Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thunder Alley...

Kickstarter is a new(ish) force in board gaming that has already had a big impact,and is something that seems to attract a love-hate attitude. Personally I don’t have a horse in the race, I’m not worried that Kickstarter will diminish or flood the game market, and I do think it is most certainly a positive thing for small game publishers.

In fact, the only reason that I’m writing about this is not because of Kickstarter itself per se, but rather because I noticed that GMT, a publisher that already pioneered it’s own approach to crowd-funding, has put it’s first game up: Thunder Alley.

GMT is a company that is very well respected within the wargame niche of the board game market, they produce a huge range of wargames on a wide variety of conflicts throughout history.  Some are massive simulations, some more accessible for the non-wargamer out there; the sort of person who wants a game that is easy to enjoy and play.

Without a doubt they have had several run-away successes: Twilight Struggle, Command and Colours Ancients, and Combat Commander are the ones that spring most immediately to mind.

So why does a company with a proven and well-honed crowd-funding system (The P500 system), turn to Kickstarter?  From the KS page for Thunder Alley GMT notes that they want to bring the game to market more quickly, and hope that KS assists in getting news about Thunder Alley to a wider audience than those who frequent

I think the latter is the most pertinent point, GMT has previously published games that are more family style games, games with themes that are not wargames.  But without a doubt they are most strongly associated with the wargame market - and it seems that more recently, with games like Dominant Species, Urban Sprawl, and of course Thunder Alley and Title Chase Basketball, GMT is looking to broaden their market, they are interested in good games, not simply good wargames.

Does sitting in a publication list of games about various engagements through history make it harder for games like Thunder Alley to stand out and be noticed?  Are the markets for the different games different enough for there to be some level of dissonance?  Perhaps the P500 system, well known and very successful for their wargaming market, is the perfect place to keep pushing those games, while Kickstarter allows the company to break the typical attachments associated with the GMT brand, and reach a different audience.  

Whatever the reasons I’ll be interested to see what, if any, other games GMT pushes out into the KS world.  I’ll also be watching Thunder Alley; I loved Jeff Horger’s ‘Manoeuvre’, and Thunder Alley seems to be a really interesting design.  I’ll also be interested to see how GMT approach the KS world of stretch rewards and such.

In any case, Thunder Alley looks like a fun and interesting racing game, and GMT are certainly a company I have a lot of respect for, best of luck trying this out!



  1. Kickstarter is suffering from the type of criticism that comes with being a widely known pioneer. If I recall, eBay went through the same thing, and now is a respected force in online purchasing. KS will get there. So far, I have been happy with my KS gaming purchases.

  2. Me too Frank - I like KS a lot, and I think it has the potential to be a potent force for small publishers.

    I'd love to see GMT tackle KS as a way of expanding what they do - which seems the tacit implication in their Thunder Alley description - however, I think their KS campaign could be a lot better - my fingers are crossed, I don't think Thunder Alley is going to get funded, but I also hope GMT isn't burned by the experience. They could do well from it.