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31 October 2013
This was my very first Kickstarter experience, and is also the very first Kickstarter that I am about to receive since the first pledges began shipping out earlier this month. It was very exciting to follow the progress of the Kickstarter, it was highly addictive to be honest. And a rush to see the final days of the campaign as it unfolded more and more content and increasing number of goals were met. The campaign, I think, can be deemed a great success.
All goals were reached – and you guys even made a conscious decision to not go further with the hinted at “Mars” expansion. As such I think I’m not alone to wonder about the planning and execution of the Kickstarter campaign, and I can’t think of any other company sharing their experience of using Kickstarter – which makes this interview very interesting and insightful. I thank you in advance for taking the time to answer these questions in the midst of packing and shipping out the pledges!
Q: Empire of the Dead which was released about a year was a cool concept and a welcome return to the Gothic Horror genre (considering the vast range of Gothic Horror miniatures you already had) for you guys. How was the original game and range of Empire of the Dead miniatures received compared to previous games and miniature ranges that West Wind has been involved with?
A: EotD was a winner; we pretty much knew it would be given the huge success of the original Vampire Wars.
Q: What prompted the idea of using Kickstarter for the expansion of Empire of the Dead?
A: New technology is something you don’t often come across in the Wargames Industry, so hey why not give it a try and see what happens! As it turns out it was s a pretty big event for us as it helped us reach a whole new market of people who had never heard of us.
Q: How many people were involved in the whole Kickstarter project in order to make it happen?
A: One sculptor, one straight line designer, two casters, one resin caster, three people on admin shipping etc.
Q: Do you think the number of sculpts, factions and additional products that followed with the Kickstarter would have been possible to produce and release using traditional methods? And what would the expected timeline be for a regular release run using the traditional approach?
A: Risk, it’s all about risk. Would we have made the Clickers without people supporting the idea? No probably not. Timescale wise I produced about a years worth of work in six months. It’s quite tiring not taking into account other factors which we will get to later.
Q: The initial Requiem miniatures numbered some 70 models, many of them filling gaps in the existing range (such as Gentlemen with special weapons). But the campaign was soon expanded with additional factions. How many of these were planned before and how many were added during the campaign itself to satisfy the constant stream of ideas and requests?
A: To be truthful most of the stuff beyond the initial campaign was kind of free formed. By that I mean I already had the idea roughly sketched in my head but I had not committed it to paper. There were some exceptions like the Clickers and a few of the Bedlam characters.
Q: Andy Cooper obviously has a collection of drawings and concept art, one such drawing was the great Alice and the Cheshire cat which ended up becoming the Bedlam Brotherhood faction later in the Kickstarter. Has Andy emptied his drawers or are there more gems saved for the future?
A: No I have lots more stuff tucked away in my head, I have a video prepared for the Mars section which I will post on the Kickstarter updates section as I promised (but we wont be going to Mars for some time guys, come on don’t you have a ton of stuff to paint from Requiem). I have some really exciting stuff in mind for other Kickstarters not including the SoTR II Project which will be awesome.
Q: Is there any miniature or faction sculpted for Empire of the Dead that Andy is particularly happy or proud of?
A: Really put a lot into the Stretch Goal miniatures as I did not want to compromise the quality of my work even if people were technically getting them for free. I guess my favorite would be Aeisha.
Q: Was there any faction or single miniature that proved difficult or challenging to sculpt, or a piece of concept art that proved to be hard to transform into a miniature?
A: Hmmm the Specimen was a bit of a bugger, check out some of the more advanced concepts on the Lets go to Mars video. The Specimen are a Venusian life form, fungal in structure which slowly adapts its host into various forms , you can see some of the more advanced types in the slide show.
Q: What sources of inspiration does Andy have for his sculpting of the Empire of the Dead range? There has been a flavor of classic Victorian literature in both the old Gothic Horror and some of the new Empire of the Dead sculpts. Is that the only source or are there others?
A: Movies, books, comics, the original books. The Strand magazine has some great illustrations, just Google it, Sydney Paget is just the greatest black and white guy.
Q: Equally exciting to me and I think many others, was the promise of new rules for the additional characters and factions. What is the status of the PDF rulebook with the new additions and when can fans and backers expect to get their hands on the finished product?
A: The PDF is coming along just fine, the main hold up has been the coaches and carriages section as it has required more new rules.
Q: Another question regarding the rules, was there any faction or character for which it was challenging to write proper rules?
A: The Clickers were quite difficult for the rules writer to get his head around; we had to add in Professor Jerusalem who was not originally included in the faction when we ran it on Kickstarter to give the Faction a focus and a reason for being. Hive mind groups are quite tricky, you have to address their motivations and how that plays out in the game. As you will see the Clickers are quite mad or just plain alien in the way they operate and the plan they are carrying out. It all boils down to Infernium and how it corrupts and changes all that it comes in contact with. Infernium itself is the real Keystone of the game, it drives the narrative, creates the world. Here’s a revelation about Infernium and what it is, rumor has it that it’s the crystalline blood of fallen angels. Guess what? It is. The Reapers are rising and the children of the dead will claim the Requiem.
Q: Was there any character or faction that was particularly exciting and fun to write rules for?
A: Nemo, so cool! Wish we had made it to all the mad Nemotech stuff even a Nautilus sub.
Q: Was there any worry or hesitation regarding the number of new factions and miniatures covered by the Kickstarter from a sculpting time schedule point of view?
A: Ermm, never worked as hard in my life. But when you are on a roll then go with it and see where you end up.
Q: In one of the updates Andy made our hearts skip a heartbeat for a second when he posted a small update about a hand injury. Fortunately for Andy (and us) it was nothing serious. Were there however any unforeseen problems that you ran into during the realization of the campaign contents?
A: Well here we go, the hand thing turned out to be a minor inconvenience compared to what happened in July. So you all know we put the finish date back 3 months to allow me to sculpt all the additional minis to a good standard. What we were not expecting was one of those life changing events that come along like a curve ball and knock you for six.
Wendy my wife received a phone call at the end of work one day, it was her brother telling us her dad had had a bad fall, we thought he had had another heart attack but no it was considerably worse than that. It turned out that he had fallen from a step ladder and landed on his neck shattering the top two Vertebras in his spine just below his head and severely damaged his spinal cord. The Doctors told us to prepare for the worst. He survived and after several operations to stabilize his spine, he is now stable, not a complete quadriplegic (he is paralyzed from just below his shoulders) as he has some movement in his left arm but unfortunately no finger movement. He is now in a specialist rehabilitation ward at Southport and Ormskirk hospital under going intensive physiotherapy. The care he has received from the NHS throughout has been excellent. Hopefully he will be able to come home in the future.
So the stress of Kickstarter really pales into insignificance given the circumstances. One thing I want to say here is all credit to Wendy my wife and the amazing strength of character that she possesses that kept the whole show on the road. Not just working on the fulfillment of the project but keeping it together personally with all the hospital visits and trauma. This was her time to shine.
Q: How much does the Kickstarter mean for a small company like West Wind in terms of exposure, sales and accumulating new customers?
A: It’s pretty massive, giving us exposure to people who probably had never heard of us especially in the USA and Canada. It’s also a very positive experience with the whole live feedback thing, people tell you what they think and that’s great.
Q: How do you guys feel about Kickstarter as a marketing tool for your products, did it meet your expectations, exceed them or was it altogether different from what you imagined it would be? And how does it compare to showing your products and build up interest the traditional way on conventions?
A: I would not say it’s a marketing tool it’s more of a community thing. Speaking personally it gives you a very positive almost euphoric feeling (it can also be panic and anxiety inducing as you see your campaign start to slide backwards. Cue the whole headless chicken routine)
Q: Is there anything that you think you wish you would have done differently?
A: The whole shipping thing felt a bit unfair in the way we progressed the levels. Having said that we have given it a lot of thought and in future we will have a system of rolling early birds for example early bird 1 ships first, early bird 2 ships second and so on. That will allow us to calculate the timescale and give a more exact date rather than ship all rewards at one level then the next level etc.
Q: During the entire Kickstarter campaign you guys were praised for running a very good Kickstarter with great communication, answering of questions and playing along with many requests from backers. Considering this was your very first Kickstarter that has to be something to be extra proud of. Did you prepare for the Kickstarter in any way, such as studying other Kickstarters and drawing lessons from what worked and what didn’t? Or was it just intuitive how it all worked out?
A: It’s more like that’s the way we are as people. We are a small business and as such we have to be very flexible in how we approach a project, keeping light on your feet and being prepared to respond to the unexpected. A plan also helps but the most important thing you have to have in place is accurate costings for all elements of your project. If you don’t do this correctly then you are planning to fail and in a very expensive messy way.
Q: For those that missed some reason missed out on the campaign, when can they expect to be able to buy the new products and rules for the new factions/characters in your store?
A: Out in November.
Q: Have you guys considered striking a partnership with a manufacturer of Victorian era terrain or make your own line of terrain pieces for Empire of the Dead?
A: There are a ton of guys out there producing great stuff so we just let them get on with it, our thing is miniatures and that’s where we feel most comfortable.
Q: What else is on the horizon for West Wind? There has been talk about a Secrets of the Third Reich version 2 Kickstarter in the background while the Requiem Kickstarter was going on. Care to elaborate what that could potentially include or cover except a new rulebook?
A: Ok next up we have War & Empire a range of 15mm Ancient models which we are going to run under Forged in Battle (that’s West Winds Historical brand). I will send out an invitation to all our backers to preview the War & Empire Kickstarter very soon (as soon as we have fulfilled all our Backer Rewards for EoTD). War & Empire is just about ready to go; it’s going to be huge. Tons of miniatures, a rulebook, terrain pieces, fortifications, siege engines the lot.
Next year we will be running the Secrets of the Third Reich second edition Kickstarter. I know a lot of people have been waiting for this. It’s a complete redesign of the book plus two new factions the USMC and the Japanese. So tons of new miniatures, plus some new Mechs its gonna be WEIRD!!!
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to share with us regarding the Kickstarter campaign, future plans or anything that I may have forgotten to ask about?
A: Just thank you for supporting us it’s been a real shot in the arm a very positive experience. See you next time!
/ Andy Cooper