Death threats, doxxing and IP deals: Mythic Games’ co-founder on the fallout from its CMON deal, and where it all went wrong for the company

Mythic Games’ fall from one of the most successful crowdfunding-focused board game publishers of all time to one beset by financial woes has been swift. In the 18 months since the company took the unprecedented step of asking Kickstarter backers for more money to complete a project – the $5.6m-crowdfunded Darkest Dungeon board game – Mythic has faced spiralling costs, outsourced the entirety of its remaining workforce and given up on delivering two Kickstarters worth a combined $3.2m, instead selling the IP for those games to CMON.

The sale of Hel: The Last Saga and Anastyr’s IPs earlier this week sparked the greatest outrage yet from backers, after CMON announcing that neither game was “ready for publication in their current state and would require substantial effort to complete”. Kickstarter backers of both games, some of whom paid hundreds of dollars for extensive add-ons and stretch goals, will now just receive a ‘core box’ of CMON’s redesigns. Mythic co-founder Leonidas Vesperini spoke to BoardGameWire about the decision behind the CMON deal, the death threats he has received since, and where the future lies for Mythic’s remaining projects.

BoardGameWire: How did the CMON deal come about – did you approach them (and other publishers), or did they come to you asking about these IPs?

Leonidas Vesperini: Actually, from the very beginning of our problems, we contacted various publishers to see if they would be interested in buying our IP. We talked to CMON and Monolith (among others), who were interested from the beginning, but initially only wanted to acquire IP for projects that had been delivered. For undelivered projects like HEL and Anastyr, but also 6: Siege and Darkest Dungeon, we first tried to finish and deliver them ourselves. With Darkest Dungeon and 6: Siege, we succeeded (or will succeed soon).

For HEL, the game was finished, but releasing it as planned would have required us to ask our backers for a huge contribution, much higher than for the other projects where we had to resort to a contribution. For Anastyr, the game was far along but not finished. But as with HEL, producing the game exactly as we had planned would have required a contribution request that was far too high. In discussions with CMON, we were pleased to see that they could consider acquiring both IPs. As stated earlier, at this stage we preferred a solution that would allow as many backers as possible to receive a game, rather than a new, higher contribution request that would risk affecting a much smaller number of backers.

Where does this leave Monsterpocalypse and Rise of the Necromancers? Are you hoping for something similar to the CMON deal for those, do you anticipate asking for more contributions instead, or are those games likely to simply not deliver at this stage?

For these two games, the solution is to ask for a contribution. But the reactions to our communications are getting out of hand. It’s clear that we’ve inadvertently created and fed a bad buzz about our company. What’s more, the HEL and Anastyr press releases and Kickstarter updates have taken us to a new level: this time, people are attacking us personally. Benoît and I have received physical and even death threats. Some even go so far as to post our home addresses on social networks so that angry backers can find us. I know that this is an exaggerated minority, undoubtedly acting out of unreasonable anger.

Nevertheless, I also receive many messages of support. But I feel that an unacceptable threshold is being crossed, and you’ll understand if I take a little time before answering the question of what we should do about these last two games to be delivered. The mere fact of making announcements now immediately exposes physical people associated with Mythic Games. Some people seem to forget that there are people and families behind the names they insult.

Does the CMON deal provide financing for completion of future projects, or is it being used to pay down debt / other general running costs?

We’re happy with the agreement we’ve reached because it means that backers will get something back, and of course it helps us pay for the general operating costs that remain as we complete and ship the games in progress.

Your line on the future of Mythic has until now been – “we’re working hard and despite these problems have always delivered on our many campaigns”. Now that these two campaigns have failed to deliver, what do you see as the future of the company?

The only future we can see is to deliver the games that are still outstanding. The difficult decisions we have taken have allowed us to find solutions for several of them, which I hope will count in the final balance. Let me remind you of some numbers: Since its inception, Mythic Games has launched 15 projects on Kickstarter or Gamefound. Of those 15 projects, 13 have shipped or are about to ship: Mythic Battles: Pantheon, Time of Legends: Joan of Arc, Solomon Kane, Reichbusters, Super Fantasy Brawl, Time of Legends: Joan of Arc 1.5, Enchanters: EastQuest (and the Darklands expansion sold on our site), Steamwatchers, Super Fantasy Brawl Round 2, Darkest Dungeon (wave 1 shipped, wave 2 in production), and 6: Siege (produced and currently on ships). HEL and Anastyr will be shipped to backers by CMON, at least the base box.

That leaves Rise of the Necromancers (on Gamefound) and Monsterpocalypse. We’re currently focused on delivering Darkest Dungeon and 6: Siege, and then we’ll look for the best solution for the last two projects, as mentioned above. This is the only position we have on the future of Mythic Games.

Do you anticipate ever launching another Kickstarter campaign with Mythic, or do you think that would prove impossible now?

I don’t know if it’s impossible, because we’ve seen many unexpected turnarounds in business and politics. But as I’ve explained to you, the repeated media storms are tiring and getting worse. We don’t plan anything else for Mythic Games until we have delivered or found a solution for all our undelivered campaigns.

When does the licence for Monsterpocalypse [from Privateer Press] expire, and will that have any effect on whether you fulfil the Kickstarter?

The duration of the license granted has no impact on the delivery of the Kickstarter campaign. We are deeply sorry for the problems we have caused our partners who have entrusted us with their licenses. We’ve been through a terrible crisis that has hit our model hard. We’ve suffered the consequences, but unfortunately we’re also passing some of them on to our partners, and that’s very hard to bear. The only thing we can do now is to do our best to limit the damage.

Do you have updated timelines for shipping/completion of 6 Siege and Darkest Dungeon Wave 2?

6: Siege is on the boats, heading for the hubs. Between the weeks of shipping and deliveries from the hubs to the backers, we can expect delivery around April. Printing for Darkest Dungeon wave 2 will start after the Chinese New Year, so it’s too early to give a delivery date, but if all goes well, we can hope for September.

Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently with your Kickstarter projects over the past five years? Was any of this preventable?

In retrospect, I think we should have been more cautious and less confident in our model. We should have kept a tighter rein on our operating costs and found other sources of revenue, perhaps retail, sooner. We probably hired too many people, and these high operating costs condemned us to numerous and ambitious crowdfunding campaigns, where the slightest crash could have serious consequences.

What advice would you give to other Kickstarter-focused board game publishers given what you’ve gone through at Mythic in the last few years?

I’d tell them to be careful and diversify. Start small, have small structures to be flexible. Don’t try to grow too fast.

Does Kickstarter need to reassess its policies for how many projects a single company is allowed to launch? Would that have been useful to Mythic, in hindsight?

I don’t want to blame Kickstarter, they’re not responsible for the difficulties we’ve had. They change their terms and conditions all the time to adapt, and people’s spending habits also change. If it hadn’t been for the repeated crises we had, I think we would have been able to make it through. But our Kickstarter-only model was fragile and too risky when you have a big team.

Is there anything else Kickstarter could / should have done which would have aided your ability to fulfil these projects?

Again, Kickstarter is not responsible for our problems. Kickstarter is just a way to fund and deliver projects. Thanks to Kickstarter, we’ve been able to fund and deliver many ambitious projects. We’ve encountered difficulties that have hit us particularly hard, but we’ve kept fighting and looking for solutions. Although Mythic Games will not be producing them in the end, HEL and Anastyr have not been abandoned. They will live on, and backers whose disappointment we understand will have the opportunity to receive a box.

30 Comments

  1. There is a lot of double talk this guy is employing in this. Having read the communications from them and cmon and how both have stated neither Hel or Anastyr were anywhere near finished, and how the product that will be shipped from cmon shouldn’t and can’t be considered the same product, then seeing this guy flat out lie AND half lie in rapid fire succession is just… I don’t know.

    No one deserves death threats, obviously, or to be doxxed. But coming from this guy and what I just read, I am actually hesitant to believe it…

    I mean… This is just blatantly trying to convince those who haven’t been attached to hel for… 4 years? That the backlash to their company isn’t justified… When I backed Hel in the comments of the campaign were people on day 1 saying not to back it because it wasn’t going to materialize and they called literally all of this happening. Now it seems easy to understand why, because as they said, it happened to them before. They were right then, this isn’t the first time this company has done this, and this guy is a flat out fraud.

  2. I do wish the interview drulled down more on their pipeline and how this transpired: Vesperini keeps saying that if it weren’t for major setbacks, etc. etc. But it seems pretty clear at this point that they were using new project funds to fulfill older projects, and that cannibalistic cycle has been going on for a significant amount of time and spiraling further and further out of control. How could they possibly justify having that many unfulfilled projects going at one time? The push to Kickstart more projects for new funds obviously led to launching projects that were nowhere near finished/finalized, which is a short step away from outright fraud — at that point you are just making pretty project pages full of the FOMO bait you know the board game Kickstarter community will shell out big cash for, and hoping you can figure out a game afterwards while you inject that cash into fulfilling projects that were 3 or 4 back in line. What a wildly irresponsible business model that was doomed to fail.

    It is unfortunate that some of those who have been ripped off have resorted to sending threats, because as the interviewer’s headline demonstrates, that is an easy narrative to now push to the forefront and takes the focus off of the highly unethical business practices that caused this debacle in the first place.

  3. I’d say stop giving this fucking clown a platform. They’ve clearly been lying about the state of their games, and company clearly, for months before the insane radio silence.

    All I see is a fucking moron who mismanaged the entire company and is complaining people are mad and is now crying for sympathy in interviews. I’d be shocked if there were any actual legitimate death threats, nothing more than incredibly angry people who backed a project without realizing a fucking clown was in charge.
    I hope he never gets to work in the game industry again, and is never put in charge of anything ever again.

  4. The absolute balls on Leo to keep lying by omission are a terrifying thing to behold. Also, to repeatedly bullsh*t on such a high level for years on end and expect no consequences is hilarious.
    The fact that interviewers of “big” sites don’t probe further, acting like true journalists and making these people feel uncomfortable is pathetic.
    Those are my three takeaways from this article.

    I stopped backing Mythic projects when JoA 1.5 stretched out to near debacle lengths. It was painfully obvious they were in over their heads back then, too.
    Some of this must also lie at the feet of the hundreds of people not heeding repeated warnings, or properly researching a company’s history when backing a no-strings-attached type of crowdfunding campaign.

    Everyone involved in this should know better and do better.

    • Appreciate your comment – I think the article’s pretty clear in its tone and the questions asked that this is a case of mismanagement. I can’t make an interviewee say what they’ve decided they don’t want to, but getting their words out there in black and white and seeing how they respond to these sort of questions is an important part of accountability.

      • Sure, you can’t make them say what they won’t, but not immediately following up on him saying they have or are about to deliver 13 out of 15 and including Hel and Anastyr in that 13 seems a huge misstep. Not asking about all the crazy levels of stretch goals and how those affected the bottom line seems like a missed opportunity as well.

        • Understood – the question does make it clear they’ve failed to deliver those two projects, whatever his actual answer. But I’ll put that to him specifically, and the question about how including huge amounts of stretch goals impacted their ability to manage their Kickstarters, and update the piece if I get some answers out of him.

          • Leo,

            So sorry the people you LITERALLY stole millions from are venting about you all over social media. Tiring indeed! Just dry your tears on our money and soldier on. #griftersgottagrift

        • Furthermore, 6 Siege and Darkest Dungeon cannot count as completed/fulfilled projects as those who did not pay for ransom will receive nothing even though they paid VAT and shipping!
          I would also like to know.
          1. Where is that money ? VAT and shipping.
          2. What are they going to do about that ?

          Pascal Vesperini is trying to create a narrative and portals should not give them that platform.

  5. I’m curious of two things.

    First, I read somewhere that people can still get a refund from Mythic even though they haven’t refunded requests from 2022.

    Second, if CMON is delivering a free base game, I’ve read about paying for shipping and VAT. Initially I thought that was for the “free” game. But then I read somewhere else that paying for shipping and VAT is for expansions and addons. Is that correct?

    I know this isn’t what you went over specifically but this is also the only place I’ve not seen over run with comments and so maybe mine will be seen by someone who knows something. Thanks.

    • No worries. Mythic say they’re still working on refunds, but as you say, there’s been barely any movement on that since requests from mid-2022. I know some people have had success in chargebacks to credit cards, if that’s how you paid, and there’s also been some talk of lawyers’ letters being enough to get Mythic to expedite the process. If you’re not on the Discord that’s a good place to head to get more specific info from people that have been in the same position: https://discord.gg/zEu2Zj8N

      CMON’s offer of a free copy of the base games doesn’t include shipping or VAT, according to their update on the Hel and Anastyr Kickstarter pages: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1162110258/hel-the-last-saga/posts/4014026

  6. “Again, Kickstarter is not responsible for our problems. Kickstarter is just a way to fund and deliver projects. ….”

    This is bullshit. Kickstarter and Gamefound need more regulation and vetting processes. They may not be responsible for MG per say, but this is a systemic issue. Background checks, to hard inquiries credit score, declaration of outstanding products. The amount of money being loaned has to have more guardrails. Plus, they could refund their fee to people at the very least. It won’t “break them” to do so.

    It’s obvious they don’t own Monsterpocalypse and Rise of the Necromancer or Darkest Dungeon. They probably have contractual agreements and want to deliver so they don’t get sued. It would be better to ask questions in that angle about this implicit threat (and ask the respective companies of Red Hook, Privateer Press, and Sore Loser Games [why do certain board game companies give themselves the cringiest names I swear]). Hel and Anastyr are their last IP’s they own and created. The others are not. This is my suspicion. It will be interesting what these companies do if MG doesn’t deliver (due to threats or anthing else).

    “In retrospect, I think we should have been more cautious and less confident in our model. We should have kept a tighter rein on our operating costs and found other sources of revenue, perhaps retail, sooner. We probably hired too many people, and these high operating costs condemned us to numerous and ambitious crowdfunding campaigns, where the slightest crash could have serious consequences.”

    What I warned about. Which is why I didn’t back MG anymore. Bullet dodged.

    • Sorry but I do not blame KS for this. They provide a place for projects to be presented, that is it. Caveat Emptor. All I expect of KS is to bar backers who have failed in the past.

      Simply put Mythic and this liar committed fraud. They used money people gave them for specific projects and spent it on others. What the interviewer should have asked is what was the FIRST projects they completed where they needed to use funding from later projects to complete. THAT is where the train went off the rails. The only course correction at that point would have been a full assessment of costs for their projects, immediate trimming of their expenses, and having them take a BUSINESS LOAN for completion of projects against future revenue. Instead they went to the bank of ignorant backers for new projects.

      I REALLY wanted Monsterpocalypse. I was a big time original player and avoided the new one as it made all my old stuff obsolete. This board game looked like the way to enter but Mythic was already showing lots of issues with their projects and promising what looked too good to be true. That is why I did not back.

      Everyone needs to make their own decisions on what to back. It is not KS’s job to think for you. The great thing about KS is it allows far more to come to market than ever before. Start adding a host of rules and you will throttle it back. Every KS is a gamble so only put money where you trust it. When you lose you lose, suck it up and burn the name of the creator so they can never show their face again.

  7. “given up on delivering two Kickstarters”

    They didn’t give up, as they are still legally obligated to deliver them, or to refund them. The debt was not cancelled when they sold the IP, unless Vesperini wants to commit fraud.

    • They are not legally obligated. The exact opposite is true. All kickstarters are very clear in the language that the project is NOT guaranteed. The only legal obligation Mythic has is to deliver Rise of the Necromancers. This game was not just through Gamefound but also sold on their website as a pre-order. In fact, it still is being offered for sale on their website.

      • This is a common misconception.
        Kickstarter TOS explicitly states that the project page is a part of the contract, so if the project creator, as in this case, adds language like “no questions asked refund” then it does become a legal obligation. They didn’t have to, but they did anyway to give a sense of security to up their sales.

        Without their additional language then their only obligation would be to provide for how the funds were used in the event of project failure.

        • The T&C are with regards to KS should KS decide to go to legal war with the creator. They will not, why should they? It does not benefit KS to go after a failed backer. KS’s only sensible course of action from their standpoint is to block such a backer from having new projects.

          You have NO PROTECTION with KS. Accept it and move on. Back only with who you trust and put up only what you are comfortable losing. Those are the only rules of the game you can count on. If you lose money with a fraud like this take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if you really looked into the stability and performance of the creator. I did NOT back Monsterpocalypse even though I really wanted to as it looked too good to be true from a creator who was clearly showing lots of problems. I had a similar situation years ago with Palladium Books and the Robotech Tactics game where I went in for only $15 as I knew Palladium were incompetent and criminals. The $15 was an admission ticket to the show although I really liked what was being promised.

          CAVEAT EMPTOR

  8. So am I right in reading that Mythic was trying to offload Hel and Anastyr the moment things started looking shaky? So they intended on pocketing the money I and other backers gave them, and make (I can assume) a nice chunk of change off selling the IP years ago? And not deliver anything?

    These people are crooks, outright! I can see one obvious way to prevent something like this implosion of mythic proportions – Kickstarter should impose some sort of system where you can only have one ongoing campaign at a time, and only start another once that has been fulfilled. That seems like a braindead obvious way to protect pledgers, and limit people like Leo whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs so-to-speak.

  9. Questions that need to be asked-
    1) Monsterpocalypse and Anastyr were both launched after to unforeseeable events of COVID and the shipping price had already happened. Why aren’t those projects delivering or refunding?

    2) Monsterpocalypse was an existing game.that needed zero development. Where did the millions raised for that game go?

    3) Even after 6 Siege backers paid their extra contribution, the game could not be produced until after Darkest Dungeon backers sent in their extra contributions. Aren’t we just getting on the same merry-go- round again?

  10. This is a classic death spiral. You run out of money to complete project a so you launch project b to raise money for project a. But you’re still on hook for project b! If you don’t receive massice profits to make up the difference you just put yourself deeper into the hole ans making yourself look like you’re unreliable

    Plus launching a project to just take the money to fund a different project and then not do it can be concidered a scam, which is why they don’t want to admit this

    But if they did admit it i think I’d help their image as this is a rather common fuckup buisinesses do all the time because it just sounds so tempting. Ofc one could argue this is also an argument why this is even less defensible..

  11. I take strong objection to one of the statements in the interview; obviously death threats are unacceptable, but to suggest that any backers’ anger at the crass mismanagement of this project is “unreasonable” is massively insulting to those people who were providing the funding.

    An issue which has not been raised is the one which effects me the most and for which I should have liked an answer; what happened to the miniatures for the game . I have bought both Joan of Arc and Joan of Arc 1.5 and have played Solomon Kane. In all cases I have found the rules clunky and boring but this did not matter because I was only buying Joan of Arc for the figures which were brilliant. Similarly I only signed up for Hel for the figures and I got progressively more annoyed as I was being told that the game was being delayed by increasing complexity in the game mechanisms. So where are the figures? They appear to have been designed so have the masters gone to CMON or have they just disappeared?

  12. I have fortunately never backed a Mythic project, and I think I’m quite good at retaining the perspective that this is a hobby, not life saving equipment that has been promised but not delivered.

    However, even I take strong exception that “13 out of 15 were delivered successfully”and that Mythic’s collapse is down to unforeseeable events.

    They got greedy and, like a degenerate gambler, chased their losses until they ran out of road. Kickstarter definitely hold some responsibility here for not preventing companies from launching a new project until the old one has funded. If they flagged that previous projects had been delivered late, they’d change the whole industry. As it is, the fact that these projects have been sold to CMON, who also run multiple huge projects and are somewhat evasive when it comes to accounting, would not fill me with confidence.

    The most important thing to take away though is that you cannot trust Leonidas with your money. I am sure he will come sauntering back with a new company, a shiny IP and some big promises. All gamers need to remember – DO NOT GIVE THIS MAN YOUR MONEY EVEN IF THE MINIS LOOK GREAT

  13. I was a Monsterpocalypse late backer on Gamefound. Based on the timing did they already know there were going to be issues with delivery? All information I’ve seen would indicate yes. If mine, and others like me, had our funds taken for a reason other than what was promoted to us, that is fraud. Asking customer groups B, C, & D to provide money under false pretenses to satisfy promises to customer group A in the hopes that future customer groups will do the same down the line is a ponzi scheme.

    While obviously death threats and doxxing are BEYOND the pale and should be given to the authorities, all other customers have a right to be angry. Leo is, in my opinion, a criminal. He should face legal consequences for his actions and all harmed parties should be able to seek remedy in the court. And since KS gave him a space with six undelivered projects (his statement otherwise is doublespeak at best and an outright lie at worst) they should also be the target of a class action suit with strong enough penalties to ensure they follow better and safer practices in the future.

    That’s how it’s all supposed to work. Sadly, we know better.

  14. Ha yes the good ol “Please pity me, I got death threats (real)” excuse every scam artist ever used.

    Just a reminder here, we are talking about a guy that asked backers extra money to pay for Covid era shipping where it was at unprecedented height, for a game that would be delivered YEARS after said price went back to normal.

    I paid 200 usd + 90 vat for shipping and they are now asking me to pay shipping AGAIN to get the basic CMON box, a gutted version of the game without any stretch goal or addons when I paid 800 bucks for the complete edition!

    Mythic was run like a ponzi scheme where they started new campaign to pay for the previous ones, they should be investigated and thrown to jail.

    • Hiding behind the excuse “Kickstarter is a platform, not a shop – you arent buying an item, you are supporting a vision” is a load.
      They are a bunch of snake-oil salesmen at Mythic and now they are exposed, will just say “oopsie, sorry” and not be held accountable. I hope they all end up in manual labor with no retirement.

  15. Leo and by extension Mythic has clearly not been transperant with the backers. His updates will tell you everything is perfect, next minute asking for hundreds of thousands in contributions on top of funds already collected. I fully expect Mythic will renege on delivering DD because once again, nothing is progressing despite updates being published and when they start to make a move they will likely be short on cash all over again.

    The people at Mythic have become a plague on the crowdfunding scene, damaging unrelated projects with their gross mismanagement of other people money. Rest assured any project involving staff from project and team managers all the way up to the directors and the ‘face of Mythic’ Leo will suffer with the reputation these people have collectively bring to theor future positions and projects.

    • You need to check the timing of Ransom v 2.0 on Darkest Dungeon. It was right when 6 Siege was delayed 6 months. There was no progress/updates for months on 6 SIege and voila. When ransom 2.0 was up and running 6 Siege production continued. We can connect the dots ….
      Seems that Mythic Games went one step further with their Ponzi like scheme. Ponzi like scheme for ransoms (sold as contributions).
      These dudes are crooks and should be behind bars if found guilty.

  16. To think this could have gone on even longer if Anastyr hadn’t been enough to cover whatever game they were trying to.ship at the time. Given its relatively poor reception combined with VAT being enforced on the paid product rather than the cost of the product that spelled the beginning of the end for Mythic. Kinda sad cause I backed and enjoyed a number of their games.

  17. I am skeptical that 82% agreed to pay the ransom for Darkest Dungeon. Either way, I refused. Since then, I still have not received my game or a refund (and I’ve asked multiple times for both). Also, since then, the shipping costs they complained about have come down dramatically and covid is no longer an issue etc…but still not game and STILL NO REFUND, almost a year later.
    Mythic Games is obviously a scam/ponzi scheme and should face criminal charges – Strongly advise anyone to STAY VERY FAR AWAY

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