Did you miss this campaign? Find out about post-campaign availability at the ImpObj.com web site.
So tell me, how do you keep track of creature enhancements when you're playing Magic: the Gathering*? Glass blobs? Pennies? A die that you have to keep rotating to indicate how much boost the creature has? Whatever you do, you probably realized you'd rather have a token that actually says "+1/+1" on it about 28 femtoseconds after you first saw the picture above (or maybe before. Who knows?)
But there's more to that token than meets the eye, because it's a PennyGem, which is to say, it's just about the most perfect game token you'll ever meet.
The Magic of PennyGems™
This Kickstarter campaign is my fourth. My first campaign was the launch of the original PennyGems design. If you want to know all about them, you can check out that campaign, but I'll run through some of the highlights here. As you can see, they're shiny and glossy. In fact, they're so smooth and shiny looking, you might expect them to feel hard, like glass. Actually, the clear polyurethane dome feels pleasantly rubbery and warm.
They also have a really satisfying heft to them, and that's because of what's in the middle. You see, PennyGems are "some assembly required." I send you a set of self-adhesive labels, and you stick them onto . . . a penny! (Don't worry, it's perfectly legal, and if you live outside the USA, you can select one of the reward levels where I'll even send you the coins you need.)
The 'flying saucer' shape of a PennyGem provides a couple of significant advantages. Unlike, say, glass beads, PennyGems stack quite easily, due to the flat part in the middle. On the other hand, the curved rim makes them really easy to pick up off a table, since the edge is held off the table by the dome.
The adhesive is strong enough that the labels stay on the pennies. As my first campaign video shows, and as backers subsequently attested (look at the bottom of the page), even being run through the washing machine doesn't hurt them. They won't fade, they resist scratching (and if they are scratched or cut, tend to self-heal), they don't collect dirt (even permanent marker will rub off), and there are very few household chemicals that have any effect on them at all.
That clear dome is also grippy. Ever accidentally knock a die off a Magic card, or have a glass bead slide off? The polyurethane grips smooth surfaces like the varnish-coated surface of a Magic card. I can usually get PennyGems to stay in place even if I stand the card up completely vertical! If you put your cards in sleeves, that's even better. I've turned sleeved cards upside-down, and the PennyGems stay put.
Beautiful. Tactile. Almost indestructible. Easy to move on purpose, but hard to move accidentally. Stackable. Legible. Double-sided. What more could you want? Well, I'm glad you asked . . . .
The PennyGem Magic Token Family
I'm really familiar with the various accessories that are used by Magic: the Gathering players, since I can pretty much guarantee I've been playing Magic longer than you. I played my first game of Magic in the spring of 1993. Magic aficionados know that the game first went on sale in July of 1993, about one month before GenCon. You see, I was working at Wizards of the Coast back then, so my first games were with prototype cards. Once it was released, I spent a lot of time at conventions teaching and playing the game.
Which has made it kind of amusing when I get an email from somebody about PennyGems that starts out "So, there's this game called Magic the Gathering, and . . ." Oh, I know. I know.
First off is, of course, the Relative P/T (Power/Toughness) token. Without a doubt, adding 1 to both power and toughness (+1/+1) is the most common effect, but it's not the only one. The basic Relative P/T counter is double-sided:
Some people play decks that buff up creatures a lot; ten, twenty, even as much as +50/+50. If you do this all the time, well, you might just want to stick with using dice on your cards. On the other hand, those 20-sided dice are so round that it's easy to bump them onto another face, and then there's the whole thing about twirling it around in your hand trying to find the particular number you need this time. Consider instead the Jumbo Relative P/T tokens. Jumbos come eight tokens per sheet, split evenly between +5/+5 against +10/+10 and +20/+20 against -5/-5. Jumbos are about the size of a quarter (about 24mm), and come with their own special disks to mount them.
It's also true that sometimes you just alter one of the two stats. The design for the asymmetric Relative P/T counters is so new I don't have any made, but here's what I'm planning:
One request I've gotten is for PennyGems with the colors, and icons, of the five colors of mana. Now, I already have red, green, white, blue, and black PennyGems, but I understand that having tokens with the actual mana symbols on them would be fun. But, even though I created most of the mana symbols still in use today (based on drawings from Jesper, the art director), I'd still have to get permission from Wizards of the Coast to use them. How hard would that be? I decided I didn't want to find out.
Besides, by now I might be able to do something better. So, although they aren't the mana symbols, here's my version of some tokens that represent the five colors of magic from M:tG:
Honestly, don't you think a unicorn is more representative of the qualities of white (order, protection, defense, healing) than a spiky sun? (Special thank-you to Magic artist Margaret Organ-Kean for providing the unicorn, and assisting with the hart.) But I digress.
I talked to a lot of M:tG players as I prepared this project, and there was another token that was frequently requested. So, in keeping with the theme established by the mana tokens, I give you the Poison token:
Like the others, it's the silhouette of the head of an animal, and it has sharp spiky bits. Just a bit of advice: if you're a wizard and you're going to be in a lot of duels, you probably shouldn't have a koala as a familiar.
The obvious use of the mana tokens (besides using them to demonstrate how mana works when you're teaching somebody how to play), is as life counters, for yourself or for a planes walker. Now, if that were the only reason to have them, frankly, I wouldn't bother. Fortunately, there's a better one . . .
One of the first Magic-related requests I ever got was from somebody who wanted to know if I could do PennyGems with squirrels. "Squirrels?" I asked. "Why?"
"There's this game called Magic: the Gathering . . ."
Now, if he'd asked for Thallids or Splinters, I'd have known right away why he wanted them. But, whether you use Wizards' official token creature cards or PennyGem equivalents, the problem remains that it's easy to get cards/spells in your deck to make token creatures, but it's a lot harder to get enough of the tokens so you can put them on the table when you play.
Instead, players do, well, all kinds of things, most commonly taking some other Magic card they're not using, placing it on the table face down, and saying "there, that's a squirrel/soldier/angel/whatnot". Which is all well and good, but you're just going to have to remember (or re-read the card that created it) if it's a 1/1 red creature or a 2/2 green one.
Now, you could mark them with a stack of Relative P/T counters. I did mention that they stack, didn't I? Or, you could use the Absolute P/T counters. Behold!
The Universal Token Creature
Yes, but what does that have to do with the mana counters? Remember that hypothetical situation where you're trying to remember if your face-down Magic card is a 1/1 red creature or a 2/2 green one? Check this out:
With a set of Magic PennyGems and a small stack of Metamorfs, you can build whatever token creatures you need, on the fly. Every token creature can be tapped or repositioned for defense, you can easily tell how many of which kind you have, you and your opponent will always know what color and how big each one is; in short, all the advantages of actual token creature cards, but without having to collect separate cards for your saprolings, zombies, angels, soldiers, squirrels, worms, wurms, thopters, spiders, lizards . . . well, it's a really long list.
About those cards: yes, I deliberately misspelled "metamorph." I want to make sure that nobody can ever confuse this with Phyrexian Metamorph, Metamorphic Worm, or Metamorphosis. Given the vast number of Magic cards that have been created in the last twenty years, it's no surprise that nearly every possible name for this card (e.g. Doppelgänger, Chameleon, Shapeshifter, Clone) has already been used in the game multiple times.
Naturally, you can use whatever you want as a cards for universal token creatures, including face-down Magic cards. The Metamorf cards will be available as print-and-play PDF, and higher reward levels will get some pre-cut ones included as part of their reward.
It's important to remember that everything you've seen here is a prototype. I already have a list of things I'll be changing for the final production. For example, the back side of the Metamorf card will be a flying Metamorf, because there are a lot of flying token creatures. I'm going to make the Hart's eye a little bigger. I'm sure by the time I start production I'll have even more changes based on feedback from project backers.
What You Get On A Sheet
- Poison counters are very simple. Each sheet contains forty identical labels, which will make twenty tokens.
- Mana sheetd makes four tokens each of the five colors. The pictures of the reward levels show them each on a separate sheet. That's changed; see Update #7 for details.
- The Relative P/T sheet makes fourteen Relative P/T counters (Obverse: +1/+1; Reverse: -1/-1), four Positive counters (Obverse: +1/0; Reverse: 0/+1), and two Negative counters (Obverse: -1/0; Reverse: 0/-1).
- The Absolute P/T sheet has ten 'small' tokens (Obverse: 1/1; Reverse: 2/2), five 'medium' tokens (Obverse: 3/3; Reverse: 4/4), three 'large' ones (Obverse: 5/5; Reverse: 6/6), and two 'asymmetric' (Obverse: 1/0; Reverse: 0/1).
Early Bird rewards cost . . . more?
Yup, afraid so. You see, most Kickstarters for games will do all kinds of stuff to get as many people as possible to pledge as early as possible. The more games they sell, the less it costs to make each one. This is usually what's behind stretch goals. If enough people back the project, the main thing gets cheaper, which means there's now extra money in the budget, so they can add in some kind of bonus with the extra.
But for PennyGems, I manufacture them myself, and I have to make them in fairly small "batches." Once a batch is done, I send them out until it's gone, then make another batch. A bigger order of PennyGems isn't cheaper, it just takes longer to fill the last order.
Thus the logic behind the Early Bird rewards: it's not about getting you to pledge as early as possible, it's about getting me to fill your order as early as possible. The Early Bird reward quantity limits are set so that I can fulfill them in two to five manufacturing runs (depending on how much capacity is available for each run).
Once I've sent out the Early Bird rewards, I'll fill the rest of them roughly in pledge date order, just like all my previous projects.
The Basic Rewards
With most of the previous styles of PennyGem, one sheet of labels would make 40 tokens. That seemed like way more than most players would need of the Magic-related ones, so for this project, I'm doing what I think of as "half sheets," which make 20 tokens per sheet. The "Just Enough" reward is exactly that: one sheet of the Relative P/T tokens. The next tier up is two sheets, with the second sheet either the Absolute P/T tokens, the Poison counters, or a second sheet of Relative. All of these are available as Early Birds, as well.
For those of you who live outside the U.S., or otherwise don't have a way to get your hands on U.S. 1-cent coins, there are the "And Change" rewards. You pick any two, four, eight, or sixteen sheets of PennyGems, and for every 40 tokens you'll be making, you'll get one roll of pennies. A roll is 50 pennies, but these come to me from the mint already wrapped, so some of the pennies will be rather corroded. Usually there's only two or three in a roll that aren't perfectly good, so this gives you plenty of extras, so you can avoid using the scruffy coins.
Shipping pennies is expensive, and it's a hassle. They have to be taped up to keep them from breaking loose and smashing around. That's why there are no early bird versions of "...And Change." They're also heavy. The Australian 5-cent coin or the 2-cent Euro coin are good substitutes for a penny, and it's almost certainly cheaper than paying the shipping on U.S. coins.
The "Small Kit" and "Giants Walk the Earth" are medium-sized rewards. The Small Kit has plenty of Relative P/T and poison tokens, and one sheet of Absolute P/T. Giants caters to people whose decks pile on the counters by providing three sheets of regular Relative P/T counters and two sheets of the Jumbo size, providing enough counters to create a +300/+300 creature. Yikes?
Then we start hitting the rewards that can include at least one of every Magic-related PennyGem, starting with the 8-sheet "Universal Token Creature" reward. The "Double Plus" throws in a second sheet of Relative and Absolute, and also a sheet of the original PennyGems. Why? Well, there are a number of other things you have to track in Magic from time to time. Mark swamp walk or first strike on a token creature, or mark cards from your deck if somebody takes control of it and it moves across the table. They're very handy for all sorts of things.
"Double Plus" gives you 240 tokens total, which is getting close to two pounds (1kg). My most recent Kickstarter campaign was all about a container as good as my PennyGems: the Ultimate Gamer's Storage Bag. I have a few extra bags left, and figured who better to have them than somebody with 240 PennyGems? The bags came in ten different colors, but since I'm using almost all of my remaining large bags, the thirtieth (and thus last) person to select that reward will have to take whatever bag I have left. Or you can get two medium-sized bags. More info about that reward level appeared in Update #6.
I think all the rewards larger than those are pretty self-explanatory. The top tier gets some customized 'Gems on a special material, also described in greater detail in Update #6.
If you're looking at some particular reward and wishing you could get it with just one more sheet, well, you can. You can add any of the four Magic token sheets (Relative P/T, Absolute P/T, Poison, or Mana) to any reward level except Early Birds for $10 per extra sheet. You can add extra Jumbo Relative P/T for $7 each. Early Bird rewards less than $40 may add one Jumbo, and Early Birds greater than $40 may add up to two.
Stretch Goal @ $12,500!
If this campaign breaks the $12,500 level, I'm going to have a label-printing company print the majority of the labels for me. This will dramatically speed up manufacturing, and should result in non-Early-Bird backers getting their tokens weeks or even months earlier than stated in the reward descriptions.
In addition, all Early Bird backers will have a special JumboGem added to their order, along with a copper-plated disk suitable for mounting the label, made from the crazy rainbow-iridescent color I call Octarine. If we make it to $16,000, then everybody gets one.
*"Magic: the Gathering" is a registered trademark of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. "PennyGems" and "JumboGems" are trademarks of Improbable Objects. Magic PennyGems are a creation of Improbable Objects, which is not affiliated with nor endorsed by Wizards of the Coast or its representatives. PennyGems are also patent pending.
Risks and challenges
Compared to most Kickstarter campaigns, my delivery dates might seem unbelievably fast. On two of my last three campaigns, I set and met really tight deadlines.
On the other hand, it's quite possible that *this* project will be more popular than any I've done before, and PennyGems do NOT have economies of scale. Making more does not make them cheaper. I have to make them all myself, and I have only limited access to the equipment I use, so the simple fact is, the more orders I have, the longer it takes to fill them all. So, this time around, I've pushed back my unrestricted delivery dates by a few months to allow for unexpected limitations on my production capability as well as unexpected demand for the product.
I am exploring some options for speeding up parts of the process, and I think there's a very good chance that I'll actually be able to fill orders for as many as ten thousand sheets before the first of May. Actually, if *everything* works out as I hope, I'll be able do that before the end of March, but I'm shooting for more of an underpromise/overdeliver approach this time.
The most likely events that could prevent me from completing this project would be (a) unexpectedly losing access to the equipment I use to manufacture PennyGems, or (b) having Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro's legal department blow a gasket and try to shut me down. I have developed various backup plans for the manufacturing. As for (b), well, when I worked there, one of the things I did was write the copyright pages for the role-playing material. I am quite confident that this project does not infringe on their intellectual property in any way, which, although it does not *guarantee* a lawyer-free future, does improve the chances.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)