Entrepreneurs

This board game raised $1 million in 19 minutes on Kickstarter. And it’s still going.

The promise of fighting off death in a sexy, apocalyptic world filled with monsters and pin-up-style art has been setting crowdfunding records on Kickstarter.

A tabletop board game called Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5 raised $1 million on the crowd-funding site in 19 minutes when the project launched on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

The game got to the seven figure threshold faster than any project ever before on Kickstarter, according to spokesperson David Gallagher. The previous record holder was a smartwatch, the Pebble Time, which accomplished the feat in 49 minutes.

The dollars haven't stopped rolling in, either. So far, the game, created by Adam Poots of New York City, has raised $5,821,432 from 12,525 backers, with 38 days left in the campaign.

The blockbuster crowdfunding success is not Poots's first time on Kickstarter for this project. He took to the crowdfunding site in 2009 to raise money to build a game figurine, the Forsaker. One of the earliest game-related projects on Kickstarter, it raised a modest $1,741 from 28 backers.

Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5
Courtesy Kingdom Death
Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5

The second attempt at crowdfunding related to Kingdom Death was in 2009, intended to build an iPhone app for the game. It flopped. But his third crowdfunding campaign raised more than $2 million from more than 5,000 backers.

Poots debuted the first version of the game in 2012.

"Kickstarter has become the hub for innovative, independent games"

Kingdom Death is not the only board game to perform well on Kickstarter. Another fantastical game, Exploding Kittens, raised $8.8 million last year. Currently, Kingdom Death is the second best-funded tabletop game on Kickstarter, trailing only Exploding Kittens.

"There's nothing quite like Kickstarter out there — a place where you can speak directly to creators, be a part of a very enthusiastic community and show your support by pledging money to see a game made," says Luke Crane, the head of Games at Kickstarter, in an email with CNBC. "For tabletop games in particular, Kickstarter has become the hub for both fans and creators of innovative and independent games."

And excited backers are willing to spend. For Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5, some patrons have pledged north of $1,666 for a collection of game updates, figurines and swag.

"Adam himself calls Kingdom Death a 'boutique' game, and the high buy-in cost reflects that," says Crane. "But his attention to detail and love of craft have won over fans who see the value in what he's doing. A traditional publisher would be highly unlikely to take a risk on a game this expensive and off-beat."

“Survival in a nightmare-horror world”

"Kingdom Death Monster is an massive cooperative board game about survival in a nightmare-horror world," according to the crowdfunding website.

"Survivors fight for their lives against an onslaught of bizarre and fearsome creatures. They will use the fruits of these battles to build a fragile civilization in a place where humans are at the bottom of a monstrous ecology."

Sex sells. And stirs controversy.

Part of what makes Kingdom Death so attractive is what makes it controversial: The figurines are sexy.

"Sometimes, board games have cool miniatures and artistically admirable player pieces. Other times, they have patently sexist, exploitative and offensive miniatures," wrote Lillian Cohen-Moore in a piece for Bitch Media that took issue with the board game's overt sexuality, shortly after the first crowdfunding campaign. "Sexualized portrayals of women abound in the game images available — some of them even called 'pinups' — as do images of women in submissive positions. Female figurines are either monstrous, sexual, or both."

She went on: "I find it disturbing and discouraging that a creative team that clearly prioritizes making quality figurines chose to make those same quality figurines out of astoundingly sexist material. This scale of female sexualization in Kingdom Death's characterizations outweighs, for me, any other merits this game could have going for it.

"High production values don't change that a game with pointedly sexist artistic content was able to raise more than two million dollars to fund its manufacture."

Poots defends the sexual nature of the figurines, saying they are a nod to a bygone era, and that the game is not intended for children.

"Our pinups are inspired by famous artwork from the 60's and 70's. They are not cannon to the universe and do not have real rules for usage. Kingdom Death is a game for mature audiences that we explore, arms wide, with no restrictions. It is what allows our talented artists to bring forth their full potential and feel comfortable exploring a nightmare horror world," he writes in an email to CNBC.

He also makes a point of being equal opportunity when it comes to the pin-up figurines, which come in male and female styles.

"The pin-ups and newly introduced male pin-ups, have been wonderful cheerleaders and fun side projects for us, and have helped fund our expensive to develop monsters. If anyone finds them personally offensive, on a personal level, I apologize," says Poots. "However, I fully stand behind our art and their inclusion in our brand as whole."