The makers of Kelp are urging players not to purchase any copies of their charming, asymmetric board game currently floating around the internet.
That’s because the shark vs. octopus game of hide-and-seek won’t actually be available until later this year, but scammers have listed counterfeit copies on Amazon, eBay and other ecommerce platforms. German publisher Wonderbow Games posted to their website and recently ended Kickstarter campaign urging backers to avoid the counterfeit Kelp copies.
“We've identified counterfeit copies circulating on platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Fruugo worldwide. Despite our recent efforts to report and take down 125 scam listings in the past weeks, dealing with companies like Amazon and other platforms has proven challenging from a brand owner's perspective,” the Kickstarter update reads.
The relatively young studio found incredible crowdfunding success in November of last year, raising €1,429,286 ($1,564,839/£1,234,610) from more than 20,000 backers to produce their two-player board game where a shark hunts an octopus amongst a kelp forest while its prey uses all their survival skills to outwit the lurking predator. Cleverly balanced rules and a gorgeous art style no doubt helped Wonderbow find an eager audience.
Unfortunately, they also drew the attention of a different kind of predator. As of writing, eBay no longer lists any counterfeit copies of Kelp, but Dicebreaker found four separate listings on Amazon while casually browsing search results - one of them promoted as a sponsored sale listing.
Component images are either obviously ripped from the crowdfunding page, sporting blown-out resolutions and distortion, or shamelessly uploaded as their own. Wonderbow’s update on their website illustrates some of the more audacious scam jobs: shoddy box construction, cheap folded paper and (hilariously) a LEGO shark replacing the high-quality miniature promised on the real campaign.
Wonderbow says it is currently finalising files and samples to send to their manufacturer, and the only legitimate way to secure a copy of the game ahead of its October 2024 release date is through a pledge manager opening later this month. The company says their partnered retailers have agreed to not sell any copies until backer copies begin shipping, so any Kelp boxes in the wild are the work of hucksters.
The studio is asking players and customers to report any counterfeit copies to the hosting platform, as many sites such as Amazon and Fruugo rely on volume of complaints, reviews and reports to take appropriate action. Board games are no stranger to counterfeits and fakes, but seeing so many populate the market ahead of the actual release is strange. Dicebreaker has reached out to Wonderbow for more information.
“At Wonderbow, we are fully dedicated to providing an authentic and enjoyable gaming experience. The support of our backers has been the driving force behind this project, and we genuinely appreciate your understanding and vigilance as we combat the issue of counterfeit copies,” the studio states on their website. “Together, we can uphold trust and integrity in the gaming community.”