Over the last few months, there have been increasing numbers of reports of fake or counterfeit games. The quality of these forgeries is extremely variable and a huge range of games appear to be affected, from popular gateway games like Ticket to Ride: Europe, 7 Wonders or Dominion to more complex games like Terraforming Mars. Card games like Codenames might be thought of as an obvious target due to how simple they are to reproduce, however, one of the most affected games is Azul, and some reports suggest that it is the cardboard components that are poor quality—the plastic tiles are indistinguishable from the genuine articles.
|– Image from czechgames.com|
So, how does one spot a counterfeit board game? The answer is basically the same as for anything else. Firstly, look at the quality. This is probably the strongest indicator and if the quality of the fake is particularly high the buyer might not mind so much, or even notice. Things to look out for include:
- Poor print quality on the box, in some cases a linen finish will be in the photograph rather than real texture. Sometimes the text is also in poor English as for Qwirkle, and the images may be misaligned, blurred and/or pixilated. Fonts may also be an indicator as for some fakes copies of The Game of Life.
- Card quality may be poor, and there are often typos due to the use of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which sometimes fails due to the use of graphics behind the text—one of the key indicators of a counterfeit copy of Terraforming Mars is that the letter “R” is missing from the name of some of the cards. Sometimes the images are also misaligned and the cards often don’t wear well. In the case of Dixit, the cards are also a lot smaller.
- Any punched components might have the die-cut and graphics misaligned, as well as being of thinner card-stock than the original. In the case of Carcassonne, the features on the tile-edges may fail to match up and there may be “nibs” where the tiles are removed from the frames.
- Plastic pieces may exhibit small burrs or faults where they have been taken from a mould and not finished properly. In some cases like Pandemic Legacy, the genuine contagion cubes are slightly rounded, where the fakes have sharper corners.
- Component quality may be apparent in the weight as well as the size and surface features, for example, the poker/gem chips in Splendor are lighter and also have mould marks on the edges. Sometimes there are pieces missing altogether, some copies of Ticket to Ride: Europe come with only one station in each colour instead of three.
- Often the artwork is not as vibrant as in the original (though this can be hard to spot without a genuine article for comparison). Branding is often removed during the faking process as in the case study of The Game of Life, and this can be easier to spot.
|– Image from imgur.com by BGG contributor ceephour|
Some counterfeits are very high quality however. This can be due to the so-called “third shift work“, where a game is made in a factory that is nominally closed overnight, but the workers gain access and create bootleg copies with stolen material or off-cuts. Some of these are very good, but in some cases they also use parts that failed the quality control tests. In such cases, the seller maybe more of an indication. If buying on ebay or Amazon market place, beware if the seller has a strange name, claims to be located in the UK but isn’t, and has a very long delivery time. In such cases, the scam is often to get payment a long time in advance, so that by the time the item is delivered (if at all), they are long gone.
|– Image from imgur.com|
Thirdly, don’t imagine that Amazon is safe either: there are three types of transaction, “Shipped from and sold by third-party seller”, “Sold by third-party seller and fulfilled by Amazon” and “Shipped and sold by Amazon”. Amazon only “sells” authentic items, however due to “commingling“, their stock can become contaminated by fakes. This is because when an item is sold by a third-party seller and fulfilled by Amazon, the third-party seller ships their item to Amazon who add it to their pile in their warehouse before they ship it on. If the third-party is dodgy, the person buying from them may get lucky and get a copy from Amazon’s stock which means someone else will be unlucky…
Finally, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is—caveat emptor: Buyer Beware!