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Reward Tiers

We plan for the Lanterns campaign to have separate reward tiers for each shipping option, but not for multiple versions of the game or for Relic Expedition.

Countdown: 60 days. Some campaigns have just one or two reward tiers, while other campaigns have dozens. Even if you are primarily making one game, it can make sense to have multiple tiers for different items. I have added the first pass at reward tiers to the Kickstarter preview page, though they still have lots of questions around exact numbers. This post discusses our current plans for Lanterns and includes some personal data and lessons from the Relic Expedition campaign. (This post started as a full analysis of The Great Heartland Hauling Company campaign, so it will include some discussion of Dice Hate Me Games reward tiers as well. I’ll come back to all the stats and observations from that campaign in a future post.)

I backed the campaign for The Great Heartland Hauling Company nearly two years ago, and it is similar in size and feel to the Lanterns campaign. It had 9 reward tiers, the first eight of them a matrix of these two options:

LOCATION / REWARD Base Game + Carnival + Viva Java + Both
US and Canada 1 3 5 7
International 2 4 6 8

Including multiple rewards AND multiple shipping options as separate reward tiers can quickly multiply! Too many reward tiers can be tough for backers to navigate; I feel that 9 is too many, and I would much rather stay around 5 or 6.

Shipping Options As Reward Tiers?

The two most recent Dice Hate Me Games campaigns have kept the number of reward tiers much smaller, one using multiple shipping options as reward tiers and one not:

The most recent campaign (Rabbits) needed three different reward options for the games, so I’m guessing they chose not to use reward tiers for shipping options to keep the total reward tiers lower. You can use the same reward tier for domestic and international backers by using a field to specify a different cost for international backers, but it has two weaknesses:

  • A reward tier can only have one other shipping level: you can’t have one for Canada, one for EU, etc.
  • Backers have to know to pledge more than the amount specified in the reward tier because the Kickstarter website will allow an international backer to select the reward tier even if they haven’t added the extra shipping. I have heard from other creators that 10%-15% of backers who need to do that fail to do so, though we only had a couple of Relic Expedition.

(For what it’s worth, this is definitely a problem that the Kickstarter software could solve. Matt S. suggested this the other day in a comment over at Stonemaier Games’ blog: “What would be nice to see is KS implement audience targeting. They know where in the world users are from and [could] only show the pledge levels that are targeted to you.” [link].)

DELUXE Option As A Reward Tier?

With Relic Expedition, we offered a $49 reward (just the game) and a $59 reward (the game, some expansions, and some promotional items). About 100 backers opted for the base reward and 500 backers opted for the deluxe option. (I recently backed Tiny Epic Defenders after seeing an ad saying it was $18. When I saw it also had a deluxe option, it was hard to resist. If I was willing to pay $18 for the game, surely I would pay $6 to complete it! Of their 5,000+ backers, only 400 got the base game.) This makes a strong case for a deluxe option.

With Relic Expedition, though, it actually made logistics tougher. We had to deliver one product set to 100 backers and a different product set to 500 backers, so we couldn’t put the promotional items and expansions in the base game box. The expansions and promotional items weren’t barcoded, so I couldn’t use something like Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment. I now can’t sell the expansions through distribution without a box and a barcode, so I’ll sell much fewer of them — and probably end up recycling a bunch of expansion punchboards. My fulfillment company did a good job handling everything, but with more moving pieces there were more errors.

Some project creators could have printed two versions of the game: the deluxe version for most Kickstarter backers and the standard version for some backers and for retail. But I couldn’t do that at my small scale: I had to make 1,500 of the same thing. But even if I did have larger scale, how would that affect my company and my product line into the future? Will customers feel like the base game is inferior, like important components were left out? But I love the Relic Expedition base game the way it is; the expansions do add fun twists, but the base game is the exact experience we wanted to create and sell as a company. (As a counterpoint, people encouraged us to take the monkeys and other advanced components out, to make them a stretch goal or an add-on or something, but we didn’t want to make the game without those components and mechanics!)

What About Add-Ons? We are exploring a couple of different options for add-ons that might make sense: wood bits as an upgrade for the mini cards and a draw bag for the tiles. (The game plays exactly how we want it to play without them, and with them the cost of the game would not be where we want it.) These would not be separate reward tiers, though; backers would have to know to over-pledge to receive them. I’ll talk about those in a future post.

Other Games As A Reward Tier?

This third item is actually what made me decide to spin this off into a new post. With The Great Heartland Hauling Company, Dice Hate Me Games didn’t offer two version of the game or promotional items like T-shirts as add-ons. Their different reward options were for their previous games. I looked back through all eight of their campaigns to see how they handled other games as rewards.

  1. With Carnival, their first campaign, they didn’t have any other games.
  2. With Viva Java, their second campaign, they included a copy of Carnival as an option.
  3. With Heartland, their third campaign, they included both of the first two games as options.

After that, they no longer included all of their games as options.

  1. Compounded, they did not include any other games as rewards.
  2. With Viva Java: The Dice Game, they offered Viva Java as an option. Since the two games are in the same thematic family, that makes sense.
  3. With Belle of the Ball, their sixth campaign, they were actually raising money for the new game plus a reprint of the other two games in the same size box (Carnival and Heartland). It makes sense to offer those other games as rewards because money raised from the campaign would be used to produce those rewards.
  4. Brew Crafters did not include any other games as reward options.
  5. Rabbits did not include any other other games as reward options.

I’m reading between the lines here, but I suspect they decided it didn’t make sense to include their other games as possible rewards. It’s possible that their catalog is just too big now to do it; I wonder if they would still recommend someone with only one or two games to do what they did with Viva Java or Heartland; I would guess not.


For Lanterns, we currently plan to use multiple reward tiers only for shipping. It’s a limitation of the Kickstarter interface that makes this necessary, and it’s too bad. I expect to have three or four (US, EU, maybe Canada, and Rest of World), but I’m still researching that. I think this provides the best user experience and least amount of confusion for backers. It’s still possible for a backer to make a mistake, but it’s much less likely.

We currently plan to keep the two games separate and not offer Relic Expedition as a reward option on the Lanterns campaign. The games are not related, and the money raised on the Lanterns campaign is the money we need to produce Lanterns. We’ll of course let people know about Relic Expedition on the new campaign to give them confidence that we can deliver, but I think it’s best to keep the two projects separate.

We currently do not plan to have a deluxe version; we want to keep everything as streamlined as possible with one SKU, and we want everyone who gets Lanterns to have the game as we intend it. Lanterns is a light game, simple and elegant; it plays in 20-30 minutes. We aren’t leaving out components or content because they are too expensive or to encourage upgrading to the deluxe version or for any other reason: the game we give to backers and release to retail will be exactly the game we want it to be.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. I already have(and love) Relic Expedition, so it isn’t a concern for me, but I’ve seen other campaigns use a third party fulfillment service and be able to offer additional items (other games, add ons, or other merch) for purchase after the campaign closes. Would something like that work in your situation?
    Can’t wait to see more!

  2. @Pat, I think something like that should work. We have Relic Expedition for sale on our website, and I think we can link to that in the Lanterns campaign. (If I remember correctly, I personally bought a copy of Stonemaier Games’ Euphoria during their Tuscany campaign that way.)

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