Cthulhu Wars maker asks Kickstarter backers to pay extra shipping or face four-and-a-half year delay, accidentally posts personal details online

The troubled Kickstarter for the miniatures-heavy Cthulhu Wars board game has reached a new low after the company posted personal details of some of its Kickstarter backers online while asking them to contribute more money to the campaign.

Petersen Games raised more than $300,000 for the fourth printing of Cthulhu Wars and a new playable faction in May 2019, telling backers – who had each paid up to $199 plus shipping – that it expected the game to be with them by June 2020.

That date came and went, alongside frequent Kickstarter updates from project director Arthur Petersen which detailed factory delays and shipping problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A video update from Petersen Games founder and Cthulhu Wars creator Sandy Petersen in July 2022 threw back the curtain on the scale of the issues Peterson Games was facing, with the company founder saying it had reorganised the business down to a “skeleton crew”.

He said factory lockdowns, paper shortages, higher shipping rates, inflation and fuel costs had hit the company hard, adding that he had personally “plunged the bulk of my private funds into the effort” to get the company’s multiple outstanding Kickstarters out of the door.

Petersen Games founder and Cthulhu Wars designers Sandy Petersen
Petersen Games founder Sandy Petersen

Arthur Petersen admitted two months later that the amount collected in the Kickstarter was “insufficient to cover 2022 shipping rates”, saying the bill had reached 155% of the Kickstarter total.

At that point the company asked backers to voluntarily contribute up to $179 extra to the campaign, in return for a newly-announced expansion and coupons for use in the Petersen Games store. He denied the company was going bankrupt, saying it was just “stretched a little thin”.

During that update Arthur Petersen wrote, “We are not requiring any backer to pay more for shipping. Even if doing that is not extortive…it FEELS that way, and reeks of things Petersen Games isn’t about.”

Fast forward to last week, however, and that statement is also looking to be stretched a little thin.

International freight charges did surge by about 10x between March 2020, when Covid officially gained pandemic status, and its peak price in September 2021.

But freight costs have been falling ever since, and when the first US shipment of Cthulhu Wars left its packing centre on March 23 this year prices had completely reverted to the levels seen prior to Covid 19, data from online freight marketplace Freightos shows.

Close up of the Cthulhu faction's player board and miniatures from the Cthulhu Wars board game
Photo: Petersen Games

Arthur Petersen said in a Kickstarter update on March 29 that once the first shipment of US copies arrived in the country “our fulfillment partner in Seattle will receive the product, slap some labels on boxes, and send them out the door! Hopefully late April!”.

But despite 87 pallets of the game having now sat in a US warehouse since late April ready to be sent to backers – three years later than expected – Petersen said it only has available revenue to move about six pallets per month.

That means backers with copies in the last clutch of pallets won’t receive their games until December 2024 – four-and-a-half years after the initial delivery estimate.

Petersen says the cost for distributor Gamerati to ship the contents of each pallet is $1,640 – meaning the company is still short almost $143,000.

To combat the delay, Petersen has asked each backer for an extra “contribution” at an average of $55 to get the games shipped “as fast as Gamerati can send it out”.

But it added that asking Gamerati to cut open pallets to find individual backers’ games would be a “logistical nightmare”.

The company has now launched what some backers have described as a Russian Roulette-style operation – adding all of the pallets to its web store as individual items, and allowing customers to find their own and pay part of the $1,640 shipping contribution in $10 increments.

Petersen said it will prioritise the most-funded pallets for the six it ships out every month, adding that any completely funded pallets will be sent “as soon as Gamerati has the bandwidth” – likely within a week of funding. It has not mentioned how much it is costing Petersen to store the pallets while they wait for the money to send out the games.

Board and miniatures for the Cthulhu Wars board game
Photo: Petersen Games

To make matters worse, a delay in getting emails out to backers about their pallet contributions led to a volunteer Discord moderator posting a spreadsheet on the company’s Discord channel, to help backers identify which pallet their game was on.

But the document of partly redacted emails and pallet numbers also contained hidden tabs with backers’ full names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses – and was on the Discord for several hours before being removed.

Backers of more than half a dozen other Petersen Games Kickstarters are also still waiting for their games to be delivered after multiple delays.

Sandy Petersen said in his July 2022 video update on Kickstarter that the firm was only going to focus on one project at a time, leaving potentially an enormous wait for backers of its other outstanding games such as Dinosaur 1944, Planet Apocalypse and the reprint of Glorantha: The Gods War.

UPDATE 6/7/23

A Kickstarter update from Petersen Games late yesterday said US backers had paid an extra $12,000 towards shipping costs through the pallet contribution system.

That would be enough to ship seven pallets if not spread across multiple ones. Petersen has said that four additional pallets have now been shipped, in addition to three which were sent before the pallet plan was made public.

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