Flying Frog Productions

The original Shadows of Brimstone dungeon crawler by Flying Frog Productions and Jason C. Hill (Last Night on Earth, Fortune and Glory) was a Kickstarter phenom in 2013, earning $1.3M and delivering a robust unique dungeon crawler. In Shadows, 1-4 players took on roles in the old west, and adventured into an old mine that housed portals to other realms. The game had great monsters, a fantastic exploration system that required no GM, and powerful role playing and leveling options, including a town expansion in which to rest and work on your characters.

Flying Frog added numerous other expansions to the 2 starting boxes for Shadows, then followed it up with Forbidden Fortress in 2016, a stand-alone feudal japan version of Shadows. Now Flying Frog has started a Kickstarter Campaign for 2 new Shadows of Brimstone Adventures, Gates of Valhalla and Valley of the Serpent King.

Valhalla has multiple viking character types for players, who travel back to the Targa Plateau from the City of the Ancients Core set to battle new creatures and search of elusive dark stone. The Valley of the Serpent King features Spanish Conquistador characters, and has portals to the Swamps of Jargono from the Swamps of Death Core set. Both games feature numerous high quality miniatures, including oversized elite monsters, dungeon tiles, cards, tokens and all you would expect from a Shadows of Brimstone game. The new Shadows Adventures are fully compatible with all previous versions, but can be played on their own.

The Kickstarter Campaign continues through March 9, and the games are expected to deliver in September of 2020.

First up is a new release which teams up USAopoly and Steve Jackson Games, and that’s Munchkin X-Men.  This continues to add to the plethora of re-skins for the Munchkin game, but if you are into X-men and don’t mind Munchkin, this might be a good buy.  The will feature tons of iconic people and items from the X-men universe including Lady Deathstrike, Colossus, Wolverine, and Magneto’s Helmet.  So grab your gear and ready those mutant powers, Munchkin X-Men is out on store shelves now!

Next was a tease from IDW Games at this year’s GAMA Trade Show called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Showdown.  The theme seems normal enough as the turtles are running through the city sewers being chased be Bebop and Rocksteady and so they have to figure out how to fight them.  The interesting part is that this is going to be done in the confines of a tile laying game.  I will be interested to see how they plan to pull this off, but we won’t know more until later this year as IDW Games releases more information about it.

Then we have a new card game coming out of Greenbrier Games called Overseers.  This is a drafting style game where you are collecting sets of cards in order to score the most point, pretty simple, but it does have some extra bits added on.  First is that each player has a special power they can use that allow them to break the rules, like keeping two cards instead of one during a draft.  Second is a voting system once everyone reveals their cards on who people think has the highest score.  Whoever gets the most votes then has a choice, admit they have the highest score or deny it.  If they admit it then they discard a card, if they deny they don’t have to discard anything.  However, during scoring if they denied and do have the highest score, they lose two of their highest scoring cards.  Most points at the end is the winner.  Look for this game on store shelves in April.

Last is a slew of upcoming release from Flying Frog productions for both Last Night on Earth and Shadows of Brimstone.  On the Shadows of Brimstone front they have tons coming with the Hellfire Succubi Mission Pack, the Feral Vampires Mission Pack, the Derelict Ship Expansion, and six new ally, enemy, and XXL enemy packs.  Most of these were KS extras so it will be good for them to hit general distribution later in the year.  Also they showed off posters for the upcoming 10th Anniversary Edition of the Last Night on Earth game, with no doubt all the bells and whistles you expect from such an edition.  Keep looking here as we find out more information as the year goes on for these releases, and check out Flying Frog’s Facebook page for pictures and information.

forbidden-fortress

Shadows of Brimstone, a popular cooperative dungeon-crawl series from Flying Frog Productions, has a new standalone expansion available now on Kickstarter. Forbidden Fortress is set in an alternate history Feudal Japan, which is a dynamic change from it’s prominently western predecessors in the series. Demons and devils have emerged from a great cataclysm during the tumultuous time of Japanese history, and players must work together to storm the eponymous fortress in order to quell the evil within. As described on the campaign page:

 “For new players, Forbidden Fortress will make a great introduction to the world of Shadows of Brimstone, and for veteran players, it adds a ton of new content, including two brand new Worlds to explore – the Japanese castles and temples of the Forbidden Fortress and a living world inside a massive creature in the Belly of the Beast. It also includes a brand new set of Heroes and Enemies to add to your games.

forbidden-fort-heroes

The Kickstarter is doing exceedingly well, to the point of bursting through stretch goals at an incredible pace – 1342% of their funding goal at the time of writing this article. For fans of the series, this is an excellent way to add new and intriguing adventuring possibilities, and the Kickstarter has a wealth of stretch goals to make the early investment worth the price-tag. Check out the Kickstarter page and the Flying Frog Facebook page for more information and updates as the campaign surges on towards production.

shadows of brimstone

Shadows of Brimstone was a Kickstarter from 2014 which seemed to take a game like Descent, and transform it into a fantasy western game, and so far people have been enjoying it.  As such Flying Frog Productions is in the process of producing more content for the game, and next on the list are enemy packs to add more enemy variety to the game.

scafford gang

First is a deluxe pack  of the Scafford Gang, the most ruthless band of Mutant Outlaws in the Southwest!  Included are 6 Scafford Gang models and 1 Colonel Scafford model to lead them into battle, 2 large Enemy Record Sheets for them, a host of new cards themed around these ruthless Mutants – including all of the Threat Cards needed to add them to your games, and 2 new Missions.  Look for this pack June 2016.

dark stone

Next are the Dark Stone Brutes, these nasty fellows are also a part of the Scafford Gang and have fused with the evil Dark Stone to become hulking brutes.  Included are 3 large Dark Stone Brute models, the large Enemy Record Sheet and all of the Threat Cards needed to add them to your game.  Look for this pack June 2016.

harvesters

Next is something from out of this world, literally, in the form of Harvesters From Beyond, evil creatures that come from another dimension to harvester raw material and ancient artifacts.  This Enemy Pack contains everything you need to add these terrifying, alien Harvesters to your game with 3 large Harvester models, as well as the large Enemy Record Sheet and all of the Threat Cards needed.  Look for this pack July 2016.

trederran

Last are the Trederran Raiders, aliens from another world who are embroiled in a never ending war, but to fight that war they need Dark Stone and they are running out, so they have come to this world to get more.  This enemy pack includes 6 Trederran Raider models as well as the large Enemy Record Sheet and all of the Threat Cards needed to add them to your game.  Look for this pack July 2016.

The influence of Kickstarter on the board gaming hobby is immense, and it has been for years now. At any given time, the crowdfunding juggernaut is awash with gaming projects ranging from tiny card games to big bombastic miniatures-laden affairs, and everything in between. Whether it has helped or harmed our precious hobby is a matter of debate. There are certainly arguments that can be made for and against, but it’s no question that the gaming industry is forever changed by Kickstarter.

And that’s no surprise. After all, change is part of the Kickstarter package. It was born of a mission to help amateur creative and artistic projects find like-minded individuals willing to donate to a dream and turn it into a reality. The early days of Kickstarter were like a bazaar of insane and innovative expression served up to the masses for a modest investment. It was as inspiring and it was successful, and as we all know, success is a double-edged sword.

One of the first extremely successful Kick Starter board games

One of the first extremely successful Kick Starter board games

An Absolute Sense of Mission

Kickstarter is, and has always been, a for-profit organization. For each successfully funded project, 5% of the pledges end up in Kickstarter’s coffers. There’s nothing wrong with that intrinsically, but it does indicate an overriding motivation: get as many projects funded as possible. They do that through clever marketing, social media, promotions, and the website itself which does nothing but try to convince would-be backers to take the plunge.

They also have done it by abandoning their original intent. In the ancient times, Kickstarter required that projects be creative in nature and that they come from individuals that aren’t already successful. That’s a fairly slippery set of requirements, so to maintain that purity of intent, a cadre of community managers reviewed every proposed Kickstarter campaign to ensure that they aligned with the mission.

Over time, the slipperiness of Kickstarter’s project requirements opened the door for semi-professional and established organizations to peddle their wares on the site. In the board gaming world, this gave rise to CoolMiniOrNot’s Kickstarter dominance and Queen Games’ crowdfunding-first approach to developing and publishing new games. It’s the backbone of Stonemaier Games’ business model and the reason why Game Salute exists. In June 2014, Kickstarter opened the floodgates even wider by removing the community manager review requirement for project submissions. Short of raising funds for dangerous or illegal goods, anything is permitted on Kickstarter.

Why does this matter? With so many Goliaths walking through the crowdfunding playground, the ability for any Davids to surface among all that noise is next to impossible. Modern board game Kickstarters are clinics in graphic design and marketing intelligence featuring nearly complete products, amazing artwork, compelling stretch goals, and big promotional support. That leaves John Q. Designer, who just wants to raise a few thousand dollars to get his clever abstract game published, in the dust. He can’t even afford to design a campaign as flashy as his big shot competitors, let alone stand up to their glorious promises. After all, there are only so many crowdfunding dollars to go around, and showing a prototype on graph paper isn’t going to turn heads away from a box of miniatures from an industry professional.

The HUGELY successful Conan - Kick Starter campaign that raised 3.3 million dollars.

The HUGELY successful Conan – Kick Starter campaign that raised 3.3 million dollars.

Abused Patience Turns to Fury

This lack of oversight has led to some very questionable campaigns. I’m not talking about the high profile failures that make people wary of crowdfunding all together. I mean companies like Mantic Games, Flying Frog Productions, Cryptozoic Entertainment, and CoolMiniOrNot that almost single-handedly round out the top 10 most funded board games on Kickstarter:

The next 10 on the list are more are more of the same, and that’s not even counting gaming accessories by Reaper Miniatures and Dwarven Forge. In almost every case, the top funded games are from professional developers, well-known industry designers, and other publishers that have long outgrown the need to raise funds on a crowdfunding platform to get their products made. Even one of board gaming’s most celebrated designers, Stefan Feld, has had a game funded on Kickstarter. On what alternate reality Earth do we live on that a Feld game needs crowdfunding? Of course the truth is AquaSphere didn’t NEED to be funded in this manner. And yet it was.

Heroes Always Take a Risk

The reason these companies use Kickstarter instead of traditional means to fund their project is risk aversion. When we back games on Kickstarter, we as consumers take on the entire financial risk for the project. These days almost all these top flight Kickstarter games are in development long before the campaign begins, but at a basic level, Company A need not invest a single dollar in the development of a game. They can simply crowdfund the money, take on no debt whatsoever, and pass the risk of default onto their well-intentioned backers.

This methodology is of course great for John Q. Designer who doesn’t have the funds. But for CoolMiniOrNot, it’s a way to maximize their revenues by making sure their balance sheets are debt-free. That doesn’t sound so bad on the surface, but the precedents set by campaigns that had no business being on Kickstarter contribute to the greater dysfunction.

Dysfunction 1: Kickstarter backers have no legal recourse. We’ve seen many stories come out over the years of Kickstarter entrepreneurs not delivering on their promises, running out of money, or simply disappearing entirely. Sometimes those stories have happy endings, and it’s comforting to see the FTC taking an active interest, but the majority of these crowdfunding disasters never get resolved. It’s critical to understand that just because the backer level you selected promises a finished product, there are no guarantees.

Dysfunction 2: Innovation is born out of necessity. While the hellish Kickstarter experiences are admittedly edge cases, what is true 100% of the time is that a company that doesn’t take on any discernable risk has very little incentive to provide value. When a board game publisher’s financial fate is tied to the success of their products, they are motivated to act in good faith, to create great games, and to treat their customers with dignity. Anything short of quality means that a game could fail and all the invested dollars are lost. In the land that Kickstarter built, that motivation is missing. It doesn’t mean all companies that use Kickstarter won’t live up to the ideals of a good publisher; it just means they don’t HAVE to. They already have your money.

Beware of the Company You Keep

All of this and I didn’t even mention the frequency of Kickstarter games missing deadlines, compromising on quality, and taking noticeable shortcuts in the development and testing process. There’s no easy solution here. Our hobby is full of early adopters that crave the latest and greatest. These top flight Kickstarter campaigns are designed to be compelling and to prey on our fear of missing out. The only advice I can give, and it’s advice I myself should strive to follow, is to vote with your dollars and to try to curtail the instinct to consume. Kickstarter will never be the creative Shangri-La it once was, at least not for board games, but we can do our best to make sure that our hard-earned money goes to the campaigns that really deserve it. Do we need season 12 of Zombicide? I think you know my opinion, but it’s up to you and your pocketbook to decide.

dark gothic

Coming soon from Flying Frog Productions and designed by Jason C Hill (Last Night on Earth, Touch of Evil, Fortune and Glory) is a deck builder from the Touch of Evil board game.

Each player represents a particular monster-hunting hero in the game, and that hero determines the player’s starting deck and grants a special ability. The heroes work together to some degree to defeat villains and monsters as they collectively lose the game if ten cards land in the shadows during play. The player who has the most investigation points at the end of the game wins.

The game uses three currencies; combat (red), cunning (green) and spirit (blue), with some cards having a silver cost that can be paid with any currency. Players can acquire cards from a row of six that are available from the main deck or from piles of cards that are always available. If you fight the “Hungry Dead” an always available card that costs one of each color – you can remove a card from your deck or from the central row.

“Dark Secrets” are a special type of card that get added to your deck through various means. The card is worth negative points at the end of the game, but should you draw it during play, you remove it from the game, then draw a “Shocking Discovery” which will affect you or all players with some kind of pernicious effect.

Will you defeat the monster and undead that roam Dark Gothic, or will you fall prey to the Touch of Evil?