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Bogus Kelp Floods Market, Cole Wehrle Gets Historic, and France Picks Its Best Games

by W. Eric Martin

• In late 2023, German publisher Wonderbow Games ran a Kickstarter campaign for Carl Robinson‘s two-player game Kelp: Shark vs Octopus that raised €1.4 million. (For details on gameplay, check out my overview from Gen Con 2023.)

Kickstarter rewards are scheduled to be delivered to backers in October 2024…yet before that campign had even ended, copies of Kelp started popping up for sale on platforms such as Amazon, eBay, and Fruugo. Here’s an excerpt from a Charlie Hall article on Polygon about this situation:

[Wonderbow co-founder Laia Gonzalez] sprang into action, alerting Amazon of the fraud. After days of back-and-forth, the dozen or so illegal listings that she’d found were finally taken down. Thirty-six more showed up overnight. The counterfeiters also expanded their efforts to Google Shopping and other online marketplaces, with more listings always seeming to pop up even as Gonzalez reported them. It was like a game of Whac-A-Mole. Soon she was sending off a series of emails politely asking a startup eBay competitor run out of a Florida office park to delist a product that was clearly someone infringing on her company’s copyright.

Don’t buy this

That’s when the customer service complaints began to roll in.

Hall also appeared on NPR to discuss the topic, and in his Polygon article he talks with representatives from Stonemaier Games and Pandasaurus Games about their expierences with counterfeits of their work.

• In the article “Board But Not Boring” on Slate, Luke Winkie profiles game designer Cole Wehrle, with a focus on his ability to embed uncomfortable aspects of history in play. An excerpt:

Wehrle has spent a career attempting to bridge that contradiction [of a history-based game being presented solely as a game rather than a text]. He is of the opinion that those traditional conceptions about game design are misguided, and more generally, that the tabletop format can aim much higher in both ambition and scope. “I’m not interested in whether or not a game is fun,” he told me. “I think we want something to be compelling, and the things that compel us exist on a wide emotional spectrum.”

• The Festival International des Jeux has announced the nominees for the 2024 As d’Or, France’s game of the year award. The categories and nominees are:

Game of the Year – overall

In the Footsteps of Darwin, by Grégory Grard, Matthieu Verdier, and Sorry We Are French

Perfect Words, by Paul-Henri Argiot and TIKI Editions

Trio, by Kaya Miyano and Cocktail Games

Game of the Year – children

Morris the Dodo, by Emilie Soleil, Jérôme Soleil, and Blue Orange Games

— My Puzzle Adventure: Dragon, by Antonin Boccara, Romaric Galonnier, and Game Flow

Super Miaou, by Guillaume Desportes and Space Cow

Game of the Year – initiated

Cat in the Box, by Muneyuki Yokouchi and Hobby Japan

Eila and Something Shiny, by Jeffrey CCH and ICE Makes

Faraway, by Johannes Goupy, Corentin Lebrat, and Catch Up Games

Game of the Year – expert

Darwin’s Journey, by Simone Luciani, Nestore Mangone, and ThunderGryph Games

La Famiglia: The Great Mafia War, by Maximilian Maria Thiel and Feuerland Spiele

The White Castle, by Isra C., Shei S., and Devir

The winners will be announced on the evening of February 22, the day before the FIJ game fair opens in Cannes, France.

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