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Subject: How to know if your Terraforming Mars is genuine with pictures rss

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Charles Xavier
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I want to share my experience with purchasing a fraudulent copy of Terraforming Mars on eBay. Mind you that I intended to purchase an authentic copy but I hope to show you that I received a fake. To preface my findings, I want to state that my motivation is simply to disseminate my experience to prevent this from happening to you.

I’ve come across articles on BGG warning others about the existence of fake copies of Pandemic Legacy from Amazon and eBay. When I searched similar articles about Terraforming Mars, most blog posts the attempted to address the issue had qualms about the quality of the components. I was left reassured because the components were stated to be so poor to begin with, that chipped and flaking cubes were the norms, not the exception. Similarly, complaints about the cards themselves are fairly common as they are often plagued by miscolorations (back), inconsistent sizing (expansions) as well as questionable cardstock. I deliberately waited to write this up until I received an authentic copy to take comparison photographs.

All authentic game items are to the left or on the bottom.

Comparisons

1st Issue: Shipping method

The fake copy arrived in a plastic bag with bubble wrap and the corner of the box was dinged and dented.


2nd Issue: Box



The fake came with a label in Chinese.

I’ve made several purchases on eBay and never received a fake item. However, this time I failed to scroll all the way down because the description looked like the generic advertising for Terraforming Mars. Had I scrolled all the way down I would have seen the following red flag:

“If our stock is in China,the items will be shipped by CNAC to USA, then we will sent it by USPS first class or prority mail,It usually took 7-9 working days.(Every order has tracking number, absolutely safe and fast).”

3rd Issue: Box
I apologize for the lack of a picture with the fake sealed box. As I opened the box, I noticed that it was as packaged 90 degrees off center. In other words, the writing on the box lid was no in the same direction as the bottom.

4th issue: Rule book
The quality of the fake rule book paper is sub-par. It is thin and glossy compared to the real copy. The font and images looked scanned not printed.

5th issue: Player boards



The player boards in the fake came unsealed and had the same defect that looks like it was the result of printing the same image file four times. Additionally, the color is off in the fake and the print is not as defined.

6th issue: Cards



The playing cards in the fake are a solid block with good (might I say better) packaging compared to the authentic cards which came in loose packaging. The cards in the authentic copy are more flexible in the packaging. Also, the card thickness is much greater in the fake copy.

7th issue: Cubes



As I prefaced earlier, I had heard that many of the cubes in an authentic copy come with a weathered “feature.” While this was the case even in my authentic copy, it was not as drastic when compared to the fake copy. The fake had inferior cube quality with several worn edges, sharp edges, lightweight, air bubbles in the plastic (yellow cubes), flaking metallic paint, off-color metallic paint, and off-color cubes. I tried my best to show the inferiority of the fake cubes. I am reminded about the problems encountered by people with fake copies of pandemic legacy- cubes with sharp edges and indentations (all cubes, pictured on the blue cubes).

8th issue: Mars Board



The fake copy of the Mars board made from lower quality cardboard. The typography looks a tad out of focus and the colors are off.

9th Tiles





The tiles in the fake copy are much too glossy and thin when compared to the authentic copy. Again, colors are off. I had played Terraforming Mars about 4-5 times in the past month; from my recollection, I thought that the tiles were more sturdy and had a matte linen finish which I was confirmed with the arrival of my authentic copy.

10th issue: eBay
I will not go into all the details about my eBay purchase but I had a couple of eBay funny monies to spend. The list price was $48 with a better offer option from a seller/item in Moraine, United States. It was not as if I was trying to get a steal with a buy it now for $20- that would be an all too obvious sign that the game was fake.
I offered $44 not taking into account my funny money. All my communications with the seller were at odd times, they always contacted me middle of the night with messages that did not appear to be written by a native English speaker.

I was not home to receive the package. When my wife came home from work she opened the package only to find that it sustained damage likely due to the poor packaging. This was a red flag to me because who would ship a $50 game in a bag? I contacted the seller about the damage and he offered a $6 refund. It was not until I got home and I noticed the label in Chinese and opened the game box when I realized it was a fake copy. I called eBay stating that this was not a real copy and they initiated the refund process. When I called I made it clear that this seller was selling fake copies but the customer service agent was unable to start an investigation unless the seller re-listed the item.

The seller offered a $10 refund for the ding and dent to which I replied that the game was not authentic and I wanted a full refund (even though this was already initiated by eBay ). I was given a full refund however the seller failed to proved a shipping label to return the game.

In the meantime, I researched whether a prominent Chinese marketplace, known to sell fake items, was selling Terraforming Mars and found that their copies look exactly like the copy I received (listed at $36-38 ). There is even this following disclaimer :

According to the customer's report, due to the long transportation time, the edge of the dice in the box may be worn out. If you mind, please do not buy it.

I hope this helps someone out there!

TLDR: Fake Terraforming Mars copies are in the wild be safe out there.

P.S @goldeneyeonline asked me to include the following in this post from his contact with Stronghold. "Stronghold games just e-mailed me the best way to find out if your copy is from the main counterfeit batch...
They told me to look at three cards: "Geothermal Power", "Industrial Center" or "Research". At first I wondered why, then I saw this"



As you can see the top row from the counterfeit is missing the "R" in the middle of the titles.

A bit about me (skippable)
I have a Ph.D. in Pathology and I am finishing the last year of medical school. I have been in the hobby for less than 2 years. I will be sad next year when I am an intern without the time or energy to play board games.
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Nielson Jugalbot
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drnaturalist wrote:
I want to share my experience with purchasing a fraudulent copy of Terraforming Mars on eBay. .....

A bit about me (skippable)
I have a Ph.D. in Pathology and I am finishing the last year of medical school. I have been in the hobby for less than 2 years. I will be sad next year when I am an intern without the time or energy to play board games.

Thanks for the heads up, it's great to see your write up and investigative work will help the community at large. As for your personal life, school will pass and you'll be back in the hobby in no time. Focus on your residency as that will drain you of time and energy. Good luck!
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Nice job on identifying fake copy. Funny thing in this sad story is the fact that cards from fake copy are better quality than original ones
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Björn
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Got exactly the same today... gonna call ebay, I guess!

EDIT: I've also informed StrongholdGames, maybe they're not yet aware of this issue...
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Mark Papenfuss
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"Your results are back: it's negative"......um, is that a bad thing?
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Good luck on Match Day. Are you going to do Pathology for residency as well then?

If so, then, ahem, you *might* find time for a few games.

Sincerely,
A Radiologist
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Peter Bakija
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So here is a thing I don't understand--I acknowledge that there are apparently people who are making bootleg copies of popular board games and selling them. How is this remotely an efficient way to make money?

Terraforming Mars costs, what. $65 at retail? On Amazon, it is apparently $40? Yeah, that's the US. And yeah, for a little while between the 1st and 2nd printing, you could pay upwards of $100 for a copy, but that was a pretty mall window.

To make a copy of something like Terraforming Mars, by hand, using, what, home printing technology? It is gonna take a significant amount of time and effort, especially if you are going to make a counterfeit that will pass a genuine more often than not. And probably cost a not insignificant amount of money.

How is this worth it for anyone to do?
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Björn
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bakija wrote:
So here is a thing I don't understand--I acknowledge that there are apparently people who are making bootleg copies of popular board games and selling them. How is this remotely an efficient way to make money?

Terraforming Mars costs, what. $65 at retail? On Amazon, it is apparently $40? Yeah, that's the US. And yeah, for a little while between the 1st and 2nd printing, you could pay upwards of $100 for a copy, but that was a pretty mall window.

To make a copy of something like Terraforming Mars, by hand, using, what, home printing technology? It is gonna take a significant amount of time and effort, especially if you are going to make a counterfeit that will pass a genuine more often than not. And probably cost a not insignificant amount of money.

How is this worth it for anyone to do?

These don't seem handmade... The Counterfeit I seem to have gotten today looked EXACTLY like the one described above in every detail... That's how I even knew it was Counterfeit.
So they seem to come from the same manufacturing process... They seem to be making mass counterfeits :-\
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Sky Zero
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Given the copies are almost identical, I’m wondering how they could produce the replica without all the source files from the publisher. Having designed, developed, created art, and printed games myself, it’s no easy task.
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Peter Bakija
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goldeneyeonline wrote:
These don't seem handmade... The Counterfeit I seem to have gotten today looked EXACTLY like the one described above in every detail... That's how I even knew it was Counterfeit.
So they seem to come from the same manufacturing process... They seem to be making mass counterfeits :-\

Which seems likely, given that they need to print almost game quality cards, and have punch out tiles. At which point, again, if this is, say, printing/production company, how is this cost effective? How many counterfeit boardgames are going to be sold such that it is worth the production set up? And if it *is* coming from a production company, why is the quality off enough that anyone can even tell?
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Cee Phour
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bakija wrote:
How is this worth it for anyone to do?

Third shift manufacturing.
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Peter Bakija
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ceephour wrote:
bakija wrote:
How is this worth it for anyone to do?

Third shift manufacturing.

Go on.
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Luther Hendricks
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Basically, the implication is that the official manufacturer, or person or persons with access to things belonging to the official manufacturer, are involved in the unauthorized production of these items. Specifically, in this context, “third shift” implies the manufacturing facility being shut down for the night, and someone sneaking back in and pumping out cheap copies overnight to resell illicitly for personal profit.
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Charles Xavier
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mpappy wrote:
Good luck on Match Day. Are you going to do Pathology for residency as well then?

If so, then, ahem, you *might* find time for a few games.

Sincerely,
A Radiologist

Thanks! I am applying for anesthesia residency. My rank list is due February 20th.
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Rob Davidson
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Drab Emordnilap wrote:
Basically, the implication is that the official manufacturer, or person or persons with access to things belonging to the official manufacturer, are involved in the unauthorized production of these items. Specifically, in this context, “third shift” implies the manufacturing facility being shut down for the night, and someone sneaking back in and pumping out cheap copies overnight to resell illicitly for personal profit.

And using either material that has been 'discarded' (like the crappy cubes)into disposal via QC or bringing in their own supply of material from outside. The faded cards could be due to using lessened amounts of ink/toner to run the print; as they would try to avoid triggering an inventory warning eventually...that is, if they (the company) bothers to check that resource.
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BG.EXE
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And as for how it’s profitable - MSRP on almost all games is equal to cost multiplied by 5. So if you cheap out on components and sell for, say, cost times 4... you still come out way ahead.

Also the comments above assume the factories counterfeits come out of aren’t complicit, which is a distinct possibility.
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Charles Xavier
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goldeneyeonline wrote:
bakija wrote:
So here is a thing I don't understand--I acknowledge that there are apparently people who are making bootleg copies of popular board games and selling them. How is this remotely an efficient way to make money?

Terraforming Mars costs, what. $65 at retail? On Amazon, it is apparently $40? Yeah, that's the US. And yeah, for a little while between the 1st and 2nd printing, you could pay upwards of $100 for a copy, but that was a pretty mall window.

To make a copy of something like Terraforming Mars, by hand, using, what, home printing technology? It is gonna take a significant amount of time and effort, especially if you are going to make a counterfeit that will pass a genuine more often than not. And probably cost a not insignificant amount of money.

How is this worth it for anyone to do?

These don't seem handmade... The Counterfeit I seem to have gotten today looked EXACTLY like the one described above in every detail... That's how I even knew it was Counterfeit.
So they seem to come from the same manufacturing process... They seem to be making mass counterfeits :-\

Sorry to hear that you received a counterfeit copy. Were you able to receive a refund?
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Jacob Fryxelius
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Very sad to hear this. I was not aware of this and I hope we can stop it somehow.
About how to make it profitable: It seems the games are made in china, where I hear it is kind of legal to sell counterfeit products abroad. If that is the case here, they are making good money from this with no distributor, cheaper components, and cheaper labour.

cuento wrote:
Nice job on identifying fake copy. Funny thing in this sad story is the fact that cards from fake copy are better quality than original ones

You seem to confuse high quality with card thickness. For TM we chose high quality thin black core cardstock, something they don't even have in China. And why did we choose these thin cards? Because they make the big stack of cards manageable, they have high durability, and they can be bent back to original shape if bent/nicked. On top of that, the black core prevents any see-through shenanigans.
We also chose non-linen cards, because that would 1) thicken the cards, and 2) make them slick which may be a problem when handling them.
We decided to promote playability over first impressions, and given the flak we've taken from that, maybe we made the wrong choice.

And: the chipping of exactly one corner of every resource cube is part of the manufacturing process, not a defect. The counterfeit copies may have the exactly same cubes, because we get our cubes from China.

Cheers!
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Charles Xavier
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Fryxen wrote:
Very sad to hear this. I was not aware of this and I hope we can stop it somehow.
About how to make it profitable: It seems the games are made in china, where I hear it is kind of legal to sell counterfeit products abroad. If that is the case here, they are making good money from this with no distributor, cheaper components, and cheaper labour.

cuento wrote:
Nice job on identifying fake copy. Funny thing in this sad story is the fact that cards from fake copy are better quality than original ones

You seem to confuse high quality with card thickness. For TM we chose high quality thin black core cardstock, something they don't even have in China. And why did we choose these thin cards? Because they make the big stack of cards manageable, they have high durability, and they can be bent back to original shape if bent/nicked. On top of that, the black core prevents any see-through shenanigans.
We also chose non-linen cards, because that would 1) thicken the cards, and 2) make them slick which may be a problem when handling them.
We decided to promote playability over first impressions, and given the flak we've taken from that, maybe we made the wrong choice.

And: the chipping of exactly one corner of every resource cube is part of the manufacturing process, not a defect. The counterfeit copies may have the exactly same cubes, because we get our cubes from China.

Cheers!

That is precisely why I chose to say the cards were more flexible. I did not open the counterfeit copy cards because I might have to return it. In other CCGs, fakes often do not pass the bend test.

As for the cubes, they feel lighter weight, are not as polished and the entire yellow bag and most red cubes have multiple air bubbles.

Thank you for your input!
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Björn
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drnaturalist wrote:
goldeneyeonline wrote:
bakija wrote:
So here is a thing I don't understand--I acknowledge that there are apparently people who are making bootleg copies of popular board games and selling them. How is this remotely an efficient way to make money?

Terraforming Mars costs, what. $65 at retail? On Amazon, it is apparently $40? Yeah, that's the US. And yeah, for a little while between the 1st and 2nd printing, you could pay upwards of $100 for a copy, but that was a pretty mall window.

To make a copy of something like Terraforming Mars, by hand, using, what, home printing technology? It is gonna take a significant amount of time and effort, especially if you are going to make a counterfeit that will pass a genuine more often than not. And probably cost a not insignificant amount of money.

How is this worth it for anyone to do?

These don't seem handmade... The Counterfeit I seem to have gotten today looked EXACTLY like the one described above in every detail... That's how I even knew it was Counterfeit.
So they seem to come from the same manufacturing process... They seem to be making mass counterfeits :-\

Sorry to hear that you received a counterfeit copy. Were you able to receive a refund?

Ebay has initiated a refund... I also doubt, that I'll get a free return label...

To all others: I'm pretty sure these are NOT from the same factory... They must have produced many of these somewhere else, because the whole quality is different now, when you look closer knowing it's fake.

ALL Images look scanned (very well though) which also makes them look washed out a bit.
Overall it's a well made fake, but still a fake :-/
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Björn
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Fryxen wrote:
Very sad to hear this. I was not aware of this and I hope we can stop it somehow.

That's the curse of making a successful product in today's times, I guess :-/
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drnaturalist wrote:
I have a Ph.D. in Pathology and I am finishing the last year of medical school.
Cool. If you start a company, call it Viron.
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Charles Xavier
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That's great that you were able to get a refund, I'd be interested to know whether the seller will send you a return label.

Also, was your packaged in a plastic bag?
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Björn
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drnaturalist wrote:
That's great that you were able to get a refund, I'd be interested to know whether the seller will send you a return label.

Also, was your packaged in a plastic bag?
The seller still has 48 hours left I think ;-)
I also don't think he will...

Yes, it was wrapped in bubblewrap and then a white china-typical plastic bag. Although packaging wasn't TOO bad, the box was completely squished :-D
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Tim Earl
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drnaturalist wrote:
mpappy wrote:
Good luck on Match Day. Are you going to do Pathology for residency as well then?

If so, then, ahem, you *might* find time for a few games.

Sincerely,
A Radiologist

Thanks! I am applying for anesthesia residency. My rank list is due February 20th.

Good luck with that. My neighbor and gaming partner is an anesthesiologist, and he doesn't have a care in the world. That's partially his personality, of course, but not having to worry about money helps.
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Scott Blakely
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The easy fix to an card issue is to sleeve the cards, which I do in any case with a card-driven game,even if they are linen. I will trade space for increased longevity any day.

Great game!

Enjoying it both in groups and solo.

Regards,

SNAFU
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