2020 has been an expensive year of crowd funding, kicking off with a Batman all in pledge and ending with the epicness that is ISS Vanguard. With massive nationwide lockdowns dividing my game group I have turned to Kickstarter for my gaming fix, pre-ordering plastic paradise by the bucket load. So here are my top 10 kickstarters I'm looking forward to receiving in 2021-2022...
10. Freedom Five - A Sentinel Comics Board Game
As will quickly become apparent in this list I back a lot of miniature games, however with Freedom Five that’s all that actually kept me in my pledge. I LOVE Sentinels and I’d really like to get my brushes on these very characterful minis but after a disappointing and fiddly playthrough of the game on Tabletop Simulator I was very tempted to let my pledge go.
Freedom Five combines the Sentinel comics universe with the tried and tested mechanics of Defenders of the Realm (& Defenders of the Last Stand.) It also combines the design talents of Richard Lanius with those of the Sadler Brothers. In the game you take on the role of one the Freedom Five as you fight to defend the city from an evil mastermind and his band of henchmen. Asymmetric decks mean each hero plays differently and brings a lot to the team. As well as a deck of powerful abilities, each hero also has unique stats providing them with strengths and weaknesses. In our two player playthrough however we found ourselves struggling to cover enough of the board and failing to counteract each others weaknesses.
In the end, the promise of the game, combined with the deluxified nature of the components meant I kept my toes in the water but this is certainly one I’m on the fence about keeping after it arrives.
9. Roll Camera
Roll Camera has a theme that I love. Designed by someone who actually worked in the film industry, Roll Camera has some great in-jokes that speak to me as a member of the performing arts community. Things like building the set from toilet roll tubes to save money or the ability of gaffer tape to solve all problems. Along with the industry jokes comes a great art style and a theme I can get behind, that of making a movie.
In Roll Camera up to four players work together to make the best (or worst) movie they can by using worker placement to build sets, solve problems and shoot scenes, all while trying to make sure the production doesn’t run out of money or time. Each round players roll dice to determine which workers they have and then assign those workers to tasks. As well as production related tasks, players can also hold production meetings where each player submits an idea from their hand simultaneously, the player who called the meeting can then immediately implement one of the submitted ideas and put a pin in another one to use later.
Over the course of the game the players shoot a variety of scenes, trying to adhere to their randomly assembled script cards to score quality points and at the end of the game the players must attempt to sew their scenes together into a convincing narrative that fits their script title.
Roll Camera is definitely a fun time, but I found the system a little too easy to game. The end score is based on the quality of the film but the “quality” meter can be manipulated almost at will especially if you have certain roles amongst your player powers. With the Set Designer or Director in play you can potentially ignore the end game scoring provided by the script cards and still make a cinematic masterpiece!
Hopefully the Production Company expansion will help to alleviate this problem and give you a goal beyond simply Quality.
8. CMON Comics Vol 1
I’m just here for the promos. I’ll read the comics, sure I will, but would I have bought them if they weren’t shipping with a bunch of promos? I doubt it. The CMON Comics kickstarter brought 3 new graphic novels to the market, each with 10 promos. For me I picked up the Invader and the Zombicide books and I did enjoy reading the chapter 1 previews they released, and the art is fantastic.
But I’m more looking forward to the new heroes and abominations! I do however like the fact that the Zombicide edition is shipping with both 1st and 2nd edition character cards meaning I can also give my friend 8 new characters he can use with 1st edition.
7. Zombicide 2nd Edition
Zombicide was always a series I wished I’d jumped in on back when it started but as time went by I was pushed further away as so much content was locked behind the exclusivity wall. So when CMON decided to reboot the franchise I owed it to myself to at least give it a look.
I ended up all in. Of course I did, I have zero self control against my FOMO as this list should be making perfectly evident. Initially I was just backing for the core game, that’s all I needed, I didn’t need the campaign system from Washington Z.C., I certainly didn't need an RPG… Sigh… I got them too. The thing I liked about the core game this time around was that the number of repeat sculpts was drastically down. In previous editions you might have 40 zombies in 4 sculpts with additional ones in the stretch goals meaning you would be painting the same sculpt time and time again. Here there are 4 of every sculpt and all the additional zombies were unique sculpts, this will make painting the set much more enjoyable.
As for the campaign I’ll definitely plan on getting it to the table, it sounds fun and offers something different we haven’t seen in Zombicide before. I only picked up the first campaign (see I have restraint) figuring I could also pick up the second one cheaper at retail down the line (not that much restraint then?).
The RPG is another question entirely. I haven’t played an RPG in years, but I do enjoy them and this one promised to be something simpler that perhaps I could get to the table. And with COVID and my group currently playing all our games online this could be one that I can see us actually playing at some point.
6. Batman The Animated Series Adventures
Batman is one I went back and forth on. This game is part of IDW Adventures line, which currently only has TMNT but they plan on adding more licences making it a fairly ambitious project. The cross compatibility between the games is a homebrewers dream allowing you to create match ups from your favourite IPs and battle it out across New York City or the Gotham City skyline.
In any of the "Adventures" games players take on the roles of heroes, each of which have their own set of custom dice. Each round you roll the dice to determine your actions and share dice with your neighbours giving them access to actions they need. Then either competitively or cooperatively the players fight through a scenario attempting to foil the machinations of the villain by fighting henchmen, saving bystanders, defusing bombs and ultimately saving the day. Batman adds plenty of new things to the Adventures line, including new heroes, villains and scenarios, but it also introduces new mechanics, such as the aforementioned rescuing bystanders and defusing bombs along with new card types like the one use Gadget cards.
The reality is though that I don’t have a massive nostalgia for the original animated series, in fact I went back and watched it while the Kickstarter was live and realized that I didn’t really remember many episodes at all. On top of that I’ll likely wind up playing this one co-op which based on my TMNT plays so far is definitely the subpar way to play this game.
The Adventures system comes originally from TMNT Shadows of the Past and it’s a great 1 vs. All system. The co-op system however is a bit of a mess quite frankly. The AI for example will stand in place blocking the spawn points when an intelligent player would move them to allow more minions to enter the battle. And this proclivity for inaction leads to very stagnant fights where players get bogged down in battles which can slowly become a dicefest of rolling and blocking and chipping tiny amounts of health off a villain until one side or the other is victorious.
At this point I have played the Batman campaign twice through on Tabletop Simulator, both times in Co-op, and I have come to the conclusion that the best way to play the game is in competitive mode, against an intelligent opponent. The problem is I will end up being the villain player, which means in a game about Batman I never get to be Batman! And that means I have to choose between a sub-optimal experience or getting to say… "I’m Batman!"
Still I’m going to have fun painting up the minis and I’m counting on the community to give us some great TMNT/Batman crossover content!
5. Marvel United
At the start of the year I don’t think there was a project I was more excited about than Marvel United. I’m a huge marvel fan and I love chibi style artwork. I have since cooled on the game with a dozen or so plays under my belt, via Tabletop Simulator. I like the game, I love how accessible it is, this is one I can bring to Game Night with no worries at all. It’s simple, it’s attractive and I’m going to have a blast painting the minis.
But it is a little too simple. I could have happily had another layer or two of complexity here. Marvel United uses a small deck of cards to represent each hero. On their twelve cards they have a mix of 3 different icons used for moving, fighting and solving problems. On their turn a player plays one card from their hand granting them the action or actions shown, along with the actions from the hero card played immediately before. Play continues this way as players rescue bystanders, defeat threats and eventually fight the big bad.
The problem with abstracting heroes into 3 basic actions is that they aren't really all that different from each other. Sure each hero has a different mix of actions but that still just leads to 4 main archetypes. Speeders, Problem Solvers, Fighters and All Rounders. All that’s left to differentiate the 70+ heroes in the game are the three cards that grant them a special ability and with some heroes that special ability is identical on all their special cards.
I am probably doing the game a little bit of a disservice there, those special powers do help to differentiate between the heroes, but you might not draw your special cards, you likely won't see every card in a single game because this game is really short. On average you might play four cards per game, maybe five or six, you certainly won't play them all.
During any particular game of Marvel United you might only be taking four turns, which would be fine, but honestly there are some turns in Marvel United where you just can’t do anything useful. You are limited by the cards and actions in your hand and you are at the mercy of the player immediately to your right and if you’re on the opposite side of the board to the action and holding no movement cards then you are going to play something to help the person on your left and wait for your next turn.
But… The game is short and it is fun most of the time and we’ve both won and lost. There have been epic moments where defeat looked almost inevitable but the cards fell in our favour and the day was won. And the minis are pretty, it’s a great family weight game with a popular theme, so I am excited to get it and to paint it and to play it.
4.Massive Darkness: Hellscape
When I got on the hype train for Massive Darkness 2 I boarded the non-stop service to bankrupt city. Not only did I end up going all in on a project where I promised myself I would “just get the base game” but I also started seeking out the old content to make use of the crossover kit that was shipping with MD2.
Massive Darkness is a co-operative Dungeon crawling game where players take on the roles of fantasy archetypes as they battle across a map defeating evil and completing objectives. Clearly influenced by Zombicide mechanisms the game takes the next step adding asymmetric character classes, unique enemy types and a new campaign system so you can take your characters all the way up to level 10!
When CMON first announced MD2, I distinctly remember thinking “pass”, then they previewed the minis and initially I thought “hard pass” and then I played the Tabletop Simulator demo and started looking more at the asymmetric classes and then Rainbow Crossing happened.
Rainbow Crossing was a mini expansion that featured cute unicorns, cherubs and a massive Care Bear… For some this was a turn off but for me it was an overload of cuteness. I took a second look at the minis and slowly I talked myself into an all in pledge, probably with some extras on top for frosting.
Since the Campaign ended I’ve been painting some of the original Massive Darkness and I love those minis so I’m amped to get the new ruleset and I’ll already have tons of painted content so I can hit the ground running when this one arrives!
3. Dinosaur 1944
I own hundreds of games at this point but I don’t own any Tower Defence games at all, which I find strange as that’s actually a genre of video games I really enjoy. Dinosaur 1944 will not only be my first Tower Defence game but also my first Peterson Games game.
The concept here is that Dinosaurs are somehow attacking soldiers fighting in Japan in 1944. I don’t remember the exact backstory but basically it’s toy soldiers versus plastic dinosaurs and what 10 year old boy hasn’t lived out that fantasy a thousand times in their bedrooms!
Each player controls a soldier, which can be upgraded and kitted out with cool weapons as they lay ambushed for the attacking Dinos. Wave after wave of attackers will fall upon the beleaguered soldiers until a boss dino arrives to reek even more havoc. Many people have described this as an Orcs Must Die 2.0 and having not played that game, it may be so, but thematically this one has me excited and even if it can’t deliver I’m still going to have fun painting those dinos.
2. Dice Throne Season 1, 2 & Dice Throne Adventures
All in baby! Dice Throne looked excellent to me when I first saw a review of Season 1. Season 2 looked incredible! The only reason I didn’t buy it was I don’t really play head to head games these days. I used to play them a lot, but with the family we play co-ops, with my buddy Dave I play campaign games and with the Game Night crew we tend to stick to gateway style games.
But then I heard they were doing a co-op variant with a campaign… AND I’M ALL ABOARD THE HYPE TRAIN! Since backing Dice Throne I’ve gone DT crazy, I’ve watched everything I can get my hands on, multiple times, including the art livestreams with the endlessly wonderful, talented and humble, Manny Trembley.
Dice Throne is a head to head combat game that pits fighters against each other in a gladiatorial combat to the death. It’s a dice game where the players attempt to roll straights or combos to activate powers on their boards which can be upgraded and or modified using combat points. Each fighter brings new and different ways of playing making every matchup fun and interesting.
Dice Throne Adventures changes a fundamentally confrontational game into a co-operative experience where the players fight their way through a dungeon, combating automated AI opponents and exploring stunning fantasy vistas, until they reach a boss battle against the Mad King himself.
DTA is an experience that should not work. When someone says they are taking a 1 vs 1 game and making a co-op experience from it you should run the other way, but I have played this game now (on Tabletop Simulator) and it is awesome! To say I am excited about Dice Throne actually landing on my doorstep would be an understatement, this is one I am going to rip open with the fervor of a wolverine but sadly it is also one that I’m only going to get to devour alone, at least for a while, stupid pandemic!
1. ISS Vanguard
Call me cult of the new if you like but ISS Vanguard, which only launched this week is a game I’ve always wanted. It’s a game I’ve designed myself a hundred times as a kid as I tried to emulate the TV shows that shaped my adolescence. The concept of piloting a ship through deep space and visiting alien worlds and discovering their secrets speaks to my very soul as a gamer and this is one I want to play right now!
ISS Vanguard plays out in two phases, a ship phase where the players cooperatively upgrade the ship, assign crew members to tasks and decide where to explore next, all of which takes place in a custom ring binder filled with custom printed polypockets. And an exploration phase where each player takes control of a "section" be it security, science, engineering or recon and travels down to the planet to explore for signs of life. This is Star Trek the board game, but with a more gritty style.
ISS Vanguard probably cannot hope to live up to what I want it to be and maybe that will lead me to being disappointed when I finally get my hands on it. Certainly the playthroughs I’ve seen have felt more mechanical than I would have liked, less filled with a sense of wonder and discovery and more about dice rolls and symbol matching. The ship phase, while incredibly in-depth feels like it might get too repetitive or present too much choice as to be overwhelming.
And while ISS Vanguard has so much potential to disappoint me, it also has so much potential to be the perfect space exploration game for me too. Each of the playthroughs I’ve watched, and I believe I’ve watched them all, had some incredible cinematic moments and if that’s just a sampling of what is in store then I am in.
Honourable Mention - Devil Island
While I have largely written off any hope of actually receiving Super Dungeon Explore Legends I still really love the world of the game and look forward to finally getting to play it through the POD base set Devil Island. Devil Island is not actually a kickstarter but a print on demand edition of what the Kickstarter should have been. Many scoffed when Ninja Division announced this version, many demanded retribution for their lost pledges, I however want a copy of the game because I own a ton of content for SDE and I'd like to play it with my family and friends.
Many also claimed this to be yet another "scam" from the folks over at Ninja Division and while I truly hope it isn't (for so many reasons) it has unfortunately hit production delays and the timeline for the games release has stretched from originally 4 to 6 weeks to now 3 to 4 months.
Super Dungeon Explore - Devil Island is a 1 vs Many dungeon crawling experience in the world of Crystal. One player takes on the role of the Consul, controlling the monsters while the other players take on the roles of adorable chibi heroes fighting through an 8 bit video game world to reach the final boss and rescue the princess. Devil Island is set in the fiction region of Kagejima, home to many clans of ninjas, and along with new lands to explore it also adds a light "Legends" campaign to the mix giving the game a campaign system and supposedly a shorter playing time.
What games are you looking forward to getting your hands on in 2021?
Let me know in the comments down below.