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Mike Maykish
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Hilliard
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This is directed mainly at present High Frontier 3rd Kickstarter Backers. I'm max2361 from the Kickstarter comments. I was the one that posted comments basically accusing this whole hapless lot of misappropriating the $180,000+ raised in the Kickstarter. After posting a grand total of 3 comments, I received an email stating that I have been dropped as a backer because I "abused" them. Here's the contents of the email I received:


Ares Magazine says:

Due to your creation of a hostile environment for our staff and other backers, your pledge is being refunded. We understand frustration with the lengthy process of getting the game published (no one is more frustrated than we are), but license to abuse our staff and our backers is not part of the 69 dollar pledge amount. Sorry it didn't work out.


I thought it was important to inform the backers (since I'm no longer able to post comments) of the lengths this bunch will go to to cover their asses. First, they need to get their facts straight; I never so much mentioned another backer in my comments, so how did I abuse other backers. Second, Ares/OSS get their feeling hurt pretty easily considering that they have been playing with a $180,000 of the backers money for over a year and only have the rule PDF's done. I guess they don't consider misappropriation of funds abuse.

For anyone that has been following this disaster, backers have been requesting refunds for months with no avail. I never once asked for my money back but was given a refund to shut me up. Now granted, I still haven't received the refund and honestly don't expect to get it without a fight,but I will get $69 worth of satisfaction. Backers have been posting negative comments for months, people have been screaming for accurate updates but the only things posted by Ares/OSS, was month after month of conflicting information. It's only after I accuse them of embezzlement that any substantial communication started.

Early on, backers were requesting updates and Ares/OSS responded that they were working so tirelessly trying to complete this project, that they didn't have time to post updates. This must be the most challenging Kickstarter of all time! You've been working 24/7 for a year and have only completed a couple of rocket prototypes that could be 3D printed for pennies and the rule PDF's. This would be funny if criminal activity wasn't involved. What they've done with the backer's money is no different that if they stealing money from an employer, embezzlement is embezzlement. The Kickstarter was a contract to produce High Frontier 3rd Edition, not to raise money from the Kickstarter and do whatever they wanted with the funds. My suspicion is that they needed money for other games they were working on. I also believe this is the reason they posted a 3 month expected delivery date of the game. People are much more likely to get involved in a short term Kickstarter than a long term one. They wouldn't have received anywhere as much money if they posted a 1 year delivery date on the game.

After posting several of my "rants", Ares/OSS began communicating and posted pictures of the game maps and the fuel chart. Now I'm surprised that no one has brought this up, but the same map pictures have been posted on Zazzle and other sites for months and I know I've seen images of the fuel chart before.

I sat by for a year and didn't post any comments while this debacle ensued. I watched other backers go completely ignored by Ares/OSS., then after having a bad day I decided to get involved and I'll be honest, I thought that I may have gone too far at times and haven't posted anything in about 2 weeks, since it looked like they may actually be trying to get this game finished. After this, I'm more convinced than ever that Ares/OSS should be investigated by the FTC.

This is a call out to any Kickstarter backer that reads this, please don't let what I started die. This group has mishandled the funds raised and should be held accountable for their actions. Let everyone know what Ares/OSS will do to shut people up that question their actions. Every current backer needs to file a complaint with the FTC. If they receive enough complaints, they will investigate.

Once again, anyone that con post comments on the current High Frontier 3rd Edition Kickstarter, please post the fact that they dropped me a as backer to shut me up and direct them back to this post. It's important that the backers know the games that Ares/OSS are playing to keep from getting investigated by the FTC.
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Rich James
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"misappropriation", "embezzlement", "criminal activity", "stealing", "I may have gone to far at times", etc.

I can't say that I blame them for refunding your pledge.
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David desJardins
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max2361 wrote:
I thought it was important to inform the backers (since I'm no longer able to post comments) of the lengths this bunch will go to to cover their asses.


They went to the lengths of giving you your money back? Pretty harsh of them. I would do the same.
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Len
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Long ago, I decided to "never again" expose myself to the frustration of the amatuer-hour hour that is Kickstarter. There have been successes, but they are an exception to the rule.

I was seriously tempted to break that policy with this one, and have been watching this one really hoping they'd deliver. I'm so glad I didn't.

That said, Kickstarer funding is NOT a contract. You have no protection or guarantees. People treat Kickstarter with the same expectation they place on a back order at a game store. But you're really investing in a startup, which is always risky, hoping to get return on that investment: a game. If you don't get your game, whatever they've done with the cash, nothing illegal has happened. Startups fail all the time and their investors lose money.

The fundamental problem is backers invest based upon the game idea and not the track record of the people promising to deliver something in return.

I really hope these guys execute and you all get your game.

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Christopher
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But what does this mean for Up Front?
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John Rodriguez
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DaviddesJ wrote:


They went to the lengths of giving you your money back? Pretty harsh of them. I would do the same.


Ya it's hard to read this long rant when at the end they gave you your money back without you almost having to ask. I mean we get it... you think they run a crappy KS. But your outrage is a bit out of proportion.
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Jason
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With some of the childish and petulant nonsense I read in some comment sections, I wish more KS creators had the nous to do this.

I imagine some of these people will aggressively hector sales staff in shops, in the same way, believing that old lie about the customer always being right.
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Will H.
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SMH.

I think most backers would agree the campaign has had problems. Ares/OSS refunded the pledges of vocal backers to silence their criticism of the project.

That critical voice may have been the catalyst of recent "improvements" in project communication. However, there are still no upgraded components, no print proofs or prototype pieces, and no project updates of any substance. Now Ares/OSS has a cavalier attitude about being almost a year late.

I believe the refunds will have a chilling effect on future criticism of Ares/OSS. It will be interesting to see what ultimately happens with this project now that the critical backers have been silenced--at least on Kickstarter.
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Will H.
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DaviddesJ wrote:
max2361 wrote:
I thought it was important to inform the backers (since I'm no longer able to post comments) of the lengths this bunch will go to to cover their asses.


They went to the lengths of giving you your money back? Pretty harsh of them. I would do the same.


If you look at the comment history on Kickstarter, many backers asked for refunds months before this happened. Ares/OSS refunded the pledges of critical backers to silence them when the threat of potentially massive chargebacks was imminent.

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David desJardins
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gar0u wrote:
I believe the refunds will have a chilling effect on future criticism of Ares/OSS.


I guess the test will be, what about backers who don't want a refund and who are supportive of the project but also critical, without being abusive or vituperative? There's certainly a way to be clear about your questions and concerns without descending into vitriol. If the project creators accept that and respond to it appropriately then I would say they are doing fine.
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Steve Carey
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PeterZiegler wrote:
My belief is that this project will not be what it was supposed to be. AM/OSS does not have the slightest idea what this game is all about. They see it just as a bunch of rule books, cards, a map and a hand full of generic playing pieces.


This.

AM/OSS completely botched Holy Roman Empire: The Thirty-Years War, another one of their KS projects and like HF a reprint/re-do of a previously published game.

Along with this egregious campaign, that should be giving every backer great cause for concern.

Instead of feuding among ourselves, our collective energies should be directed at AM/OSS to deliver a quality project - honestly however, I have zero faith in their ability to do so.
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Gunther Schmidl
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repairmanjack wrote:
With some of the childish and petulant nonsense I read in some comment sections, I wish more KS creators had the nous to do this.

I imagine some of these people will aggressively hector sales staff in shops, in the same way, believing that old lie about the customer always being right.


Not a comment on this specific kickstarter or anyone involved, since I know nothing about the situation, but Kickstarter should definitely allow creators to kick backers off a project even before it funds when it's clear they will be nothing but trouble.
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Will H.
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Some of us were not abusive.

Many backers were asking for refunds with no communication from Ares/OSS. Suggesting a fellow gamer contact their credit card company is not abusive. It's merely being helpful and looking out for each other.

Of course, our first amendment right to free speech is not protected when it comes to corporations (only the U.S. government), so I believe Ares/OSS is fully within their rights to remove backers they see as a threat.

However, we should stick together as gamers and not start being abusive to each other (name calling and such...)
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Steve Carey
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PeterZiegler wrote:
Steve. Thanks for posting on the KS site.


You're welcome - I wanted to make that post before requesting a refund (which I've just done).
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Will H.
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You may get one w/o asking based on your last Kickstarter comment.
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Cracky McCracken
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The real shame in all this is that High Frontiers is an incredible game. A reputable game company such as GMT Games should have been approached to do the reprint.

Kickstarter sucks.
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Bruce
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LSMB wrote:
Long ago, I decided to "never again" expose myself to the frustration of the amatuer-hour hour that is Kickstarter. There have been successes, but they are an exception to the rule.

I understand why people have this point of view, but my experience has been different. Some of the projects I backed have been delayed, but not usually by an unreasonable amount (certainly no different than some of the delays I see on pre-orders reaching LGS or OGS for non-KS games). I admit it's not a perfect record though.

LSMB wrote:
That said, Kickstarer funding is NOT a contract. You have no protection or guarantees. People treat Kickstarter with the same expectation they place on a back order at a game store. But you're really investing in a startup, which is always risky, hoping to get return on that investment: a game. If you don't get your game, whatever they've done with the cash, nothing illegal has happened. Startups fail all the time and their investors lose money.

KS funding is most definitely a contract. There aren't many protections, and as you say no guarantees (like many contracts), but that doesn't change the fact that it is a contract. You pay money and the KS creator promises to give you a reward. KS is NOT like investing in a startup. If you don't think there are consequences if a KS creator doesn't fulfill its promises, go talk to the courts in Washington state. Hopefully more jurisdictions follow that example.

LSMB wrote:
The fundamental problem is backers invest based upon the game idea and not the track record of the people promising to deliver something in return.

Lots of people look at the track record of KS creators (just look at the KS related forums here and elsewhere). Sure some backers don't pay attention to that info, but a lot do. And as people become more familiar with KS, I think people are paying more attention to things other than the reward list.

LSMB wrote:
I really hope these guys execute and you all get your game.

100% agree.
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Mike Maykish
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Hilliard
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Just to clarify, I haven't received any refund yet, just the email stating that my money was refunded. I'm not a conspiracy nut and I'm not looking for a battle to fight. I'm old school and when I see something wrong, I'm going to stand up and say this is wrong and what Ares/OSS is/has been doing is wrong.

This was my first Kickstarter and I was wary of the process. I did some brief research and thought that the risk was minimal since it was an established game company doing the Kickstarter. My funds were tight at the time and had to chose between this and another game. At the time I didn't know much about Phil or his games but have always been interested in astronomy and the sciences in general. After reading through the Kickstarter, I was completely enamored with High Frontier and the choice was easy. I really wanted to play this game. An that's what all this has been about, it was never about the money. I wanted the game, not a refund.

This is the first time I've ever been involved with anything like this and I have other things to do. I'm having very serious back surgery in 2 weeks that has the potential to leave me in a wheel chair for the rest of my life, so I have my own battles to fight. These people and their attitude just really pissed me off and sometimes you need to take a stand for what you believe in.

Kickstarters don't simply exist in a vacuum completely outside the law and the FTC has gone after Kickstarters that have misused their funds. You can't receive funds for a project and use the money for anything you want. You asked backers to support your project, not give you an open ended, no interest loan to use as you please. If that was the case, every scam artist and his sister would be posting Kickstarters. Once the project is complete and the backers receive what they paid for, knock yourself out with the money left.

This is an experienced game company, not Joe Schmo working out of his garage. There is absolutely no scenario I can think of that explains their actions over the last year +. What could they possibly been doing for this time and have virtually nothing to show for it. The rule PDF's that were done by them were a mess and had to be redone by "Drake" and he posted a comment that the final version still had mistakes. I understand that problems arise, but you let the backers know what the issues are and what you're doing to rectify the problem. You don't ignore the backers for a year, post updates that completely contradict previous updates and finally begin communicating only when you're accused of embezzlement. Then drop the backers that have been critical of your actions. You'd think that if this was an honest attempt to make things right with the backers, that they'd be putting their efforts into finishing the game, not eliminating the critics.

I don't believe that if this ever was above board, that it remained that way for long. Once Ares/OSS received the money, their attitudes changed completely. It went from we want to produce the best version of High Frontier with the highest quality components possible to a few sarcastic, condescending comments, to no responses at all to the repeated requests for information.

Nothing about the way this Kickstarter has been handled makes any sense. You're pissing off and alienating the very people that are buying your games and in my opinion doing irreparable damage to your reputation. This isn't the way rational companies do business. I've been around long enough to know that even if all my accusations weren't completely on base, that I've come pretty damn close and they will do whatever it takes to keep people from bringing that to light. They say the accusations made are without merit, but try to silence all their critics. You have nothing to worry about if all the accusations are false. This is cover you ass mode, plain and simple.

I usually choose my battles carefully. Life is too short to go around and fight them all. Something about this Kickstarter really got under my skin and I finally decided to post my initial "rant". My actual goal was to force Ares/OSS to respond since they've ignored all the other comments requesting and pleading for information and in that I believe I've succeeded. There's been more response from Ares/OSS since posting my comments than there's been in the previous 6 months. I guarantee that if I'd never posted, the silence would have continued, so I'm glad for that. However I don't believe that their correspondence is a genuine attempt to complete the game and I caution anyone from buying into this until some genuine progress has been presented. I proposed a chart outlining all phases of the project with their present completion percentage as well as a projected completion for each. I've seen many other Kickstarters do this and it provides a way to easily see where the project is at. My response was being dropped as a backer.

Anyone that thinks that there's nothing wrong with the way Ares/OSS has acted, I have some Kickstarter ideas and wouldn't mind playing with people's money for an indeterminate amount of time, interest free. Just let me know and I'll provide my Paypal account information, please be generous.

I appreciate everyone's responses and especially thank Steve Carey for posting this in the comments of the Kickstarter, my sincerest thanks! It's a shame that something that is supposed to bring enjoyment to peoples lives has turned into this. Ares/OSS should be ashamed of the way this was handled and be banned from participating in any further Kickstarters.
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Len
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Hawkman81 wrote:

Lots of people look at the track record of KS creators (just look at the KS related forums here and elsewhere). Sure some backers don't pay attention to that info, but a lot do. And as people become more familiar with KS, I think people are paying more attention to things other than the reward list.

"Lots" of people? I am not sure how many that is or what that means. But as you suggested, let's look at this thread:

Steve Carey wrote:
"AM/OSS completely botched Holy Roman Empire: The Thirty-Years War, another one of their KS projects and like HF a reprint/re-do of a previously published game."

So AM/OSS already had a failure to deliver on a very similar KS project.

That said, I agree with you in that more people WILL start becoming more careful over time. Hopefully, that will lead to more successful KS projects being funded and happier BGG'ers
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Steve Carey
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LSMB wrote:
Steve Carey wrote:
"AM/OSS completely botched Holy Roman Empire: The Thirty-Years War, another one of their KS projects and like HF a reprint/re-do of a previously published game."

So AM/OSS already had a failure to deliver on a very similar KS project.


Just to clarify, AM/OSS did finally deliver Holy Roman Empire: The Thirty-Years War but it was a wreck (rules were a disaster, components needed replacing, things were missing, there were multiple other problems, etc., I gave up on it early on).

Sierra Madre Games handed off a top-notch design (High Frontier 2nd Edition) to AM/OSS, and what have they done with it in a year's+ time?

I feel sorry for Phil, I really do.
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Bruce
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LSMB wrote:
"Lots" of people? I am not sure how many that is or what that means.

Fair. Let's just say that I don't think you can make a general statement like your earlier statement:
LSMB wrote:
The fundamental problem is backers invest based upon the game idea and not the track record of the people promising to deliver something in return.

People back (and don't back) projects for lots of different reasons. I've seen enough commentary on the KS geeklists here and on reddit to know that there are people who look at who the KS creator is and their history.

As for Holy Roman Empire, that project funded last April and the HF KS launched in July. At the time HF funded I'm not sure how relevant HRE was to the track record of Ares/OSS.

LSMB wrote:
That said, I agree with you in that more people WILL start becoming more careful over time. Hopefully, that will lead to more successful KS projects being funded and happier BGG'ers

Again, no disagreement there.
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Hawkeye
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Steve Carey wrote:
LSMB wrote:
Steve Carey wrote:
"AM/OSS completely botched Holy Roman Empire: The Thirty-Years War, another one of their KS projects and like HF a reprint/re-do of a previously published game."

So AM/OSS already had a failure to deliver on a very similar KS project.


Just to clarify, AM/OSS did finally deliver Holy Roman Empire: The Thirty-Years War but it was a wreck (rules were a disaster, components needed replacing, things were missing, there were multiple other problems, etc., I gave up on it early on).

Sierra Madre Games handed off a top-notch design (High Frontier 2nd Edition) to AM/OSS, and what have they done with it in a year's+ time?

I feel sorry for Phil, I really do.


I was under the impression that OSS was pretty much publishing what Phil gave them. Has Phil claimed somewhere that they did something else?
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Steve Carey
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Misterhawk wrote:
I was under the impression that OSS was pretty much publishing what Phil gave them. Has Phil claimed somewhere that they did something else?


Hi Rory, I don't know as I haven't spoken with Phil lately and don't recall him posting much on the subject.

I just hate to see such a fantastic design (his 'baby') be at the center of this mess.
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Hawkeye
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I don't think anyone wants that, Steve. I'm on an email chain for the Pax series and nobody on their was gnashing their teeth so I haven't paid much attention. OSS did a good job with the reprints Brian Train's designs but that's the only real data point I have.
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Jon Compton
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Yes, One Small Step has dropped 5 Kickstarter supporters. We did not drop them because they were upset that the game is delayed, that is certainly understandable. It's been a frustrating process all around. They were dropped due complaints of abuse by other customers and our staff. We get that it's been a slow process; but we have gone through a lot to insure that we present exactly what the designer asked us to publish. We've hired people directly from the community to oversee that process, and we've published the rule books as they've matured through that process so people could see what was happening. But much of the vitriol has simply astonished us.

As for problems with Holy Roman Empire, yes, the rule book was a challenge for some. Developer Chris Fawcett has tirelessly supported the game, answering any questions and updating the rules with clarifications. Updated rules are available at the website for free download. Was the game missing anything? Yes, it was missing a duplicate of the charts and tables sheet. The press proof had 2 copies as we'd asked the printer to include, but the production copies only had 1 (no effect on the game whatsoever, as it was simply a duplicate copy that the printer, for whatever reason, didn't include). They have admitted it was their error and they are printing a second copy, which will ship to KS supporters in a few weeks (along with a new edition of the rule book that includes all new clarifications). Were some components messed up? Yes, three counters were miss-printed (the mis-printing had no game effect) and we have already had them reprinted, along with some additional expansion counters, which were also sent to all KS supporters free of charge.

One Small Step has nothing to be ashamed of with respect to previous games we've published and the support we've provided for them. We stand by our work. Will High Frontier be perfect when it finally gets off the press? Probably not; nothing ever is. But we have done our level best to insure the game is presented in the way the designer intended it. We've made every effort to get people from the game's community to work with us on making sure it's done right, and at no small expense. Has it taken a long time? It sure has; much longer than we expected or intended. We truly get the frustration there, and we don't mind complaints or steam blowing. But persistent abusive behavior toward our customers or our staff, to the extent that our customers complain directly to us about it, is not part of the 69 dollar price of admission.

This is my first and last post on this topic here. I'm happy to answer any question in email, I'm even happy to talk about things on the phone. But we have a job to do, and we're going to continue to go about doing it.

Jon Compton
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