For those of you not in the know, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past has been in development for quite some time, catching the eye of many tabletop gamers, as well as nostalgic fans of our favorite fighting turtles. With the launch of the Kickstarter campaign, we’ve gotten our first real glimpse at the game. As it stands, TMNT: Shadows of the Past appears to be somewhat like a Ninja Turtles version of, say, Descent or Imperial Assault. While I have enough Imperial Assault to last me for who-knows-how-long, this is a combination that many gamers can get excited about.
Shadows of the Past, despite being a Kickstarter title, sports some impressive credentials. The game’s lead designer is Kevin Wilson, who has worked as a design partner on many classic and beloved Fantasy Flight games, such as Descent and Arkham Horror, and they’re also collaborating with Kevin Eastman, one of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles artists. With beautiful miniatures and impressive names attached to the project, it’s hard to imagine that anything could go wrong here.
However, it’s not all sugar and rainbows, as the Kickstarter has also garnered its fair share of criticism from devoted tabletop gamers. Many would-be-backers are highly skeptical about the lack of gameplay videos, rules, or even a text description on how the game is actually played (save for a brief overview of combat which was just recently added). For a project that has such strong potential, it seems foolhardy for the creators to omit these essential things–one of the biggest mistakes Kickstarters can make is not having everything ready before the campaign launches. It’s clear they’ve got good resources, professional people, and a loyal fanbase, so what’s the point of pushing the campaign out prematurely, especially when there is no strict deadline to meet?
Furthermore, the pledge levels are also a stopping-block for many gamers–the minimum pledge level is a cool $90, with no current indication as to how much shipping prices will cost. The cost only goes up from there, the next level jumping all the way up to $150 for a redesigned “pizza box” packaging and miniatures that more closely reflect the 90s Eastman-style turtles. It’s possible that there might be future stretch goals that apply to the higher pledge levels to make them more worth it, but the lack of extensive stretch goals is also a red flag.
In my opinion, TMNT: Shadows of the Past is currently a mixed bag. The game looks like it has a lot of potential–it’s got cool minis, good names attached to it, and seemingly high production quality. However, the campaign, to be frank, is not well executed at the moment, and I feel like if the game wasn’t attached to a known-designer, or representing a beloved IP, that gamers might have ripped this campaign to shreds. Many fans have complete confidence in this project, while others are comparing it to the Ghostbusters Board Game, a Kickstarter title that started off eerily similar to TMNT, and ended up falling completely flat. Although I have not pledged yet, I’m cautiously optimistic about the project, and I’m interested to see how it develops. I personally believe it will turn out to be a great game, but I wish that they’d make some changes to the Kickstarter campaign to assuage some valid concerns that have arisen from the community.