Nerds, geeks and board game aficionados! I come bearing wonderful news! Have you ever felt the pain of discovering a board game Kickstarter or preorder only to miss out on amazing exclusives and bonus content due to missing the order deadline? Have you scoured the depths of Ebay only to find flippers up-selling that which you desire most? Well fear no more because I have discovered a solution!
After missing out on the Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid Kickstarter, I looked everywhere for the exclusive content with no luck whatsoever. Then, thanks to the kind recommendation of a fellow gamer, I was referred to Team Covenant. I discovered that I could still order the kickstarter’s second wave and receive all the exclusives that come along with it. After browsing Covenant’s website, I found their board game subscription service that would automatically add any expansions to games I chose from their library without ever having to add new items to my cart or worry about missing out on preorder exclusives!
If this spectacularly convenient subscription service wasn’t enough, I found that Covenant also offered customized tokens and items to enhance a variety of popular games. I reached out to learn more about Covenant so that the gaming community could discover the amazing benefits they offer. The following is my interview with Steven, one of the founding members of Covenant.
Who are the founding members of Covenant?
Zach launched the original website from his dorm room in Tulsa. That summer I joined him in the back of his dad’s office in Chelsea, Oklahoma, and we shot our first video – the Dragonball CCG tutorial – with the help of my brother (and later Lead Designer) Jonathan. Shortly after that we met Robert through the comments section of our website (which was dedicated to Monsterpocalypse at the time). I started talking to him about tactics via GChat, which led to us all meeting for the first time at Gen Con, and then he dropped his life in Tennessee to join Covenant in Tulsa. None of us were making any money, which is why I consider everyone involved then as the founding members, haha.
What deficiency in the gaming market led you all to form Covenant?
Honestly, pretty much every part of it. We traveled to various game stores in order to attend tournaments for games we were obsessed with, and it was all plastic tables and chairs, gross venues, and exclusionary store owners. Rounds weren’t run on time. Results were often mis-reported. Products were dusty. No one was really investing themselves in caring about and sharing this hobby that we loved so much. The same was true online. We had a number of bad experiences, from mispacked shipments to dispassionate customer service reps, that reinforced this impression. It was frustrating to see such a powerful vehicle for connection and joy being relegated to these incredibly low standards.
Over time it created a fire that burned inside of us, one that ultimately manifested in Covenant and our original “gaming reborn” tagline. We set out to do it all better, because the hobby and the people engaging in it deserved better.
How would you describe the services you provide to the board gaming community?
The most tangible services include our product subscription service – where you can sign up to automatically receive products for heavily-expandable games (Wingspan, Marvel Champions, Arkham Horror, etc) – as well as our custom components and token systems for those games. We’ve been doing both for just under a decade at this point.
We also run a local game store – Covenant Tulsa – that is almost entirely focused on the act of playing games and building community (instead of selling shelves of product or food/drinks). We’re currently working on its next evolution, and that’s a wildly exciting process. The new model is going to turn some heads.
Even with the above, a good portion of our time is dedicated to producing the kind of content that we want to exist in the hobby. We have a weekly podcast – The Covenant Cast – that is a deep dive into the evolution of tabletop gaming from our perspective as players and store owners. We also have a weekly live stream on Mondays on which we try new games, play our favorites, and connect with a growing audience. We do produced videos as well, generally learning content and gameplay videos that help people start playing particular games, but we also love getting in-depth interviews at places like GAMA and Gen Con. Nothing is monetized or sponsored, so it’s really just about making what we think is most valuable.
The board game subscription service you offer is a uniquely convenient concept. Can you explain what those subscriptions entail and the benefits customers would receive from preordering games through Covenant?
One of the biggest benefits is actually in how much better the service is than traditional pre-orders. Think about the following:
You have a game that you love and you want to receive all of the content for that game. You go to our website and checkout with the subscription(s) that corresponds to that game. From that point on, we automatically charge you and send you every new release for that game. The charge happens roughly two weeks before the street date, and we ship everything on a timeline designed to get the products to you on that street date.
Compare that to pre-ordering. First, you have to constantly check to see if new content is announced for the game that you love. Then, you have to go in and place a pre-order for that content (assuming it doesn’t go out of stock) through a standard online checkout, which means you’re often paying for it months in advance. Then if you bought it online, you really shouldn’t expect that product to be shipped until its street date, or even after, so you’re not going to enjoy it with everyone else on release weekend.
And what if you pre-ordered multiple items? Then you have to wait until everything is ready before the order ships. Or what if you pre-ordered two packs that were supposed to release at the same time and one of them gets delayed? That order will be held until the delayed pack arrives.
Through all of this, you have to invest your time and energy into simply getting the products that you know you want, over and over and over. A subscription allows you to click a button and never have to worry about releases again. Sign up and cancellation are both totally free, and can be done at any time. It’s the best.
What criteria do you use when choosing games to include as board game subscription options?
The most immediate criteria is just the quality of the game, its publisher, and whether or not it’s something we find worthy of our customers. We don’t stock anything we don’t believe in. Once that test is passed, it’s about the frequency of expansions. We spend a lot of time managing subscriptions so that the process is flawless and bulletproof for subscribers, so it’s not worth it for games that only occasionally have releases.
How often do you add new games to your subscription service?
We usually add 2-3 titles a year, depending on what gets announced.
In addition to purchasing board games and expansions, customers have the option to enhance gameplay with items and tokens customized for specific games. What led to the decision to make custom pieces for games and how do you feel gameplay is improved using these tokens?
This side of our business stemmed from our desire to, again, raise the standards of a tabletop gaming experience. You have these beautiful games and meticulous mechanics covered by big, cheap, cardboard tokens. So we started making thematic components that weren’t trying to hit any particular price point or audience, but were instead dedicated to bringing you fully into whatever it is that you were playing.
That means great graphic design, of course, but it also means a design approach that is extensively tested for streamlined functionality. We think in terms of systems – how can all of these components work together in a way that makes them disappear into the game? The best components are such a natural extension of your experience with a game that you don’t even know you’re using them.
That’s our ideal for gameplay. We stay away from flashy, “look at me” style designs and opt for whatever is necessary to make the actual experience with the game as seamless and satisfying as possible. This involves a lot of research into the source material so that we can develop an appreciation for the aesthetic of the game, alongside a lot of prototyping.
Take Marvel Champions for instance. Right off the bat we couldn’t see the health of everyone around the table because of the dials, and everytime we had to pick a dial up to change a number it took us right out of the setting. So we replaced the dials with a board and token system to solve those problems, and we did them in an airbrushed comic book style that utilized a lot of the design patterns found on the cards. At this point, a lot of people can’t imagine playing the game without them!
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about Covenant?
We’re just so appreciative of everyone out there who supports what we do in this space, and as is the nature of reflection, only now do we feel like we’re actually getting started. Everyone reading this is invited to be a part of it – we’d truly love to have you, as a podcast listener, or subscriber, or social media follower, or anything in between. We’re looking at a few paradigm-shifting moves this year, so we hope you’ll join along and let us know what you think along the way. And of course, thank you for reaching out and making this interview happen.
I want to give a big thank you to Steven and Covenant for taking the time to speak with me about their convenient and much needed services. From personal experience, I can vouch for the easy to use subscription service and customer support. I never knew how much their services were needed in the gaming community until I found them. If you’re a board gamer and love to collect every expansion to your favorite games, Covenant is definitely a company you’ll want to check out. If you would like to learn even more about Covenant, follow the links below to their website and social media accounts. Game on nerds!