In recent years, Kickstarter has become a hub for the rise of new tabletop games, both from indie designers as well as major companies looking to field the viability of a more experimental project. While many projects have found success on Kickstarter (along with some historic and tragic failures), there are a few that have risen above the rest.
In this article, ten games will be explored in depth, arranged from by the height of their funding. Each one reached incredible heights, and the diversity to be found within the titles is surprising and inspiring. Without further ado, the top ten highest funded tabletop games on Kickstarter:
|Position||Game Name||Amount Raised (USD)||Number of Backers||Release Date|
|1||Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5||$12,393,139||19264||2020|
|3||Dark Souls - The Board Game||$4,624,505||31178||2017|
|5||Zombicide: Black Plague||$4,079,204||20915||2015|
|6||Gloomhaven (Second Printing)||$3,999,795||40642||2017|
|10||Bears vs Babies - A Card Game||$3,215,679||85581||2017|
Here’s how that table looks comparatively based purely on the amount raised on Kickstarter.
Let’s look into what has made these games so popular and what they’re all about
1. Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5
Total Funds Raised: $12,393,139
Number of Backers: 19, 264
Release Date: 2017 – 2020
With a starting goal of $100k, Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5 soared far above the team’s wildest expectations. Monster 1.5 was a collection of expansions to a base game, Kingdom Death: Monster which launched in 2012.
The original Kingdom Death: Monster game focuses on long, multi-session campaigns in which players hunt terrifying monsters in order to protect their settlement. Its most notable feature was its use of incredibly high-quality, 3D printed monster and hero figurines. The original boxed set had so many figurines with it that it weighed approximately 17 lbs.
Kingdom Death: Monster itself had a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $2 million and generated such attention that when the 1.5 Kickstarter began, over $1 million was raised in the first 19 minutes. This made it the fastest drive ever on Kickstarter. The game garnered high praise, employing a large team of artists to bring its “nightmare horror” world to life.
It is considered to be an especially brutal game with a steep learning curve, but has been praised by games journalists repeatedly for its depth and challenge.
2. Exploding Kittens
Total Funds Raised: $8,792,571
Number of Backers: 219,382
Release Date: Mid 2015
Described as a “kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette,” Exploding Kittens was created in 2015 by two previous Xbox developers and the artist of the highly popular webcomic “The Oatmeal.”
The game is a fast paced, strategically oriented strategy game heavily drawing on gross-out and dark slapstick comedy. The card art was especially notable, being done in a very similar style to “The Oatmeal” which also draws on similar comedic themes.
As for gameplay, Exploding Kittens plays similarly to classic card games like Uno crossed with a game of hot potato, where cards are used to reposition, skip turns, and avoid picking up a small collection of “Exploding Kitten” cards which will knock a player out of the game.
The Kickstarter campaign managed to reach almost all of its stretch goals, including one goal which upgrade all paid base boxes into a deluxe, suitcase edition containing two of the available decks.
3. Dark Souls: The Board Game
Total Funds Raised: £3,771,474
Number of Backers: 31,178
Release Date: 2017
Following up on the wild popularity of the Dark Souls series of video games by From Software came Steamforged Games Ltd.’s tabletop conversion campaign. The game aimed to translate Dark Souls’ famous gameplay and challenge accurately in tabletop form, incorporating enemies and locales from all three of the Dark Souls games.
Additionally, it implemented many of the Role-Playing Game features that the video game had effectively employed. The campaign was uniquely structured: only one level existed for independent backers, and one level for retail backers. Any unlocked stretch goals would immediately roll into the base pledge, meaning supporters were uniquely motivated to spread the word of the campaign.
Dark Souls: The Board Game boasted incredible art and remarkably detailed figurines directly pulled from the video game world. The campaign managed to hit all of its stretch goals for the independent backers, which meant the base box ended up containing a considerable number of zones and figurines.
Dark Souls: The Board Game was met with critical praise from many gaming websites and magazines, drawing a great amount of attention from the video gaming community as well.
4. Rising Sun
Total Funds Raised: $4,228,060
Number of Backers: 31,262
Release Date: Upcoming, 2018
Rising Sun is a strategic clan-battle game taking place in mythical feudal Japan. Developed by major publisher CMON, Rising Sun focused on unique art and setting, pitting players against one another in a world of Oni, Kitsune, and Kaiju. Rising Sun incorporates more than a dozen Japanese mythical creatures and beings, all represented with detailed miniatures.
Players take control of one of six clans, each with unique aesthetics and abilities, and must employ strategy in both politics and warfare. The campaign reached all stretch goals except one, which means the game will launch with a number of bonus figurines, expansions, and optional modifications.
Many of the stretch goals unlocked larger monster figurines. As of the latest update, a number of the tokens have already been designed and 3D printed. CMON’s official photos boast great detail in the printing of the tokens. The game is set to launch mid-2018.
5. Zombicide: Black Plague
Total Funds Raised: $4,079,204
Number of Backers: 20,915
Release Date: 2015
Another entry on the list by publisher CMON, Zombicide: Black Plague is a medieval fantasy retelling of their previously successful game Zombicide. Black Plague brings a host of new heroes and monsters to the table, including a number of “special guest” heroes created by guest artists.
The campaign blew past all of its stretch goals, adding a host of bonus monsters and heroes. Additionally, mid-tier donors were able to receive an expansion called Zombicide: Wulfsburg which was set in the same universe. Black Plague employs a card-based enemy spawn automation system that pits the players against a continually growing horde of zombies.
Players can gain experience and find powerful weapons, but the hordes of the dead grow ever stronger as the game progresses. Additionally, Black Plague expanded on the original format of Zombicide, adding expanded inventory systems and leadership units which spawn miniature zombie hordes of their own.
Black Plague was received well, and is about to have its first standalone follow-up game called Green Horde which introduces Orc zombies.
6. Gloomhaven (Second Printing)
Total Funds Raised: $3,999,795
Number of Backers: 40,642
Release Date: Upcoming, Late 2017
Gloomhaven originally launched in 2015 to incredible popularity. The demand for the role-playing game, whose starter box contained 20 lbs. worth of unique maps, cards, tokens, and figurines, was so great that the creator could not keep up with demand.
The game’s creator Isaac Childres, decided to run a reprint of the game, this time prepared to meet the demand. Gloomhaven received incredible reviews, and First Print versions of the game can be found online for over $300, despite the original cost being only $80.
One of the most unique features to Gloomhaven is that it is a “legacy game;” each time the game is played, stickers are added and modifications are made to the maps, characters, and cards.
The campaign for the Second Print understandably rocketed past its original goals, adding a number of new miniatures, helpful tokens, and a revised set of rulebooks for devoted fans and interested newcomers.
7. Massive Darkness
Total Funds Raised: $3,560,642
Number of Backers: 22,361
Release Date: 2017
Yet another success from publisher CMON, Massive Darkness is a role-playing game offering a unique character advancement system that allows characters to be uniquely modified each play-through. Players are able to choose classes, which offer skill trees that slowly unlock new abilities and traits.
Massive Darkness shipped with a large collection of figurines of varying sizes, from the standard-sized heroes to the massive cyclopes.
Additionally, a fair number of optional buy-in sets were offered, mostly themed boxes of monsters or new hero packs. Interestingly, one of the optional sets was a hero and monster crossover set bringing characters from CMON’s other successful game Zombicide: Black Plague to the Massive Darkness world.
Total Funds Raised: $3,327,757
Number of Backers: 16,038
Release date: Late 2015
Based on Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian universe, Conan is a one-versus-all fantasy game published by Monolith Games. Monolith Games itself is a company that rose from an all-star team of veteran designers coming together to create a board game that lived up to the spirit of Conan the Barbarian.
The campaign employed cultural experts on Robert E. Howard’s work, and drew inspiration from every iteration Conan has gone through, from the original texts, to the films, to the comics.
Conan overshot its original goals by a large margin and managed to break through a number of stretch goals which introduced maps of the Hyborian continent, new factions, giant monster figurines, and more. Additionally, three optional buy-in expansions were offered as well as a number of Kickstarter-exclusive character and creature expansions.
In Conan, one player will control an evil overlord who is pitted against the other players, controlling iconic heroes. As a result, Conan is both cooperative and competitive in nature. Conan received stellar reviews, and is still popular to this day.
9. Joking Hazard
Total Funds Raised: $3,246,588
Number of Backers: 63,758
Release Date: Late 2016
Joking Hazard is a create-your-own comic card game by the team behind the Cyanide and Happiness webcomic. In Joking Hazard, each turn begins with a random comic panel drawn from the deck. The second panel is played by a judge, and then every other player submits their choice for the third panel from their hands of cards.
Similar in concept to Cards Against Humanity and Apples to Apples, the judge is free to decide a winner based on their own arbitrary judgement, of course with a focus on creating the most hilarious three-panel comic possible. The Kickstarter campaign was a glowing success, far surpassing its early goal of just $10k.
Every level of stretch goals were surpassed, unlocking over 350 cards for base decks. Additionally, a number of booster decks were formed and made available to backers. The game came about after the success of Cyanide and Happiness’ “Random Comic Generator” web application, which allowed players to create random comics out of a gathering of panels snatched from the official comic.
The game garnered attention from a number of veteran game-makers including the creator of Cards Against Humanity, who praised the game’s ability to replicate the web comic’s humour.
10. Bears Vs Babies – A Card Game
Total Funds Raised: $3,215,679
Number of Backers: 85,581
Release Date: Upcoming, late 2017
Bears vs Babies is another game from The Oatmeal writer and artist Matthew Inman and Exploding Kittens co-creator Elan Lee which found resounding success on Kickstarter. Bears vs Babies pits player-created monsters against an army of terrifying mutant babies out for blood.
Gameplay is seemingly cooperative, with all players at the table building monsters to fend off the baby horde. However, in truth, the goal is to provoke the horde into defeating other players, leaving only one survivor to be the victor. Stretch goals increased the number of base deck cards considerably, added an adults-only “extra-awful” deck, and upgraded the original box to a fur-covered deluxe box.
The Kickstarter campaign had a number of non-monetary achievements that backers could participate in to unlock further bonuses. These achievements ranged from simple tasks like “post a picture of yourself with an ‘I voted’ sticker” to “Build a 20ft.
Tall Baby Monster” and “Post Photographic Proof of a Bears vs Babies Tattoo” (both of which were accomplished by backers!) Fan engagement with the game was incredible as a result of the achievement system, and the original offering was expanded considerably. Additionally, the base goal for Bears vs Babies was only $10k, so the funding goal was greatly surpassed.