Glory to Rome: The final insult – or why Cambridge Games Factory and my ‘F’LGS are dead to me (part 2)

(This post concludes part one of this tale of woe)

I’ve owned a copy of the card game Glory to Rome for quite some time and my only complaint with it was the poor quality of the cards (and the art wasn’t great either, although many others had more of a problem with that than me). So when a posher copy was announced, to be funded on Kickstarter, I was all over it like a big nerdy rash.

This was an established company after all (Massachusetts firm Cambridge Games Factory, CGF), so it didn’t hold the risk of being made by some fly-by-night amateurs that had put me off of other Kickstarter projects before. Oh, how totally wrong I was.

In case you’ve not heard of it, Kickstarter is an American website (there is a slightly crappier (for games at least) European version too, Indiegogo) which allows (via Amazon payment) companies or individuals to try and crowd fund projects they’re embarking on – from board games to music tours to films to gadgets. The money is only taken from your account if they reach their goal – and then the waiting begins. Yup, it’s a bit of a risk but then you’re funding creativity – there’s always a chance things will go wrong.

And with the Glory to Rome Kickstarter campaign, BOY have they gone wrong. This is a project run by a company with a stable of games already on the market, which already had the artwork in place for the new cards. Better yet it finished with well over three times the amount of money it had asked for (a massive $73,000 after asking for $21). I really didn’t think this was a risk at all – back in August 2011 when the project was funded.

‘You cheer my heart, who build as if Rome would be eternal’

Here are a few significant dates from the ensuing (and ongoing) debacle:

  • August 3, 2011 – project hits target after two days
  • August 18, 2011 – they big-up another Kickstarter project also about to end its funding period, Flashpoint: Fire Rescue. That game shipped in October 2011.
  • August 21, 2011 – free shipping offered to stores who want to stock the game and who are wiling to let people pick the game up from them (so I sign up after my local games store (LGS) agrees to get involved). “Once the Kickstarter project completes we are going to stop taking additional pre-orders, while we will be promoting all of the stores who have agreed to receive games as an option for pre-orders”
  • August 22, 2011 – project ends, CGF says it “intends” to have the game available for collection at Essen (in October 2011)
  • September 23, 2011 – first apology and excuses as wheels start to come off, but still claiming game will be available for Essen collection the following month
  •  September 28, 2011 – and I quote: “Depending on what time you’re reading this update, your cards could be rolling off presses at the same time…”
  • October 10, 2011 – wheels, axles etc off. Printing didn’t happen due to complete misunderstanding and general incompetence. New target: Europe/US January 2012
  • November 14, 2011 – “Glory to Rome is… expected to be to you in January”
  • TWO MONTHS OF SILENCE
  • January 10, 2012 – doors fall from clown car, all backers get another custard pie to the face. More blame/apologies/excuses. Outcome? Admittance card files have only just been approved. Main shipment to arrive late April 2012.
  • January 25, 2012 – digital proofs received by CGF and “looked great”
  • February 8, 2012 – CGF heading to China on February 28 to check final product
  • April 19, 2012 – “Glorious news” – they simply must be taking the piss now, but no. “… we expect games to be arriving at your doors in the summer.”
  • May 21, 2012 – game still sitting in Shanghai
  • June 2012 – some advance copies actually arrive in the hands of punters, but not for the majority of backers. Also more people quit, giving rise to plenty more excuses as to why EVERYTHING has gone wrong
  • June 12, 2012 – I’m emailed by CGF: “We have reached out to [my LGS] through email, and hopefully we can make arrangements soon”. I tell my LGS, which replies “We have also had Email communication with them awaiting a reply. Things look like they are moving now.”
  • June 15, 2012 – main shipment leaves Shanghai…
  • July 19, 2012 – shipment ‘almost’ at Boston. Which isn’t in Europe
  • August 1, 2012 – One of my favourite updates: “We have received a notice from the shipper that the goods were scheduled to arrive on about July 21, but I have not yet received the actual arrival notice, possibly because our customs agent is on vacation until August 6th. There’s little doubt that the games are there, but I need to coordinate with our agent to get the games through customs. Oh, and also, we don’t actually have a warehouse in Holland yet”
  • August 3, 2012 – “Week of August 12 – Ship all in Europe from Amsterdam (definite)”
    Plus, for those who haven’t heard about store collection, “If you haven’t heard from us by next week, know that you are okay.” Right…
  • September 6, 2012 – In Europe, CGF is “planning to start shipping to game stores this week and individuals next week.” (see August 3 entry above). This was the last Kickstarter update
  • On the same day I receive an email from CGF telling me it has not been “successful in securing the participation” of my LGS – a month after “I knew I was OK” (again, see August 3 entry above). I reply the same day with my postal details
  • September 18, 2012 – having heard and received nothing, I email CGF to get an update or at least confirmation of shipping. I am yet to get a reply

A conclusion

So, in true British fashion, I’ve steeled myself for further disappointment. I’m expecting to wait at least a few more weeks and then the box will probably be damaged – or I won’t get everything I think I should in the package etc.

But what even I wasn’t expecting was to see that very same Glory to Rome: Black Box Edition on the shelf of my LGS when I went browsing a couple of weeks back. Not only that, it was priced at a very reasonable £25 (I paid $35 to Kickstart it, or about £21.50). And no, I don’t have my copy yet.

When I got home I checked and yes, I could order it elsewhere online for under £20.

It’s hard to know where to start really. Not only do I not have my game, but I paid for it a year ago and can buy it for less elsewhere before I’ve even received it (in fairness, I should also be receiving some bonus items for pre-ordering it, but then these were meant to be rewards – not paid extras).

Then there’s the question of where the truth lies in terms of my LGS and CGF: what really happened here? did the store say ‘no’ to keeping the game for me after saying it would? Or did CGF simply screw up and not follow up on the emails? either way, neither of them has redeemed themselves in the situation.

But the outcome is simple: neither of these companies will receive another penny of my vast wealth (ahem). Sure, they won’t lose any sleep over that, but then again I am sure I’m not the only person coming to this conclusion.

When in a disastrous production life cycle do you realise that it might be prudent to stop making promises you’re clearly incapable of keeping? Or realise you should start throwing REAL money to ensure you can hire proven members of staff with the expertise to do the job and salvage a situation so embarrassing it is likely to taint your company forever? Short term expenditure to ensure your long term reputation. You can’t lay the blame at the door of interns…

And if you run a bricks and mortar retail outlet, you need to do one of two things: go cheap and scrimp on service (to compete with online stores), or charge more but offer exemplary service, stock and surroundings to justify those prices (and that’s for All staff and ALL of your customers, not just the nerdy teens who kiss your ass).

If I ever get Glory to Rome delivered, I’ll do a little update post to let you know (although I doubt publishing this will speed up the process). And if I ever go back in that store.. ah, who am I kidding – unless it changes hands, or I hear of miraculous changes on the grapevine, that simply isn’t going to happen.

15 thoughts on “Glory to Rome: The final insult – or why Cambridge Games Factory and my ‘F’LGS are dead to me (part 2)

  1. Chris, I’m dying to know ‘who’ the (previously) FLGS is? There’s only one in Cambridge that I know of, so if it happens to be a different one, it shows just how long it’s been since I was last in town. Are its initials ‘I.S.’????

    • I’m not going to name names, simply because this is personal experience and I don’t want to prejudice people against going to a particular store – there’s no reason someone else going wouldn’t have a great time. I would suggest any board gamer should try and support their local game store.

      • Fair dinks – the one I was referring to have always been welcoming to me and as it’s the only one I know of, will continue to use anyway. Btw – I’m not a regular, but if can’t wait for something, this is the one place I know I can pop into on a whim and pick something up. The said game that I so desperately wanted will then spend the rest of its days sat on a shelf waiting to be played! I’m sure you know where I’m coming from?

        • Heh, aye, although I’ve largely managed to kick my ‘impulse buy’ habit now – but that seems to be slowly being replaced with a Kickstarter habit (despite the horror show of Glory to Rome) and also a pre-order for Essen habit. Oh dear…

  2. “I paid for it a year ago and can buy it for less elsewhere before I’ve even received it.”

    I will confess that it is this very risk that makes me reluctant to back projects on Kickstarter, especially if the pledge level for a copy of the game is what I would expect full retail price to be. Obviously many people have had good experiences, but my feeling is that if the backer is going to assume some risk, the pledge level ought to be discounted accordingly. I can think of at least one company that discounts pre-order prices; I don’t know why some Kickstarter projects don’t.

  3. Hey Chris,

    Really sorry to have inflicted this mess on you.

    At this point we believe we’ve shipped all of the games and virtually all of the rewards – did you eventually get your copy? If not, I still have a couple of copies here in Utrecht so please email me your shipping details (at the address I used to sign up here) and I’ll track down what’s missing and send it out to you over the weekend.

    Cheers,

    Ed Carter
    Managing Director
    Cambridge Games Factory

  4. Thanks for posting Ed – the game did eventually arrive.

    This has reminded me that I said I’d do an update: I was waiting for two other delayed Kickstarter games to arrive before doing so, to flesh the post out (as you can see, I don’t really do short posts…). They’ve arrived now, at least in part, so I’ll do said update in the next few days.

  5. Pingback: My Kickstarter board games: The Bad, the Worse and the Ugly | Go Play Listen

  6. To date I’ve only Kickstarted and received one product (could be two when Zen Bins arrive for Marvel Dice Masters) and that was a book by Magic artist John Avon who I’m fortunate enough to count as a personal friend.

    I’m interested to know how much play time this game has received, whether despite a 12 month plus delay you feel like you got great value on your investment and are you still contending for the glory of Rome now?

    Your article is very insighful for would be investors and launchers of projects as it highlights feelings about anticipation and disappointment. The publisher responded on this thread. Where are they now? Their web site has disappeared! Were Cambridge Games from Cambridge UK?

    I played a game of GtR for the first time last week and there was an electric buzz about it for players new and old hands. It was an early copy and looked like it was cut from cereal packets yet the quality of gameplay shone through. For anyone late to the Roman party a copy (if you can find one) of the Kickstarter edition will set you back anywhere between £60-200. I’ve got a line on a copy and given the mysterious circumstances surrounding its publisher it doesn’t seem like a bad investment to make on such a lauded release, surrounded by controversy though it may be.

    On a personal note, the revised artwork is a visually stunning collection of iconography. Anyone who cannot see the blood and sweat an artist put into thinking out & illustrating these components quite frankly needs to get their eyes tested!

    “When in Rome” could perhaps have been an apt title for this release in hindsight. I just need to get over reference to “Jacks” (not very Roman terminology in an otherwise strongly themed system) and the unconventional use of vertically displayed text on cards.

    Regards,

    Stuart
    Bournemouth & Poole UK Board Gamer

    • Thanks for posting 🙂

      I never played my copy of the new version; it made me angry just looking at it. I ended up trading it as I had the original anyway. I then sold the original too, after a year or more of not playing it again. I used to love it but it can be outrageously chaotic and it is a hard game to teach. But it is a great game – I just grew tired of it, to which I’m sure this experience contributed.

      Worth £60? Maybe, at a push, if you’ve played and really enjoyed it. Unless you have money to burn, I’d argue no base game alone is worth £100+. There are so many other games out there – including two other Glory to Rome-a-likes in designer Chudyk’s ‘Innovation’ and his recent ‘Mottaini’. I haven’y played the latter (apparently a streamlined, shorter GtR) but Innovation definitely has the same chaotic card game feel.

      Cambridge Games was in the US and is now, unsurprisingly, defunct. I think he still holds the rights to Glory to Rome though, which is a shame, because someone else should be publishing it.

  7. An extreme case of backers remorse if you were unable to open and enjoy the revised edition after waiting it out. You sounded severely depressed back then so I’m pleased to see you can smile about it now. It often surprises me at folks impatience. I must have a high tolerance to delays, preferring to think of them as gestation periods where anticipation can be allowed to build. Everyone is different in that sense. Not a lot of patience for Star Wars fans today on Force Friday for instance if they didn’t lay hands on their preferred character or ship figurines!

    GtR is evidently a gamer’s game that’s enjoyable with the right crowd of thinkers. I now prefer these out of the box systems to collectable models. 80 pounds sterling is not a great sum to pay for a collectable game set compared to paying top dollar for a couple of MTG fetchlands!

    Depending on how much airtime the Black Box gets I may well pursue Innovation or Mottaini, so thanks for the reminder of those. Interesting how the designer’s original concept has not yet been overshadowed by it’s successive releases. The predecessor’s theme is certainly more evocative if you ask me.

    At one point in my first game of GtR it seems like the chaotic effect of the Legionnaire’s role would upset the pleasant flow. Effects where players mug each other off for cards/resources can be unfriendly at the best of times. As it turned out the structures negated this ‘discard/theft’ effect which rendered the soldiery as being little better than a secondary role for bagging a resource from the central supply. Hoping that with more play I will differentiate this similarity as being more than simple duplication of the Labourer’s role.

    And I was interested to read in another review that the card stock is such a high grade that it would be a crime to sleeve up the product.

    http://islaythedragon.com/game-reviews/rome-demands-excellence-a-review-of-glory-to-rome-black-box-edition/

    Regards,

    Stuart

    • I’d have to say waiting and broken promises are two different things; do you really think so many people would’ve been so upset if we’d known it was going to take so long? Of course not. If I’d backed it and been told, “you’ll get it in 2016” I’d have nothing to complain about. And it’s how you get let down too – it just became a joke, with backers as the punchline. I genuinely wouldn’t have been surprised at an update that had said his dog had eaten his homework 🙂

      As for value, it’s definitely a personal choice but it’s hard to compare Magic et al to a fixed box game such as GtR. Looking back I got bout 20 plays from GtR which is great value for the £20-ish I paid for the original – but I wouldn’t like to count the amount of hours I got out of my old Magic cards. It’s all relative.

      On GtR and buyer’s remorse, while I regret backing the game on Kickstarter it is a great game – there always needs to be a strong distinction between the designer (Carl Chudyk designed a great game) and the publisher (CGF dropped the ball).

      As for sleeving, it’s a very personal thing! I don’t sleeve any games (except prototypes printed on paper that need backing to hold/shuffle well), but if people do then more power to them. But in terms of this debate, it’s worth remembering that there were a lot of damaged boxes too – mine was far from perfect.

  8. Actually Chris, as a retailer familiar with this KS, you have maken a VERY big mistake. CGF shipped copies to retailers (WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION), to distribute for free to KS backers. So, they cut out the distributors and retailers and then used retailers as free distribution without their consent. If in fact your LGS received your copy, they had every right to keep it if they did not grant CGF permission. As for you holding your LGS responsible for a screwed up companies sleazy business practices…grow up. Before blaming others for your misfortune, perhaps you should learn the facts first. I’m glad CGF went under. They deserved to. I guess sometimes karma is real. 😉

    • As I clearly said in the post, my LGS agreed to get involved – I asked them personally. But thanks for the advise to ‘grow up’ – I shall take in under advisement.

  9. This was a very entertaining article, Chris! I saw the game images online today and was charmed by the card design, as I suppose many were. As I started looking for cheap copies online, I stumbled upon your article.

    You are probably familiar with the eventual fate of poor Mr. Carter, but just in case, I’m sending you the link to the article about his personal disaster.

    http://qz.com/94925/this-man-lost-his-house-because-his-kickstarter-was-too-successful/

    By the way, I have heard from several people that anyone starting a project on Kickstarter should think twice before shipping any object worldwide. It’s a logistic and customs nightmare.

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