Ask the gaming community about backing Kickstarters and you will get no shortage of opinions. Following creators and campaigns is not unlike following your favorite sports teams and players. You will find diehard loyalists, armchair quarterbacks, and cynics aplenty. But one thing that everyone seems to agree on comes done to one simple word. Risk. I won’t get into whether backing a campaign is the equivalent of an interest-free loan or if it’s more akin to an investment (I kind of feel like it’s neither but you all can convince me otherwise in comments). Several months ago, I backed a tower defense game called Terminus Breach. It was upsetting when creator Matt Lloyd canceled.
Going back to the risk that I mentioned before. There are essentially three main types of risk that I can identify when backing a campaign:
- Money well spent: most of the time you’re not sure if you’ll really like the game or if your group, or family, dynamics will let you get to the table enough to justify the cost.
- Fulfillment: let’s be real, there is a very real chance, even if a small one, that a creator will take payment but never deliver the product for some reason or another.
- Opportunity cost: this is the more interesting one to me. You find a game you’re interested in but there is another one you’re also interested in. Your budget allows only one. You go with Option A and forego Option B. Suddenly Option A is cancelled and Option B has already ended. Maybe you can get in a late pledge. Or maybe not. Maybe you have to wait until retail and miss out on Kickstarter exclusives, if that’s your thing.
A cancelled campaign is the most disheartening to me. If you back a game that your players don’t like at least you still have something. You can sell the game or trade it for another. Fulfillment issues…well, those suck and if it’s foul play then I want to rattle my saber and join the horde in a crusade against that creator too. But a cancelled campaign…that’s a different animal. What you’re generally watching is someone with a dream standing up and saying, “time to wake up.” At the same time, it’s pretty powerful and uplifting. It takes courage to accept that things didn’t turn out the way you wanted them to.
Not funding the first time was the best thing that ever happened to my game.
~Matt Lloyd, creator of Terminus Breach TD
What is Terminus Breach TD?
I suppose I may have buried the lede a bit in my rambling introduction and you probably want to know more about this game. Terminus Breach is a tower defense board game for 1-4 players. You play on a modular board as one of four races. Through a series of waves, you and the other players will build up your towers and defend against enemy after enemy. This game is not a full cooperative game like Pandemic or Forbidden Island. But, you will want to work together or this game will easily crush you. Just make sure you work to your own advantage more than you do anyone else’s.
I was lucky enough to play Terminus Breach with Matt a few weeks ago. Take a look at some of these pics of actual game play (click on one to open the slide show):
After we played, I got to bug Matt about his upcoming campaign and ask many questions that backers like you and I want good answers for.
Terminus Breach Background
Matt has been working on Terminus Breach for almost 8 years. He was inspired to make the game because he’s an “old school gamer and RPGer” with an affinity for tower defense games in general. One day he realized that there weren’t any true TD games on the market. In the business world, we would say that Matt found a demand for which there was no supply. He decided to create the supply since no one else had. Or at least create some supply. I got the impression that Matt thinks there is a lot of room for tower defense games and that Terminus Breach could be one of many to fill that demand.
Which Old School Games/RPGs?
Matt mainly played D&D but he also spent some time playing others like Vampire: The Masquerade, Star Wars, Noir, Ninjas & Superspies, and Rifts. In addition, he also played wargames like WarHammer and Necromunda. Having played Terminus Breach it’s easy to see how D&D and wargames influenced his game. I mean c’mon! He included my favorite low-level monsters, kobolds, in the game.
He still plays tower defense games, mostly on his phone, and his favorite is the Kingdom Rush Series. However, he has played most of them.
Who’s the Artist?
I’ve been calling Matt the creator of this game. That’s because he is Terminus Breach (Terminus Breach Facebook link). He designed the game and, with the help of Kickstarter, he will self-publish it too. He is also the artist. I felt like his art was influenced by his background in D&D and I wasn’t completely wrong. He agreed that D&D influenced him but in an indirect way. He’s always drawn and done art for as long as he could remember and apparently grew up on a steady diet of the Monster Manual and all the art of TSR—both cornerstones of a healthy childhood if you ask me. He channeled that passion into a career as a Graphic Designer and does art for clients regularly.
However, when it came time to illustrate his own project, he kept bouncing from one style to the next to point of frustration. At that point, he took a step back and just started “free-drawing” and the rest is history.
Why back Terminus Breach?
Okay, brass tacks time. I asked Matt a very pointed question: Aside from pretty much being the only Tower Defense game coming to market. What else differentiates your game from others? What makes it unique enough that a gamer should back your game versus another? In summary, Matt’s response was thoughtful and motivating. It’s incredibly easy to learn but has a complex strategy, “not unlike chess”. The game’s intensity and scale continuously ramps up. The modular board means you get to make your own maps and have unique adventures each time you play. You always get to try new things. This means the replayability is through the roof. There is so much going on here but the game doesn’t lose itself in meaningless complexity.
Several character options, builds, enemies, strategies mean that anyone can enjoy the game whether you want to play something from “basic military to malkavian political”.
There were two main points in his response that struck a chord with me and I think they’ll resonate with you as well. One was that this game is designed to play either solo or all the way up to four characters with no variant rules or modes. You don’t have to learn two sets of rules for one game. Thank goodness! Secondly, and more basically, “it’s super fun”. A lot of times you talk with a game designer and they will tell you everything about the game you’d want to know except give you a judgment call. It’s fun. I’ve played this game. It is fun. It thrills me that Matt can unabashedly tell someone his game is fun. Exuding confidence is a great quality for a designer to have. And I don’t mean arrogance.
Finally, the Hard Question
This last question was one I wasn’t sure if I could ask without being offensive. Nevertheless, I put it out there anyway: A little over 6 months ago, you launched Terminus Bread TD on Kickstarter but decided to cancel. What drove that decision? What did you learn from it that you are applying to the new campaign to ensure success?
Matt canceled because he knew the game wasn’t going to fund and he felt it was the responsible thing to do. He took it as an opportunity to regroup, improve, and relaunch. During the downtime, he did some extensive feedback and identified the biggest weaknesses of his game. He added a 4th player, which introduced the Treefolk to the game. That, in turn, introduced new effects, Poison and Slow, to the game. He streamlined character leveling and the system for assigning damage and tracking HP. Furthermore, he added beautiful acrylic gems and Bosses at the end of every Battle. These Bosses affect the board with special powers.
He decreased the overall size of the game despite adding more elements to the game. Moreover, even with all these improvements, he was able to make his product less expensive. The game is more complete and appealing and costs less money.
He also spent the last six months cultivating stronger relationships within the gaming industry and making many new friends along the way. Not only did he learn how to improve his game, he learned new ways to contribute to the gaming community and the industry. Matt told me, “not funding the first time was the best thing that ever happened to [his] game”.
A Final Note
Matt has done something really interesting with this campaign. From what I have seen, especially recently, miniatures in games are pretty polarizing. Some people love them and want them in their games at any cost. Others couldn’t care less. They prefer high-quality full-color standees to drab minis that come unpainted (even if they are beautiful). Matt is giving every backer free .stl files where you can either print the minis yourself or pay a printer to do it for you. I think this is a fantastic option. Everyone will get the standees and everyone will get the files. If you don’t want the added cost of the minis, you don’t have to absorb that cost (or subsidize it for everyone else that does if that’s your position).
These minis are gorgeous. Matt sculpted them himself and taught himself the software to do it. He’s a pretty talented dude with a great game hitting Kickstarter on the 6th of November. Put this one on your radar.