Posted Tuesday, 10-Apr-2018
The Southeast Asian company has allegedly absconded with tens of thousands in cash and product.
By Calvin Wong
It began as a way to make group pledges for popular Kickstarter projects, but has now transformed into a fiasco of stolen shipments, empty promises, and police reports.
Singapore and Malaysia based company Boarders Tabletop Game Studio has been the principal Southeast Asian distributor for several major board game Kickstarter projects, including Anachrony and Gloomhaven. In recent years, the company had provided a service where it would make group pledges for Kickstarter projects, helping its customers save money on shipping costs.
Gamers who took Boarders up on this service include Malaysians like Gareth Tan, who had pledged for several projects through Boarders to the tune of $1,000, and Daniel Quek who had bought around $2,000 worth of games with them.
But alarm bells started ringing for many of Boarders customers a few months ago when the shipping information given by game publishers stopped lining up with Boarder’s deliveries, and dozens of emails and chat messages began going unanswered.
What was happening to their games?
In a dramatic Kickstarter update on March 27th, Petrichor publisher Mighty Boards posted that:
“We have some unfortunate news to share on this matter. Boarders Tabletop Cafe received the packages with the games, however they have stopped contact with us immediately after picking up the package. We have been trying to reach them through various means, however it seems that it is unlikely that we will get to them, and we are considering this cargo (along with our downpayment for fulfillment) as stolen by Boarders Tabletop Cafe. […] This is quite a tough nut for us, we have lost almost 20,000 USD in market value to this event.”
Mighty Boards were not the only ones. Boarders customers reaching out to publishers found that in many cases, those companies had never received payment from Boarders despite taking money from their customers for those projects, thus constituting fraud.
An incomplete list of publishers who have confirmed they did not receive payment from Boarders include:
In several cases, these publishers noted that Boarders was not their Asian Kickstarter distributor and thus had no right to charge customers for pledges.
In at least one case, Boarders had made payment to a company but did not take ownership of the games in question. Garphill Games reports that since copies of Raiders of the North Sea: Rock of Ruin were paid for, they will begin shipping those games to affected Boarders customers.
There have been cases in the past of Kickstarter companies failing to deliver and absconding with funds, but those were isolated to single games. The current situation with Boarders may constitute one of the largest cases of fraud ever reported in the tabletop industry.
In January, Malaysian and Singaporean gamers opened a Facebook page dedicated to keeping track of their payments and keep lines of communication open between themselves and Boarders. Why the delays? When can we expect our games?
A spreadsheet totaling up pledge orders summed up at least $35,000 of product, with deliveries of said games being inconsistent. Boarders customer Cheah Rae Von received his copies of Gloomhaven and Champions of Midgard, but several of his other games are still missing with no response from Boarders to his repeated requests for clarification and confirmation.
Disappointed Boarders customers have organized among themselves to take legal action. Prominent local gamer John Choong has led the charge in this regard, reaching out to legal experts and helping the group make police reports and advising on how to reach out to the Malaysian Consumer’s Tribunal.
At the time this article was published, Malaysia’s largest English daily newspaper The Star has a reporter assigned to this story, but even with the media attention, several gamers interviewed for this article expressed doubt that they would ever receive their money back. Boarders customer Tan Choon Ling, who has filed a police report and plans to engage Malaysia’s Consumer’s Tribunal, expressed great disappointment in the situation but said he was ‘willing to call it even’ if his ordered games came in.
This sentiment was echoed by many of the gamers I interviewed for this piece, but they also said that they wanted to bring attention to the developing situation and inform the public of people of the practices currently being employed by Boarders.
The screen capture below is a Facebook post by one of the owners of Boarders, made February 2nd:
The images purport to show copies of Gloomhaven being unloaded. Several gamers, including Rae Von, received their copies shortly after from said owner at a drive-through McDonalds; however many gamers report through the dispute group that they still have not received their copies 3 months after retail release.
Due to how the games industry operates, it is not immediately entirely clear how many games companies have orders stuck with Boarders. What is clear, however; is the disappointment and anger these gamers feel. My own repeated attempts to contact Boarders have yielded no results, although their Facebook page was updated on March 27th, well after the disputes began.
This article will be updated as the situation continues to develop. Please contact Calvin at [email protected] with any information you may have.
Disclaimer: The author has previously made pledges through Boarders. He has not yet received his orders with Boarders.
UPDATE 1: Added Alley Cat Games to the list of non-paid companies, and added information about Garphill Games.
Published by BoardGamePrices.com