Thursday, August 1, 2013


Axes & Anvils

UPDATED: open letter to Mike Nystul

Axes & Anvils versus Numenera

generates x35 initial goal
generates x25 initial goal
funded within 1 hour
funded within 1 day
funding ended Aug. 11, 2012
funding ended Sept. 17, 2012
estimated delivery Nov. 2012
estimated delivery July 2013
58 updates
64 updates
promises made: 6
promises made: 3
promises kept: 2
promises kept: 3
praises backers 9 times
praises backers 26 times
# of tattoos creator received of project: 1
# of tattoos creator received of project: 0
average # of posts made on facebook every day that have nothing to do with this project: 18
average # of posts made on facebook every day that have nothing to do with this project: 0.08

That last point is petty of me. But fuck, this guy seems to be spending more time dicking around on facebook than working on the kickstarter that is eight months late!

I decided to go a little overboard and summarize these two kickstarters via their updates. Primarily because I keep getting updates from Axes & Anvils that are the same broken record of "nothing yet, I promise I'm working on it." The last update from Axes & Anvils was a preview of the rules and even that was delivered with the disclaimer of "This is also not final. There are things in here I know will change."

In writing this comparison of updates I tried to be sympathetic to Mike Nystul and tried to be unforgiving with Monte Cook. It didn't always work because Cook works hard to make his backers happy and Nystul clearly has no idea what he is doing.

I feel bad for Mike Nystul. I really do. As much as I'm disappointed in his failure to deliver, angry at his apparent lack of discipline, and annoyed at his lack of focus, I just feel bad for the guy. His eyes are bigger than his stomach, and his lofty goals were just never going to work with the ramshackle way he approached this project. After going through all of these it's clear for me to see that Cook always had people lending a helping hand and turning to him to make his project better, while Nystul was by himself and always searching for help. Monte Cook is overwhelmed by the popularity of his project, while Nystul always seems overwhelmed by his project.

The real difference between these two projects is that Cook expected to make A BOOK, singular, and ended up making a whole product line. Nystul's goals were bigger than a simple game book and he was always looking towards expanding what he had and looking toward the future instead of focusing on what he was getting and what he needed to do in the present.

#1: funding met, adds pdf pledge level
#1: clarifies costs
#2: adds "new" stretch goals, promises summary of rules
#2: funding met
#3: underestimated costs, adds pledge levels
#3: overwhelmed by popularity, talks about adding stretch goals
#4: first stretch goal met, talks about printing and gameworld
#4: first stretch goal met
#5: second stretch goal met, talks about add-ons for game and adding pledge levels, offers miniatures to backers who pledge more money
#5: second stretch goal met, talks about add-ons for game and adding pledge levels, promises free pdfs to backers at higher pledge levels, promises free books to libraries if next stretch goal reached
#6: another stretch goal met, talks about attending GenCon and adding another pledge level
#6: shows off finished concept artwork
#7: another stretch goal met, talks about expanding product line
#7: another stretch goal met, talks about add-ons for game and adding pledge levels
#8: two stretch goals met
#8: another stretch goal met, promises free pdf to most backers
#9: two stretch goals met, underestimated costs, plans for GenCon, talks about other Kickstarter project
#9: stretch goal met, talks about adding stretch goals
#10: stretch goal met, talks about adding stretch goals
#10: stretch goal met, plans for GenCon
#11: underestimated costs, adds new pledge level
#11: talks about adding stretch goals
#12: ego-stoking, promotes somebody else's kickstarter
#12: gives free pdf to higher pledge level backers
#13: promotes Dwarf Con, an Axes & Anvils convention
#13: video update
#14: video update
#14: expanded pledge levels, begs backers to promote project
#15: merges two stretch goals together
#15: stretch goal met, adds stretch goal
#16: project ends, all stretch goals met
#16: links showing blog posts of the evolution and growth of project, links to playtest reports
#17: promises free pdf to backers
#17: adds new pledge levels
#18: presents plan for publishing
#18: hints at future project, adds stretch goal
#19: promotes presence at GenCon
#19: new kickstarter announced
#20: returns from GenCon, promotes Dwarf Con
#20: stretch goal met, adds stretch goal, promises free short story
#21: defeated by technology
#21: stretch goal met, new stretch goals added
#22: links to add-on spreadsheet
#22: adds more stretch goals, promises more wallpapers for backers
#23: survey delayed, promotes Dwarf Con, plans for FenCon
#23: stretch goal met
#24: survey posted
#24: gives backers wallpapers
#25: shows off his Axes & Anvils tattoo
#25: stretch goal met
#26: promises playtest rules, promotes Dwarf Con
#26: stretch goal met, shares promised short story
#27: shows off logo art, promises playtest rules
#27: stretch goal met
#28: promises playtest rules again
#28: stretch goal met, adds new reward level
#29: promotes Dwarf Con
#29: ego-stroking
#30: delays printing schedule, promotes Dwarf Con, promotes next Kickstarter project
#30: stretch goal met, details more add-ons
#31: talks about rewriting rules, promotes other kickstarter, promises playtest rules
#31: stretch goal met, talks about dice and GM screen production
#32: promotes facebook page for game
#32: stretch goal met, production expanded
#33: talks about writing rules, promotes website
#33: stretch goal met, more details for add-ons
#34: playtest rules posted
#34: stretch goals added
#35: defeated by technology again, talks about rules
#35: stretch goal met, shares finished artwork
#36: shows off finished artwork
#36: stretch goal met, adds stretch goals
#37: ego-stroking
#37: stretch goal met, reward levels clarified due to excessive amounts of extras
#38: production delayed, shows off artwork
#38: details production plans
#39: confession and apologies, cancels Dwarf Con
#39: names and thanks all co-contributors, video update
#40: promises preview rules
#40: promotes others' kickstarters
#41: asks for volunteers to help
#41: clarifies payment process, shows off artwork
#42: complains about posting to kickstarter, wishes for people to read his facebook page
#42: clarifies production schedule and payments, promises new wallpapers
#43: shows off (very poorly done) map artwork
#43: shares new wallpapers
#44: rules have been rewritten, promises preview pdf
#44: clarifies payment process (again)
#45: promotes his attendance at another convention, promises preview pdf
#45: promises playtest rules, promises survey, promotes book
#46: promises preview pdf, promotes facebook page
#46: asks for playtesters of finished rules, promotes book
#47: promises preview pdf
#47: apologizes for add-on delays
#48: promises preview pdf, shows off finished artwork
#48: links to add-on order form
#49: promises preview pdf, shows off finished artwork
#49: clarifies use of order form and playtest submissions
#50: promises preview pdf, promises his work partner will just publish what they have if he slacks off again
#50: clarifies communication, rewards, playtesting and production; ego-stroking
#51: lots of hand-wringing, apologies and clarifications
#51: ego-stroking, more clarification, shares artwork
#52: promises preview rules again, shows off finished artwork
#52: more playtesting and production clarification, promotes website, shares artwork
#53: promises preview pdf, shows off artwork and table of contnts
#53: promotes new kickstarter for tie-in video games
#54: talks about writing rules, releases print-and-play minis
#54: ego-stroking, promotes website and podcast, encourages backers to join forums
#55: ego-stroking
#55: promotes new kickstarter project, talks about production
#56: talks about being "unwell all weekend"
#56: promoted kickstarter reaches goal, fulfills low-level backer reward, promotes preorder link, shares map artwork
#57: promises preview pdf
#57: promotes add-on, shares artwork
#58: preview rules posted
#58: shares pictures of add-on dice
#59: promises project is done and clarifies production schedule
#60: fulfills first stretch goal, clarifies production, ego-stroking
#61: clarifies stretch goal fulfillment
#62: fulfills second stretch goal
#63: clarifies production (again), fulfills third stretch goal, shares picture of dice
#64: clarifies release of ebooks, ego-stroking, promotes (another) tie-in kickstarter, shares picture of miniatures


  1. This was excellent, thank you for posting! It helps me at least deal with my A&A-induced rage.

    1. You're welcome.
      I have to say, it helped put the whole debacle in perspective for me as well. I wrote the commentary only to explain my perspective.

  2. Mike Nystul has penned a response...

  3. I agree with your sympathy for Nystul, I think he's enthusiasm is much higher than his work ethic - and that's okay when you have a team. As a solo it's not likely to work (well, that's been my experience).

    Also: Production plan. It's good to have one - helps stop the money evaporating into dreams of a convention...

    1. Yeah, conventions are pricey. I have a job and I rarely attend more than one convention a year.


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