Hey! I'm Dan, the creator of Raptor Island and www.boardgamegoose.com.
Raptor Island is a 54-card competitive game with a strong dinosaur theme. It comes in a nice little tuck box, is perfect for families and kids, and is made fully in my home country, the UK. Board Game Goose is a platform I set up to allow people to shop for my own publications and other fantastic games that inspire me everyday.
March 2020, I remember the first time we heard the words "corona virus" on the radio. I was at work in our London office and my boss made the decision very early on that we could work from home if needed. We did the right thing and would be homebound by the following day. My partner was very jealous at the thought that I would get to work from home for what I thought at the time would be about three weeks and she would still have to go in. It actually turned out that I was working from home for one and a half years! This led to me having a little more time than I normally would to create something I always wanted to make, a board game.
The first ideas for Raptor Island came from a time when me and my housemates would be playing lots and lots of Exploding Kittens during the lockdown in March. I love the subtle "push-your-luck" mechanics in Exploding Kittens and I thought it would be cool to have something similar in a game with a dinosaur theme.
The main mechanic of Raptor Island includes four raptors in the deck. As players draw from the deck, it gets smaller and the chances of revealing a raptor increase. What makes Raptor Island different from Exploding Kittens is that the raptors can pass from player to player and back to the deck. The game is also goal-oriented rather than a situation where the last survivor wins.
Half-Baked on a Budget
As the mechanics of Raptor Island got more and more refined, I was driven to make this project into a real product that people could one day buy. I didn't have much budget abut crowdfunding was available, so I set up a Kickstarter.
The advice I was given was that gone are the days of Kickstarter's original flow where creatives could crowdfund with just a solid idea. You might notice most of the games you see on Kickstarter are actually finished and really what the creatives want are pre-orders before a full production run. I started my Kickstarter with the romantic idea that the old days aren't dead and people would come if the concept was strong enough. I went in with about five art assets, which were done on mates' rates from the fantastic artist Allan Palmer (www.artstation.com/allanpalmer).
I was right! As long as your goals are realistic and people believe in your idea, it can be done. Thanks to all the backers that made Raptor Island happen and believed in someone with a half-baked project who was completely new to board game development.
Keep It Simple, Stupid
I have a background in programming that ranges from computer game development to website development. There is a universal phrase we say across these disciplines and that is: "Keep it simple, stupid". Another translation for this would be: "Stop overcomplicating it you stupid twit". So, for my first project, I knew that I wouldn't be making the next War of the Ring but rather a small, well-executed card game that would be easy for everyone in the family to understand.
I kept the budget goals achievable for my first project, just £3,000. Most of this money was to finish off the artwork and actually pay Allan what he deserved for his awesome dinos! The goal for this Kickstarter was not to make money. It was to get a project finished so that I could buy stock post Kickstarter and generate income for the next project. In the end I raised £5,623, which all went into the production of the game.
A small portion of that money went into the crowdfunding management tool called BackerKit (www.backerkit.com) . It allows you to monitor all your backers and send them surveys to find out things like what t-shirt size they want. It also allows you to charge for shipping. I have nothing but great things to say about the service! They were great from the offset helping with set up and I couldn't have managed the project without their online tools.
In the theme of keeping it simple....stupid, I only had two add-ons for my game. A playmat and a t-shirt. This kept my campaign really simple and clean, and the add-ons did really well. My one take away from this would be to limit offering random add-ons to your project just for the sake of a quick buck, like a keyring. Try to think of add-ons that will actually enhance the game like a playmat. UK-based Patriot Games (https://custompatriot.uk) are some of the best quality mats I've seen and they are quite affordable. Backers purchased twice the number of playmats as the t-shirts on offer.
Just before running the crowdfunding campaign, I spent many months gathering a mailing list so that when the campaign launched people would be there from day one to support the project. There were two ways I did this: shamelessly spamming people on Instagram, and game conventions.
If you go to the Instagram for @BoardGameGoose (previously @RaptorIsland) you can see first-hand evidence of my shotgun approach to social media that no doubt played a key part in getting this project funded. You'll notice that I am following way more accounts than are following me. This is due to spending hours at a time on my phone adding people. They are mutual followers of people who are followed by lots of people in the board game social media scene, so they are relevant contacts. Then every person who followed me back, and showed an indication they were interested, I would send a personal message asking them to check out my Kickstarter pre-launch page where they can sign up to be notified of the launch.
This may seem shameless and a bit "icky" at first, but remember that you're selling a product. At the end of the day, you have to get out there and tell people about it, they will not magically come to you. Luckily, the board game scene on social media is full of amazingly kind people who will actually read the message and they will dedicate a small amount of time to check out your game.
The second method is to get a stall at a big convention like UK Games Expo (www.ukgamesexpo.co.uk) and meet people, tell them about your game and show them how passionate you are. Ask them kindly for an email and most will take the time to give you their contact. Don't ever spam them or that email will turn into a 'dead contact' when they chuck you in the junk folder.
The first time I went to UK Games Expo was the first event after Covid. The foot traffic was a little less than I'm told previous years were but it was still great for meeting contacts. At UK Games Expo I met the team from ShipQuest (www.shipquest.co.uk). This is a company that will handle your fulfilment (shipping to backers).
Back when I was running my campaign the logistics industry was in disarray due to Brexit and Covid so the team over there were really great in helping me in the process. They offered expert knowledge in shipping but also general Kickstarter advice, and I would fully recommend them for that. This is a team who have been doing this a long time and have shipped quite a few products.
Cost for ShipQuest actually works out very similar to what you will spend to ship items to backers yourself. These guys can do it cheaper than you can, but they take their own profits out of each package you need shipping. The main benefit here is that you don't have to spend time and money on shipping materials and order packing. I would say for a smaller game like Raptor Island, if you are shipping a few copies to the US from the UK, you're probably better off doing those through Royal Mail yourself.
One for Old Blighty
ShipQuest convinced me to think about manufacturing in my local country, the UK. This is due to the shipping from China to the UK once manufactured being expensive. They introduced me to a team at UK Games Expo called Top Deck Games (www.top-deck.co.uk) who are a UK-based card game manufacturer with buckets of experience. They have been fantastic all the way through the process! The price per unit isn't much cheaper than China quoted me for when you're at a smaller scale of 250 to 500 units and the quality is much better.
Languages are tough!
My one last piece of advice for a small game for someone inexperienced is don't offer multiple languages. Everyone was advising that I MUST do a German, Spanish and French version for Raptor Island. There were only about 35/250 backers for copies of the game in these languages. The effort that goes into these translations from the native speakers you might drag into the project is way higher than I expected, hundreds of hours. Thank you to the international community for all of your hard work on this, but alas, for a project of Raptor Island's scale it just wasn't worth it.
Thanks for reading my journey with Raptor Island and I hope this helps out anyone looking into using crowdfunding for their first project, come check out www.boardgamegoose.com and pick up a copy for yourself!