November game – Gladiators 2050

Gladiators 2050 was our November release. It has now been taken down, but will be available soon on our itch store.

Over the last few months Becky and I have been re-watching the classic 90s TV show Gladiators. This is the UK version – the US version came first, but the UK one will always be closest to our hearts. The show still stands up, and the cheesy 90s attitude remains much preferable to the serious, grumpy noughties reboot. (We’re also very excited about another possible reboot happening later this year – even if there’s no sign of it actually being aired!)

One thing we noticed watching it from fresh is that we had become connoisseurs of the events in the show. We took to critiquing events and imagining how they could be redesigned. It wasn’t long before I started thinking about writing a TTRPG version. Gladiators 2050 is that game.

In Gladiators 2050 you’re playing the latest reboot of the show, an ultraviolent hybrid of Gladiators and The Running Man. You will each get a Contender who is trying to win that sweet holiday in Barbados, but also one or more Gladiators working to end their run – and perhaps, end their life. 

You’ll take turns to procedurally generate an event for your Contenders to try and beat. You’ll then run your Contenders through it and, if they survive, interview them at the end. Once you’ve played through a few events, you’ll each create one chunk of the dreaded Eliminator, and find out who has won the competition.

I had a blast writing and playtesting Gladiators 2050 – hope you enjoy it!

Cheers

Josh

October game: Cyrano In Love

Cyrano In Love was our October release. Its now been taken down, but will be available soon on our itch store.

Hi folks

Before I start: did you know that Lovecraftesque second edition is crowdfunding at the moment? If you don’t know it, Lovecraftesque is a storytelling game of creeping eldritch horror, focusing on a lone witness who is rotated around the group, and where the mystery emerges from clues the players create. We’ve created a fully updated game, driven by creative prompts on cards, and supported by updated rules and the most accessible rules and reference materials yet. It’s also the most gorgeous edition yet with brand new illustrations, including hidden art you can reveal using the (included) UV flashlight. And there are 18 scenarios written by diverse authors, bringing fresh new perspectives and settings to cosmic horror. Check it out! 

With that out of the way: It has been a busy old time for Black Armada. I’ve been nose to the grindstone preparing the above crowdfunding campaign, and Becky is juggling several recruitment campaigns at her work while preparing for COP (the biggest global event for climate change policymakers). It’s wonderful to get to work on these things, but also exhausting.

Anyway, this hasn’t stopped us from working on making lovely little games for you! This month’s game is by Becky, and it’s called Cyrano In Love. As the title suggests, it’s based on the famous Cyrano De Bergerac story and in it you play through that story, with each of you adopting the role of one of the three main characters. If you haven’t encountered Cyrano De Bergerac, it’s a romantic play telling the tale of the eponymous Cyrano, who is secretly in love with Roxanne, his friend from childhood, and expresses this through giving advice to the young and brash Christian, who seeks to woo Roxanne. It’s a brilliant story and very fun to play with at the table. You can use the game to play it more or less as it appeared in the play, or expand the story into new settings such as the included Space Station Gascony 2040.

I hope you enjoy playing it as much as we did!

Josh

Lovecraftesque second edition is available to pre-order

Lovecraftesque. The eldritch horror roleplaying game where you create the mystery at the table. Pre-orders now open. Image shows the Lovecraftesque box cover with a skull-like monster lurking behind a lone character in the woods. Alongside this are the new rulebook with a striking red-and-white cover, and a spread of cards from the new edition.

Lovecraftesque second edition successfully crowdfunded in late 2023. You can now pre-order it here, or if you’d like to know more, read on!

A Storytelling Card Game Of Eldritch Horror

Lovecraftesque is a storytelling card game of creeping cosmic horror, emulating the tone and pace of eldritch horror stories. The game will guide you to create the story of a lone individual who stumbles upon clues to a terrible evil. It creates slow-building, brooding horror that the main character at first dismisses, until all too suddenly it becomes impossible to deny. The ending will certainly be bleak, and the main character is likely to meet their doom.

A mock up of the cards used to play the game
Brand new cards help streamline gameplay and inspire your group

Lovecraftesque is an emergent mystery game, which crafts a story out of clues that you take turns to create. The game includes hundreds of creative prompts to help you generate your story and guide the main character towards a confrontation with cosmic evil. You take turns to drip weird events into the story, building up your mystery one clue at a time.  Each player creates a secret theory about the horror and the truth about the horror emerges from those theories. By the end you’ll reach a chilling climax that none of you could have predicted at the start.

Lovecraftesque is easy to learn and teach, simple and intuitive to play, with hundreds of prompts to fire your imagination. It can be played with 1-5 players in around 2 hours.

Lovecraftesque is created by Josh Fox and Becky Annison of Black Armada Games, the award-winning publishers who brought you Wreck This Deck, Last Fleet, Flotsam: Adrift Amongst The Stars and Bite Marks.

A mock up of the Lovecraftesque core box
A New Edition

We created the first edition of Lovecraftesque back in 2015. It was our first game design project and we were delighted with its success. It’s received critical acclaim, won awards and gained thousands of fans around the world. But we were new to publishing then, and the costs and risks meant we were unable to realise our full vision for the game. In this new edition we’ve created the game we always wanted to.

The second edition is fully card-driven. It gives your group more support for their creativity through prompt cards that help you get your story set up and populate it with interesting clues, characters and locations. The story will seem to write itself.

There are also brand new card-based scenarios to get your story off to a flying start. Check out the scenarios list to see the incredible range of fresh exciting settings for eldritch horror, written by a diverse slate of talent from across the industry. Like the rest of the game, these are written on cards, meaning you can easily mix and match to make up your own weird tales.

With the new card-driven approach the game is even easier to learn, teach and play. The rules and structure of the game are written into the cards and your progress is tracked on the board, so you always know what you’re meant to be doing. As always we include teaching text to make it easy for you to learn and teach the game at the table, and tools to avoid the stereotypes of Lovecraft’s own work.

We are also commissioning new art by Vincent Sammy and Paul Tomes to make the game look cooler than ever before.

Lovecraftesque second edition will be available as a boxed set with the rules and all the cards you need, and as a virtual tabletop for online play.

Lovecraftesque is crowdfunding from 10 October to 9 November 2023. Pre-order now and become one of the first to back the project!

Lovecraftesque second edition has brand new scenarios!

We are just 24 hours off the launch of our crowdfunding campaign for Lovecraftesque second edition. If you are excited for the new edition you should follow the campaign now so you can back as soon as the campaign goes live!

As part of the new edition, we have commissioned a ton of new writers to create brand new scenarios for the game, as well as writing a bunch ourselves and updating a few of the scenarios from the first edition. They really are incredibly diverse – not just the writers themselves, but the fresh and exciting settings that they have brought to eldritch horror. I don’t think you’ll find a more unique and original set of cosmic horror scenarios anywhere (though the first edition of Lovecraftesque gives it a run for its money!)

The new scenarios come on cards, just like the rest of the game’s creative prompts, and provide pre-generated characters, locations and clues that you can use to create a story with a distinct flavour. These aren’t pre-plotted adventures, but rich ingredients that you deploy at the table to create your own eldritch mystery. Whenever you use them, they’re mixed in with some standard cards from the core game. As a result, every play through is different, and every scenario is infinitely replayable.

More than that, you can recombine the cards in the scenarios with each other and with those in the core deck to create scenarios of your own. With about 240 cards across the scenarios, it is an awesome bank of cosmic horror ideas and prompts.

Here is the full list of scenarios.

  • A Place In The Country by Lynne Hardy. The Norton Hotel Consortium plans to turn Rowan Hall into a luxury hotel and spa. But what mysteries lurk within the dilapidated hall and gardens? And why is its current owner so desperate to sell? 
  • A Witch’s Love by Michele Gelli. Caterina Sforza (1460~1509), ruler of Imola and Countess of Forlì, political leader and alchemist, was a tough cookie. She held hostage the Vatican’s conclave and she’s said to be a witch who had a well to dispose of bodies of “discarded” lovers. Can Caterina’s presence cross space and time? Can her love change the destiny of a team of archaeologists that are investigating her old castle?
  • Atlantis Swallowed by Becky Annison. Thousands of years ago and the sea levels are lapping at the heels of Atlantis. With greater technological prowess than anything a modern civilization has seen, they are confident they can hold back the waters. But a deeper rot has seeped in through the cracks.
  • Blow Ye Winds by Sasha Sienna and Jonathan Sims. In 1831, the British port of Peterhead processed the butchered blubber of over a thousand whales a year, hunted and killed off the coast of Greenland. Dr Andrew Campbell has left his landlocked life behind to serve as surgeon on the whaling vessel Sanguine, but his first voyage will not be an easy one as a strangeness begins to affect the ship.
  • Echoes of Vulcan by Darla Burrow. It is strange days in Pompeii. Phantoms walk the streets, doors open to tunnels where once they opened to courtyards, and birds fall dead from the sky. Something awful is coming, but what is it and how does it connect to the mysterious Cult of Mithras?
  • Ex Nihilo by Joshua Fox. A spaceship is sent to explore the last frontier of science by entering the black hole V616 Monocerotis “Mon”. The journey into the singularity is even more terrifying than expected.
  • Mr Giggles Comes To Dinner by Misha Bushyager. Your kid won’t shut up about their ‘imaginary friend’s’ exploits. So far, so normal, until you start experiencing them too.
  • Nothingness has a thousand endings by Bryan Thao Worra. In this scenario, the witness takes a step into the 1990s Southeast Asian refugee community in a working class neighborhood in the US to resolve a mysterious debt of uncertain consequences.
  • On Ilkla Moor Bah’tat by Becky Annison. Ilkley Moor is a dark and foreboding place for a young world war II evacuee miles from the city she called home. What lurks in the soothing waters of the suspicious Hydro Hotel and are the locals friendly or ready to offer her up on a plate?
  • The Chicxulub Horrors by Santiago Villa. In the coast of Yucatán where an ancient meteorite has created a gargantuan underground crater that is now a web of tunnels, a man disappears. During the art boom of the 1930’s in Mexico, painter and muralist Hervé Pelletier has gone missing and his wife, Amaranta Vera, has arrived at Chicxulub Puerto, a town nestled over the crater’s dead center, to look for him.
  • The Hidden Cabinet by Helen Gould. A scenario about whispered rumours, duplicitous politicians, and what really happens in the corridors of power. What will you find behind these closed doors?
  • The Sea Hungers by Thomas Manuel. It’s Bombay in 1728. As the East India Company recovers from a ferocious defeat at the hands of legendary pirate admiral Kanhoji Angre, a naive, young marine discovers a sinister plot involving sacrifice and spirals of blood.  
  • We serve and protect by Kenneth Hite. A long hot summer of protests rocks the streets of Chicago in the 1970s, and you rock with them. Until the cops pen you in, snatch you up, and take you to the precinct house, where worse things than rubber hoses wait in the basement. The Chicago Police Department serves and protects… but what inhuman entity do the cops who have you serve? What dark secrets do they protect?
  • Wolfshead by Joshua Fox. Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, in the 13th century. A hapless cutpurse robs the wrong person and finds themselves in possession of a strange item. Now they have the Baron’s men hunting for them – but that may not be the worst thing that stalks the night.
  • The Copycat Canal Murders by Becky Annison. Ritual murders spanning a century are investigated again in the age of DNA profiling and AI. Will the truth of the horrifying secrets on the foggy banks of the canal finally be revealed?
  • The Outer Gods by Nick Bate. The year is 23XX. Humanity has colonised the Solar System aboard reality-rending liveships, warding themselves against unearthly things hiding in the dark through ritual and prayer. Monette is one such liveship, a salvager investigating the sudden reappearance of a lost generation ship. What will they find aboard the deadship Yog-Sothoth?
  • The Siren’s Caw by W.H. Arthur. Every summer, visitors from London and beyond are drawn to the seaside resort of Brighton. Are they called here by the eldritch forces from beneath the waves, or is there something even more sinister from across time and space?
  • Through The Waters, Darkly by Josh Fox. A research and exploration base has been set up at the bottom of the deepest place on Earth: the Mariana Trench. The small team of scientists are isolated in the cold depths as they explore the last frontier of our planet. Isolated, yes: but not alone.

Lovecraftesque second edition launches on Backerkit crowdfunding tomorrow – Tuesday 10 October, at 11am ET / 4pm BST. Follow the campaign and be one of the first to back the new edition.

Lovecraftesque 2e has hidden UV art!

We’re ONE WEEK away from the launch of the Lovecraftesque 2e crowdfunding campaign and, to celebrate, I want to share with you a very exciting part of Lovecraftesque 2e which is *hidden UV art*. The new edition will come with a UV torch, and when you shine it on the box, board and rulebook you’ll see extra detail that was invisible before.

The cover of Lovecraftesque shows a lone figure investigating some weird-looking cocoons while a skull-like monster lurks behind them.

When you turn the torch on, extra detail is revealed: tentacles, egg sacs and a summoning circle centred on the figure.
A mock-up of what the UV cover will look like

We first saw this approach in the Italian edition of Lovecraftesque 1e by Narrattiva, and we’re stealing it wholesale. Every illustration will contain hidden details and the text itself will be splattered with sigils, blood stains and tentacles. Check out the Italian edition cover below – you’ll be seeing something very similar on the new edition’s rulebook.

The Italian edition of Lovecraftesque 1e

The art for this game is going to be SO GOOD. You’ve seen the awesome cover by our lead illustrator Vincent Sammy, who also illustrated Bite Marks. There’s more where that came from. Check out this gorgeously creepy illustration for the game’s board, also by Vincent Sammy – shown here with its UV art.

The board for Lovecraftesque 2e.

And we also have Paul Tomes creating interior illustrations for the book. We’ve long admired Paul’s style and we’re really excited to have him on board. Take a look at this terrific piece showing horror about to unfold in a mine. Again, there will be UV on this one, but you’ll have to wait to see that.

A cross section of a mine, with tiny figures dressed in high-vis. Lurking behind the rock face are enormous tentacles about to break through.
One of Paul Tomes’ illustrations for Lovecraftesque 2e

As always, commissioning art for games is my favourite bit about being a small press publisher. It’s always delightful to see our weird ideas turned into something gorgeous, and to support artists while doing it.

The campaign for Lovecraftesque 2e is here.

Lovecraftesque 2e: what’s new

We are just TWO WEEKS from our crowdfunding of Lovecraftesque second edition (you can sign up to be notified when the campaign launches here). There are a ton of exciting things to share about the new game and I’ll be announcing them day by day.

But let’s start really basic: what is new in the game’s core design?

It’s still a GMless storytelling game where you share control of one main character, and also share the job of creating the clues that drive the mystery. It’s still about slow-building mystery culminating in worldview-shattering horror and a bleak ending for the main character.

But the game now comes with a plethora of prompts to help you create the characters, locations and clues.

You get a dedicated deck of Location Cards with prompts to generate the places where the horror unfolds, and a deck of Character Cards with prompts to create NPCs your main character might encounter. The two of these together help you rapidly generate the setting for your game; perhaps you’ll be presented with a Holy Place, a Remote Location and a Natural Feature and immediately think to yourself “that sounds like a monastery in the mountains”. Once you’ve decided your basic setting, the cards enable you to create a bunch of ready-to-go story elements that you can grab and quickly turn into a scene.

Then there’s the Mystery Deck, which is the engine that drives the unfolding mystery. The Mystery Deck contains Clue Cards with a theme for a Clue. Themes like technology, strange writings, weird construction, and rites & customs. With each card, you can straight away imagine the sorts of eldritch weirdness you might create. But to make it even easier, the cards contain a handful of prompts that you can quickly flesh out to turn into a Clue.

The Mystery Deck also contains Special Cards, just like the ones in the first edition of the game, that allow you to break the rules. These shake up the story so that just occasionally the main character will get killed midway through the story, and pick up a new character; or, even more surprising, they might actually defeat the horror at the end.

The game also comes with scenarios, just like the first edition, written by a diverse international slate of authors and covering fresh and varied venues for cosmic horror. What’s new is, the scenarios are written on cards. This makes it simple to set up the characters and locations where everyone can see them, and dish out the clues to the group. Further, you can recombine the scenario cards with cards from other scenarios and those from the main deck to create your own scenarios, and for infinite replayability.

The scenarios aren’t stretch goals: we’re funding them as part of our main goal. There will be a set included in the main game, and more available as expansion packs. We’ll be announcing details in the coming days.

Alongside those you have the Story Track and Story Cards, which guide you through the game. They serve a similar role to the teaching guide in 1e, walking you through each part of the game so you always know what to do next. This is a bit like the way games like For The Queen present each new step of the game on cards, making it simple to follow the structure of the game.

We haven’t got rid of the teaching guide, by the way – we know this was a favourite feature of the first edition. What we have done though is integrate it into the rulebook so that the whole text is now presented as a read-out-loud guide.

Finally you have Rule Cards which describe the key rules of the game – things like the creeping horror rule which limit how extreme the clues can be. These serve as a handy reference but also help to highlight when the rules change mid-game – it’s very satisfying to discard the rules that have been limiting the horror and know that the leash is off!

All this makes for a hugely improved experience: better creative support, slicker, easier to learn rules, and a more accessible game. I’ve successfully taught and played a full session of Lovecraftesque in 90 minutes and the group was BUZZING with how much fun they had and how easy it was to pick up.

I’ll be back with more over the next two weeks. In the mean time, if you haven’t already, you should get yourself signed up to be notified when the project launches. Don’t miss it!

Our experience with Backerkit advertising

We’ve been running TTRPG crowdfunding campaigns for almost a decade and we like to think we’re quite good at it. We’ve been gradually and organically growing our audience, but it gets harder and harder to connect with people as the TTRPG world fractures into zillions of little communities. We had dipped our toe in the water of advertising previously, but never had much success with it and viewed it as a waste of money. Enter Backerkit advertising – a service that proved very effective for us. In this article I’ll break down the experience and the outcomes we saw.

The TL;DR here is that we got a lot more money, both before and after taking out the cost of the ads. Wreck This Deck looks likely to have been unusually successful for a TTRPG zine even without the ads, but there’s clear evidence that the ads increased that.

I’m not affiliated with Backerkit, I’m not getting anything from them for doing it, I’m just sharing this because I think it might be helpful for fellow creators.

Backerkit’s advertising pitch is, they buy advertising on your behalf (mostly Facebook/Instagram ads) and improve the targeting using their presumably very impressive storehouse of data from all the millions of crowdfunding campaigns they’ve been involved with. You tell them a target return you want on your ads, and they then increase or decrease spend depending on how well they’re meeting that target. They charge you a commission on any resulting pledges. You don’t pay for anything until the campaign closes and you’ve received your pledge money.

By the way, this is in-campaign advertising. Backerkit (and others, probably) do pre-campaign advertising to build up followers on your launch page. We haven’t tried that, and it isn’t covered here.

We weren’t sure if this service was likely to work for us, but – spoiler alert – it absolutely did. We saw at least a 50% increase in our backers compared to our most optimistic expectations, and there’s very clear evidence to show that this was generated by the ads, as I’ll explain below.

Before going any further, let’s talk about the ick factor. If you’re like me, you probably don’t like the idea of advertising. It’s horrible, intrusive stuff that feels sort of spammy and slightly dirty. You just want to be left alone to enjoy the internet without this stuff, and you don’t want to be a part of it. You maybe feel like your product should be so good that it doesn’t need advertising.  There was a definite emotional barrier we had to push through to get started with this. But the truth is, well-targeted adverts for a quality product are a way of finding people who want something and helping them to find out about it. They’re gonna see some ads anyway, so it might as well be for a cool new game. Provided the things you promise in your pitch are accurate, and your game is good, you’re not hurting anyone by using it.

What we did

We were pretty wary of pouring a ton of money into something for no return. The Backerkit model – tell us a target return on your ad and we’ll spend like crazy as long as you’re meeting it – was kind of terrifying to us. We set up advertising early on in our campaign, saw some fairly middling results, and told them to switch the ads off.

Later on in the campaign, for no reason I can articulate, we decided to give them another go. We switched them on again, at a low level of spend, and saw an immediate increase in pledges. Bumping the spend up a bit, we saw even better results.

Throughout the periods where we were advertising, we set a target return on advertising spend (ROAS) of 3 – meaning the aim is for each £1 spent on adverts to yield £3 or more of pledges. This is the amount we’d worked out, after costs, should ensure we made extra money rather than a loss. Although the ROAS jumped around a lot over the course of the campaign, the final ROAS was 3.04.

The results

The graph below tracks our pledges each day of the campaign for Wreck This Deck.

The blue bit of the chart is pledges that Backerkit identify as not being ad driven. Orange is pledges that Backerkit identify as being ad driven. The tiny almost-invisible grey bit is pledges Backerkit identify as being driven by their newsletter.

You might ask: why should we trust Backerkit’s assessment of whether a pledge was ad-driven? They get a commission on the ad-driven pledges so it’s in their interests to round those up isn’t it? That is indeed an anxiety that we had. But in a way, the fact that we had a gap in the middle where we weren’t using ads was incredibly helpful, in that it clearly demonstrated that the ads were working. You can easily see the point that we turned the ads back on in the graph below, even without the big red arrows, and you could probably guess how much revenue was ad-driven even without the colour-coding.

Graph showing pledges each day for Wreck This Deck. On day 20 we restarted our ad spend and there's an immediate large increase in pledges, through to the end of the campaign on day 29.

The first few days of a crowdfunding campaign always see lots of pledges as existing fans and highly enthusiastic backers jump in. After day 3 or so, things naturally quieten down, and you see a trickle of pledges from folk who have only just heard about the campaign. During this mid-campaign period – days 4-20 on the graph – we saw about £200 of new pledges per day. Once we turned the advertising on this leapt up by a factor of 4, even excluding the last few days when, again, you always see a big increase in pledges.

Interestingly even the organic pledges increased by about 75% during the period we were advertising. Presumably some people were seeing the ads and then pledging on a different device or similar, hiding them from Backerkit’s tracking algorithm.

It’s a lot harder to feel confident about the impact of the ads during the last few days, because you’d expect a big spike anyway. Look at any successful crowdfunding campaign, there’s always a rush of pledges at the end. But it is possible to estimate the effect of advertising here. I looked at our previous campaigns and a few carefully-chosen third-party campaigns that I deemed to be similar to Wreck This Deck. The difference is fairly obvious.

Table showing the percentage share of revenue taken in the last 3 days of various crowdfunding campaigns. The figure ranges from 16-29%, except for Wreck This Deck where 66% of revenue came in the last 3 days.

We also asked our backers in the post-campaign survey whether they’d seen ads. Obviously the data here is subject to the caveat that people might not remember correctly, or might have thought something was an ad when it wasn’t, and so forth. With that said:

  • 35.2% said they didn’t see any ads
  • 13.2% said they saw an ad after they’d already backed
  • 5.7% said they saw an ad after they’d already heard about the campaign
  • 9.5% said they saw an ad but probably would have heard about the campaign anyway
  • 32.9% said they came to the campaign because they’d seen an ad

Backerkit’s marketing stats claim that 57% of our pledges came from advertising. That matches reasonably well to the 61% above who said they’d seen an ad, though just under half of these had already heard of the campaign or think they would have done so anyway.

Did it pay off?

The above analysis seems to pretty clearly indicate that we raised a large amount of revenue from advertising. But of course, that’s before costs.

Based on Backerkit’s own analysis, the fees we paid them for the advertising – covering the cost of the ads themselves and Backerkit’s commission – added up to 39.8% of what the pledges that they identified as being ad-generated. So we got to keep 60.2% of what we raised.

Once you take out our own costs, that number comes down, but because we’d already paid off a lot of our costs (art etc) from organic pledges alone, it still leaves a decent % of money left over for paying ourselves for the work on the project.

The possible fly in the ointment here is what I term “wasted ad spend”. This is essentially my attempt to work out how many ad-driven pledges would have happened anyway, and are therefore wasted money. This is really really hard to know.

The survey data above suggest that only about half of our advertising driven pledges were people who hadn’t already pledged, hadn’t yet heard of the campaign and wouldn’t have likely done so anyway. If all that is counted as “wasted ad spend” then we came in very close to break-even – probably making a small amount of extra money, but just possibly making a small loss once all costs have been counted.

However, if you’d heard about the campaign before but not backed, maybe the ad was what tipped the balance, reminding you about this cool game and getting you to pledge. Only those who already backed can be considered definitely as “wasted ad spend”. If you only count these as waste, that’s only a 21.5% rate of wasted ad spend. That might seem over-optimistic, but if you compare what we made in the late stages of the campaign with what we would have expected, based on comparison with other campaigns, you’d guess that only about 19% of the ad-driven pledges were “wasted ad spend”. At any rate, at a 21.5% rate of wasted spend, the ads would have driven a healthy amount of extra money – meaning we would have kept about 23.5% of the ad-driven revenue after costs.

So we can’t ever really know how effective the ads were taking into account wasted spend. Indeed, there are other unknowns: could it be that the ad-driven folks would eventually have bought the game after the campaign closed? Might we be robbing our future selves? Conversely, might ad-driven backers have reshared the campaign a generated more organic sales from people who would never have heard of it otherwise? It’s all pretty hard to estimate.

What we do know is that this was our most successful campaign, in terms of number of backers, ever. Even though it was a small zine project, it was the most revenue we’ve ever raised from a crowdfunding campaign. And even if we can’t quite prove it, the overall trend in the data suggests that the advertising was well worth it for us.

A small further addendum to the above is that obviously a % of our ad-driven backers will come back and support future projects. We can’t know what this is worth to us, but in the scenario where we actually had very high wasted ad spend, and made a small loss overall, this would be the silver lining to the cloud.

What about you?

Before closing out, I want to pile in some caveats to the above.

First off, this was just one example. Wreck This Deck appears to already have been fairly unusual as zine projects go, with nearly 600 backers before the ads kicked in. It had low overheads, and indeed once you’ve got 600 backers the extra cost of delivering additional copies of the game is very low. This makes it easier for ads to be cost-effective. This might not be a representative example.

Second, we’re a relatively mature gaming company. We’re still absolutely tiny in the scheme of things, but we knew we could afford to take some risks with a relatively small project and if we made a loss then it wouldn’t destroy us. It’s wonderful that Backerkit don’t charge you until after the campaign, but they do charge you, and the bill can be quite high. You have to decide your own appetite for risk.

Third, your costs are an absolutely vital part of the calculation here. Not just the cost of the ads, but the cost of providing your product to all those extra people, including shipping and all the other horrible costs that notoriously turn out to be higher than you expected. We made a spreadsheet to add all these costs up, and work out how high a % return on advertising spend we’d need to turn a profit. We looked at nightmare scenarios where that % turned out to be too low, and how much that would cost us. I strongly recommend you do that too, if you’re thinking about using ads.

Fourth, advertising can be a bit anxiety-inducing. You get real-time data about advertising spend, including how effective it’s been today, and sometimes the numbers can be quite alarming. Returns on spend zigzag around. If you’re in the UK like us, it’s doubly alarming as you can’t communicate with West Cost US-based Backerkit until they get to work in your late afternoon. This goes back to your risk appetite – are you comfortable watching your money being spent, and sometimes feeling unsure if it’s worth it?

Obviously I wouldn’t think to tell anyone “go and spend a pile of money on ads” – that has to be your decision, based on your particular circumstances. All I can say is: it worked well for us, and we will likely be doing more of it.

August game – Ghost Hunt Live!

Ghost Hunt was our August release. It has now been taken down but it will be released soon on our Itch store.

Hey folks!

August’s game is Ghost Hunt Live! – a hack of Lovecraftesque where you play TV ghosthunters.

You are a fearless and seasoned team of TV ghosthunters. A blend of investigators, psychics, parapsychologists, camera crew, sceptics, a cool presenter and maybe even the occasional exorcist. This is a haunted location and it doesn’t know what is about to hit it!

Ghost Hunt Live! is a game about a TV show hunting for ghosts and finding the stories of the people they once were. You will play one main character, The Psychic, and rotate this and other roles around the play group until the full story of the haunting is revealed.

It’s a super fun game and we hope you enjoy it.

While we’re on the subject (kind of) of Lovecraftesque, you might be interested to know that we are not far off launching the crowdfunding campaign for the second edition of the game. The new edition takes everything that was good about the first and improves it, providing a slicker, more inspiring and even more accessible experience. You can sign up to be notified when the campaign launches here:

https://www.backerkit.com/call_to_action/7d5c14b9-1a73-4aa3-bd55-ad7c3afc43fe/landing?ref=patreon

Cheers

Josh and Becky