[Updated] Developers Break Ties With TGG Games Over Use of Offensive Image and Response

Published: September 9, 2021 9:55 PM /


A fisherman reeling in something while in a fishing boat on a lake

Update September 11, 11:28 AM: More developers have announced their intentions to end their ties with The Gaming Goat either as publisher or retailer.

The most notable of these departures is Badgers From Mars whose board game, Regicide (currently ranked #6 in hotness on Board Game Geek) is being published by TGG. In a post on BGG, they stated:


"Badgers From Mars has exercised its right to end its licensing agreement with TGG Games which will come into effect later in the year. The reason for this is the inappropriate behaviour that Jeff (CEO of TGG Games) has displayed when communicating with others in the hobby."

Beyond the Badgers From Mars departure is another studio cutting ties with TGG Games, LudiCreations. Their own tabletop game, Mr. Cabbagehead, is being published in North America by TGG, with the TGG logo on the box. They announced that the label would be absent from all future printings of the game, although over the next two years TGG Games has the exclusive NA rights and will be selling the product they have received. In addition, they will not be selling directly to TGG any of their products. If any of LudiCreations games show up on TGG, it was not from them directly. Their reasons why were the following, "We will not have any further relationship with anyone making light of white supremacy and its signals, no matter how subtle."

Even notable board game developer, Bruno Faidutti commented on proceedings in the BGG forum thread. He stated,

"Several French game designers have ongoing contracts with TGG games, and some projects were nearing production. We are trying collectively to find a common way out of this shithole, and won't tell more until we have found it".

How this will play out in practice, we'll have to see. If you know any more developers or publishers who have cut ties with TGG Games or The Gaming Goat over this, let us know.


Original Story Below

The world of tabletop gaming went through a difficult patch recently involving art, intention, and communication. All of it centered around Tournament Fishing: The Deck-Building Game, its creators, publisher, and the community as a whole.

First, the set-up. Tournament Fishing is being developed by a small team with the lead designer being Greg Mahler, and tabletop game publisher The Gaming Goat assisting with production. The game's Kickstarter has gone live and has made about $49,000, surpassing its goal of $15,000. While TGG has only produced one other tabletop game on the platform, this is because it is a smaller branch of the company, which has a large hand in retail distribution of board games and accessories.


This is important for what happens next. In an attempt to promote Tournament Fishing, several pieces of artwork including the rulebook were shown on Twitter. Those tweets have now been deleted, and the reasons why will become obvious. One of the illustrations shows a realistic looking frog with one of its hands curled into the "A-Okay" gesture. These are images and gestures that have been appropriated by modern white supremacists. Not helping this negative association was a caption on the art added later stating, "This is Bob the frog. Bob is A OH KAY. Bob the frog does not have a hateful bone in his body and loves everyone."

The responses to this situation were worryingly unprofessional. In a forum thread on Board Game Geek, user YOON LEE expressed his distaste for this artwork and stated that he would be pulling his support of Tournament Fishing. Mahler responded to comments in this thread. These began with feigning ignorance about the nature of the art, then claiming that the artist was making a joke. Mahler's statements became increasingly defensive as the thread progressed. Exacerbating this were inflamatory comments and responses by TGG's CEO Jeff Bergren on his Facebook page.


Artwork of a frog doing a white supremacist gesture
The image that started it all.

This led to several designers and industry peers speaking out. Designer Artem Sakarov officially announced in a tweet thread that he would be leaving a project he was working on with TGG. He stated the reason for this departure was the studio's dismissive attitude towards this incident. In the tweet thread, Sakarov stated that he legitimately believed the frog art was indeed accidental, but the degree to which everyone involved failed to understand and acknowledge the connection to hate groups was not excusable. Sakarov even acknowledged that by ending this partnership it would be to his own personal financial distress as he had to repay an advance, but believed it was the right thing to do.

Others vocalized their opinions shortly thereafter. Eric Lang, the creative mind behind Bloodborne: The Board Game and Ankh: Gods of Egypt, was notably passionate about the affair, stating "The 'entire point' of this symbol in current culture is to be a dog whistle (a symbol for white supremacists to signal each other) while appearing benign to most." Isaac Childres, most well known for Gloomhaven, spoke back against several of Mahler's comments throughout the thread. In addition, several reviewers, including Jason Perez of One Stop Coop Shop, took down videos covering Tournament Fishing.

The biggest condemnation came from Board Game Geek themselves. On page 12 of this extensive forum thread, the moderators posted that both Mahler and Bergren's BGG accounts have been suspended indefinitely.and that all ongoing promotion and advertisement for not just Tournament Fishing but any and all of TGG's projects would be suspended on the site. The reasons stated for these punishments were due to multiple posts made on social media that directly conflicts with the BGG's community values. They have also banned several other vocal supporters of Bergren's statements, including those who expressed them on Kickstarter.

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