Publishing lessons

Board games & crowdfunding

What to do when things go wrong

11th July 2023 0

If you have decided to make board games for a living then the likelihood is at some point something will go wrong. I’m not talking about small mistakes that can be easily fixed, I mean big, soul destroying moments where you discover something that makes your heart sink. After months or even years of work, something happens and now you have a critical issue.

It’s only natural to be frustrated in these situations, to feel sad, disappointed, or even angry and before anything else you need to take a deep breathe and give yourself a few minutes to get over the initial shock.


The first thing you need to do is fully understand the issue at hand, making sure you understand the scale of the problem and all the details. Here are some examples:

Issue: A backer has reached out saying their shipment is being sent to the wrong address.

Investigation: First I’ll double check the address they supplied against the shipment address to see if it is a case of user error. If its not, I’ll then check back through the various steps of setting up the shipments to identify where the error crept in. I want to find out if this issue is specific to this user, this reward type, this fulfilment centre, or all backers.

Issue: A critical component needed to play the game is missing.

Investigation: Is the component wrong in just one copy of the game or multiple copies of the game. Was the component wrong in the samples I was sent or is it just wrong in the production copies. I want to find out if this issue is specific to a batch of games or all games, and whether it is something that has crept in during the process or something I didn’t notice until now.


With a full understanding of the problem, I will now define the best solution possible given the current situation.

Issue: My games are being sent out to incorrect address data.

  • I need to immediately stop any more shipments from being packed.
  • I need to try and recall as many shipments as possible.
  • I need to inform my customers that a mistake has happened, I’ll tell them I am investigating it and not to worry. Letting them know I’ll update them again within 48 hours.
  • I then need to work with the fulfilment centres to correct the errors in the data and plan for a new fulfilment process.

Issue: A critical component needed to play the game is missing.

  • I need to make sure no games are sent to customers.
  • If the games are with distributors, I need to inform them immediately.
  • I need to work out what the factory needs to remake, along with how it will be packed, and any accompanying items such as a sticker or paper sheet containing instructions for the end user.
  • I need to create a tiered list of solutions for attaching the component to the game boxes. Perhaps option 1 is opening the box and repacking it, option 2 is sticking the item to the box, and option 3 is keeping it separate and hoping people remember to keep them together.

Plan of action

Once I know the solution I want to achieve, I will start reaching out to the various people involved and asking them how we can achieve this. I find it is much better to start the conversation with “this is what we need to make happen” rather than “something has gone wrong, what should we do”.

You are able to adjust your solution based on their feedback, but having a strong plan in place as you reach out to people will help significantly. This is one reason I’ll provide a tiered list of solutions, if tier 1 can’t be achieved, we can immediately discuss the next best option without having to go away and think about things.


With critical issues time is of the essence and you need to act fast, keep cool, and make sure all the breaks are put in place as soon as possible.

In modern business a great deal of communication is done via email but for me, when a critical issue arises, I pick up the phone and starting ringing people. In some situations you cannot afford to wait until someone notices your email as games may be getting packed and shipped while you wait.

There are many options available but I use the pay as you go offering on Skype to ring any country in the world for cheap. A while ago I had an issue in Australia and this allowed me to ring them and speak over their landline for as long as we needed.


The most important thing to keep in mind when something goes wrong is you need to solve the problem. While the problem exists you should not seek to blame anyone, you do not need to know who caused the problem, and you do not need to spend hours discussing how unacceptable it is or compensation.

Whenever I have had critical issues and had to pick up the phone I have tried to say something along the lines of the following:

“We have a problem and we need to prioritise a solution immediately, here is what I have identified and this is the solution I propose. As I am sure you are aware, I am very unhappy that this has occurred and we need to understand why it happened so we can ensure it doesn’t happen again, but for now, let us focus on the solution. Once we’ve solved the problem we can dig into it and spend as much time as needed discussing details.”

With the problem solved you should try to understand why it happened and what can be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

It can be devasting when something goes wrong but there is always a solution, keep calm and it will be fine once you’ve gotten to the other side.

Note. The examples used in this article are real examples that publishers reached out to me about recently. They are not current issues with any of my projects.

Frank West

Frank West is a gamer and designer based in Bristol, UK. He published his first board game, The City of Kings, in 2018 and now works on other games and organising events in the local area. His goal? To design and publish games focusing on immersive themes, fun mechanics and beautiful components. If you have any questions or would just like a chat, feel free to get in touch at any time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *