marvel Zombicide, but the total price for ALL the stuff it’s out off my league. So, for less than 1/4 of I will spend in that KS, I bought a 3d printer and 2 board games.

  4. Nothing can kill the completionist disorder syndrome in me… Yes, I’m looking at you – giant Cthulhu megature!

    • I have it as well, but it was simply cheaper than Galactus. I doubt I would do it again as we haven’t gotten through everything I backed yet. We have played all the old ones and season 1 though.

  5. Interesting what is the limit for some folks. I stopped caring about promos about 2 years ago, but still prefer the old KS all in.

    I think some publishers, like Matagot seem to get it. KS gets you early access and cheaper pricing, but everything can be had directly from them. Anyone that skips the exclusives will definitely have my attention. Also I am fine with direct sales from the company as that also works.

  6. For me it’s just a phase. Once I was into pnp addons, the kind you have to build yourself. Then the FOMO hit me. I’m way beyond that, I only back a handful of kickstarters but I have a long list of potentially cool ones that might be something but I leave the figuring out to others.

    I got the promos at a premium for Santorini, and when selling I found out that nobody would pay for the promos.So that’s done.

    Most projects really aren’t that good, or the designer has no clue about the balance between randomization and agency that I’m done with it before the window closes. I have never paid for a game mat, I might just for the heck of it with Skytear Horde.

    I got MD from CMON at secondary market for $45 inc shipping, built a ton of content for it, and then found out it won’t hit the table. The heroes have no incentive to enter any dungeon. I just saw heaps of plastic. There has to be a story that the designer put in there, procedurally generated world are just a piece of crap that never works. Tried a bunch but it’s not for me.

    I usually buy expansions if they are small, for example Jagged Alliance, Roll Camera, The Phantom etc.For the rest just base game and no minis thank you very much. Zerywia had no mini option so I had to resort to paint the minis. But minis can break. Arms and other appendages can get lost. I don’t like the idea.

  7. I don’t really care about KS. I have finished around 4 or so but they will also be my last ones. The whole KS feeling is just not enjoyable. I love browsing a shop and buying a game that I can play that same week or month and I actually hate it when I put money into something that will probably get in about a year and a half. From my experience, the trade-off is also quite bad bad compared to buying the retail version after the reviews have been published. You don’t get a better game if you have 5 additional cards and some upgraded tokens.

  8. The scary thing is that $410 isn’t even the all-in for the Marvel Zombies KS! I am guessing that it will be close to $700 🙁

  9. I completely agree with thos feeling. I’m currently fighting it myself. Cmon has cool stuff but the price point for everything is just so high. The FOMO is tough though.

  10. I have also reached this point. I have stopped backing Kickstarter/Game Found projects a few years ago and I am still waiting on some things to come in. I am getting much more picky about what games I do buy and have stopped getting expansions for the most part until I know that I’ll play with it more.

  11. i just got FOMO’d with Black Rose wars, added on a few bits and then just got stung for a stupid amount of carriage, charges which i know are expensive at the moment but i could have shipped a grand piano for less. it wont’ be happening again. i shall be reading any future KS or GF campaigns very very carefully.

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