Things are looking shaky for the Kickstarter campaign for Epic Dice: Tower Defense
On June 2nd, the studio updated its Kickstarter page with a substantial update. After apologizing for radio silence (nearly 2 years since the last Kickstarter update), the developer, Potluck Games revealed completed versions of Epic Dice Dungeons: Tower Defense and that they were ready to be shipped. Golden Bell Games, who came onto the project years later to help Potluck Games after partnering with them on another project, first explained the reasoning behind the silence. In addition to the fact that the members of the team were in graduate classes, they stated that Kickstarter was interfering with their ability to communicate with backers. To quote:
"Kickstarter has continually tortiously interfered with our agreement to provide our backers with the best possible support and have done nothing but try to prevent us from growing our brand, yet they allow companies like CMON to raise millions of dollars with multiple, unfulfilled campaigns and still run new ones. Their behavior is unacceptable and has been a primary reason for our inability to properly communicate and engage with our community."
Golden Bell Games continued to clarify their positions as producers on the game. This is highlighted in two videos they linked in the Kickstarter update where they mentioned that their involvement has only been in terms of securing a manufacturing partner. One of the videos even shows the complete games being stored in one of their own garages. However, they did talk about how multiple issues popped up when it came production, citing everything from contracts with various factories expiring due to bankruptcy, and delays caused by a breakdown of communications.
Potluck Games' own Sam Coates corroborated these logistical headaches as well as confessed to some unfortunate issues as well. According to him, the Kickstarter was actually short $20k to finish the project. Coates was more than willing to personally go into debt to finish the game, this was back in 2016 back when the Kickstarter concluded. However, due to the mentioned factory delays as well as physical health complications as well as undergoing divorce, Coates didn't have enough personal capital to finish production. This has lead to the game being complete but being held on by production factories until payments are made. Enter Golden Bell Games handling the logistical issues and helping with additional funding. They have asserted that this is just to help Coates finish his game; they are making no money from their involvement. Given that the game was originally slated to release in Q3 of 2018, there is some credence to issues happening on the manufacturing end.
But all of these complications have led to some unwanted news for backers. Since Coates was unable to cover finishing the game and shipping, despite the Kickstarter campaign claiming otherwise, backers will have to pay additional fees. If you live in the US, you'll have to pay an extra $40. If you're an international backer, you'll need to pay $65.
Dungeon Dice Expansion Also Delayed
Unfortunately, these logistical and manufacturing woes have lead to issues with another project. An expansion to Dungeon Dice, titled The Lost King, has been dealing with delays and issues. It is important to note that Potluck Games are developing that game with Golden Bell handles the publishing. While Coates has insisted that the expansion is still going through playtesting, Golden Bell mentioned that it would be at least another year or so before the expansion will be completed.
Given the unforeseen circumstances that have plagued Epic Dice, it stands to reason that similar issues have been affecting this Dungeon Dice expansion.
Golden Bell Games' History
On paper, these seem like messy but understandable complications. Why would Kickstarter be so asinine with a studio like Golden Bell Games? Furthermore, why are backers and players furious at these developments. Unfortunately, both have grounds to be suspect of Golden Bell Games since they have a notorious history when it comes to producing tabletop games. The biggest of these projects was for a board game titled Unbroken, and it reads like a case study in miscommunication, mismanagement, and production headaches. Copies of the game were available in retail stores long before backers received their rewards and charged additional shipping fees. Golden Bell even threatened to sue one of their own backers.
This is not an outlier either. Golden Bell Games have been the subject of three lawsuits in 2019 for fraud and libel. They were even the subject of an episode of The People's Court regarding the contract made for an indie game titled The Recipe Game. In fact, Golden Bell tried suing the show itself for ruling a guilty verdict against them in the broadcast episode. All of these lawsuits continuously characterize the company as using highly predatory contracts and showing childish, passive-aggressive behavior. No matter how much they wish to characterize themselves as being victims of red tape or oversight, this kind of behavior is more the norm than the exception.
Whatever good intentions Golden Bell may have regarding this production, their prior history in tabletop game development can't help but cause unease and distrust for Kickstarter backers. While there are some merits to what has happened in this particular project, it still shows how much a reputation, good or bad, can follow you wherever you go.