Moonstone Kickstarter for Brian Froud and Labyrinth Fans
Let me share something that not everyone knows about me: I love puppets. I grew up on Sesame Street, The Muppets and Fraggle Rock. Two of my all time favorite movies are The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. Those two movies, in addition to the not-really-a-children’s-book Master Snickup’s Cloak, exposed me to the work of Brian Froud. I love his art and spent many days poring over a slowly disintegrating copy of The Art of the Dark Crystal growing up.
Fast forward to the present and as grumpy and disillusioned as I am with Kickstarter I keep a wary eye on it, like the antelope who follow lions to avoid ambush. When Moonstone was announced I was instantly attracted to the miniatures’ close resemblance to Brian Froud’s work. Maybe it was time to change my tune about Kickstarter.
What is Moonstone?
The game is a 32mm skirmish game where two to four players compete to gather magical moonstones which grow by night and evaporate in sunlight. Each player controls three to six unique miniatures and the main gameplay is managing their special abilities. The game is being Kickstarted by Goblin King Games.
I am most interested in the miniatures for Moonstone. They are something which I would want to paint for the pure aesthetics. While the last Kickstarter I backed was a disappointment in the miniature department it’s nice to see that Goblin King Games, the creators of Moonstone, previously ran a small Kickstarter for some individual miniatures as a test of their production capability. This is something that anyone trying something new on Kickstarter should pay attention to. There are many hidden costs and delays that occur when establishing a production line. These bugs have been dealt with in the first Kickstarter so backers can be confident that Goblin King Games will be able to deliver what they promised.
As the Kickstarter progresses more and more miniatures are being unlocked through stretch goals. Due to the Kickstarter’s success Moonstone now meets Wakelin’s Law of Four Factions. In addition to the goblins and humans featured gnomes and faeries have been added to the mix. I’m very pleased with this because when I compare the humans to any of the other models I have to say they have the least appeal. They are poorly sculpted but the goblins, gnomes and faeries promise to be so much more interesting.
One of the dangers of backing a Kickstarter for a game is not knowing if the game will be any good. Dungeon Saga, for example, was plagued with complaints that the campaign setting just wasn’t up to the expectations of the fans. Personally I find the miniatures so nice that I don’t think I’d be angry to merely paint and display them. None-the-less I took a look at the rules, which are available for free, and even plan to try the print-and-play version. There is even a series of Youtube videos teaching the game mechanics.
My initial impression of the rules were not favourable. Games which use card mechanics can quickly become a tedious exercise in shuffling. Moonstone exacerbates this by requiring the deck to be shuffled for each melee and spell. Trying to properly randomize a small packet of cards can be difficult, especially when compared to scooping a handful of dice and chucking them.
Immediately my brain started thinking of ways to substitute dice for the card draw mechanic. In the end I had to admit that Goblin King Games was at least using the cards to achieve things which wouldn’t be possible with dice. I’m not convinced that it is worth the trouble and that a similar system using custom dice may come close to matching the flavour that the design provides.
For example, when in a melee each combatant draws cards equal to their fight value plus modifiers from the same deck. The deck has three copies of six combat maneuvers. They choose which maneuver they want to use with duplicates adding power to an attack. Each card compares the maneuver to all other possible maneuvers and are used to determine the result. Either the attacker or defender, or both, can do damage or not. Since both players are drawing from the same deck their hand will give them clues to their opponents hands allowing them to either choose the appropriate defense. Characters with a higher melee value draw more cards, giving them an advantage. Since duplicates increase a card’s power, having a max of three possible copies of a single maneuver caps the total damage possible.
If this mechanic were simply replaced with custom D6s the same variety of maneuvers can be modeled. However, since each dice roll is independent of all others it isn’t possible to guess your opponent’s rolls based on your own. Additionally there is no automatic cap to the number of duplicate results. Immediately the game becomes more random. The question is whether this increased randomness is worth the speed increase. It might be.
I’m not going to get into their so-called “Competitive Play” drafting mechanic. I would hate to paint a miniature and not be able to use it because my opponent selected it for themselves.
As much as I’ve complained recently about Mantic’s never-ending parade of Kickstarters I must admit that their campaigns have spoiled me for all others. Always Mantic provides a reasonably priced pledge level which provides the backer with the base game and the majority of stretch goals. Once committed backers are likely to promote the game hoping newly unlocked stretch goals will add more to their rewards.
Unfortunately Goblin King Games’ Kickstarter is not as ambitious. The basic pledge will provide the core game components, rules and six miniatures. At first only one stretch goal improved on the base pledge by adding a dice bag, which is a little funny for a game which is primarily card based. Perhaps some custom art tuck boxes would have been a better idea. Later, perhaps as a result of fan feedback, they added a Kickstarter exclusive alternative head for Doug the Flatulent, a faerie queen at most backer levels and a notice that the Kickstarter prices are likely to be 20% lower than retail, which is fair.
More recently Goblin King Games added an “everything” pledge level. At £200 it is expensive but includes the base game and all add-ons which includes 27 metal and 2 larger resin miniatures. Not a bad deal but far out of my comfort range.
Strangely this seems to indicate that there will be no further stretch goals, which is disappointing. I can think of a number of great stretch goals that could be included in the base set. Cardboard tuck boxes for the arcane and melee decks would be nice. Card sleeves would also be nice, especially since the base set includes a dry erase marker. I would think that sleeves would be harder to obtain than something available in any office supply store or dollar store. Finally some card stock terrain would make a nice stretch goal.
Sometimes I think we’ve been spoiled by companies like Mantic who offer tremendous amounts of content for their Kickstarters. 35mm metal miniatures aren’t 28mm restic miniatures and £40,000 is not $1,000,000. I think these monster campaigns can hurt smaller companies who can’t expect to scale the same as more popular companies. The gaps between Dungeon Saga stretch goals were bigger than Moonstone’s funding level.
I’m still on the fence about backing this Kickstarter. The changes Goblin King Games have made to their campaign have definitely worked in their favour. As much as I’d rather they ditched their card mechanics for dice I’m much more interested in the miniatures than the game. If I do back it will be their starter set pledge level. This gives me 8 metal miniatures plus Diana, Queen of the Fae and the game components required to play.
Anyone else thinking of backing this Kickstarter? Let me know in the comments. I’m sure we could probably brainstorm a few more stretch goals.