Let’s Talk About Asmodee’s Awful New Policy, Shall We?

If you are ensconced in the board game hobby like a beautifully nerdy butterfly in a meeple-shaped cocoon, you’ve probably heard of Asmodee. You know them, right? Huge company that bought lots of other publishers to essentially take over the industry? Well, as Asmodee unhinged its jaw and began swallowing up other companies with indiscretion, many people side-eyed the developments, grumbling about how a company becoming this gluttonous would result in negative impacts on the hobby.

As is often unfortunately the case, the skeptics and cynics may have turned out to be right. Asmodee has become an unchecked quasi-monopoly and they unveiled a monumentally selfish and short-sighted business decision this week. In doing so, they have gone from the 2nd worst monopoly in gaming  to the worst.

Oh, jeez. What did they do?

Here’s what Asmodee did: they released a new policy claiming they will no longer be servicing requests for replacement parts and components, whether those components are defective out of the box, broken through use, or simply lost to the ether between plays. They are essentially shuttering their customer service department and telling us that if we have a need for a replacement part, to take it back to the store we got it from and have them replace the entire game.

I probably shouldn’t even refer to this as ‘policy’. There is no policy…it’s actually a lack of policy. Asmodee is asking you to refer to others for their policies. Part of the press release even literally says to take the game to the stores and to follow THEIR policies. This is Asmodee playing the part of a preoccupied, hungover parent telling you, “I dunno, ask your mother/father.” Suddenly, the biggest umbrella of board game publishers in the industry feels like they don’t have to worry about petty things like “board game components.” Who needs those, anyway?

Hmm. Sounds like you’re being an entitled gamer.

Okay, let’s handle that entitled thing. I saw that used a lot when people got upset about this news breaking.

Yes, board gamers are entitled, I’m not arguing that. I accidentally spent two minutes in the comment section of a Kickstarter I backed and immediately had to shotgun a beer. In this case, though? I don’t see how THIS is evidence of entitlement. Components are kind of important to board games. When an important piece is missing, it can literally make a game unplayable or greatly alter the balance. If someone goes complaining to CGE that they no longer have the word ‘tiger’ in their deck of words for Codenames and demand a replacement, that’s entitlement. If someone loses one of the spider cards in Incan Gold, that greatly affects the game. It affects the balance of the deck and you can’t just proxy the card because it’ll be readily apparent when you’re ready to draw your homebrewed spider (which incidentally, sounds terrifying). Unless you proxy the whole deck, but who has the money and time to worry about that? Oh yeah, Asmodee, one of the biggest companies in gaming.

Sure, but anything else you buy you return to the store if there’s an issue!

Cool, let’s do this one next. Yes, you’re right. If I plug my toaster in and it sparks and starts floating and begins chanting in Aramaic, you sure as shit can bet I’ll be taking that back to Target to say, “This toaster is possessed, can I get a replacement?” And you know what they’ll do? They’ll immediately replace it! And hopefully exorcise the toaster, but that’s not my problem anymore. But the reason why I’m confident they’ll replace it is because they’ll more than likely have non-possessed toasters in stock. And if they don’t, they can probably point you to any other local stores in their chain.

Ever been to a board game store? You’re lucky to find ONE copy of a board game you want, let alone multiple. If I come home to find my copy of Cyclades came with an entire player color’s set of pieces missing, there’s no guarantee that game store can replace it. They’ll likely have no more in stock which means they now have the logistical nightmare of getting in touch with Asmodee to send a replacement Cyclades, and who trusts Asmodee to send them a new one? Board games regularly go out of stock and out of print. Ask anyone who waited anxiously for Wingspan to restock like late 90s parents ready to use a battering ram against a department store so they could buy a Furby.

And by the way, this scenario is assuming your problems are out of the box. Lose a game piece after a few plays? Hope it’s within the time frame of that store’s return policy!

Add to the fact that I need to keep my receipts and proofs of purchases like Asmodee is the god damned IRS and you have an immensely frustrating experience.

It’ll be even more of a migraine for the game stores, who will have to personally deal with Asmodee in trying to get it replaced. I’m sure THAT will go over well. These sort of ulcer-inducing hypotheticals will probably result in board game stores either instituting more strict return policies of their own, to close the door on such madness, or (more likely) in them simply carrying less stock.

Fine. But did you ever think Asmodee did this because it’s simply too much for them to handle?

Hahahahaha okay. Who was it that told Asmodee to buy a quarter of the industry? They’re out there grabbing companies like Thanos collecting Infinity Stones, except Thanos didn’t complain the gauntlet was too heavy to lift afterwards .

The frustrating thing about this is that Asmodee was well-known for its customer service! Board Games Reddit was peppered with “Shout out to Asmodee customer service” threads on a monthly basis. I personally had a missing Inis piece replaced a mere month ago and was incredibly satisfied with how it was handled. Now all of a sudden it’s too much?

Listen, I’m not saying even saying publishers should replace the parts for free. I would gladly pay shipping to replace a part that I either misplaced or broke. Hell, wanna throw in a small-but-fair replacement fee? Go ahead! Unless it came out of the box as such, it’s probably my fault, and I’m willing to shell out five to ten dollars to return my game to its maximum playable state. But to not even offer that? That’s, pardon my French, straight up dookie.

Well, complain all you want. What are YOU gonna do about it??

Have you seen the board game industry? We’re in such a glut of choices that the Dice Tower’s review backlog probably looks like the warehouse scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Even with how monstrously big Asmodee is, board gamers have plenty of choices. And from now on, if given the choice between a game under the Asmodee umbrella and a game NOT under Asmodee, I am 100% choosing the latter. Knowing that I won’t have to deal with the anxiety of possibly losing a piece and never having it replaced is worth it. Even with how big Asmodee is, there are still dozens upon dozens of other options out there for me. I hope I’m not the only one who does this and that maybe juuuust enough of a dent can hit Asmodee’s sales to make them rethink this. I’m doubtful, but ya never know.

 

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