Left for dead by shady underworld gangs? Not to worry…

Ever wanted to channel the spirit of cult films like Kill Bill and Old Boy? Now’s your chance, as Malta’s Kickstarter Kings do it again, self-financing their way to board game glory with ‘Vengeance’, a game in which players take on grizzled characters done wrong and out to get their just desserts. Teodor Reljic speaks to Gordon Calleja of Mighty Box, the start-up behind Vengeance, whose previous game Posthuman broke national crowdfunding records after it was unleashed last year

Gordan Calleja
Gordan Calleja

How would you describe Vengeance in a nutshell?

Vengeance is a board game adaptation of revenge movies. It’s fast paced and action oriented in the way few board games are. It’s for one to five players and runs over 30 minutes per player.

How would you say Vengeance differs from the last notable release from Mighty Box, Posthuman?

Both games aim to generate stories in the minds of the players, but the stories they do afford are different in both quality and structure. Posthuman generates a story that spans weeks. Vengeance’s time is more compressed. The game alternates between Montage turns – where time speeds up and you go through a number of actions that might span days quickly – and then it slows right down to minutes of intense action in Fight turns. That difference in how each game treats time is cardinal to everything that follows, design wise.

On a more obvious level, Vengeance is tighter as a system – more streamlined and focused, but has a more scripted arc. Posthuman needs more investment from players to internalise and –in my opinion – thoroughly enjoy. You need two or three play-throughs to really appreciate the strategic choices in it and have a sense of the arc. Vengeance is fun from the get-go. You get a lot of the first play-through and by the second most people have grasped the system strongly enough to figure out the intricacies of possible strategies and so on.

In summary, I’d say Posthuman is more of a narrative sandbox with some interesting new mechanics while Vengeance is a more action-packed light/medium (depending on your gaming level), exciting from the get-go affair.

Vengeance is a fast-paced board game inspired by revenge movies
Vengeance is a fast-paced board game inspired by revenge movies

The Kickstarter campaign for Vengeance ended just this week. Could you tell us a little bit of how it went? 

The Kickstarter campaign went well overall. It started off with a bang, raising $31K on the first day. On the second day and the following a deluge of board games hit Kickstarter, 52 in total, including some major titles, which had the effect of dampening our initial three day run. We reached our funding goal of $50K on the second day, but overall, given the momentum of the first day we could have been at a much higher mark by the third day had we not had so many new games launch in that crucial period. With game Kickstarters the first three days determine the rest of the campaign. If you don’t make it to three sites’ top ten live projects then, you’re going to struggle for the rest of the campaign. We were very visible on the first day and then lost visibility somewhat. 

The campaign then slowed down massively. While this is normal, the rate at which we were going for the sort of game we were making (one that’s very expensive to manufacture), was somewhat worrying. We decided to shift some things around mid-campaign, offer more to our backers and involve them in the design of some of the components we were giving out for free, given a specified amount would be reached (called stretch goals). 

That, along with the generosity of game designer colleagues that spread the word with the backers of their past campaigns, gave us a boost half way through the campaign. A big one. That got us over a very worrying mid-campaign slump, but then it slowed down a lot, at points grinding to a halt. 

Produced by Mighty Box, Vengeance can be played by one to five players
Produced by Mighty Box, Vengeance can be played by one to five players

Then all but one of the major board game media sites picked Vengeance up and covered it. This started a solid forward momentum that exploded into an all-out sprint at the end of the campaign. That resulted in an incredible $62K raised in the last three days. Needless to say, our jaws dropped. 

All in all, I have to say, I am personally moved at all the generosity, support and enthusiasm we got from backers throughout the campaign. They went out of their way to spread the word in various groups online, keep up the morale and give feedback throughout the campaign. Two of the backers became proud fathers during the journey and one of them was even posting while in hospital. That sort of sense of community makes the whole process – which is otherwise taxing – extremely rewarding.

Are you happy with the result, and are there things which, in hindsight, you would have done differently?

There are many things I would have done differently, but I’m only at liberty to divulge a few. The first was timing. Data on Kickstarter success rates and funds raised places July and August as the worst months to Kickstart, probably due to people being away from their machines during summer holidays. October sees the biggest board game fair in the world happening in Essen, Germany and people often save up and buy tons of games there. Then there’s the Christmas period which is an obvious no-go. So September seemed like the best month to launch. 

While that is theoretically right, it’s also theoretically right for all the projects that did not go to Kickstarter before July. Hence the glut of competition we faced. In hindsight it might have been better to ignore statistics and go sooner, or be patient and go later. The problem with this is the wide collaboration we had going with international partners as part of the creative process. Given their international standing and pipeline of projects, we could not dictate when the campaign would be run exactly as it had to fit everyone schedule.

According to Calleja, Vengeance is “more streamlined” than Mighty Box’s previous game, Posthuman
According to Calleja, Vengeance is “more streamlined” than Mighty Box’s previous game, Posthuman

The second thing I would have changed would be starting to reach out to press sites earlier and with more grit. As it is I had two major video reviewers doing previews of the game. That had worked really well for Posthuman. I had contacted some other boardgame sites but since the prototypes of the game are so expensive to make – about $175 a piece – I could not send prototypes out for review. What I should have done is made cheaper versions of the prototype without miniatures and in low quality, to send to sites doing written previews and kept the prototypes for the video reviewers like I had. 

There needed to be more of a buzz about the game before we actually launched. Instead the buzz was created during the campaign, which worked fine for Posthuman, but not as well for Vengeance. A major reason for this is the competition in the latter that was not as ardent in the case of the former, but also the more niche, artsy style of the latter. 

Overall I’m very happy with the final result, especially with the positive feedback we got from reviewers, media and backers themselves who tried out the game. A big thanks goes out to the team working on this who did a stellar job, both on the creative side, and on the logistical side of things. They are: Axel Torvenius, Slawek Kosciukiewicz, Fabrizio Cali, David Chircop, Adam Brimmer, Mark Casha, Marvin Zammit, Matthew Agius Muscat is Vaughn Reynolds, Ray Calleja, Tim Fowers,  Roman Lakomiak, Jeffrey Galea, Lisa Micallef Grimaud.

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