I just finished reading a bit about the recent debacle involved with The Doom That Came To Atlantic City and it made me realize that there have been quite a few controversial Kickstarter campaigns as of late. While I understand that people have different opinions of the model itself, I don't intend for this geeklist to be a medium for arguing.
This list is intended to compile your trials and tribulations with Kickstarter campaigns. Feel free to share your own experiences or summarize just what went wrong. Remember, these are outliers and certainly shouldn't deter you from helping potential board game designers get off the ground.
Also, a quick update:
Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who has contributed to this list.I had no idea this would blow up the way it did and I am happy to see so much discussion. While it is impossible to determine whether or not a Kickstarter (or any crowd funding) campaign is legit, I hope that this list reminds people to be cautious.
Originally slated for a release with Z-Man, this game was ultimately canceled until a Kickstarter created by Erik Chevalier and his company The Forking Path came along. $122k in funds were raised on a $30k goal and the project was on its way. Forward to last week when a Kickstarter update claims that the project has run out of funds and has ultimately been canceled. While there are many details that are still unclear as to how or why this happened (including legal action) it goes without saying that many contributors to the project are angry.
Feel free to fill in any of the blanks here, just want to give an overview of the situation.
Katalyka has quite an interesting story, or should I say, the designer has quite the interesting story. With a relatively modest Kickstarter goal of $7,500, Katalyka just barely reached its funding ($7,840). The early images of the artwork seemed to appeal to enough people for funding but there was still some question as to how the game actually played.
As time went on, Molly Friedrich, the designer of the game, began making more and more cryptic updates. Here is an excerpt from one of her updates:
"The giant glowing mass of hydrogen that lights up our entire planet with heat and color wants to remain a secret?
Seems a bit like a pipe dream to me.
Besides, there have already been a few different "galactic themed" video games and at least one other board game that have all gotten rather popular, so I really don't understand why "The Sun" is supposedly obsessing over the details in this game, specifically. The voice won't tell me what it is that I'm supposed to change or remove, because apparently that would give too much away? This is all rather strange to me, and hard to believe."
As you can imagine, supporters began to question the mental state of the designer. Currently, whether or not supporters will receive a game is still up in the air.
The Kickstarter was created to get a re-print of the original Kosmos game. While I do not know too many details of this one, I do know that there was a claim that the creator of the Kickstarter, Seth Nemec, all but disappeared. Even the people working on the iOS version of the game, one of the perks of the KS, had no idea what happened to him.
The Phil / Valley / Radiant Debacle, Narrative Nutshell Version:
Way back in 2010-ish, Phil loaned Valley a bunch of money -- both general purpose money (to invest in new games, and pay back at a later date) and special reprinting loans (to finance the printing of existing games, to be paid back when the games sold).
Valley drug their feet in repaying the loans, and eventually Phil had enough of the runaround game, where there was very clear evidence that Valley got the money (for instance, for selling the games that Phil paid to have printed), but they pocketed the money / spent it elsewhere instead of giving it to Phil (as agreed in the loan contract). Basically they said, "yes, we'll pay you when we sell the games", but they sold the games, and just never paid Phil.
So after a few years of unreturned phone calls and unanswered e-mails, Phil was tired of their stalling (by 2011, most of these loans were in clear default), and Phil took them to court. Once in Pennsylvania (the "PA Judgement") and once in California (the "CA Judgement").
These judgements basically stated that -- yes, Valley owes Phil money. Valley conceded in both of these two judgements -- didn't even contest them. They basically agreed, "Yup, we owe Phil Sauer a bunch of money"...
...but still continued to not pay him, even after the judgements. They say they just don't have the money or something. Actually, they're not really saying much at all. They're not denying that they owe him money, but neither are they paying him.
But through all of this, Valley still seems to be doing business. With money. And they're not giving it to Phil. Also to complicate things, Valley (a Canadian company) started a shell corp (Radiant Games) in Texas a few years ago so that they could run Kickstarter campaigns in the States (back before Kickstarter allowed projects from outside of the US).
So Valley is doing lots of business through their shiny new shell corp, and still not paying a dime on several of Phil's loans. The paid off most of one loan, but left most of the other loans untouched -- not even really making a minimum monthly payment -- but just refusing to pay it down at all (even though they already sold a bunch of the games and got the money for them).
So Phil's only recourse (if he wants his quarter-of-a-million back) is to sue for it, where the courts MAKE them give it back, or else people start going to jail. He has the two judgements, so it's proven and uncontested that Valley owes him money. Now he just has to use the strong arm of the law to collect.
So Phil is (understandably) ticked, and goes to the Texas court and says, "Yo judge. Valley owes me money" and the judge says, "Yep." (this being Texas an' all)
And Phil says, "Valley is still doing business, but through a shell corporation called Radiant Gaming." and the judge says, "Ehh, mebbe, yeup."
And Phil says, "Judge, I'd like to sue Radiant for the money that Valley owes me, and I'd like you to freeze Radiant's assets until we can prove this" and the judge says, "Aaah, yep. k."
Around the same time as the PA and CA judgements were being awarded and this news broke on BGG, Rik (the principal of Valley, and high-up member of Radiant) started to panic, and claimed that Valley is not the same as Radiant, and that -- even though Valley's logo is over everything, they're entirely separate legal entities. He started saying the hard party line that Radiant is entirely disassociated with Valley, that Radiant doesn't hold any of Valley's assets, and so Radiant (Rik's new business arm) can't be held liable for any debts incurred by Valley (Rik's old business arm). At the same that Rik started this story, he initiated a HUGE white-wash campaign to remove "Valley Games" from anything and everything associated with their recent Kickstarter projects (such as Airborne in your Pocket, Up Front, and D-Day Dice). They edited their webpages, changed profiles on Kickstarter, removed logos, started new placeholder sites, edited game entries on BGG, everything to try and solidify the disassociation of Radiant and Valley. There are threads that tracked this with before-and-after screenshots -- it was really quite comical in its preposterousness.
Why did he care about disassociating Valley from Radiant? The reason being, that Rik raised a TRUCKLOAD of money for the Airborne in Your Pocket and Up Front Kickstarter campaigns through the Radiant shell corp, and most of that is still liquid cash. Kindof the worst timing to get sued, but that's the way it all worked out. Phil didn't try to time things this way -- in fact, he's the one who told everyone about the lawsuit, and if people hadn't been informed and worried, the Kickstarter campaign might have been even larger.
Most of us (and Phil too) aren't buying the separation between Valley and Radiant. It seems completely ridiculous, and most of us feel that Phil has put together an extremely compelling case. If he wins his case, and Radiant is liable for Valley's debts, then he will collect on his longstanding debts using whatever assets Radiant has available -- printed games in the warehouse, game printing licenses, and quite possibly the cash that Valley / Radiant raised from the Airborne in your Pocket Kickstarter as well as the Up Front Kickstarter. After Phil has taken his share (for loan repayment and legal fees) will there be anything left to still print AiyP and Up Front? Perhaps. Most of us aren't very optimistic. Perhaps some of the money that Rik should have paid Phil back with? Hopefully there is enough still around -- otherwise, backers here will be out of their games, and the board gaming community will very likely have lost a publisher of some very loved games.
Ultimately, this stage of the game rests on there being a connection of liability between Radiant and Valley, and that's for the judge to decide (in his Texas accent) -- not me. Otherwise, Phil will have to go through the Canadian court system, which would be a cross-border nightmare. And plus, Rik seems to have moved all of Valley's business to Radiant now anyways (Valley hasn't filed for bankruptcy, but they're just kindof dormant, and haven't said anything officially for months).
Here is another one I and others backed. No rewards, money spent. No contact from the designer and the company seems to have vanished. I also backed Airborne in my Pocket as well as Up Front. I am trying to remain optimistic with these, not with Who's For Dinner.
I'm surprised there hasn't been an entry about Mayday yet. They routinely run Kickstarters and routinely give people bad service. There's an entire geeklist (linked above) chronicling all the bad kickstarters they've run.
My favorite of the lot was when they promised on the Weykick KS that it would never be sold cheaper. Then it was for sale at a discount site for way less before all the backers had even gotten there copy!
Mostly I'm miffed about the second expansion (part of the original campaign), and even more particularly the "brown" "Indiana Jones-style" messenger bag, but really the whole kickstart was pretty disastrous. Late, very little communication, delays, no communication, design changes, ...no communication... Seems to be Queen's M.O. on kickstarter though. I passed on Amerigo (well, I bid a buck) and went to check out the comments just for fun a bit after it closed. Sure enough: "Hello Queen Games? Update?" haha Dodged THAT bullet!
Anyway, the "brown" "Indiana Jones-style" bag "big enough to hold the base game and all expansions"? Just... no. It's a freaking green purse. Though it might hold the base and all expansions if you just dumped the contents of every box into it. haha
Not on this list yet, because I guess most people where smart enough to not back this one. Sadly I was not. There are only 63 victims-, er, backers for this campaign.
Original post was way too long, so I tidied it up:
Bottom line: The campaign concluded on September 1st, 2012, with an estimated deliver date of Dec 2012. It's supposed to be a hex based game with "141 plastic minis", and from what I though was interesting, the ability to use a computer or phone app to give high resolution combat results, accounting for morale, fatigue, and so on.
In a series of updates, they dropped the computer/phone app part of the game and changed the maps to laminated paper instead of normal boards. They also announced in April that the game designer moved to another city and that their manufacturer backed out of making the minis.
The project creators then offered the possibility of refunds, stock in their company, or the potential to wait it out until they found new manufacturers (and presumably new designers?). When people replied requesting refunds, backers where informed that the creators decided to continue trying to make the game. They claim will be shipped in Nov 2013, though from what I understand, it will be with paper maps and no accompanying app/program.
It has been over a year since funding and still no game. The first hiccup is when the only cd containing the art became corrupted, so some time was lost as an existing copy needed to be gutted and scanned. Then the better part of the year has been spent waiting on an artist to clean up the scans and rules. The artist has been very spotty in terms of communication with the publisher (Richard), and it seems he was not dedicated to consistently working on the project. We waited for about 1 month after the artist said he had finished the work for him to deliver it to Richard, which never happened. So now there is a new artist working on the project...
Update: the game has been delivered as of Jan 2014.
This project just passed its two year anniversary and most backers have not received their rewards, however, the designer's website promises delivery to new buyers in 4-6 weeks.
With the exception of the website promise (which is very hard to explain) this case seems to be one of genuine inexperience/incompetence rather than fraud. The designer provided fairly regular updates describing production mistakes, financial miscalculations, and tales of bouncing from one manufacturer to another with no product to show for it. The designer has delivered to a very limited number of backers but it appears the sets that did get out were cast and painted one at a time by the designer himself.
I did manage to get my reward early due to proximity to a certain well known game reviewer. At the time the game wasn't great and I traded it off at a recent con. The rules have since been completely redone (it is essentially an entirely different game with the same dice) ,,, I have no basis for judgement on the reworked rules. It was an impulse buy on my part and I'm glad to be rid of it.
I think one worth mentioning (although not a boardgame) would be the Double-Fine / Broken Age PC game...
This got a lot of people interested in KS and it might turn a lot of people off KS. It doesn't even matter if he can deliver a good game, or if the game is good enough. All that matters is perception of the project and a lot of people feel like they were mislead by the designer...
This would also be a good spot for all the other videogames and tech gadgets.
This kickstarter was successfully funded in April 2012. A year later nobody (except perhaps a few of the creators friends) seemed to have received a copy of the game. Reading the updates and comments it would seem that the creator of the project had spent all the funds on materials, etc, but had not allowed any time for manufacturing (which he seemed to hope to do himself), neither had he kept back any funds for shipping.
There were very few updates in the first year, but with several people apparently considering a legal approach to getting their money back updates have become more frequent recently. A few people have now got games if they live near enough to collect personally them from the projects creator. The vast majority of the 262 backers have still received nothing and those overseas seem to have little hope given the lack of shipping funds.
I remember being marginally interested in this one when I initially heard about it - from what it first was being touted as, it was going to be an IP stripped version of Star Wars Saga, which was one of the better iterations of the D20 system (IMO).
As the various draft releases started to trickle out, it turned out to be something stranger - an amalgam of D20 Modern and D&D 4E.
Once funded, it became pretty clear that the game was only partially written, and various backers suddenly became intended designers for entire sections.
And then came the radio silence.
Evidently Sarli encountered various health issues, and it is believed that is where the money went.
Sadly, having raised $2,752, the creator has vanished. I imagine that he found himself overwhelmed by the amount of things he'd promised (t-shirts, hats, stickers, etc.) as stretch goals and, rather than just coming clean and producing the small card game he promised, he's run away from the whole affair.
I did think that it looked a too good a deal to be true...I've since learned that if it looks like it's too good a deal, the creator probably can't add up.
The print + play version is still available so it's not like we've got completely stiffed
And then he tried to do an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for his company (which failed).
Without delivering on any of the projects, in March 2013 Nystul announced that he was completely out of money. He refuses to provide an accounting. We know that some freelancers were paid for their work, and there are claims that a bunch of money was lost on "Dwarf Con" (a convention promised as a $30k stretch goal on Axes & Anvils).
Nystul continues to maintain that he'll deliver everything "somehow, some way."
Current Status as of October 2018:
Infinte Dungeons is back in Nystul's hands, so it's dead.
Axes & Anvils design has been turned over to Andrew Shields, and a playtest document has been produced. I don't see any work being done on this the last few years, so I think it's dead.
The Book of Cairn was published by Ross A. Isaacs of SoulJar games. He has offered vouchers to backers for a POD physical version (backer has to pick up shipping). Nystul is still responsible for a number of stretch goals.
There is an effort to get backers from all three projects to sent complaints to state AGs and the FTC.
This game's KS campaign was successful more than a year ago, and at first they said that it will be available for backers in October at the Essen fair. Well, they were there, but the game was not complete yet, with missing rules, parts and no packaging. But backers could take a copy if they wanted to. Almost a year passed since Essen, and backers still don't have the game. This year was without a word from the publisher, no communication at all. On top of that, the game is available for months now in stores, but the KS backers are still waiting for their copy.