Steve Jackson Games

Steve Jackson raised almost $1 million to create the ultimate board game, and that was a problem

Steve Jackson raised almost $1 million to create the ultimate board game, and that was a problem

Steve Jackson Games asked for $20,000 to make a new version of their classic board game Ogre, but fans gave $923,000 to the Kickstarter campaign. The stretch goals went on and on, improving aspect after aspect of the game and adding in more and more content and complexity to the pieces. According to the company’s yearly report, this aggressive overfunding and expansion was more of a problem than a blessing. A beautiful, messy, frustrating, awesome problem.

In fact, Jackson goes to great pains to point out they didn’t plan for this level of success.

“In retrospect, the enormity of the printing job absolutely ensured that unexpected things would happen. In fact, several did, the latest and most frustrating being a series of errors in creating the plastic counter trays,” he wrote. “That wasn't supposed to be the hard part! Because we are testing and re-testing at every stage, a lot of problems have been caught and fixed. We only hope that we are catching them all, because this will be an amazing project when it comes out, and we want it to be as near perfect as possible.”

The result is a board game that is almost stupidly ambitious, being sold at well below market value. The numbers are hard to wrap your head around.

“The final box will be 24” × 20” × 5.75” and will weigh 24 pounds. It will have five huge maps and more than 1,000 counters, many of them 3-D constructible Ogres and buildings. It will probably never be equaled in sheer size and awesomeness,” Jackson said.

Each box will be shipped in its own carton, Jackson told me almost a year ago. Retailers were worried about it fitting on their shelves at all, so they had to trim it down somewhat. Think about that for a bit; the dimensions listed above are for a smaller box than they had planned.

“If it were sold at a normal gaming markup over print costs, it would probably go for around $400, but retail for the base set will be $100,” Jackson continued. “And it will be at least seven months late, and it totally wrecked the 2012 schedule and is impacting 2013, and it just about drove Phil Reed and Sam Mitschke mad as they managed the project, and we may very well lose money on it when all is said and done.” He also points out that, even at $100, the stores carrying the game will make their normal mark up.

Ogre is, as Jackson puts it, a big success and a stressful failure. I was one of those backers, and I’ve been reading the 80+ updates on the status of the game. When it comes in, you better believe it will get the royal treatment: Unboxing, play tests, maybe some interviews with the team. When something this big and this crazy gets made, especially at this price… it’s worth celebrating the sheer audacity of the whole thing.