Recently we had a chance to spend some time chatting with Alex and Michael of MAGE Company. They have been publishing games for a few years now and have recently been very active on Kickstarter. We talked about running a Kickstarter campaign, publishing games, and what’s in store for MAGE Company. I hope you enjoy some insight into their world.
Board Game Quest: For anyone that doesn’t know, tell us a little about MAGE Company. Who you are and what you do? What is your role at MAGE Company?
MAGE Company: Wow… way back. I along with my partner Michael Andresakis are the owners of MAGE Company. We started designing games back at 2001 in a box room and year by year we were learning things about the industry and the million things behind we must know in order to deliver a finished product. At 2011 we finally created MAGE Company publishing our first two games and since them we keep publishing and growing. My role has mostly to do with the financial and the public relationships. I could not miss the playtesting of new games though. Mike works at graphics, anything that has to do with artworks and of course together we choose the games we like in order to publish them.
BGQ: So do you primarily publish your own, designed games, or do you license games from other designers?
BGQ: What prompted you to be both a publisher and a designer?
MC: We were designing MAGE with Mike since 2001 and how we were going to move in this industry. We wanted to have our own team and follow a specific line of games where each one would different. So this is how we did it. 🙂
BGQ: What are some of your favorite board games to play? On the same note, what do you like in a good board game?
MC: Favorite Games… hmm… well 2 of my top games are Hero Quest and Risk… but moving on… I love Pandemic, Battlestar Galactica, and 12 Realms. I like the adventure, when a game is separated in several levels where each one has a different mechanism that changes the gameplay. I love minis, intrigue, exploration. These elements give another sense to me.
BGQ: So far you have completed 9 different campaigns on Kickstarter. Can you tell me what you’ve learned from your first campaign through now?
MC: It needs a lot of energy and patience in order to succeed. Be creative, work with people, get more ideas on the table during the campaign, is never late to fix some things. Do not let people down after a campaign. Anything happens inform them, they appreciate when you tell the truth. If you make a mistake and you fix it, they feel sure about your product, so move on… everyone makes mistakes but fix them! Competition is really huge, you must make a huge preparation for the campaign, before and after. Keep their eyes on your project, offer more things, better and useful. However… if you do all these there is a case to fail but hey… you can try again. 🙂
BGQ: During that time, you canceled the The Amityville Project: Phobos campaign twice. What happened with that project that it was so unsuccessful?
MC: Hmm… The first time we launched the campaign we did not see many mistakes. You may ask how is that we did not see them?… well we did not… and the problem was that we could not fix it so we talked to backers and there was no problem so in 3-4 days after the campaign was launched we stopped. The 2nd time it was my fault. Phobos is a horror game and at the same time I launched another Horror game plus at the same period about 7 big miniature projects were on KS. So we said with Mike, let’s bring back Phobos and we launch it when the time is proper. We have received many messages to launch it but first we want to be sure about the timing plus we prepare some cool changes.
BGQ: The Amityville Project: Phobos game looks really cool. Any hints on when it will be coming back to kickstarter and what you are doing to make it even better?
MC: Probably after Essen Spiel. We made some corrections on the miniatures to be better and we work a lot to create smart pledge levels and we also found a way to turn the game into a co-op mode after the first half of the game play. Still, we want to keep hidden any possible changes but when is time we will announce each one of them.
MC: Nothing specially. Everything as usual. I believe Arcana is a good game, co-op + steampunk + good price + finished and tested game + outstanding communication with people. I think these elements made Arcana successful.
BGQ: Do you have any tips for people who might be putting together their first Kickstarter campaign?
MC: You need to demo your game at local conventions, get feedback, invest on artwork and advertisements, keep a perfect contact with the backers, make them feel that they get enough for what they paid for, prepare alternative solutions if during production or delivery something is wrong. They may sound simple but when is time to do it, is not so simple anymore.
BGQ: Continuing with new Kickstarter publishers, what’s something you often see new publishers/designers doing wrong with their first Kickstarter campaigns?
MC: I’m not in position to judge or criticize any of the campaigns. I’m a backer too and I have found projects where something is not correct. For me the worst thing is the lack of communication especially when mistakes take place and someone cannot handle them. I think this is the core of the whole thing.
BGQ: You are about to launch Höyük on Kickstarter? What’s special about Höyük that will make people want to become a backer?
MC: Höyük is one of these games you can love and play easily. The theme, the gameplay, the choices the games gives you make it a good game. At least this is how we see it. We think that this game should be published quite some time now and here is a good chance to become familiar with this game and give it some space on your table.
Pierre (the designer of the game) is a really nice guy and we contacted him about Höyük. The last months we played the game many times and we sent many copies to several groups in order to collect feedback and see what people think about it. Thankfully all the replies we received had to do with very specific issues of the game: Catastrophe Cards, Tie Brakers, a possible board, and the Height of the Houses.
Following the feedback of the playtesters we fixed a few things and we added some new cool stuff too. For example the Catastrophe cards were limited in number and specific on what they do so we decided to expand them a little and creating more in order to add to the game a variety. The most common question was: Why start a new Block or make it bigger and already existed Block since my houses will be destroyed? Witha few changes and a lot playtesting we changed that without losing the sense of those cards which seem to play a significant role in the game.
We also focused on the number of the players. Therefore we added a 5th player in the game in order to make it more interesting. Now Höyük is a game for 2-5 players and as we noticed the playing time remains on the same levels as with 4 players, meaning about 60 minutes which is a good time. More changes have been applied on Höyük but you will be able to discover them in the upcoming campaign we prepare on Kickstarter.
However we hope through our campaign to upgrade the game several times with new components and in that case we will upgrade the components of the game here in order to be known to everyone what the final game will include. We have made some new cool wooden components of our own design which fit perfectly with the game.
Strong theme, deep strategy, tile laying mechanism, it offers a lot of decisions, can be played by kids or a group of gamers, it has a lot of replayability. This combination can make the game very successful.
BGQ: Why should backers pledge now for your Höyük campaign? Will there be any Kickstarter exclusives, price discounts, or other reasons they should jump on board right away?
MC: No exclusives, not this time but yes there are discounts. In each pledge level we mention the who value (MSRP + shipping) and what you pledge in order to understand what you save in each one and I believe this is a very good thing. So the lower pricing is a reason to pledge it now.
BGQ: Finally, other than Höyük, what’s in store for the future of MAGE Company? Any hints as to upcoming games or projects?
MC: In May we launch 12 Realms: Ancestors Legacy the next edition of 12 Realms with more and New Miniatures, scenarios and much more. After that we will move to publish 2 titles: Aether Captains which is a well known game on BGG and is a solo, steampunk themed, dice game and Gothic Invasion which has to do with the Gothic Wars from 377 to 382 A.D. We have chosen our titles for the next few years and we hope people keep supporting MAGE. 🙂
That’s all the time we had to chat with Alex and Michael. I hope you enjoyed their insight into running a Kickstarter campaign and publishing board games.