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My road towards Kickstarter: Lessons Learned


robert4818
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I really like the grey-speckle Styrofoam. It really does make a difference, I think, to make it more visually interesting and get away from the "cheap Styrofoam" look. Also, words words words...

 

I agree with pretty much all that Jordan Peacock said. When I first read your idea I was kind of hoping for a floor tile system w/out walls. Like the old HeroQuest boards but more substantial and with molded detail.

 

While I don't think MY vision and the creator's vision for this project are completely aligned, I'm still excited to see where he goes with this.

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To be honest, I wouldn't buy into this the way it exists right now. I need a lot more flexibility which means the biggest piece I want might be a room. I would really prefer to see something like the dwarven forge stuff done in this material. For ease of use I would seriously consider cutting the height down to maybe 1 1/2 inches tall for exactly the reasons mentioned above, you have to be able to get in there with your hands and fingers to get the minis in place and you have to be able to see them during play. After running the dungeon crawl at ReaperCon for years, that's extremely important and there are times when I still miss seeing my own monsters in play because of the height of some of the walls. I think you should go to the hirst arts site and see the designs for the dungeons he has on the site, I think you need to go look at dwarven forge and take a look at their stuff before you go to much farther and definitely do it before you try to kick it off as a KS project.

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As dwarven forge-style, modular dungeon rooms, it would have more appeal to me.

 

Then again, Kickstarter is about presenting your idea, and finding support. If you think your idea is the proper way to do it, pursue that dream. You will hear a lot of good and bad ideas along the way, and the hard part is knowing the two for what they are.

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I really like the grey-speckle Styrofoam. It really does make a difference, I think, to make it more visually interesting and get away from the "cheap Styrofoam" look. Also, the layouts with the curved walls look particularly appealing; I could fairly easily slap together a bunch of flat sections of foam-core or foam-board and make my own flat, rectangular dungeons, but adding such features as curves or regular indicators of supporting structures (columns, etc.) would add more visual interest that I can't easily replicate by hand.

 

I'd like to see more of that in a design, really. Bulk out a few of those thin, plain walls with wider portions to suggest column supports -- or if they're too thick already, go the other direction and make the walls NARROWER, but thickened out at intervals, so that it's something other than just a straight, boring cut. (I suppose I should fire up Photoshop at some point and draw a sketch as an example.) The occasional level variation in the floor could add visual interest as well -- a raised rectangle that could be a table or a bed or a statue pedestal here or there; a SLIGHTLY depressed circle that might indicate a pool or fire pit or magic circle ... or it could just be turned into a decorative "compass rose" or other such element when the end-user chooses to paint it. (Or maybe it's just a slight drop in the floor height that has no real significance save but to break up the layout a little.) The occasional room or passage that's at a slightly different elevation than the neighboring area.

 

One thing I wonder about, though, particularly in light of that prototype with the 3"-high walls: Is this meant for wargames, or for RPGs?

 

With wargames, it's perfectly fine to have high walls and recessed places to put your miniatures, because there are probably all of two players at the table, and each one has his own tape measure or laser pointer, and is free to walk around the table to see if there's a miniature hiding behind that rock over there.

 

With RPGs (or with board games with more than two players), it starts to get more complicated. You don't have as much freedom to meander about the table to get a better look at something. With RPGs in particular, I find that the players are going to sit in their chairs with their books and their snacks, and aren't about to be bothered to get up and peer over a foam or Hydrostone wall to see where the monster mini is hiding on the other side; more likely, a player will just complain about fairness if he didn't see something clearly, and argue for a redo. ;)

 

A friend of mind has built up a large Hirst Arts Castlemolds setup for Super Dungeon Explore (and I've helped him to paint and furnish the thing), and it looks great in the photos, but in actual game play it is a royal pain. I couldn't even get clear photos of parts of the board because of the high walls and inability to squeeze all the way around the table for a better look. There would be cardboard markers on the tiles, or even short miniatures that would be impossible to see from many angles. I'd prefer to just gush about how wonderful the setup was, considering how much work went into it, but honestly the thing would've worked far better if the walls had only been a half inch tall, tops (rather than 1.5"-2" tall).

 

Looking at your sample, I worry that you might end up with a similar dynamic. It's cool and all that you've got a complete simulation of a dungeon area with complete walls -- everything but the ceiling, pretty much -- but it can be a hassle to reach the minis, to position them so their action-posed limbs aren't bumping into walls, and to SEE some of the figures (especially any short critters close to the floor) from various angles.

 

If I were going to get a pre-fab dungeon layout, I'd really want it to focus mostly on the floors, and then with the walls either "implied" (i.e., floor sections = floor; bare table = solid wall or unexplored area), or else short representations (no more than 1/2" high with 25mm scale minis, and preferably even shorter than that, perhaps with a "jaggy" cut-away). In such a layout, you could actually get around the problem of positioning doors in that a full-height self-standing "door" piece could be a separate marker that *straddles* a partial wall section (being as short as it is) with a representation of either an open doorway (with a raised threshold to clear the short-wall divider), or a closed door (in which case the height of the covered wall hardly matters).

 

This has been something I've been struggling with as I've been pondering making some "limited" 3D tiles for Zombicide and Sedition Wars, because I think there is some value in a little bit of 3D to make it clear where the walls and features are, but at the same time I want maximum access to miniatures and visibility. (Hence, I'm likely to go with VERY short indicators of walls -- just enough of a ridge to make it clear where the wall is, with taller indicators for doors and important vertical features, but otherwise far shorter than my friend would likely approve of. What works for pretty diorama backgrounds for photographing minis and for actually moving hero minis in an RPG through a dungeon layout are, in my estimate, not quite the same thing.)

 

High walls might add to the aesthetic if you detail them and hang "furnishings" on them, for mini-diorama purposes, but there might be some value in shorter-wall versions as well. (For one thing, it would mean less material, less weight, and less space taken up by each floor in storage.)

 

I appreciate that it sounds like you've done some prototyping and explored the real-world considerations of transportation in regards to size. I think that another useful thing would be to do a trial-run of the boards in actual play situations. Let some GM use the board for a short one-shot game, and some minis, and sit in on it and see what happens. What are the rough spots? Based on my experiences using some of my friend's Hirst Arts corridors, I anticipate the possibility of trouble with some miniatures (depending on the designs, width of bases, scale of minis, etc.) in fitting in the area, accessing miniatures that fall over when someone bumps the table, reaching in to place flat markers (or remove them), and line-of-sight issues.

 

Jordan,

Thanks for the feedback!

 

Some thoughts. I definitely want to incorporate more curves into the designs. Adding columns into walls is a good place to do that, and one thing I hadn't thought of before. Consider this idea snagged for future designs.

 

Wall height is an issue I'm not sure I can compromise too much on. There are two major reasons. The first is strength of the model. Just as T and I beams are stronger than a flat beam, so is it true that having vertical walls strengthens the model as a whole. Regardless of how much I pretty it up by going with a grey material, this is still Styrofoam, and its not the strongest stuff on earth. Shrinking the walls down to 1/2 inch is liable to weaken the model more than I'd like.

 

Second though, is that I'm looking for these to be able to be stacked for multi-level dungeons, and buildings, not just single level. This means that you need to be able to support the floor from below. This is the reason why most of my designs have walls going all the way up to the inner lip of the box. They provide extra support for anything stacked on top. Beyond that, I would like to have these operate as buildings from the exterior as well (for the most part). If I shunt the size down too much, then a 5 story building will look to be somewhere around 12 feet tall on the.

 

That being said, one strength of this product (in my mind) is the user adaptability of of the styrofoam. With a hot wire tool, it is easy to modify and adapt the tiles to fit your specific needs. This means that if you get the product and want to cut the interior walls down to 1/2-1" it's fairly easy to do so. The gray foam is gray throughout, so cutting it won't leave white spots at the top of the walls. In the end, its always possible to take foam out of a tile than it is to add in extra.

 

In fact, the ability to customize as you see fit is such a vital feature of the product, that the website is going to include cutting tutorials and user galleries just to highlight this feature. The layouts are also fairly "genre neutral". While we've been talking dungeons, there's nothing preventing these from being used as spaceship interior, modern office building, or anything in between as well.

 

This brings up why I'm fighting so hard on keeping my price down. I want to keep the price down low enough that it takes away apprehension from modifying the tile. At $15, you can feel fairly comfortable cutting into this without worrying too much about messing it up. $15 is not a large chunk out of a gamers budget, and breaking one, while upsetting, won't have the same negative reaction as if someone broke it at $50.

 

As for wall thickness. The wall thickness is a design limitation of the manufacturing process. Originally, my plans for walls were that they were to be around 1/4" thick. Talking with the manufacturer, they brought up two points. First, at 1/4" thick, the walls risk breaking at the accidental "Reach across brushing" that happens all to often when dealing with minis. The second one is that at that thickness, the beads and the steam may have trouble finding those slots in the molds, resulting in bad molds. As such, its been recommended that interior walls be no thinner than 1/2" thick. I can go thicker, but going thinner is risky. This is somewhat limiting and unrealistic for more modern settings, (how often do you walk through a 2'1/2 - 3' wall? But its an accommadation needed for the material itself.

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It would probably also help you out to somehow find out from Dwarven Forge, Hirst Arts, etc.. which types sell best, etc...

 

You could email them and say, "I'm interested in buying one of your products for a friend, but I'm undecided. What are your more popular items?"

 

Some websites also showcase their most popular sellers (whether the data is true or not though...). That may also help, like this one: http://www.frpgames....duct_list&c=507

Apparently Sci Fi modular apartments are a good seller, according to their data.

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To be honest, I wouldn't buy into this the way it exists right now. I need a lot more flexibility which means the biggest piece I want might be a room. I would really prefer to see something like the dwarven forge stuff done in this material. For ease of use I would seriously consider cutting the height down to maybe 1 1/2 inches tall for exactly the reasons mentioned above, you have to be able to get in there with your hands and fingers to get the minis in place and you have to be able to see them during play. After running the dungeon crawl at ReaperCon for years, that's extremely important and there are times when I still miss seeing my own monsters in play because of the height of some of the walls. I think you should go to the hirst arts site and see the designs for the dungeons he has on the site, I think you need to go look at dwarven forge and take a look at their stuff before you go to much farther and definitely do it before you try to kick it off as a KS project.

 

For me, there's always been a struggle between modularity, and ease of use. This product, itself, has been that same level of balance. Before I even knew putting outside doors into them was not possible, I wasn't planning on putting outside doors into the tiles. The primary reason was I wanted users to be able to add in doors to the outside of the tile where they saw fit. However, I wanted to avoid doing the same for the inside of the tiles, this allowed a tile to be slapped down and ready to go very quickly.

 

The more modular you get with something, the more control you have. The counter point to that is that the more time it takes to build with that modularity. On the level of extreme modularity you have Hirst Arts, where you basically have "lego bricks" to make whatever you want. The possibilities are endless, but the time it takes to assemble the umpteen million blocks into a structure renders it absolutely useless for time sensitive builds. This product finds its place closer towards the other end of the spectrum. (Or all the way if you use just one tile). Its designed for ease of use, and sacrifices much of the modularity. The choice of material and its eas of tweaking alleviates that to soem extent, but its not perfect. Kickstarter launches with 3 different multi-use tile designs (Two are in the large dungeon picture) that are each off center enough that rotating the tile 90o has a meaningful purpose. The tile in the center is considered a "Single Use" tile, meaning that it will likely see only see it once in a dungeon. Single use tiles may or may not be assymetric.

 

In the middle of the modularity/ease pile are Terraclips and the dwarven forge stuff. I've not been able to afford Dwarven Forge, but own a number of Terraclips stuff. Its great, but good builds can take a while to set up. Dwarven Forge is probably quicker (since it includes walls), but probably still requires more time than this product.

 

I understand the modularity will not appeal to everyone. Down the road, I might introduce "Cut it yourself" sets that mimic the modularity of the dwarven forge stuff, however, These will be tiles that act like sprues, where you have to take your cutting tool, and separate the different hallways and such yourself before play.

 

For the initial release run however, I want to avoid that level of need for hands on work.

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That foam core looks great. But I'm also not interested because walls interfere with gameplay and the layouts of the dungeons don't match the adventures I'd be running. I also have a load of dungeon tiles.

 

What *is* missing from the market is cheap, portable, compact, terrain. The old Battle Masters plastic tower is the only example I can think of.

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Having made a fully modular dungeon from Hirst Arts and reading the reports of others who have built them here's the biggest debate question - how high to make the walls.

 

Some people like the higher walls with more decoration.

 

Some people like lower walls for visibility of play.

 

Neither is wrong.

 

Personally I went with 1 inch walls so that everything was visible and that minis with sticky-out bits would fit in the space. Not every mini fits into the 1 inch square all the way up.

 

Take it for what it's worth. Dungon squares are kinda cool.

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Having made a fully modular dungeon from Hirst Arts and reading the reports of others who have built them here's the biggest debate question - how high to make the walls.

 

Some people like the higher walls with more decoration.

 

Some people like lower walls for visibility of play.

 

Neither is wrong.

 

Personally I went with 1 inch walls so that everything was visible and that minis with sticky-out bits would fit in the space. Not every mini fits into the 1 inch square all the way up.

 

Take it for what it's worth. Dungon squares are kinda cool.

 

Thanks for the support!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, a strong point of this product, in my opinion, is that the foam makes the product easily modifiable by way of a Hot Wire tool. So, while its coming with 2" walls, someone who wants only 1" or 1/2" walls can take a hot knife to it to make the walls the lower height. As such, I think that we can hit the best of both worlds.

 

Some might argue that they don't want to take the time to cut down the walls and I hear them. But the counter point is that while they have the ability to cut the foam if they want it shorter, those who want it higher cannot easily add foam.

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Here is my $0.02, and you know what it is worth. I really love the idea of 3D dungeon tiles, however I cannot ever see me buying any. The vinyl mat I use is completely customizable for any type of game that I may run. Far in the future, modern, old west or fantasy will all work on my mat. I want my role playing games to be the player's story and the more they have to imagine above the bare bones, the more cinematic it becomes for them. The flip side to this is that at 18 inches, my playing space would barely hold four tiles. How often would I be able to use those same four tiles before I heard "Again?". Finally, my mat rolls up and uses almost no storage space.

 

All of this applies just to me and I hope that you find enough people that will buy to make your dream a reality. My post isn't to rain on your parade but to give you the chance to do a gut check to see how likely you are to spend $65 on a limited use map.

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Just my own thoughts on this, so it might not be worth much, but is there a particular reason the walls are so tall? I understand you wanted these to stack to make (as far as I can tell) a revealable dungeon that you can just open up/addon to as you go. But wouldn't that be possible with much shorter walls? You couldn't pre-populate the dungeon floor with the enemies/players, but you could remove the layer they are currently on, then set up the population of that floor, and this could be done with walls that are only 1-2 inches tall, saving yourself material costs and saving the players storage space and visibility issues.

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