junking smile

Interview – David Gerrard, Designer of JunKing

In All, Interviews, JunKing, Kickstarter by Zach HillegasLeave a Comment

The selection of board games that are available for you to play is not limited by what’s in stock at your local game store–there are plenty of games, hundreds, thousands, waiting for you to come and enjoy! One of those games is JunKing, designed by David Gerrard and recently published through his company, Junk Spirit Games, after a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign.
Kickstarter is a powerful and frequently used tool for launching new board games. Here at BGR we’re working on an exhaustive article to help prospective kickstarters out, and as preparation, we’ve been interviewing successful launchers. David Gerrard is one such launcher.
While most of the questions here revolve around Kickstarter, don’t forget to check out JunKing, which is a delightful little game that can be enjoyed as a family. You can check out our comprehensive JunKing review here. If you’re a gamer craving a nice light filler experience, or looking for something to introduce and play with your children, JunKing is a great candidate.
junking box
Q: It seems like this was your first Kickstarter campaign. Having never launched a game before, how did you feel in the time leading up to your campaign? Did you have any specific fears or expectations?

I did as much as I could to alleviate any fears that we had through research and lots and lots of phonecalls to various people.  Justin (the artist) was apprehensive in using Kickstarter at all because of a couple bad experiences with the system.  I was pretty happy with the workflow around KS, and felt pretty confident that I could run a campaign.  I was sure that we would fund, and before the KS started, I laid everything out for Justin and Travis Torgerson (the graphic designer) and that erased all of our fears because we went day by day, talking about all the metrics we need to hit, and goals we need to hit to get everything ready at every stage of the getting JunKing as a tangible item we can hold in our hands.

Q: What are some things you did to prepare for JunKing’s Kickstarter campaign? Was there anything specific that you felt was particularly helpful to you in your preparation process?
We got all of our timelines matched up.  I got all three of us to lay out our schedules (all three of us have normal jobs) and organized those timelines with what needed to be done.  We got really aggressive about hitting our dates as we went from stage to stage.  It was just a simple Google Doc that we all had access to, and we held each other accountable to the dates we set.  It was kinda like how it is much easier to go to the gym if you have a partner to go with; you get extra incentive because you don’t want to disappoint the other person.  So, we all had work, and I didn’t want to look like I wasn’t holding up to my part of the deal, so I made sure to get my work done, and I’m sure that helped them as well.
Q: How long was the period of time between the moment you “finished” designing the game, and the launch of the Kickstarter?
It was real close.  There were some events that Justin was going to (he goes to many shows and conventions for artists) and we wanted to get the KS going shortly after a specific convention that had a good number of his fans attending.  We could then say “Watch us on Kickstarter” and hand out flyers for the game.  The game was done completely about a month before the KS, but because of some of our stretch goals, we added new content during the campaign.
Q: JunKing successfully funded at an impressive 200%+. I’m someone who never saw the campaign while it was live–at what point in the campaign did you reach 100% funding? Was there ever a moment where you were nervous that you might not get enough backers?
I think that we were 100% within 4 days, which we were obviously pretty happy with.  We were never really nervous.  I even stated before the campaign that ‘we will ask for 12k, and if it hits right we will likely end up with around 25k.’  Then when we did just that, I promised to use my future telling abilities only for good, never for evil.
Q: Speaking of the campaign’s success, were you surprised to see how far you surpassed the original goal? What kind of feelings did you have when the campaign ended and you had the final number?
No as, I said, I thought we would be around there.  Additionally, one mistake we made (as a first campaigner) was we forgot to use KS to collect the shipping, and after the campaign we took in almost another 10k (most of it being shipping) so our campaign was nearly a $40,000 campaign.  My guess was so close to the final number that I felt that I ran an honest campaign that reflected my own thoughts of our abilities as a team.  In other words, the plan worked and we can now make JunKing the way we wanted, which of course was great.

junking multiples
Q: In your own personal opinion, what do you think were some of the main contributing factors to your campaign’s success?

The biggest factor by far is Justin Hillgrove’s fan base.  Check out www.impsandmonsters.com.  Go to a show where he is and look at his art, meet him, talk to him.  You will know why he has such a huge following.  I’m so fortunate to work with people like Travis and Justin. All three of us have a great attitude about working with the highest quality and efficiency as possible and I think the campaign page reflected that.  We heard reviews from journalists (that never even contacted us) comment that they had no idea who these people are (Junk Spirit Games) but they (we) “seem to be making some kind of brand play and their campaign looks really professional.”

Q: JunKing is now getting into the hands of backers, reviewers, and store owners. What was your experience like with the actual post-campaign publishing process? Did it meet your expectations, or did you run into surprises?
I wrote a postmortem where I specifically talk about what I thought about the end of the campaign.  You can check it out here.  The one thing that I was surprised at (but I guess I should have seen coming) was how hard it is to convince retail games stores to pick up a Kickstarted game.  They are so used to garbage KSes that have unsellable (from a FLGS perspective) quality, that I’ve had a hard time getting the time of day within my area.  The funny part is, when I just show up and show them JunKing, the reception is great, with comments of “Yeah, I can definitely sell this” and “Oh wow, this looks like a professional game that would just sit on the game shelf, ready to be sold.” Travis created an amazing box for us, and if JunKing enjoys any retail success, it really is due to his hard work.
Q: You can now say that you’ve successfully designed, funded, published, and launched a tabletop game. From the very beginning (down to the moment you first conceptualized JunKing) to now, what would you say was the biggest challenge of the whole process?
Getting the confidence to make phone calls to people to get the pipeline going. I’ve known Justin for a while, and had the concept of the game ready for a month or so, and I was just afraid to step out there and pitch it to him.  Then I was afraid to reach out to a manufacturer…for what reason I don’t know, but I remember not wanting to make the phone calls. However, once those calls were made, it gave the whole project purpose and it took off very quickly.  I guess what I mean is the challenge was getting over my own insecurities and just making it happen.
Q: Now that JunKing is complete, what does this mean for the future? Do you plan to launch more games in the future? If so, would you consider going through Kickstarter again?
Oh, we most definitely will be making more games.  During the campaign, multiple times I said victory for me was making ten dollars (which is to mean that we don’t lose money) and that we don’t hate each other at the end of the process.  If we meet these two goals, then I would ask these guys to keep going.  Once we got done with JunKing, the others were very amped for future projects.  Currently we have two games that we are working on, which we call #ProjectBaroness and #ProjectCheetara.  Baroness will be first, and as we get some solid art and information we will of course let all of our followers and fans know.  And yeah, we will definitely be using Kickstarter.
Q: What, in your opinion, are some of the main factors that might cause a campaign to fail?
Not being realistic about the industry, your capabilities, and the customers you are hoping to reach out to.  Gamers are smart.  They solve problems all day.  They play against incredibly tough opponents, guessing at their motivations while trying to win various games.  If you aren’t honest, they’ll figure it out right away, and they let everyone know.  Additionally, if you can’t display that you have the capability to get your game into their hands after a specific time period, it is hard to get people to back your project.  They just plain won’t trust you otherwise, and ultimately a KS pledge is an indication that they trust you to deliver what you said you would.
junking imps
Q: Let’s talk JunKing. How did JunKing come to be? Was there anything in particular that inspired you?
I play games with my two daughters at every opportunity, and I am always trying to get them to learn some of the more high end strategic concepts around my favorite games, but sometimes they are too intense, too long-winded, or the content isn’t family friendly enough to show them the games I normally enjoy.  After playing round and round of SkipBo and Uno, I was walking through the store thinking how you could make a game where you all draw from the same deck, but has as much strategy as you could pack into the game.  It took me about a month to round out everything and then I brought it to Justin for the “hey, I need an artist” pitch.
Q: Many themes are recycled over and over in the world of board games, but JunKing has a very unique theme that I’ve never seen before. What kind of a role did the theme have in the overall design process? Did it come before the gameplay mechanics, or was it the other way around?
Initially when I brought JunKing to Justin, it was a mining game.  There was a single Diamond in the deck, and you would get gold nuggest from other cards, and some cards were “plots” that you would place into play as permanent effects for future turns.  Justin showed me what he was working on and we thought it would be awesome to take our two projects and jam them together to make a single entity.  Justin came up with the fun mechanic of equipping pieces of junk to the Scavenger Imps, and I worked to create the full game inside of the Imp Lands theme.
Q: Continuing with theme, you published under the name “Junk Spirit Games,” and you seem to have somewhat of an established mythos with your “Imp Lands” universe. Is this an indication that future games will continue on with this theme?
The Imp Lands is Justin’s creation which you can check out on his site and we’ve talked about creating other games in his universe over time.  We’ll probably go back eventually, but the two games mentioned above that we are hoping to bring to KS this year are not in that universe.
Q: JunKing is a fairly light game that can be played with children, but enjoyed by adults. Going onward, would you want to stick with this general weight, or would you consider designing something more heavy?
Definitely.  I have two daughters (7 and 10) and Justin has four children in the same age range.  We want to make games that we can be proud to play with our children, and that will likely always drive our game creation processes.  I can say though, #ProjectCheetara, our third game, will be pretty complex.  It probably won’t be considered to be as complex as a Euro game, but may be something that would be right on top edge of the age range that we will continue to aim for.
Q: Finally, if you could give any advice to prospective Kickstarters out there, what would it be?

Be honest, realistic, and communicative.  Do your research and surround yourself with people that have a good work ethic.

Thanks!  Gerrard

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