After Calico, Flatout Games has again run a board game with Cascadia as crowdfunding via Kickstarter for financing - and the campaign is at least as successful. Instead of cats, it is now about the Canadian animal world; once again the illustrator Beth Sobel has her pen in the game. The success at the debut was therefore no coincidence, Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin and Shawn Stankewich seem to be doing something just right to inspire with their projects. We asked what Flatout Games is all about. 

If you look at the crowdfunding campaign for Cascadia, there are currently almost 6.000 fans who have already confirmed their support and have invested around 25 euros. In return, the “backers” get a strategic board game for up to four players, including solo mode, which takes up the ecosystem of the Canadian province of British Columbia as a theme. Once again, animals are the focus and that works as the driving force behind the campaign: instead of cats as with Calico - the hugely successful Kickstarter debut by Flatout Games - this time it is deer, bears and birds of prey, among others, that the illustrator Beth Sobel staged has.

Flatout Games hits trends precisely

While Calico was able to motivate around 6.700 supporters in retrospect, Cascadia currently has almost 6.000. The balance in the number of supporters is probably no coincidence: Flatout Games seems to have gathered a small fan base with its two titles. In 2017, Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin and Shawn Stankewich founded Flatout Games. With their debut Kickstarter, Calico, they collected over 200.000 US dollars, and the game is now even making it onto the market in Germany via Pegasus games. So how does it feel when the first board game ideas have been so well received by fans?

“The best thing is how much people enjoy the games,” says Molly Johnson. "We wanted to make games that would be easy for many people to learn and fun." If people enjoy the games, that's the best feedback. "It's probably a great motivator too!" Shawn Stankewich sees it similarly: “It was a confirmation for us! We wanted to focus on games that a wide variety of people would like, and so far it has worked out pretty well! "

The creative minds have already contributed their ideas and skills to several projects. Image rights: Flatout games

There is always a lot to do: the creative minds have already contributed their ideas and skills to several projects. Image rights: Flatout games

Wanting to design board games yourself, this desire also arose due to influences from the European board game market. Molly Johnson says: “We have all always loved board games. When two of us - Shawn and I - moved to Seattle, we discovered our local game store, Blue Highway Games. The store brought shipments of games from Europe and hosted many great special events. We met a lot of great people and played a lot of games. We did a few reviews of games and then decided to work with our friend Robb to create them. ” The makers then brought the early drafts to Gen Con and tested them there.

"The games got good feedback, so we kept working and promoting the projects," says Molly Johnson. "We like to create things, solve problems and learn about the industry itself." It seems that a momentum of its own has developed, which Shawn Stankewich confirms: “One thing seems to lead to another and then to another again. We were excited to see what to expect next. "

Cascadia continues the mini series of successes

Flatout Games has long since exceeded the targeted financing target of almost 7.000 euros with the board game Cascadia - and how. Fans have already invested more than 150.000 euros in the Kickstarter campaign, which is around 22 times the amount set. And the crowdfunding will continue for a full two weeks: enough time for undecided fans to consider participating.

The makers are more than impressed by their success, which Molly Johnson comments: “Of course we are happy that the people are enthusiastic about Cascadia! It's a great game and we had a great time creating this Kickstarter project with Randy Flynn, the designer of the board game, and illustrator Beth Sobel. "

Shawn Stankewich confirms that the supporters of Cascadia have already contributed to Calico in many cases: "It was really great to see that many people who trusted us in the first game are back for the second". That feels like a good sign. “We have the best supporters!”

At Cascadia, animals are once again the focus, this time from the northwestern ecosystem. Image rights: Flatout Games

The current project: At Cascadia, animals are once again the focus, this time from the north-western ecosystem. Image rights: Flatout Games

Kickstarter as a platform also contributed to the success, the makers let us know. In particular, they emphasize the concept of “crowd financing” as ideal for implementing creative projects at all - and not exclusively with regard to games. “Kickstarter is so cool,” says Molly Johnson. The platform provides opportunities for creators to introduce projects, not just games, to potential supporters. " Public relations in particular would have been much more difficult if one hadn't had a crowdfunding platform. “We love to check out the selection of projects on Kickstarter and see the community that revolves around those projects”. It is also interesting to think about how a project will or has already changed.

Shawn adds: "It's a wonderful platform for us to test our ideas and help shape how our games change!" We received great feedback and ideas from the supporters. “We love the community aspect,” explains Stankewich.

The magic behind the success? Hard work, a network - and luck

Anyone who runs two board game projects in a row via “swarm financing” has to hide more than mere coincidence. When asked about the secrets of her success, Molly Johnson answered soberly: “I don't think we have any secrets or magic. We love games and want to try and make great products. We are also part of a great community. In the early days, Joseph Chen and Justin Faulkner (Fantastic Factories), Emma Larkins (Abandon All Artichokes), Nicole Jekich, and everyone at Playtest Northwest, the folks at a Tuesday game design get-together (including Cody Thompson, Rob Newton), mated Scott Cooper (Owner at Blue Highway Games) and his excellent staff (Amanda Erven and Tom Rorem). This is exactly what made the small but subtle difference, especially at the beginning, when it came to launching an ambitious project in the first place.

"We asked a lot of people a lot of questions," said Johnson. "We read all about crowdfunding, asked people about their experiences, looked into very specific details, listened to a lot of podcasts and tried to connect with as many people as possible." Also helpful: to combine different skills in a team. Molly Johnson: “I think internally we have an interesting balance of skills and personalities. Robb is very level-headed and a very good salesman, Shawn is motivated and relentless and has a single-minded focus, and I'm skeptical and cautious. " So everyone brings their individual perspectives directly into the game design. Shawn Stankewich sees it similarly, for him too the different “skills” of a team are a decisive factor. For example, Molly Johnson had amazing skills when it came to judging a game: “She understands what it takes to make a hit game that will be available to a wide audience. She also has an incredible eye for detail. "

Molly describes herself as the greatest entertainer and at the same time as a brake on the fun, "which is probably true," jokes Shawn, but she brings so much more to the table than that. “I think that our unique mix of skills and perspectives goes a long way towards ensuring that we can be successful. That and, as Molly said, the amazing community of people in the local scene here in Seattle. "

Calico was Flatout Games' Kickstarter debut - and was extremely well received by fans. Photo: AMC Volkmann

Calico was Flatout Games' Kickstarter debut - and was extremely well received by fans. Photo: AMC Volkmann

Sometimes you have to go off the beaten track, says Shawn: “We're not afraid to do things a little differently. We are critical of processes and always try to think about how we can work together to do things better. Our CoLab model arose out of the question: Why are publishers set up the way they are and can we do things just a little differently? "

This co-lab model - which the three founded in 2019 - is intended to bring a number of major players in the industry to one table for joint projects. The creative minds have already proven how well this can work with Calico. To bring the board game to the Kickstarter platform, they used the “CoLab” and sat down with Kevin Russ, David Iezzi, Dylan Mangini, and Beth Sobel. So that too is one of the “not-so-secret secrets” of Flatout Games.

Commented Molly Johnson, “We had a wonderful core group in the Co-Lab to work with. Kevin Russ, Dylan Mangini, David Iezzi and Randy Flynn are all very passionate about games and bring so much talent and skill to the table. With our games (Point Salad and Truffle Shuffle) as well as the joint release of Calico, we have built a great collaboration with the Alderac Entertainment Group and were able to gain a lot of knowledge from everyone's experience. " Cascadia won't be the last project, that's for sure. Molly and Shawn didn't want to reveal exactly what the future was about, but new projects are already in the works.

“We design and always think about combining mechanics and themes,” says Molly Johnson. “We work on both our design projects and our publishing projects. So there are a lot of ideas on the way! " Shawn emphasizes: "We are very busy and there is no end in sight!" We have some game projects that we're really looking forward to. So keep an eye out in the coming months! "

The Crowdfunding campaign for Cascadia on Kickstarter: Players have until October 22nd for their “pledge”: It costs around 25 euros, plus shipping costs of just under 13 euros. Cascadia will then be delivered in August 2021.

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Last updated on 4.12.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API