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Subject: Please do not buy this game rss

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Warren Colegrave
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British Columbia
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I want to start by saying that this is, at least from my point of view, something that I have never done, and something that I never plan on doing again. I feel compelled, however, to write something about Salem's creator, Joshua Balvin, and the contempt that I feel he has shown to all of his Kickstarter backers, but in particular, his Canadian and International backers. I realize this post may be censored by the powers that be on BGG, but I implore them to leave it up - it is an entirely truthful account of a very poorly run Kickstarter project that was led by a designer who, until its final days, took advantage of the goodwill and trust put into him by his many Kickstarter backers.

To make a long, long story as short as possible, Joshua launched a Kickstarter campaign waaaay back in October of 2012, promising a release date of June 2013. You know, back when then there weren't a ton of well-received deduction/social deduction games on the market. Needless to say, I bit. Well, I just received my game this afternoon (Sept 16, 2016) - but that's not why I'm angry and disappointed with Joshua.

You should know, if you're not already familiar with the story, that when the game didn't materialize on time, Joshua became very quiet. And from mid 2013 on, his communication was erratic and seldom. I don't want to go back and count all of his updates, but it was fairly customary to receive an "update" during those 3 years, promising a future update "soon", and then not hear anything for the next 3-6 months. If you want a good read, or if you're inclined to feel the pain of his backers, check out the comments section of the Kickstarter page for Salem.

In May of 2014, I wrote to Joshua asking him for my money back. I will admit that my hopes weren't high, but Joshua had really emphasized his own passion/character during the campaign, so I thought it was worth a try. Joshua replied to me a week later, claiming that he was sorry, and that the Kickstarter rules/regulations would not "allow" him to refund my money. After doing a little research, I determined that this was, in fact, a false claim, and that Joshua was using Kickstarter rules/regulations as an excuse to not refund my money. I politely responded to him as such, and surprise, Joshua never returned my email.

Thankfully, I have a lot of games and a short attention span, so after not hearing from Joshua regarding my money, I was able to put the whole thing out of my mind. Truth be told, every once and awhile it would pop into my mind, and I would check the comments section of the Salem Kickstarter page, only to find more and more backers wondering out loud what was happening with the campaign, and getting angry with the realization that it was probably never going to be fulfilled.

Fast forward to August 23, 2016. After seeing video reviews of the game posted by Dan King in June, and The Dice Tower in July, and reading that it had been for sale at Gen Con, Canadian and International backers received an email from Joshua saying that International fulfillment had started, but could take "up to 6 months" because he was having "to pay for all of this out of his own pocket". He went on to offer "super generous" International backers a chance to pay for their shipping, and if they sent him additional money via Paypal, he could have the game in the mail "as early as the next day". This made me a little upset, as all International backers had already paid extra at the time of the campaign to have their games shipped, but now they were being singled out for more cash from Josh. I didn't reply - heck, I'd waited 4 years, I could wait another 6 months.

Which brings us to this Tuesday, September 13th. I received a tracking number from UPS stating that my game has been shipped. I was immediately alarmed, because every package that I have ever received from the States via UPS has charged me a considerable "Brokerage Fee". These fees are absolute crap, and there have been many posts both here, and on other sites warning senders to use USPS for cross border shipping. It is such common knowledge not to send packages over the border via UPS, that it has been a number of years since I have had to deal with it, and I have backed a few Kickstarter campaigns and I often buy books and Ebay items that ship from the US. I know Josh lives, or used to live, close to the border (Washington State), and he is a devoted board gamer who maintains a presence on BGG - I believe he knew this to be the case, but in order to cut his own costs, he sent his International backers' games via UPS. When I emailed him to ask him about this, he sent me the following reply, which I will write verbatim: "I lost $20, 000 to fulfill this when I could have let it fail. People can be as upset as they want."

Today my Salem game arrived in the mail, just about one month shy of my backing it exactly 4 years ago. The UPS agent collected C$22 in "Brokerage Fees". So, in total I backed this game for $45US + $10US for shipping + C$22 for the brokerage fees. Honestly, I didn't want to pay them, and over the last few days I seriously considered just letting UPS keep the game. But I paid them - I am a teacher, and I might use the game at some point in the future. I may even try to sell the game in the future because I have more games than I know what to do with. I will be fine if I never sell it - heck, I'm telling you not to buy it! If space becomes a critical issue for me in the future then it may even go to thrift store.

So there it is. If you've read this far, well thanks for hearing my rant. I needed to get it out. I'm sure I'm not the only Salem backer, or Kickstarter backer, for that matter, who has a horror story to tell, but I think many of these kinds of stories go untold. To say that I am disappointed with Joshua's treatment of his backers, and, in particular, his International backers, would be an understatement. I am not the kind of person to hold a grudge, but I can confidently claim that, even though I do have a board game acquisition problem, I will never buy a game designed/produced/touched by Joshua Balvin again. Ever. If a designer's integrity means anything to you, then I would politely ask you to never buy one of Joshua Balvin's games.

Thank-you for reading.
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Jason Teague
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Thank you for sharing your story.
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Jacob Gunness
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Warren, thank you so much for this post that sums up so much of my experience with Salem. I couldn't have stated it better myself.

I'm still waiting for my five copies of Salem - if they should turn up at some point I am very concerned about what the extra cost will be and whether it'll really be worth the money. I guess the game has caused me enough headaches at this point.
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Matthew Lock
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I just got notice from UPS that they tried to deliver the game and want to charge $25. There is no way that I'm paying that at this point. I could really care less about the game itself at this point. So I will let it rot. I would rather know that the designer wasted his money to send it to me.
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Warren Colegrave
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I felt exactly the same way, but I buckled and paid. Good for you for standing on principle.
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Tim Gordon
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Just as a follow-up to your story, my two copies arrived this weekend, here in the UK. I had anticipated not hearing anything until well into the first few months of next year, as I had turned down the 'request' to pay Mr Balvin more money to ship them internationally.

Anyway, I have the game now, and one spare. And this KS project is finally resolved. Will I keep my own copy of the game? I don't know - originally it was intended as a birthday present for my Beloved, but that moment has obviously passed. It's sad it's ended in an anti-climatic shrug of the shoulders. Time to move on.
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Jacob Gunness
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Tim, as a follow-up to your follow-up, I'll also say that I received my five copies recently. And judging by the comments over on KS, it would seem that the games are arriving in a slow trickle.
 
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