The intricate ways of overseas logistics and how they affect board games industry

In the rather short life of NSKN Games – a mere 7 years – we’ve had to deal with our fair share of local, continental and overseas shipments, at least 100 of them. It was perhaps luck or due diligence which spared us any logistics problems until late 2017, but now we’ve hit the wall at full speed and I am here to tell you the full story.

The background

Before we produce a new board game, when we prepare a Kickstarter or at regular interval throughout the year, we make or update a company master plan, when every project we have sits in a general timeline. We allocate the necessary amount of weeks for art, production, logistics and marketing, so that when we announce a street date for a game or an estimated delivery date for a crowd-funding campaign we are able to stick to it. Through 9 Kickstarter campaigns and 15 products launched world wide, we were able to stay on track. Sometimes we even delivered early, while in most cases we delivered on time or with a minimal delay (up to 30 days). Our latest two projects tell a different story…

This is where creator’s dream of timely fulfillment usually sink. Not in our case…


Two Kickstarter projects – Exodus: Event Horizon and Paladin Card Protectors – have had their delivery dates in the fall of 2017, in September and October. Getting games and accessories from factory to our warehouse, packing and labeling were smooth (yet tiring) procedures. Especially from our sleeves project we learned a lot of lessons and we will do it better the next time, but the part which went horribly wrong was overseas shipping to USA. Our US fulfillment partners are dealing with all packages to local backers, and, as you may know, they represent 30% to 50% of all backers on board game related projects. That’s a lot of people.

While a door-to-door shipment from Poland to the United States (west coast) usually takes 40 days, in our case the shipment which is still due has been in transit for 65 days and counting! Without naming names, we’re simply looking for solutions and lessons learned, to avoid such problems in the future. Our logistics partner (soon to be ex-partner) has had an almost flawless track record, they used to be great at communication… we had worked together well for the past 5 years. This time, after daily emails and phone call, not only we’re experiencing a month of delays, but we’re unable to get a definitive delivery date.

This is how it feels when you’re trying to prepare effective fulfillment. Only the balls send you emails about their planned trajectories every day.

Lessons learned

  1. Contracting – When we signed their offer, we let them off the hook in case of delays caused by third parties. This was clearly wrong, we should have pushed for more responsibility on their side, even if that meant paying a little more. Chances of that to happen in the future: 50%, as it is difficult to impose terms on giants of the industry (from our position of a small company). But it is always worth a try.
  2. Daily written communication – I know this sounds crazy, but when something goes wrong and you have to take your contractor to court, it is better to have proof of everything that was said, instead of looking for witnesses. We tried to do that, but only after the delays started piling up. If we had started from day one to pester them to give us updates, there is a chance that our shipment would be at its destination by now. Chance of this to  happen in the future: 100%.
  3. File for damages – As soon as a party does not stick to their part of the contract, ask for damages immediately. Even the possibility of a law suit will make wheels turn and make people more eager to do their jobs properly. We have only lately files a claim for damages, after many requests and angry emails, so we’re hoping this will bring a resolution. Chances of that to happen in the future: 100%.
  4. Get insurance for damaged good and for delays – That’s a tough one. For sea shipping, insurance companies do not really want to take the risk when it comes to delay (or do they?). So far, we’d had no luck, and it is also sometime prohibitively expensive, but we must try as we need to avoid delays in the future. I am also guessing that a big logistics firm will think twice before delaying a shipment when a big insurance company will come after them. Chances of this to happen in the future: 40%.
  5. Double check your information – When we were offered an explanation, we took it as it was. That was until we were told that our contained was delivered and the reality was that it was not. Someone decided that it is easy to lie and have a happy Thanksgiving instead of dealing with an angry Romanian 🙂 Fortunately, I double check that information which turned out to be a lie. Thus the pressure stayed on. Chances of that to happen in the future: 100%.
And this is my face every time a get yet another suspicious email from the company still trying to deliver our goods.

We would be happy to hear your opinions and take nay advice you might have.

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