The Kickstarter launch of the newest edition of Kemet has been highly anticipated for quite some time. There had been rumblings about a reprint to make the game more accessible and in the past year or so, those rumblings gained steam as rumors of a streamlined rulebook was in the works. The Kickstarter has been incredibly successful so far; raising over $535,000 on a goal of $84,058 (as of the time of this writing).
A recent update to the Kickstarter campaign was mention of a new Kemet: Cthulhu-themed expansion. The expansion is an extra add-on item to the current Kickstarter (meaning there is an additional cost to purchase this item) and is backwards compatible with the original Kemet. This expansion is not needed to play the base game in any way. It is strictly additional content for backers of the game to purchase if they’d like.
The drama comes from the vocal backlash of the internet board game community. The Green Pyramid mystery had created some exciting and rampant speculation on what the reveal would be. With a deep and rich pantheon of Egyptian mythology at the disposal of publisher Matagot, many members of the community are upset and disappointed with the news of the inclusion of Lovecraftian lore. Time and effort were put into making an expansion that they believe does not fit the original intentions and theme of Kemet. There are multiple posts on the Kemet: Blood and Sand forum regarding the revealed expansion.
Matagot has responded to backers by stating that a retheme of this expansion will not be occurring. I don’t blame them either. Time, effort and money went into this decision and again, it’s a non-essential part of the game.
Lovecraftian lore does have some roots in Egypt, with the Black Pharaoh, Nephren-Ka and Nyarlathotep (who is included in the expansion). Lovecraftian themes, Cthulhu inparticular, are basically free use in the public domain (which explains their high appearance rate in board games). The developers and publishers cannot be looked down on too much for taking what is a solid theme that already has a famous background and name and adding it to the game for next to nothing. Creating board games is a business and Cthulhu related board game items on Kickstarter have done big money in the past.
A poll was posted on BGG that showed a majority of vote takers as having a negative response to the expansion. At the time of this writing, there were 936 votes tallied. When compared to the Kickstarter pledges (at the time of this writing) of 6,593, this poll only accounts for fourteen percent of the customer base. Looking deeper, it’s not even that as 264 voters are not even backing the game. Subtracting that from the total drops the percentage down to just ten.
The expansion is just that: an expansion and is not a requirement to play or enjoy the base game. Backers are free to vote with their wallets whichever way they feel.
From as far as I can tell, the vocal majority of online complaining is being done by the minority of those that are going in on the Kemet Kickstarter. Using sites like kicktraq, I haven’t seen any noticeable dip in funding and there actually seems to be a slight tick up in funding coinciding with the release of the news of the expansion.
However, Matagot has reversed their course and stated that the expansion is being revisited, theme wise. I’m very surprised after their earlier remarks but am excited to see more of the world of Egyptian mythology fleshed out. In the update, it states that the Cthulhu minis will still be available as an add-on for those interested.
The Cthulhu reveal wasn’t the only controversy to surround the topic either. The original model for the Sphinx miniature was hyper-sexual and heavily featured feminine features. While some depictions of Sphinxes have such features, most Sphinxes were of male design. It seems weird to change the historical design so dramatically. It’s also weird to argue about the historical accuracy of the game Kemet but here I am. Matagot did come out on BGG and make a statement that they are going to change the model.
The campaign will still fund and continue on the legacy established by the original printing of Kemet so while there was some drama, I don’t see this having any lasting impact on the publisher or the game itself. Just something amusing to see play out. If anything, their reversal on the expansion shows that they have their customers in mind with their decision making and if anything, are ready to accept criticism.