Streets of Stalingrad 4 – Kickstarting a Playtest Kit, WTF?

Yesterday, I followed press release link on Consimworld for a classic game, Streets of Stalingrad, that announced it was going to be getting a makeover and rebooted as a 4th edition on Kickstarter. Reading the full announcement, it quickly became apparent that the company was going to run a Kickstarter campaign in May for a playtest kit followed by the full version of the game in September. What the hell is that about?

This is the first time I have seen this little stunt tried. Despite very little information being available as to campaign, costs, or any implied benefits to those that back the playtest kit, this is a very slippery slope. As one who playtest games, I know the costs involved in building a playtest kit. I can only assume this one way to both offset some of the costs of producing these kits and to attract only those playtesters that will be committed to providing timely and substantial feedback to the developers.

There is no way in hell I would pay for the ability to playtest a game! There is a certain cost associated with the development of a game; if a company lacks the internal resources to successfully playtest their own games, they need to seek volunteers and cover some of the costs of playtest materials. This just feels like a cheap trick.

I think I will wait for the full version of the game to launch on Kickstarter, but I suspect it will be only half-baked at the time of launch seeing how they are launching the playtest campaign four months earlier. I suspect it will likely not deliver for a year following the campaign. Purely speculation on my part, but that is what my gut is telling me. Not to mention, I have theorized that the buy-in price in September will exceed $150 and could be closer to $200.

Weigh in with your thoughts on these shenanigans!

EDIT – I do have a follow-up post –> Follow Up – Streets of Stalingrad 4 – Kickstarting a Playtest Kit, WTF?

~ Modoc

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7 thoughts on “Streets of Stalingrad 4 – Kickstarting a Playtest Kit, WTF?

  1. Having read this review/heads up I had to chuck my 2 pence worth in. first off, I know L2 sold SOS3 playtest kits for a few years after it’s released, now they are collector’s items. So why the fact that the team that is responsible for this latest version are doing the same should not be to much of a shock, also the original SoS by phoenix games did likewise IIRC, here is a link to that little part of History http://tomeoftreasures.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=13172&sid=5….
    So a play test kit is to my mind not that unusual, it will give potential players a ‘feel’ for what the 4th edition will be like.

    Now onto the meat of the lesson as it were.as to why I feel an SoS 4 is a great idea, I own all except the Original SoS, so I have both of Nova games modules (Fire on the Volga & Battle for the Factories), and I also have L2 Design Groups SoS 3rd Edition, the game in both 2nd ed and 3rd Ed are to my mind simply amazing, clearly L2’s version is far superior to the Nova game versions by a marked degree.
    Having looked at the web site and seen what is on offer in this new version I can only drool at the prospect of diving into Stalingrad yet again, but clearly in much more detail, the one fact that had me hooked straight away was the extra ground in the North past Rynok and Spartakovka, and the introduction of a scenario covering Hubes’ initial advance during the tail end of August.
    This game is shaping up to be a winner, I can only wish the makers all the best, also as to the cost, it will be what it will be, a 3rd Edition in VG condition will set you back $300 + so, a new 4th Edition will I think be a lot less than that IMHO, so worrying about the cost is to my mind a bit redundant.

    all the best

    Perry

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perry,

      Thank you for the comments. I too hope this project is more than successful. I have owned SoS3 before and enjoyed what little of it have gotten to play.

      Playtest kits are very common in this segment of the hobby, but what is not all that common is passing that cost on to your customers/playtesters. I know in the past I have hand made kits to playtest various games from digital files. So, yes, I paid some cost. With the prevalence of vassal, there is no need to playtest in the physical form unless some diehard grognard wants to assemble his/her own kit.

      Attempting to crowdsource something like this also not unheard of in the video game and RPG segments of the hobby, but seems very out of place in the wargaming segment. I know they have said the game has been in development for two years, but what happens when you buy a playtest kit and find the game is broken? Does this delay the September project? What happens if playtesters find issues at the time of the September campaign? Will that delay printing and delivering of the final game?

      These and so many more question I would have posed to the publisher, but they declined my request for an interview. I want this to be successful just like you, but with so many variables when it comes to the road they are electing to travel, consumers need some questions answered. There are too many pitfalls with Kickstarter campaigns!

      ~ Modoc

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  2. Granted, But I do still feel that you are being a little bit over critical when the people who are running this project are simply doing what others have done before.
    As to their reluctance to divulge any information that is to my mind good practice, and commsec, I would not want to let any cats out of the bag to early as it were. Good constructive criticism/reviewing is all good and well, but as we have only just seen the initial web page over the last few days it would IMHO be prudent to see what happens over the next few weeks, either way I feel SoS 4 will only add to the war gamers understanding of the battle and I think will turn out to be the ultimate Stalingrad game if it keeps on going the way it is.

    all the best

    Perry

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perry,

      Fair points! Though the path they have chosen has been explored in the past this is not a common practice these days. Is it a good way to go? That is yet to be seen and I am sure the May Kickstarter will tell a lot. As a consumer who will end up purchasing the full game, I would feel better if the playtest campaign were launched months ago. Launching in May for the kit and then launching the full game in September appears to be a sizeable risk for them and the consumer. Unfortunately, over the last seven or so years, I have seen far too many game-related Kickstarters fail and this just seems to have some of those hallmarks. I think that is the crux of my concern.

      I do wish them well and I will purchase it when it publishes. If the full game is near ready to go and all they need is the investment capital to bring it to market, I totally support that type of effort. At face value, it just seems a little shady.

      ~ Modoc

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  3. Hi Modoc,

    Shady is a little strong I feel, as you have already stated that this way of doing business has already been used before, on various other ventures,

    to that end What are/is your trepidation/’s with the playtest kits?

    According to the posts/quotes I have read, Streets of Stalingrad has gone through three major (SOS1, SOS2 & SOS3) playtest since 1980’s. I am unsure about how the second Nova 2-part version was tested. The base SOS4 game rules are 90% the same as SOS3. About 95% of the land combat rules are the same. Some new rules apply to the air war with different type of planes and mission; most new rules apply to the Volga flotilla and crossing of the Volga River. The rules will increase from 35 pages to 37 pages.

    I have read rumors of SOS4 for the last two years (I stumbled on the articles, and as an avid Stalingrad war gamer I was interested to say the least) from different post on Consimworld and BGG. I have wrote both Dana and Russ and they have shared examples and insights into the new version. One month before official announcement, was even asked to review the sos-4.com webpage before it went online. I personally think you jump the gun in your original post.

    From what I have seen, SoS is in good hands, and I do feel that the release will be something special, what I have seen and have been made privy to is nothing short of staggering in scale and polish, this WILL be the ultimate company/platoon scale Stalingrad game, I know I will be buying a copy, and I am sure you will not be disappointed when you buy your copy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perry,

      My trepidation is that projects should be play tested before they to Kickstarter. They should be seeking funding for the real McCoy and not playour test kits. Play testing should be an integral part of the developmental process and should be arranged external to any crowd funding.

      There is likely chance there will be no issues whatsoever, but I have my concerns about their approach.

      ~ Modoc

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