Crowdfunding Makes Macedonian Board Game an International Hit

“Cavern Tavern” characters. Art by Txe Mico. Used with permission of Final Frontier Games.

How does a group of young people in a small impoverished country fulfill its dream of selling a board game on the international market? For at least two Macedonian start-ups, the answer in 2016 was the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.

Archona Games raised more than 33,000 Australian dollars (USD $25,300) to manufacture its sci-fi-themed board game “Small Star Empires,” and Final Frontier Games collected more than USD $107,000 to release its fantasy-themed game “Cavern Tavern.” Both companies beat their fundraising goals considerably.

“Top Theme on Your Side,” a leading Macedonian TV show featuring debates and reporting, aired a story about Final Frontier Games, following its smashing success on Kickstarter. Below, you can find the story with English subtitles.

Vojkan Krstevski, one of Final Frontier Games’ four co-founders, also spoke to Global Voices about the project, describing the time and resources his team invested into preparing the Kickstarter campaign, including hiring top Macedonian illustrator Txe Mico.

When launching their Kickstarter, Final Frontier Games set up four pledge levels. At level one, supporters could donate USD $1. At the second level, donations rose to USD $5, and contributors were invited to download a “PnP” (print-and-play) version of the game. At the third level, people pledging USD $44 dollars received a physical copy of the game. Fourth-level pledges, limited to just 42 entries at USD $119 at piece, provided buyers with both a physical copy of the game and opportunity to name one of the “cocktail” cards within the game.

Cavern Tavern cards. Art by The Mico. Used with permission of Final Frontier Games.

GV: Who supported your game on Kickstarter? How did these pledge levels function?

Војкан Крстевски (ВК): Преку ова, поддржувачите се чувствуваа инволвирани во самиот дивелопмент на играта, ја чувствуваа како своја, а со тоа беа и екстремно мотивирано самата кампања да биде успешна. Нашите поддржувачи станаа и најголемите промотори на кампањата. Ова не беше лесно, потребна е детална маркетинг стратегија за буквално секој ден од 5-те месеци пред-кампања и 1 месец на самата кампања за да го постигнете тоа, особено ако ова е вашиот прв проект на Кикстартер кој се обидува да биде забележан од стотиците други проекти кои се активни во секој момент.

На крајот, завршивме со безмалку 2.000 поддржувачи од сите краишта на светот кои заеднички донираа 107.966 долари. Околу половината беа од САД, 30% од ЕУ, а останатиот дел беше буквално распостранет по целиот свет. Од Кина и Јапан до Француска Полинезија, Брунеи, Иран, преку Јужна Африка па се до Чиле, Аргентина, Бразил… Речиси сите држави на планетава. За жал, живееме во поделен и раскаран свет. Гледајќи како луѓе од целата планета (без разлика на религија, политички систем или боја на кожа) се здружија да финансираат идеја на еден тим од Македонија не прави екстремно среќни и горди на постигнатото.

Vojkan Krstevski (VK): By joining a pledge level according to their preference, the supporters felt involved in the game development. They felt like the game was their own, and they were motivated to help the success of the campaign. Our supporters thus become our biggest promoters. This was not easy, we needed a detailed marketing strategy for the five months before the campaign and the one month of the official campaign to achieve this — especially if this is your first Kickstarter project, attempting to get noticed among hundreds other active projects.

At the end, we ended with almost 2,000 supporters worldwide, with donations reaching USD $107,966. About half of them were from the U.S., and 30 percent were from the EU, while the rest literally from the all over the rest of the world. From China and Japan to French Polynesia, Brunei, Iran, to South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Brasil… Almost all countries on the planet. Unfortunately, we live in a divided world. Seeing people from the entire planet who — regardless of religion, political system or skin color — joined forces to finance the idea of a team from Macedonia made us extremely happy and proud of our achievement.

Annually, about 3,000 projects apply for Kickstarter funding in the category of board games. Only 30 percent meet their funding goals, and a mere 5 percent manage to raise more than USD $100,000.

GV: How do you distribute the physical copies to your global audiences?

ВК: Поради распостранетоста на нашата публика, закупивме магацини и ангажиравме фирми за достава т.н. fulfillment центри на 4 различни континенти и таму испративме игри. Имаме fulfillment центри во САД, Велика Британија, Австралија и Кина. Зависно од каде е купувачот, го информираме најблискиот fulfillment центар и тој ја врши доставата во наше име. Процесот е доста логистички обемен, бидејќи подразбира координирање на производителот во Кина со 4 различни фирми на различни континенти, како и доставување на контејнери од играта на овие места преку бродови, но, тоа е дел од нашата работа и е само една алка од процесот на издавање и продавање игра.

VK: Due to the spread of our audience, we rented distribution centers on four continents and sent the games there. The centers are located in the U.S., UK, Australia and China. Depending on who the buyers are, we organized deliveries through the closest distribution centers on our behalf. The process was very complex, involving coordination between the manufacturer in China and four firms from different continents, shipping containers by boats — but that's part of the work and a link in the chain of publishing and selling a game.

In another interview, Krstevski noted that they were lucky to complete the process before UK implements Brexit, and the new U.S. president fulfills his campaign promise to raise customs duties on products made in China. Both political developments threaten to make the transport and sale of such goods much more expensive.

“Cavern Tavern” characters. Art by Txe Mico. Used with permission of Final Frontier Games.

GV: You've managed to earn a living doing what you love, and turn your hobby into a business. Why do people like board games?

ВК: Играњето друштвени игри, односно самите игри, се многу променети од времето на Монопол или Риск, и стануваат се поголем дел од поп културата. Растот на индустријата на друштвени игри е огромен во последните 10 години. Во голем дел, тоа се должи на потребата на луѓето за човечка интеракција, особено во ова време кога дигиталниот свет се повеќе и повеќе ни ги „окупира“ животите.

VK: Playing board games, i.e. the games themselves, has changed a lot since the times of Monopoly or Risk, and are more and more they're becoming part of pop culture. The board-game industry growth has been huge in the past ten years. For the most part, this is due to people's need for human interaction, especially at a time when the digital world increasingly “occupies” our lives.

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