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  • Sandy Petersen has Changed the Terms of Your Interest-Free Loan to Him

Sandy Petersen has Changed the Terms of Your Interest-Free Loan to Him

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Sandy Petersen has changed the terms of your interest-free loan to him

Game Information

Game Name
There Will Be Games

Petersen Games is keeping your money and not producing what you paid for while they seek even more money elsewhere.

The most recent Cthulhu Wars campaign has turned into a bit of a debacle. It was, of course, originally slated for delivery in June of 2020, but the pandemic ended that idea. The concern for many backers wasn't that it simply got slowed down by pandemic restrictions for worker safety or entangled in shipping delays like so many other projects, but that production hadn't even begun. After all, CMON's campaign for Eric Lang's Ankh: Gods of Egypt was initiated one year after Cthulhu Wars and is now delivering around the world. Reassurances were provided for Cthulhu Wars backers in March of 2021 of impending pictures of production. These never appeared. Then a reassurance was given that production would be completed and shipping would absolutely begin as of July 31, 2021. As of July 12, Sandy clarified in the latest update linked above that production still hadn't even started but not for the reasons that many had been speculating about. Apparently, so many orders have come in from regular retail distributors that Petersen Games is now trying to raise capital to fill all of those orders, since it would put the company on much firmer economic footing.

That's a nice idea in these uncertain times. But it also means that Kickstarter backers' interest-free loans have now been extended without their consent so that Petersen can make even more money from distributors whom, of course, weren't even part of the original campaign. The efforts that created this extension have apparently been taking place for months and backers are only now learning that it may be even longer until they get what was promised to them; not because of the pandemic or the incredible logistical hurdles that every company is currently experiencing, but because Petersen Games wants to make more money.

Cthulhu Wars Kickstarter

Now, that's a laudable goal. Every company wants to make more money. But it rings hollow here because Petersen has already leveraged a lot of money at zero cost to the company. This is the working fallacy of Kickstarter in the last few years. Originally created as a way for individuals and small companies to get something printed that they couldn't otherwise raise the capital for, it's now being exercised as a marketing tool and a way for larger firms to simply avoid many of the normal costs of doing business. Certainly, capital is harder to come by, post-2008. But that doesn't mean that perfectly viable companies with 8 years of uninterrupted success can't do business the old-fashioned way by getting a loan, producing a product, and then assuming the risk of that product sitting in warehouses, pending orders from distributors or customers via PG's own website. Given that Cthulhu Wars routinely sells out, said risk would seem to be both minimal and a sure sign to any lender that Petersen is worth their assumption of risk by providing them with money.

But if these companies know there's a ready horde of customers willing to give them interest-free loans without terms (e.g. which can be changed at the whim of the recipient), then they're certainly going to take advantage of it. It's not like Petersen can't raise capital. The production and distribution of, for example, Cthulhu Wars: Duels through normal processes (capital investment, production, retail distribution) while the Cthulhu Wars campaign has been repeatedly extended is a pretty bald-faced admission of that. Other examples of normal business are still plentiful within the board game marketplace. Jim Felli, of Devious Weasel, raised the money and produced Cosmic Frog using those regular practices. Cosmic Frog is, I believe, in the midst of its third print run and has been sold direct from Jim and via regular retail. Certainly, despite his past successes with Zimby Mojo and Duhr: The Lesser Houses, no one is going to argue that Devious Weasel has a larger presence in the market than Petersen Games or that it should be easier for Jim to get a loan than it would be for Sandy.

Cthulhu Wars Kickstarter

Petersen's argument is that they're trying to do all of the production in one fell swoop for cost control reasons. In other words, it's cheaper for them to print 20,000 copies right now than it would be to print the 5000 that they owe the Kickstarter backers and then go back and print another 15,000 for the distributor orders that came in later. That, again, is understandable. But it's also not the backers' problem and it only highlights the criticism that Kickstarter has become more of a marketing platform and a way around the cost of doing business than it is a crowdfunding site. It's also a way for the loanee to dictate terms to the loaners. Ordinarily, you wouldn't be holding out on your capital source because the longer you held out, the more interest you'd be paying, which is a cost that most would like to avoid if they can help it. In really dire scenarios, holding out might also mean that the lender gets skittish and decides to call in the loan. Kickstarter backers have neither the pressure of that interest nor the ability to pull the plug. They're just along for the ride and have no recourse even if they never receive what they've paid for (outside of pursuing what would then nominally be a bankrupt entity in court. Good luck with that.)

A few people have argued in Petersen's defense that Kickstarter is a "pre-ordering" platform. That's not correct. Actual pre-orders from a manufacturer or distributor are for a product that is actually in production and normally only happen a month or two before actual release and distribution of that product. It's now been 27(!) months since the campaign for Cthulhu Wars was initiated and 13 months since the original planned release date and production has not even begun because, again, Petersen Games wants to hold on to the backers' interest-free and termless loan so that they can make more money from someone(s) else. So, this is the state of the board game world. I am a backer of this latest campaign for a few of the expansions that were perpetually out of print. I am not dying to have those items in my hand as I have plenty of other games to play and the proffered intent of this latest delay is indeed to prevent that scenario of things regularly being unavailable. But Sandy's personal guarantee to the backers in the above statement is an interesting footnote to this whole thing because his word is the only thing that current backers have to rely on, even as he uses it as a way to try to ameliorate the fact that the backers are seemingly beneath the notice of the Outer Gods.

There Will Be Games

Marc Reichardt  (He/Him)
Associate Writer

Marc started gaming at the age of 5 by beating everyone at Monopoly, but soon decided that Marxism, science fiction, and wargames were more interesting than money, so he opted for writing (and more games) while building political parties, running a comic studio, and following Liverpool. You can find him on Twitter @Jackwraith and lurking in other corners of the Interwebs.

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Articles by Marc

Marc Reichardt
Staff Board Game Reviewer

Articles by Marc

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hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #324671 14 Jul 2021 09:25
That situation really sucks. It's also one that would have slipped under a lot of customer radars. Petersen Games is established and no stranger to Kickstarter. A "safe bet," one might say.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #324673 14 Jul 2021 09:31
Yeah, as I hope I was able to convey, I'm not OUTRAGED at the situation and not specifically aiming any ire at Sandy or PG, in general. It's just the principle of the whole Kickstarter situation that has been bugging me for a while and this was just the latest and most blatant example of it. Most troubled campaigns that you hear about are because the people involved just aren't good businesspeople and make poor choices about production and/or money management. Petersen is not that and this is a deliberate choice to take advantage of a situation to the mild detriment of many who've supported them for a long time and many who still do, given the high number of "That's fine! Go ahead and keep my money for as long as you want it!" responses on KS.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #324674 14 Jul 2021 09:47
I'll be honest, this sounds like a company that is having trouble covering payroll. Sure, it could just be a decision that makes the most sense financially, but it could also be that the money has gone to other things and he needs the bigger print run just to get the down payment made.

This is part and parcel of Kickstarter, where you're a "supporter" not a buyer. The money is gone, Petersen can do anything he wants with it and, I suspect, has. The ride IS the product. The $259 product you were promised "FOR FREE" is part of the scenery that makes it so entertaining.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #324675 14 Jul 2021 09:56
I agree. I think they may be in financial trouble and the language of "securing the future" may be cover for "ensuring that we have a future." I'm not interested in seeing PG go down the drain simply because they irritated me by delaying their delivery (well, production and delivery, really) again. But I'm talking about the ethics of the situation. It's honestly not my problem if they've screwed up so badly that they're on the edge of collapse. It's their problem. And being able to successfully produce wholly distinct titles like Cthulhu Wars: Duels while all of this is going on means they'd have to have really screwed up, which doesn't garner a whole lot of sympathy from me. I mean, it will be my problem if they implode and my money goes with them, but I'm not interested in being a fan of Petersen Games. I'm interested in getting what I paid for. I've become markedly less interested in KS for the last couple years. This is another nail in that coffin (on top of having too many games to play already.)
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #324676 14 Jul 2021 10:16
Over the last year I did entirely too much backing. It's a problem made worse by the fact that my town does not have a FLGS. If it did, I'd probably go there and waste money instead of wasting it online.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #324677 14 Jul 2021 10:26
Right. And I haven't even done that much! I respond to three entities, basically: Cole Wehrle, Eric Lang, and Gamelyn. That's it. That's all the backing I do. This Cthulhu Wars one was the lone exception to that because, as noted, I was trying to pick up some stuff that's usually out of print. Even my attachment to Gamelyn has taken a hit and I'll probably just order their stuff through one of the local stores. Eric is talking about a Blood Rage expansion at the moment and I really hope he pursues regular retail channels with it, but given that it's CMON, probably not.
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #324678 14 Jul 2021 10:29
I think PG's problems arise with their troubles in working with factories.

They mentioned somewhere that they had to switch factories while attempting to fulfill the latest CW print run. If I'm not mistaken, this will be their third or fourth factory they've gone through over the years.

I can't recall if it says this in the update, but Sandy Petersen also had to take out a second mortgage on his home to fulfill the first CW Kickstarter as domestic shipping ended up costing much more than they anticipated.

Years of miscalculations and mistakes add up.
Gregarius's Avatar
Gregarius replied the topic: #324680 14 Jul 2021 10:50
I'm curious if Kickstarters of other types of products have followed the same path as board games. Are they all just free loans/pre-order systems? Whatever happened with that Coolest Cooler with the solar powered margarita maker built in, or whatever it was?

I'm sorry, I know this is probably a massive derail, but I just wondered if backers of indie bands' new albums have the same complaints that we do.
fightcitymayor's Avatar
fightcitymayor replied the topic: #324682 14 Jul 2021 10:56

Jackwraith wrote: ...and this is a deliberate choice to take advantage of a situation to the mild detriment of many who've supported them for a long time and many who still do, given the high number of "That's fine! Go ahead and keep my money for as long as you want it!" responses on KS.

These are the people I loathe the most.
These are the people who guarantee KS will never stop with its ridiculous "KicKsTaRtEr Is nOt a sToRe" bullshit.
These are the useful idiots who give their money away to companies abusing a system not meant for them, no strings attached, and when repeatedly kicked in the ballsack respond with "THAT'S FINE!"

It's only because most people in the boardgaming business aren't mendacious pricks (yet) that KS' ridiculously open-ended idea of "crowdfunding" hasn't resulted in copious amounts of backer cash spent on hookers & blow with zero avenues for recompense.
jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #324683 14 Jul 2021 11:06
"Don't worry backers, we're on schedule with our new schedule, and as a bonus to you long-time backers, we're including a rare, just-for-you metal d6 we estimate to be worth $1.6 million dollars. So don't worry about return on your investment, with this just-for-you $1.6M collectible, you'll be getting exactly what you deserve."

I kid, of course, but just a little. They set the prices, so they can just fiat ROI at any point in this process. It's silly bullshit. As for the hookers-and-blow note above, I feel lucky to have been torched in the very early goings of KS'd board games with DICE AGE. Vaporware money pit and poisoned me on the process. Otherwise things like this would pull me in over and over, I am sure.
jpat's Avatar
jpat replied the topic: #324685 14 Jul 2021 12:21
Obligatory "He has altered the deal; pray he does not alter it further" reference
Anjou Valentine's Avatar
Anjou Valentine replied the topic: #324686 14 Jul 2021 12:22
I might have been upset to hear this if I hadn't pledged so long ago that I need to be reminded that I pledged for this.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #324687 14 Jul 2021 12:28
I think they probably tripped up on the math because they essentially opened up their entire catalog for purchase in the pledge manager. They were offering dozens of products, and probably many didn't hit the magic number where the money raised covers the manufacture of the number of items ordered plus the manufacture of the number of items the distributors want (which is typically a verbal agreement with no contract or upfront money) .
Joebot's Avatar
Joebot replied the topic: #324688 14 Jul 2021 13:01
That was a very interesting article, thanks for writing that.

I've barely dipped my toe into Kickstarter, and mostly for D&D materials and miniatures to paint, rather than boardgames (although I have backed a few games). My Reaper Miniatures pledge should be shipping soon, and that's exciting, but I can't help but think ... Reaper made $3 million on this campaign. That feels like it goes against the spirit of Kickstarter. If an established, successful company can raise $3 million on KS ... what the fuck are they even doing on KS??? It's just kind of gross, and I likely won't back any future Reaper campaigns because of it.

Conversely, I'm a big fan of Red Raven Games. They've used KS a lot in the past, but they are finally moving away from it for their next game (Now or Never), and doing a traditional pre-order through their website, followed by a traditional retail release. Nice! The owner Ryan Laukat said that the company is now on a stable enough footing where they don't have to deal with the hassle and stress of a KS campaign. That's great, I feel like that's how KS is supposed to work.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #324689 14 Jul 2021 13:03

I think they probably tripped up on the math because they essentially opened up their entire catalog for purchase in the pledge manager. They were offering dozens of products, and probably many didn't hit the magic number where the money raised covers the manufacture of the number of items ordered plus the manufacture of the number of items the distributors want (which is typically a verbal agreement with no contract or upfront money)


That's a great point. I have wondered about the viability of a lot of the CW catalog in the past. Why is Great Old One Pack 3 just one model? Is that enticing enough to both meet production quotas (cost effectiveness for model and packaging) and occupy shelf space (size of packaging, etc.)? There's always been a bit of a "We should do this cool thing!" element to the game that may not actually reflect consumer desire/interest. But, then again, everything constantly sells out, so there is clearly some demand. I haven't looked at the secondary markets recently. Is there regularly CW stuff available that isn't just someone trying to find the one fool willing to pay them 3x market price?
jason10mm's Avatar
jason10mm replied the topic: #324693 14 Jul 2021 14:18
Nothing will change. Kickstarter has the loyalty of so many customers hooked on that FOMO/early bird hit and the excitement of following the month long campaign, it's like an onlyfans for board games :P
jpat's Avatar
jpat replied the topic: #324695 14 Jul 2021 14:53

fightcitymayor wrote:

Jackwraith wrote: ...and this is a deliberate choice to take advantage of a situation to the mild detriment of many who've supported them for a long time and many who still do, given the high number of "That's fine! Go ahead and keep my money for as long as you want it!" responses on KS.

These are the people I loathe the most.
These are the people who guarantee KS will never stop with its ridiculous "KicKsTaRtEr Is nOt a sToRe" bullshit.
These are the useful idiots who give their money away to companies abusing a system not meant for them, no strings attached, and when repeatedly kicked in the ballsack respond with "THAT'S FINE!"

It's only because most people in the boardgaming business aren't mendacious pricks (yet) that KS' ridiculously open-ended idea of "crowdfunding" hasn't resulted in copious amounts of backer cash spent on hookers & blow with zero avenues for recompense.


In fairness, it looks, from an unscientific point of view, as if the majority of those directly replying to the latest update see through it and are varying degrees of angry about it. Whatever tolerance there is seems to boil down to a few factors:

* People like CW.
* People (I would say wrongly, but YMMV) feel a certain empathy for the creator, who, whether cannily or no, seems able to evoke that sort of pathos. (Not quite a quote: I second-mortgaged my house; I'm thinking about cashing in my retirement.)
* People have too much stuff and don't really care whether they get this or that thing on any particular timeline as long as they were able to "help out."
* The KS ethos promotes a faux communal sense that can turn what should, in many cases (probably all cases involving board games and the like) into passion projects for both creator and backer.

But, like I said, most commenters seem to see it in varying flavors of sketchy.

I'm thankfully off the CW train. I have most stuff from OS 1 and OS 2, and the only thing I really wanted from OS 3+ was the updated errata for existing products that were changed even after the errata wave in OS 2.
fightcitymayor's Avatar
fightcitymayor replied the topic: #324697 14 Jul 2021 15:57

jpat wrote: * People like CW.
* People (I would say wrongly, but YMMV) feel a certain empathy for the creator, who, whether cannily or no, seems able to evoke that sort of pathos. (Not quite a quote: I second-mortgaged my house; I'm thinking about cashing in my retirement.)

I'm old enough to remember 4 years ago then SP threw a tantrum and left BGG because someone referred to his mildly misogynistic description of an alien race as mildly misogynistic. And the BGG drones lined up to fellate him on his way out the door.

Good times!
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1844060/goodbye/page/1
Andi Lennon's Avatar
Andi Lennon replied the topic: #324699 14 Jul 2021 17:51
* Sighs in KDM *
Msample's Avatar
Msample replied the topic: #324701 14 Jul 2021 20:30
I'll give them a *little* credit for being more open as to the reasons for why they are taking the course they are vs just continuing to issue vague excuses. That said, considering it funded 18 months before the pandemic even started, this campaign and the company clearly have underlying issues that the pandemic likely exacerbated . Shipping costs being the most obvious - no way back when this funded that they could have foreseen the current shipping rates. And given how huge some of those CW boxes are, on a per box basis todays shipping rates are gonna be WAY over what they budgeted. Asking for more money for backers would be ugly given the likely cost increases.

And as some of the backers have pointed out in the KS comments and the BGG torch and pitchfork thread, past updates that hinted at imminent production were obviously in no way accurate. PHALANX has run into similar ( and justified criticism ) for implying production was imminent for SUCCESSORS when in retrospect more recent updates exposed their past ones as pretty much lies.

The fact that after so many past KS and the high prices their games command, that this one project is such a stretch to print retail copies shows that not all of their past output has been as profitable as it should have been . When you have to resort to KS to fund REPRINTS, that ain't a good sign.

And Uba has a great point - opening up the PM to their whole catalog might have bit them in the ass in terms of low order quantities for fringe SKUs.
themothman421's Avatar
themothman421 replied the topic: #324702 15 Jul 2021 01:14
Kickstarter must have some amazingly vague wording in their Terms of Service to allow bullshit like this to persist. Are companies really allowed to take $200+ preorders for a game and instead use that cash for business development? I do not get it.
fightcitymayor's Avatar
fightcitymayor replied the topic: #324704 15 Jul 2021 08:40

themothman421 wrote: Kickstarter must have some amazingly vague wording in their Terms of Service to allow bullshit like this to persist. Are companies really allowed to take $200+ preorders for a game and instead use that cash for business development? I do not get it.

In a word: Yes.
In two words: Hookers & blow.

The last time I saw KS do anything related to clamping down was when they suspended Kolossal Games for creating Maple Games as a front so they could run concurrent KS campaigns (which is apparently verboten, when KS feels like enforcing that rule.)
Ah_Pook's Avatar
Ah_Pook replied the topic: #324705 15 Jul 2021 08:44
I backed the cat faction at a dollar, but didn't end up bumping that up to more to actually get the cat faction. I think the base game plus the first couple factions is all I need. The never ending updates of "yea about that thing you're supposed to be getting..." makes me glad I didn't sink more money into this crap show. This certainly seems like a company on the ropes scrambling to stay above water at this point.
Disgustipater's Avatar
Disgustipater replied the topic: #324707 15 Jul 2021 09:41
Well, when you hire your family members with no business experience to run the company and pay them huge salaries, it's kind of hard to expect the company to do well.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #324710 15 Jul 2021 09:54
This is like the BEST reality TV show ever.