Instead of a wishlist feature about one of the Stonemaier Games products out there, I wanted to take a different approach and discuss the company itself and how they have already made me a dedicated customer for life, even though I am yet to own a single game of theirs. There are four things I will discuss that the company itself has done to set itself apart from many other board game publishers out there. This isn’t to say that Stonemaier is better or worse than publisher X, but rather to cheer them on for what they are doing that I, as a consumer of board games, appreciate.
- They have passed along vast amounts of knowledge about the designing, developing, and distribution of games. If you haven’t read Jamey’s blog, you need to add it to your to-do list. This man has taken all of the lessons he has learned and compiled them into helpful blog posts that are free for everyone to read. This is a place everyone who is designing and publishing a board game should be following, and even those who have no desire to ever make their own game can learn a lot and find interesting reads over there. I don’t know that I will ever attempt to make a game myself, but I have a lot of respect for the transparency of Jamey about the process he has gone through and his willingness to help others learn from those experiences.
- They aren’t sticking to what worked, but are still testing things out to try and find the best way of doing business. Like it or not, many gamers are starting to view Kickstarter as a glorified preorder system where a company can take all the risk out of a game by collecting money months, or even a year, in advance. There are companies, such as Cool Mini or Not, who continue to use it for every miniature-packed game they produce and reap the rewards. No doubt Stonemaier Games would have equal levels of success on Kickstarter with their upcoming game, Charterstone. But they have opted to try a new path of publishing for the game rather than continue to tempt and tease us with stretch goals, “exclusive” content, and upgraded components. And I really respect their desire, now that they are larger and better known, to find out what avenue of distribution works best for all parties involved.
- They are willing to listen when it makes sense to listen. Every Kickstarter campaign will bring about backers who make suggestions for how games should change, what content should be added, what stretch goals would entice them with more money. Jamey has said, in podcasts I’ve listened to, that there are valuable suggestions in there and that you need to be wise in choosing what to consider and what to pass on. But I was really impressed by his visit on Low Player Count’s podcast and his discussion of including solo play in his games. Jamey has never been a solo gamer, but when he was approached about the importance of designing and marketing for that player count, he listened. And he has gone all-in on that idea, allowing Morten Monrad Pedersen to pursue the solo development the games needed. And, from what I hear, it shows. His games are friendly for all player counts, and as a player at 1 and 2-player counts, I really appreciate that.
- They make taking care of a customer a priority. I recently had the chance to play Viticulture for the first time, teaching it using the copy a friend had obtained used. I was prepared to teach everyone the rules, but the board had me confused. I learned later that there was only the Tuscany board in her box (which she didn’t know) so we had played the game on the more complex board (blocking out the spaces that didn’t match the base game). I tweeted to Jamey about it and he wanted me to have her email him and they’d get it taken care of. Not only did they come to a fair arrangement about the replacement board, they helped her to figure out what else she needed to fix from the 1st edition of the game in order to get it current. That, my friends, was the thing that sealed the deal for me. Excellent customer service from a fantastic company.
I could add many more reasons, including how active Jamey is on BGG and social media, how Jamey has conducted surveys of customers to find out their wants/needs from games, and talking about how fantastic both Scythe and Viticulture were when I played them. But this is enough. I look forward to the day when I purchase my first Stonemaier game, and even moreso when I review my first Stonemaier game. They have made me a customer for life, and the inclusion of 1-2 player playability in their games has made all five of their games hit my wish list.
Keep up the outstanding service in the board game industry, Jamey and Stonemaier games.