Kickstarter-funded board game canceled, backers cry 'fraud'

More than a year after a Kickstarter campaign for a lighthearted Lovecraftian board game generated $122,000 in pledges, the project has been abruptly canceled, triggering accusations of fraud.

Erik Chevalier of The Forking Path Co. announced Tuesday to backers that The Doom That Came to Atlantic City! was simply "beyond my abilities." "Every possible mistake was made, some due to my inexperience in board game publishing, others due to ego conflicts, legal issues and technical complications," he wrote. "No matter the cause though these could all have been avoided by someone more experienced and I apparently was not that person."

Designed by industry veterans Lee Moyer and Keith Baker, who worked independently on the project for nearly a decade, the Monopoly-like game -- some suggest too Monopoly-like -- which casts players in the roles of HP Lovecraft's Great Old Ones. Rather than buy property, and build houses on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, the "goal is to smash houses, open gates, and destroy the world." With pledge incentives that included original art, pewter playing pieces and an afternoon of hosted gaming, the campaign rocketed past its original $30,000 target, with contributions 1,246 people.

Donors are now understandably upset, with some threatening legal action. However, the focus of much of their ire isn't on the failure of Doom -- that's one of the pitfalls of Kickstarter, despite the website's terms of use -- but rather Chevalier's explanation of how he spent at least part of the $122,000.

"From the beginning the intention was to launch a new board game company with the Kickstarted funds, with The Doom That Came to Atlantic City as only our first of hopefully many projects," he wrote. "Everyone involved agreed on this. Since then rifts have formed and every error compounded the growing frustration, causing only more issues. After paying to form the company, for the miniature statues, moving back to Portland, getting software licenses and hiring artists to do things like rule book design and art conforming the money was approaching a point of no return. We had to print at that point or never. Unfortunately that wasn't in the cards for a variety of reasons."

But his original pitch didn't say anything about the expenses of forming a new board-game company to launch other projects, or moving, or software licenses. "We were supporting and buying a product, not a lifestyle change for you," one backer wrote. "You should be ashamed."

Chevalier, who emphasized that Moyer and Baker "were not directly involved in this decision," said, "My hope now is to eventually refund everyone fully. This puts all of the financial burden directly on my shoulders."

Baker took to his own blog, explaining, "It’s a personal and financial blow to both of us, but what concerns Lee and I is that people who believed in our work and put their faith in this Kickstarter have been let down. [...] I would like to make one thing crystal clear. Lee Moyer and Keith Baker are not part of the Forking Path. Neither one of us received any of the funds raised by the Kickstarter or presales. I haven’t received any form of payment for this game. Lee and I were not involved in the decisions that brought about the end of this project, and we were misinformed about its progress and the state of the game."

He said he and Moyer still believe in the The Doom That Came to Atlantic City!, pledging to backers that, "Lee and I will do our best to get you the game in print-and-play form as soon as possible."

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