I try to keep this site’s focus on positive things, but sometimes the bad needs to be faced. I recently tweeted that there are three boardgame companies that I have personal issues with: Mayday Games, Tasty Minstrel Games, and Valley Games. I’ve been asked by several people for the stories concerning each company, so I figure I’ll explain publicly. If you have questions or comments after reading my views, please feel free to comment. Just because I have an issue with a company doesn’t mean you should or shouldn’t. Also note that for some of these stories, it’s been some time, so the exact details may be fuzzy. I’ve done my best to explain my opinions.
About two years ago, I found out about Crokinole. I like manual dexterity games (note that I am not saying I’m good at them. I just like playing them) and saw that Mayday Games was coming out with a crokinole board for $100. Normally these boards go for around $300, so I was intrigued. I saw the board at Origins, was impressed by the quality, and ordered one. When it arrived, I was impressed. The board seemed to be well done, aside from a few suction cups marks on it, and the pieces seemed fine.
After playing a few times, we started to notice some issues. First, the lines on the board were painted over the sealer, not under. It wasn’t a huge deal, but the paint was a different texture and could mess with your shot. The other issue was that the black pieces seemed to win no matter who played them. This implied to me that the black pieces were more consistent than the natural ones. Overall, it was a bit of a disappointment, but no deal breaker.
Looking on BoardGameGeek, I saw that someone had posted pictures of their board, and other people had chimed in saying that their boards looked very similar. A little too similar. It turns out that the veneer wasn’t wood as it seemed, but was paper printed to look like wood. This lead to an outrage against Mayday games who then offered a one year, no questions asked return policy. I held onto my game for a while longer, but kept having issues with the pieces and inevitably contacted the company to return it.
The amount of hassling I received simply to return my board was considerable. I admit that I may not have handled the situation the best that I could have, but the way that Mayday treated me as a paying customer was upsetting. I am no longer the owner of a crokinole board, and when people ask what other issues I have with Mayday, I point them to this geeklist on BoardGameGeek – Mayday Games: A Cautionary Tale.
Moral of the story: Be honest about what you’re selling.
Tasty Minstrel Games
The very first project I backed on Kickstarter was Eminent Domain. According to the designers, “Eminent Domain is an empire building game in which your empire’s abilities are based on a deck of Role cards.” I like deckbuilding games, so I got behind it, convinced some coworkers to join me, and we pledged together. Overall, the game isn’t bad. It’s not a favorite of mine, but I can play it. However, the Kickstarter ended in late November of 2010. The copies that the Kickstarters ordered arrived in late September 2011. A turn around of 10 months is a bit slower than I’d have liked, but I can deal with it.
One of the benefits of Kickstarting a game is that it will frequently come with bonuses or promotional items. Eminent Domain was to come with extra forms of technology cards and planets. This seemed like a nice bonus, but later it was revealed that they were going to give everyone those special cards if they bought a copy of the game from the first print run, making the “Kickstarter Exclusive” cards not really exclusive. This annoyed me, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.
The point that makes me bitter with Tasty Minstrel Games is that at GenCon, a large board game convention in Indianapolis, they had copies of the game for sale. They had paid to have a small number of games flown from the manufacturing plant specifically to sell at the convention. GenCon was August 4th through the 7th. This means that people who went to the convention could have a copy in hand before the one that I paid for in November of the previous year.
Moral of the story: Have your priorities straight.
A few years ago, I received the new version of Titan for Christmas. Titan is a game with lots of pieces and is very heavy. I was very excited to open it. However, once I did, an overwhelming smell came out of the box. All of the components reeked of mold and once punched, wouldn’t fit into the appropriate places in the plastic insert due to being swollen from moisture. I contacted them about Titan, and several weeks later I received an answer. Their solution was to put the cardboard tokens in a hot oven to dry them out. I was shocked that the solution for pieces that were clearly damaged was to bake them, not replace them. I looked online and found other people had experienced the same issue.
Others had preordered the game and were promised large plastic figures. I had seen these figures at Origins the year before, and they were impressive. However, not everyone received the figures, and those that did frequently found them to be broken as they were made with a very brittle plastic. The response from Valley, if you got one, was rather defensive and didn’t answer questions about them.
Moral of the story: Sell a quality product and handle issues quickly and correctly.
So what now?
I personally won’t buy games from these companies. You’re welcome to disagree with me and support who you like. I know that not everyone will agree with me, but I feel that my experiences with these companies warrants my embargo against them. If you have any stories you’d like to share about a board game company, put it in a comment below.
Thanks for sharing your stories.
It’s always sad when there are problems with companies that can be so easily avoided. Obviously problems happen and even more so in the world of limited production runs. The real issue seems to be that not that the problems happened in the first place but that they weren’t dealt with appropriately.
If you want to start small company to publish games the only way you are going to retain a loyal fan base is to be loyal back to them. Be truthful with what you are doing and make things right when something goes wrong even if it costs you.
Imagine how different the experiences would have been with these companies if they tried to take care of you instead of push you off like you were the problem.
Well said, Bruce. Customer service is a large part of this industry, from missing pieces to confusing rule sets, but with these instances, everything was handled poorly. Had these gone well, I’d be suggesting everyone buy their products.
” Had these gone well, I’d be suggesting everyone buy their products.”
That is the key right there! Sometimes mistakes can actually work your advantage. If everything goes smoothly that’s cool. People got what they wanted. It’s the small things that make people fans and customers for life.