Grey Fox Games- Trouble (not yet) at Sea
If I had to point to one board game as the game that brought me into the hobby, it would have to be Deception: Murder in Hong Kong. It reminded me of my favorite board game growing up- Clue, and it gave me insight on what board games can do. On our way home, my wife asked me if I enjoyed myself, and I absolutely gushed over Deception, comparing it to an interactive version of Clue.
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is published by Grey Fox Games. The company has a very strong catalogue of board games. I currently own three of them: Deception, of course, but also Champions of Midgard, and Run, Fight or Die: Reloaded. Champions of Midgard is a well-respected, well-loved worker placement game with dice combat, and Run, Fight or Die is a family favorite dice-roller. These three games will always have a spot in my heart and on my shelf.
One of my most anticipated games of 2021 is Tortuga 2199, which is also published by Grey Fox Games. The first entry in my Most Anticipated series was dedicated to this space-pirate adventure. I was unable to back it, but have since pre-ordered it and am anxiously awaiting my Kickstarter version.
During my wait, I have scoured BGG (boadgamegeek.com) as well as the game's page on Kickstarter for any and all information I can find. In particular, I'm looking for when I can expect to see that box on my doorstep. All people seem to enjoy the endorphin rush of receiving a package, and delays in arrival are met with some emotion akin to anger and frustration. For board gamers, those delays are magnified when production is completed, but then you must wait your turn for a boat ride across the ocean.
Tortuga 2199 was originally scheduled to be delivered in April of 2020. Due to COVID and other delays, it was pushed back to January of 2021. And while it is getting to backers and retailers in some parts of the world, those in North America are still waiting to board the vessel for its slow-moving cruise across the Pacific.
As some parts of the world are receiving their game, Tortuga's arrival has been, well, disappointing.
A major strike against Tortuga 2199 is that a few retailers were somehow able to obtain it in December. Enthusiasts who put their hard-earned money into the making of a game, expect their product before anyone who did not participate in the campaign. Which is fair. In most cases, while the people who backed it on Kickstarter get upgraded components and some other exclusives, they do so at a higher cost.
For example- I recently pre-ordered a board game that I wanted to back but was unable to. Now, I won't get a few of the miniatures, but I saved $50 due to the price of shipping and retailers being able to sell at a discount.
While some might excuse retailers obtaining the game before many backer's copies have even left port, what is a much harder pill to swallow is lack-luster components.
I have read complaint after complaint of inferior card quality, printing errors, poorly molded miniatures, etc. When people pay a premium they expect a premium product.
This has not only been an issue for Tortuga 2199, but also another Grey Fox product trickling out to backers- Tsukuyumi: Full Moon Down.
In the case of Tsukuyumi, the criticism is overwhelming. Backers are lashing out, blaming Grey Fox Games of bait-and-switch and calling them all sorts of nasty names. They are understandably aggravated (perhaps not a strong enough word), as they invested a heavy sum for their game (the preorder for the all-in pledge on the company's website is a staggering $325).
What's worse for the company, is that some backers feel they are no longer being communicated with. It gets uglier knowing that the team at Grey Fox have another game campaign on Kickstarter and can be found there with regularity answering questions. The backers of Tsukuyumi and Tortuga feel abandoned.
Tie Your Shoes. We're About to Walk a Mile
I'll admit it. The optics are not great. I'd say it looks horrible. But I'd also say, "Let's look at this from their perspective (or assume from their perspective)."
I love Grey Fox Games' products. I truly do, and my experience with their customer service has been friendly and helpful, if a little slow.
Despite my admiration for the games they produce, I would never be handing them out high praise for component quality. The cards in Champions of Midgard, for example are extremely thin. The retail "meeples" are standard, nothing striking, and everything else is okay. They're about average- maybe slightly below. The upgraded components, while unique, won't "wow" anyone. Still, the game is exceptional and currently sits as number 101 on the greatest games of all-time list according to BGG users (who are gamers). As much as I enjoy Run, Fight, or Die: Reloaded, those zombie miniatures are, overall, pretty poor. Many of them have excess plastic and are not nearly as uniformed as I'd like for them to be.
Yes, it's frustrating paying such a high price, waiting much longer than anticipated for your copy to arrive, and then receiving anything less than whatever your lofty (rendered) expectations were. But it does seem illogical to know what the quality has been and then to expect different. Plus, we don't know if this is a Grey Fox issue or the fault of whoever they hired to physically produce the game.
And for what it's worth, at least for those backers of Tsukuyumi, the company plans on looking into the complaints of backers when they finally receive their own copies. The company hasn't even received its copies yet.
Grey Fox Games can't be held solely responsible for delays in shipping their games. COVID delayed many, many things as businesses closed due to health liabilities and government mandates. Grey Fox themselves have operated with a limited staff, which makes operations run a little slower, perhaps less functional. The employees they do have on can't fly to China and force anyone to put games on a boat, either.
I am disappointed that I haven't received my copy of Tortuga 2199, and I will be discouraged if it doesn't make it on the boat on March 13, the current date the company has been given (while they were also told it's "somewhat likely" that it won't make that reservation). Perhaps I paid too much for the product I will receive. If so, it'll sting. But ultimately the gameplay is what matters. I forget all about the card quality in Champions of Midgard while I'm playing. The not-quite-right zombie figures get lost amongst the horde when I play Run, Fight or Die.
Reason for Hope
But if there is one thing that should bring everyone optimism about the fun aspect of the games, it's the Dice Tower's review of another kickstarted Grey Fox product- After the Empire. It was given a 9 out of 10, and is suddenly a much sought after game.
Trust me, Grey Fox is frustrated about delays in shipping. They are frustrated about errors in printing. I bet they even want the quality to be improved. Right now, they are running a company during a pandemic the best way they can. So, don't be upset when they run a new campaign while older ones still remain unfulfilled.
If you want to threaten to never back another one of their products, so be it. But don't be hateful about it. Because I assure you whenever Tortuga 2199 finally lands on my doorstep and makes dock on my table, any quality issues will be lost in the waves of fun and engaging game play.
Fun is what it's all about. That's why, despite it all, I will continue to be a Grey Fox customer and look forward to the new games they release. No matter what else might be in the box, the fun they provide is always of the highest-quality.