Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blackwater Gulch - Kickstarter!

Kickstarter might be the biggest phenomenon of 2012. Early on we started seeing crowd-funded projects that were HUGELY popular - going thousands and sometime hundreds of thousands of dollars above what they initially needed. For those who aren't familiar, Kickstarter is basically a reverse-investment project; someone pitches their idea and you pay them for products you'll eventually receive. Kickstarter has protections in place for your cash. If the project doesn't get entirely funded you never pay a dime.

Lately it seems that many Kickstarters have become greedy. See Penny Arcade's half million dollar venture to not have ads; many new minis Kickstarters are selling things at 'retail' prices and bonuses are only bought. I feel like if I'm helping you start a business I should get a deal. Buyer beware, I suppose. I've Kickstarted about 6 projects now so even though I have a strong opinion on it there ARE projects worth crowd-funding.

Then there is the whole possible effect that these projects will have on your FLGS. The Reaper 'Bones' thing was hugely popular among e-nerds because they could get skeletons with shields and flame elementals for 50 cents. Should a hobby shop carry the Bones line after the entire internets has gotten into that Kickstarter? Probably not.

Now that I've gotten down off my soapbox, I'm here to share with you a GREAT Kickstarter project that is worth your cash. The funding amounts this gentleman has sought have been humble and his project is truly worth funding. For those who don't know, I'm a massive Western fan. I have seen every spaghetti western and I am in the process of watching ever Duke movie there is.

I've never really played a Wild West minis game before, although there are a few. Necromunda takes a lot of its experience from Wild West. Now we have Blackwater Gulch. Friend of the blog William Stewart helped start this project and created art for the Bloodwolf Tribe. I picked up those guys in the initial Kickstarter. They should be arriving soon.

There is a lot to like about this game. I interviewed Tim Kline, creator of Blackwater Gulch.
Blackwater Gulch is a tabletop skirmish game based on the Wild West. Form your gang from the variety of miniatures available and use them to fight for fame and fortune. Whether it’s a showdown at the corral, a brawl in the saloon, a dust-up in the mines, or a chase through the outskirts, Blackwater Gulch is action-packed, fast, and fun.
Q: Can you tell us a little about Blackwater Gulch and what the product is?
Blackwater Gulch is a skirmish game based on the WIld West. 

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this game?
I was playing Red Dead Redemption one day, riding around blowing away outlaws left and right. Then it suddenly dawned on me that there's really no western skirmish games out there. So instead of waiting for someone else to make what I wanted to play, I made it myself. Then I found out after the fact that there were a lot of western skirmish games out there already, but the damage had already been done. I dove right in and set out to try and make the best figures I could to really try and set it apart.

Q: Can you tell us about the creative process? We have a friend of the club named William Stewart who helped draw some of the gangs.
My creative process is pretty simple. I see something or someone from a movie or TV show and then ideas start popping in. I tossed ideas at some artists I found to see what they can come up with. It's gotten a lot better since I signed on with Game Salute too, as I have a whole team of folks to help bounce ideas off of.

Q: What were some of the inspirations for the different gangs? (mention the Tranquility gang for props!)

The first 4 gangs were based on common stereotypes. Outlaws, Lawmen, Mexicans and Native Americans. The gangs in the new campaign are a little more creative. We have a girls-only gang called the Widowmakers. The Tranquility Crew is based on the TV show Firefly and is turning out to be one of the most popular, when we originally just tacked that one on at the end for fun. The Flying Zarconis is more of a comic relief circus gang full of side show freaks and gun-toting clowns for henchmen. The Secret Fist is loosely based on old Chinese railroad workers, but we made them ninjas on the side just for fun.

Q: How much focus have you put into the rules? Would you say it is a tight ruleset?
I would say it's pretty tight, but also light-hearted. It's meant to be a laid back & fun game that's easy to learn and play, but still has the tactical feel that every wargamer wants. It's not and will never be a game full of charts and tables. There's no set armies or factions, your gang can include outlaws and lawmen on the side side, fighting off a rampaging horde of Mexicans and Indians for example. And it's also purposely designed to be quick & deadly like any gunfight should be. Your average game will be about 30-45 minutes tops.

Q: Can you describe your initial experience using Kickstarter to begin your project?
The first Kickstarter was great. I never expected it to be as successful as it was, I was expecting maybe 10 or 15 backers, and ended up with 250.

Q: Why did you choose Kickstarter?
Comes down to money really. I personally can't afford the costs involved with paying sculptors and artists to make the miniatures for me, so Kickstarter helps to provide those upfront costs.

Q: It seems like you were one of the first Miniatures companies to use Kickstarter. Can you describe the challenges you've had?
Using Kickstarter was pretty easy, people pledged, I got the money sent over from Amazon and that was used to pay the sculptors and have everything produced. The one thing I wasn't prepared for was the time it would take to make everything. I was WAY off. I was expecting to have all of the starter sets done in August, it's now the end of November and we're still waiting for the boxes to be printed. It's frustrating for me because I really wanted to provide a good service to the customers, and I can't because I have to wait on other people. And wait. And wait some more. I think the biggest problem has been shipping time, with our sculptors almost all in Europe, each time they send us sculpts it takes 2-3 weeks. I know how frustrated the customers are too, but at this point all I can do is learn from the mistake.

Q: Many players who Kickstarted the first project haven't received their minis and might be questioning the quickness of another Kickstarter project. You're almost funded with two weeks to go. What would you say to those people?
I'm sorry. That about sums it up. Like I was saying, I really didn't have a clue that it would take this long to make everything. I know some were upset that we started the new campaign before finishing the last, but we made that decision based on the holidays closing in and knowing now how long it takes to make everything. Turns out that was a bad idea, we should have waited until the previous backers had their models. Another lesson learned the hard way. That won't happen again.

Q: What is the new Kickstarter for?
The new Kickstarter is mean to expand upon the existing gangs in the game, and give people more options. We have 6 new gangs and depending on how high we get, we might be able to move on to 3-man "Support Packs" to add more characters to every gang.

Q: What are your future plans for Blackwater Gulch?
Lots of plans! I'm working on the first real expansion for the game, which is going to change things around a lot. It will be based on US & Native Aerican folklore, the first one will be based on Skinwalkers (werewolves and other werethings), and will change the game from a Hollywood western setting to a Weird West setting. There will be lots of different creatures like Chupacabras, Jackalopes or even Bigfoot and the Jersey Devil (even though New Jersey is pretty far from the west...). You'll be able to play a standard human gang like now, or a pack of monsters rampaging through the countryside. It will also include new professions for men, like Monster Hunters and Engineers.

Q: When will players be able to purchase the models individually? This author really wants Wayne Duke, Doctor Kilmer, The Norwegian, etc! (Although I believe I got The Norwegian from the first Kickstarter)
I'm hoping Game Salute will be able to get all of the sets boxed up and we can do a retail release around the end of December or beginning of January. The retail release won't come until after everyone has gotten their orders from the first campaign.

Q: Will you be at any major conventions coming up?
Right now the only one on my list is GenCon next year. I'd like to try Adepticon too, but I'm not sure I'll be able to make it. Definitely planning on both and more for 2014 though :)

Q. How do you think your product will get into hobby shops? One question that many hobby shop owners have had in the past is whether or not these Kickstarters will help / hurt them in their endeavors. I'd love to see these models in a hobby shop, but perhaps the market is already saturated for those who would buy them just from the Kickstarter? 
That's one of the reasons I went with Game Salute for publishing & distribution. They do a lot of Kickstarters and also have a lot of great programs for game shops that want to support their products .. the owner of Game Salute also owns a bunch of game stores so it's really all geared toward selling in stores. I'm hoping I can get to the point where I don't need Kickstarter at all and can just release the new models I want to when I want to and release them the old fashioned way. But right now Kickstarter is just the best way to go when you have no budget to start with :)

Q: Do you have anything else to tell us? Thanks!
Our new Kickstarter just got funded! We're also about to shake up the stretch goals a lot to make it easier to unlock more, and add a few new Hired Guns too :) 

1 comment:

  1. I'm planning to pick this one up! Love the western theme.