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Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar» Forums » General

Subject: Ugh, defects galore rss

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After reading about defects on this forum I ordered from Amazon in the off chance I'd need to return my copy. I figured I'd be ok with one or two issues, but the ease of Amazon returns seemed like a safe bet. And boy was I glad I did. Here's the list of defects in my case, which seems like I got them all:

Warped board: The corner of one board rises 7mm off the table, which doesn't sound like much but it's almost half the diameter of a fireball marble. Moving figures on that board (without being ridiculously delicate) would cause the board to flex and knock the snake marbles, and sometimes ember marbles, off their divots. Speaking of which...

Three snake divots unusable: Three of them won't hold the marbles in place, even when the board is perfectly still.

Red marbles get stuck in Vul-Kar: The red cataclysm marbles couldn't make it out of Vul-Kar's left side chute, while the right side chute worked fine. Interestingly, the orange ember marbles didn't have a problem, and the orange marbles were noticeably smaller than the red ones. Which left me wondering how much of this could be a problem with Vul-Kar vs. a defect with the marbles. And that leads me to...

Cracked and chipped marbles: Some of the marbles arrived with chipped paint, which wasn't a deal breaker. But one of them had a deep black crack and crevice around a third of the circumference. The paint on most of the marbles was also uneven, with raised pimples in places like dust was on the marbles during paint application.

Purple figure is warped: She's leaning so severely that she can't stand.

On the upside, the board looked amazing in person aside from the warped corner, and I didn't feel the box quality was all that bad. I sent this copy back and ordered another one. If the second attempt doesn't work, then I'll give this game a pass.

In the interest of being constructive, here's some suggestions to RG. Be forewarned, these are criticisms, but hopefully this can be a learning experience for the company.

QC is everything: My copy should never have passed QC. Period. Even if the board and figure warped during transit, the defects in key kinetic components of this game - Vul-Kar, the marbles, and the divots - would've been there during packaging. Besides damaging customer perception of your brand, I can't imagine returns for defects helps your margins. I would take a hard look at your supply chain and identify key gaps in QC checks, and clearly your suppliers need further vetting or a crucial conversation.

Your cost doesn't matter to customers, value does: RG has mentioned that they didn't pay cheaply for their components, and I believe them. I also believe that they over payed their suppliers for the quality they, and their customers, received in return. Take the marbles, for example. What was the point of selecting painted marbles? Glass marbles used for Chinese checkers would work perfectly fine, look better than the unevenly painted marbles I received, don't chip off paint over time, and in my experience are pretty darn cost effective. The plastic miniatures and trees feel cheaper (and it seems can defect more easily) than plastic components from the plethora of other board games I own, including other Kickstarter projects. If RG paid as much or more for these components as other board game producers, then you simply got worse value for your money.

Think like your customer: Let's talk about the box. And I don't mean the decision to go with corrugated cardboard; I personally liked the outside of the box, felt the box was well made, and could care less what the inside looks like. Let's talk specifically about storage. The customer experience includes set up and clean up. Your customers shouldn't need to read forums or watch YouTube videos to learn how everything goes back into your box. This is a family game, and mom or dad or the kids are probably going to wing it, and with 99% of games that means either put the components back into whatever trays came with the game or just throw it all into the big, empty box. Most of your customers aren't on this forum, or looking up vidoes - they're probably jamming everything in as best they can and forcing on the lid. Mom or dad are probably miffed at this, while the kids don't realize they may be damaging their game as the bulging box is getting compacted under a stack of family board games. And your customers shouldn't need to buy a third party solution to feel like they can adequately and safely store one of their most expensive board game purchases.

I know this comes across as critical because, well, it is, and it's deserved. The table top gaming industry is crowded, and the competition provides far better quality. Compared to my most recent purchases - Scythe, Root, Villainous, and Gloomhaven - Fireball Island isn't in the same league quality-wise, and the components look and feel inferior to my original Fireball Island set. Based on gameplay videos, I'd say the game mechanics and design look great (and hopefully I get a chance to play with my replacement copy), but your manufacturing and supply chain need vast improvement.
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Eddie the Cranky Gamer
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For some reason I feel compelled to post an image of my tiger

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Justin Jacobson
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SleighDriver wrote:
After reading about defects on this forum I ordered from Amazon in the off chance I'd need to return my copy. I figured I'd be ok with one or two issues, but the ease of Amazon returns seemed like a safe bet. And boy was I glad I did. Here's the list of defects in my case, which seems like I got them all:

Warped board: The corner of one board rises 7mm off the table, which doesn't sound like much but it's almost half the diameter of a fireball marble. Moving figures on that board (without being ridiculously delicate) would cause the board to flex and knock the snake marbles, and sometimes ember marbles, off their divots. Speaking of which...

Three snake divots unusable: Three of them won't hold the marbles in place, even when the board is perfectly still.

Red marbles get stuck in Vul-Kar: The red cataclysm marbles couldn't make it out of Vul-Kar's left side chute, while the right side chute worked fine. Interestingly, the orange ember marbles didn't have a problem, and the orange marbles were noticeably smaller than the red ones. Which left me wondering how much of this could be a problem with Vul-Kar vs. a defect with the marbles. And that leads me to...

Cracked and chipped marbles: Some of the marbles arrived with chipped paint, which wasn't a deal breaker. But one of them had a deep black crack and crevice around a third of the circumference. The paint on most of the marbles was also uneven, with raised pimples in places like dust was on the marbles during paint application.

Purple figure is warped: She's leaning so severely that she can't stand.

It certainly sounds like you got a clunker. I'm sorry for the trouble. FWIW, these are known potential defects for these type of components (which I'll talk a bit more about below). We're talking about engineered plastics with very low tolerances for variance. For example, if we make the snake divots too deep, they never get loose.

Quote:
On the upside, the board looked amazing in person aside from the warped corner, and I didn't feel the box quality was all that bad. I sent this copy back and ordered another one. If the second attempt doesn't work, then I'll give this game a pass.

In the interest of being constructive, here's some suggestions to RG. Be forewarned, these are criticisms, but hopefully this can be a learning experience for the company.

QC is everything: My copy should never have passed QC. Period. Even if the board and figure warped during transit, the defects in key kinetic components of this game - Vul-Kar, the marbles, and the divots - would've been there during packaging. Besides damaging customer perception of your brand, I can't imagine returns for defects helps your margins. I would take a hard look at your supply chain and identify key gaps in QC checks, and clearly your suppliers need further vetting or a crucial conversation.

I've heard this type of comment before, and it just doesn't make sense to me. What you're saying is that the manufacturer should physically test all of the units to make sure they're working? That's just not realistic. No one does that. More to the point, smaller publishers like us don't have any meaningful control or oversight over the manufacturer's QC systems. You talk about looking at our "supply chain". It's not a chain, it's just the manufacturer. If we don't like the quality of a manufacturer's output, our solution is to find another manufacturer.

Every manufactured product is going to have some incidence of defects. We now have well over 100,000 units "in the wild" over the various FI SKUs. Our incidence of defects is less than 1%. Now, it is a hair higher than we have seen with our other titles. But we can look further and see that the majority of defects relate specifically to the island trays. Our rate of defects for the other, more standard components is well within the normal range.

I have always maintained that there is some level of dissonance in the customer with this type of component that influences their perception of both value and quality. Of course, that's just the reality of things. I'm not blaming the customers. I just think it's a phenomenon of the unique nature of the game. When someone gets a warped FI board, the common response is that the game is poorly made, or QC was bad, or whatever. That's not the common response when someone gets a misprinted card in a "regular" game because we're used to those sorts of defects.

Quote:
Your cost doesn't matter to customers, value does: RG has mentioned that they didn't pay cheaply for their components, and I believe them. I also believe that they over payed their suppliers for the quality they, and their customers, received in return. Take the marbles, for example. What was the point of selecting painted marbles? Glass marbles used for Chinese checkers would work perfectly fine, look better than the unevenly painted marbles I received, don't chip off paint over time, and in my experience are pretty darn cost effective. The plastic miniatures and trees feel cheaper (and it seems can defect more easily) than plastic components from the plethora of other board games I own, including other Kickstarter projects. If RG paid as much or more for these components as other board game producers, then you simply got worse value for your money.

The unit cost related to the standard components is in line with what other manufacturers charge. The relatively high unit cost is attributable almost exclusively to the plastic island trays. There are no other games to compare this type of component with. So, again, the natural response is to say it feels cheap. Compared to what?

As for the miniatures, we chose a more flexible plastic, since they are going to be routinely hit with marbles. Again, I understand this might lead to the perception that they are of lower quality, but if we measure purely by durability they'll last longer than a harder, more brittle plastic you see in other games where the miniatures are moved lovingly around the board. But gamers are accustomed to that sort of plastic in their miniatures. So when they see something different it reads as cheap.

Quote:
Think like your customer: Let's talk about the box. And I don't mean the decision to go with corrugated cardboard; I personally liked the outside of the box, felt the box was well made, and could care less what the inside looks like. Let's talk specifically about storage. The customer experience includes set up and clean up. Your customers shouldn't need to read forums or watch YouTube videos to learn how everything goes back into your box. This is a family game, and mom or dad or the kids are probably going to wing it, and with 99% of games that means either put the components back into whatever trays came with the game or just throw it all into the big, empty box. Most of your customers aren't on this forum, or looking up vidoes - they're probably jamming everything in as best they can and forcing on the lid. Mom or dad are probably miffed at this, while the kids don't realize they may be damaging their game as the bulging box is getting compacted under a stack of family board games. And your customers shouldn't need to buy a third party solution to feel like they can adequately and safely store one of their most expensive board game purchases.

Very fair point. We really were so concerned about making the box too big that we erred too far the other way. A definite error in judgment. We also should have included a repacking guide. It's not a game that lends itself to a traditional insert, so that makes it all the more necessary. This was compounded by the fact that the manufacturer was supposed to include resealable baggies but didn't.

Quote:
I know this comes across as critical because, well, it is, and it's deserved. The table top gaming industry is crowded, and the competition provides far better quality. Compared to my most recent purchases - Scythe, Root, Villainous, and Gloomhaven - Fireball Island isn't in the same league quality-wise, and the components look and feel inferior to my original Fireball Island set. Based on gameplay videos, I'd say the game mechanics and design look great (and hopefully I get a chance to play with my replacement copy), but your manufacturing and supply chain need vast improvement.

I appreciate the feedback. I've been accused of being defensive in replying to these sorts of posts. That's not my intention. I've always believed in transparency. I think gamers deserve to know how things work, how errors arise, how we deal with them. I'll push back when I disagree with an assessment, but I always appreciate commentary.

I've said before, perception is reality. It doesn't matter if I make these sorts of assessments about the customer experience. This is the reality we have to do with. If someone says the plastic is cheap or low quality, that's objectively wrong, but it's also irrelevant that it's wrong because that's the perception. So we need to figure out better ways to manage it.
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Russell Corbally
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I can say my copy came out great. No significant issues here. (I'm not a fan of the "deluxe" marbles, but they work and I have the originals so...)
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Hi Justin,

I appreciate your response, and for what it's worth I never felt you come across as defensive in your replies. I won't reply-with-quote to the whole post to avoid a page-long thread, but I'll answer the points and questions you posed:

Quote:
What you're saying is that the manufacturer should physically test all of the units to make sure they're working? That's just not realistic.

A 30 second review of my components would have caught the defective marbles and miniature. Anything with "moving parts" should be expected to be tested, e.g. fireballs freely rolling out of Vul-Kar. He's the centerpiece to this game. Saying you shouldn't QC his operation would be like an RC car manufacturer saying they shouldn't QC to see if the car's motor runs.

Quote:
Our rate of defects for the other, more standard components is well within the normal range.

Obviously you have more data on this than anyone. Personally, I can't recall a table top game, whether board game or card game, that had as many defects in a single copy as I received. And I'm really OCD about my card games, going so far as to buy a second copy to replace defects or damaged cards.

Quote:
So, again, the natural response is to say it feels cheap. Compared to what?

I'm specifically referring to the non-board components, such as the plastic components and marbles. I listed examples in my OP, including the original Fireball Island. I'd add onto that: Star Wars Imperial Assault, Star Wars Rebellion, the original Axis & Allies, Descent, Hero Quest, my Chinese Checkers set from the 1980s, the list goes on...

Quote:
As for the miniatures, we chose a more flexible plastic, since they are going to be routinely hit with marbles.

My original Fireball Island miniatures feel more solid and subjectively of higher quality, none ever warped, and survived lots of abuse.


I completely agree that perception ultimately matters, and personally I liked the quality of the board. Case in point, my wife originally objected to getting the game because she thought the board looked low-quality in gameplay videos, and then was really impressed with it (at least the two non-warped boards) when we unboxed the game.

The marble quality is what killed her enthusiasm after we opened it, and it all went downhill from there. This is literally what happened: I offered her the honor of rolling the first fireball out of Vul-Kar, she dropped it in, and it didn't come out. Then we inspected the marbles to see what was going on, found the cracked one, noticed the different sizes, and then at least tried setting a miniature on the bridge to witness the dramatic bridge effect. Except the miniature wouldn't stand up.

It was the worst unboxing experience I've had, but at least it was comically bad. Hopefully the next copy will be better.

Edit: Of all the marble game examples, I can't believe I forgot Hungy Hungry Hippos. Talk about chaos and carnage with marbles, and somehow my copy never broke or cracked.
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apotheos wrote:
For some reason I feel compelled to post an image of my tiger



I have no idea what I'm looking at here.
 
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Eddie the Cranky Gamer
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alphasixty wrote:
apotheos wrote:
For some reason I feel compelled to post an image of my tiger



I have no idea what I'm looking at here.


It's a tiger.
 
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J Parker
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Looks like a tiger that launched over the board and landed in a hot plate for a minute?
 
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apotheos wrote:
alphasixty wrote:
apotheos wrote:
For some reason I feel compelled to post an image of my tiger



I have no idea what I'm looking at here.


It's a tiger.


My son just came in and said "What is that? It has a toe!"

EDIT: He’s three
 
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Pete Sellers
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alphasixty wrote:
apotheos wrote:
For some reason I feel compelled to post an image of my tiger



I have no idea what I'm looking at here.


Clearly it's a tiger... sheesh. I mean, it looks JUST LIKE a tiger! In fact, I think it's Tony the Tiger.
 
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Yours Truly,
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There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
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alphasixty wrote:
apotheos wrote:
For some reason I feel compelled to post an image of my tiger



I have no idea what I'm looking at here.


I guess it's supposed to look like this?:
 
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Eddie the Cranky Gamer
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You have no idea how underappreciated I felt when my clever pop culture reference here received no praise whatsoever.
 
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apotheos wrote:
alphasixty wrote:
apotheos wrote:
For some reason I feel compelled to post an image of my tiger



I have no idea what I'm looking at here.


It's a tiger.


It doesn't look like anything to me... whistle
 
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My replacement copy arrived, and the components are in far better shape this time around. Marbles are all the same size with no cracks and roll out of Vul-Kar every time. All the miniatures stand up. One dimple won't hold a snake marble, and a corner of the snake board is again sitting high (8mm this time) and causing the board to rock, but I figure this is as good as it's going to get. It's a bit odd that the presence of one or two game-altering defects equates to a good copy with this game.

The game design, however, is great. We enjoyed the two-player experience, and I can see how it gets even better with a group. We used a house rule that after your action and before drawing a card you can choose to keep or discard your unplayed card and draw back up to two cards. This introduces a bit more decision making without over complicating or slowing game play.

Btw, a word of caution to everyone storing FB in the original box. While unpacking my second copy I found it odd that the same board - the snake board - had an almost identical warp in the same corner as my first copy. I hadn't unpacked anything yet besides the first two boards, so I decided to re-pack the boards in their original conformation to see if I could identify the cause.

After laying the two boards back into place - the snake board on top of the island center and the beach board on top - I noticed the snake board's warped corner rested awkwardly on Vul-Kar, and the plastic wrapping around Vul-Kar was chewed up from rubbing against the board. With the lid on, some pressure would be applied that would cause stress on the snake board - the board would be pushed down, while Vul-Kar pushed up on the corner. As best I can tell, this stress and pressure between Vul-Kar and the board caused the corner to warp over time. This may mean that:

A) Any hard plastic or other objects pushing against the boards in storage could cause them to warp over time.

B) New games may be more likely to arrive warped the longer they remain in inventory. I purchased my copy in mid-January, so it might've been more affected than units that shipped as early as possible to Kickstarter backers.

The implication here is that not everything fits in the box, even during factory packaging. I highly recommend that owners store Vul-Kar separately or find a larger alternative storage solution.
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