The War RoomThoughts and Ramblings

$430k Plus and Seventeen Months Later ‘Up Front!’ and ‘Airborne in Your Pocket’ are Nowhere to be Seen

Up Front from Avalon HillBack in August of 2012 I wrote an op-ed about Valley Games looking to reprint the Avalon Hill classic Up Front! and why I didn’t believe we would actually see the reprint come to fruition. The post garnered a few comments here but really riled up some folks over on the forums at ComsimWorld. Since I try to run a PG-13 website I won’t repeat the more vicious comments made but suffice to say a big consensus was I’m an asshole and didn’t have a clue as to what I wrote.

We can ignore the fact I specifically indicated I was pointing out my opinion and since this is my website, I’m the editor-in-chief, and much of what is published here is flush with opinion I felt it was completely in my right to make mention I didn’t think we would see Up Front! Personally I like ConsimWorld as John Krantz is truly fine gentleman and I’ve had the pleasure to chat with him on multiple occasions at the CSW Expo in Tempe, AZ; I even interviewed him for one of the TGG Extras back in the day. Like I said John is a super nice person and I’m sure 98.9% of the folks who visit CSW to get their fill of grognard related news are too.

Yes, CSW is a great website yet I wouldn’t stroll into the CSW forums (or nearly any other forum devoted to gaming or anything else) to defend any position I may hold because A) I don’t need to since I spend my hard earned cash to actually run a website where I can post my thoughts and opinions on my own dime and B) just because someone wants to argue the movement factors of a supply truck counter in an Afrika Corps wargame (that all of seven people have purchased and four have played) doesn’t mean they know jack shit about getting a game published. I find most forums are ruined by bullies who are a bunch of blowhards all trying to spin each other around in circles to prove each knows more inane nonsense than the other.

Anyway, here I was… An asshole (and called worse on CSW, BGG, and elsewhere) because I voiced my skepticism about the announcement of an Avalon Hill game being reprinted. Keep in mind, Valley originally stated they were going to reprint the game and there was never a mention of crowd funding to get it done until a month after they’d floated the reprint idea to the public.

Jump ahead more than a year.

Following an extremely successful Kickstarter, ending on January 2nd 2013, which bilked backers out of $339,848 (hot on the heels of a successful $102,010 September 2012 Airborne in Your Pocket campaign) Rik Falch and his Canadian based Valley Games – or are they now U.S. based Radiant Games? – have provided nothing to backers of either project other than empty promises and art files which are being created by volunteers. Yep, they collected over four hundred thousand dollars and the progress of both gaming projects are in the hands of volunteers. Or, in the case of Airborne in Your Pocket, a single volunteer.

I don’t know about you but if I pulled in over a hundred thousand bucks on a KS project I’d be more invested in something I applied my name to than handing it off to some volunteer out in the internet ether.

So what happened?

Well to make a long, drawn out story short Valley borrowed a large sum of money from an investor. Or investors, as there’s conflicting information as far as just how many people Valley owes large bags of money to. Anyway, Valley took the loan, produced games which sold, decided they weren’t in the mood to pay the loan(s) back – even though they raised over $171k with D-Day Dice, and were taken to court.  Judgments were made against Valley in two states (neither case contested by even sending a company representative) and Falch and his team of bandits were found to be on the hook for the money owed. These proceedings took place prior to launching the Up Front! KS project.

At no point did Valley indicate to their Up Front! Kickstarter backers there was any issue with courts ordering repayment of over a quarter of a million dollars in loans. It was at this point in time Valley Games suddenly became Radiant Games – sorry no link to a Radiant website as they only exist online as a Facebook fan page; a true measure of a company’s legitimacy. All mention of Valley being involved in Airborne or Up Front! disappeared. Truthfully you’d have been hard pressed to find any mention of Valley with the two projects once the judgments were made public as Falch and his banditos began wiping all mention of Valley from the projects. To make matters worse, since Up Front! was being prominently advertised in extremely heavy ad rotation on Board Game Geek, the powers that be at BGG decided they would give Falch front webpage space to address concerns (which honestly weren’t ever addressed) to backers while the BGG website knowingly and willfully moved the firestorm blazing through their forums to less accessible locations under the Radiant front.

Let it be known the guys running BGG are always willing to make money off what is essentially a user content driven website in which they do nothing more than count their ducats so they certainly weren’t going to be on the end user or project backers’ side. Yet that’s a story for another time.

So Rik Falch sets up a dummy company in Texas (Radiant Games) in an attempt to dodge the court rulings against Valley and to continue bilking backers out of money for Up Front! since the project was still live when all the debts became known to the public. I don’t know maybe Falch was slugging down too many LaBatt’s north of the border since that dodge is one of the oldest in the books and if there’s one thing our government is mighty adept at it’s tracing a money trail to dummy corporations. All in all Valley has now become, in more ways than one, a dormant entity and Radiant (or whatever the hell Rik and his cronies want to call it) is nothing more than a shell company.

I’m sure plenty of backers would ask me if Rik Falch is such a bad guy why are updates about Airborne and Up Front! still appearing on the Kickstarter pages and in backer’s email boxes? I’ll give you the simple answer… To prevent you from suing. Backers of either project have already reached the point they can’t chargeback to their credit cards or dispute the charges made to their cards. Kickstarter already states it’s a buyer beware world, since there’s no guarantee you’ll ever receive anything from a successfully funded project; Ya’s pays ya money, ya’s takes ya chances. By continuing to jerk backers off, Rik Falch is keeping the 70% of backers who are still holding onto hope they didn’t piss away one hundred, two hundred, or more bucks on either project from using the Google to track Fauch by GPS and lynch him. Or busting out what’s known as a class action lawsuit.

I’d love to know if anyone out there who demanded their money back for either Airborne in Your Pocket or Up Front! has received a refund upon request. I know there were some posts, on both projects, if any backer was unhappy with the progress being made they could ask for their money back.

I’ll give you 1000-1 odds the answer is no.

Unfortunately, at this point in time I don’t see either Airborne in Your Pocket (the only thing in any pockets is your hard earned cash in Falch’s) or Up Front! making it’s way into backers’ hands; It just isn’t going to happen. The Kickstarter funds have been frozen by the court system and, when it’s all said and done, there won’t be any cash after the settlements to produce boxes of blank paper let alone games.

Yep. Once again I’m sure folks out there will tell me I’m an asshole; I don’t know what I’m talking about; I just rouse the rabble and the haters. Nothing could be further from the truth. I pointed out more than a year ago I was all for seeing a new edition of Up Front! regardless if I had concerns that Valley actually had the rights to produce the game even if the original designer gave them the okay or not. Yet the truth is you are not going to see a print run of the game in 2014 no matter what some Radiant stoolie wants to soft soap backers with on the Kickstarter page. It is not going to happen. Ever. Period.

That said, this Kickstarter for Up Front! has been a topic of discussion with wargaming designers and myself for a few months. The first thing which had us scratching our heads is the insistence to call the game Up Front! in the first place and why Valley/Radiant wasn’t going to just use the original game as an inspiration as opposed to a straight up reprint. I know they were supposed to be making changes but for all intents and purposes Valley/Radiant/Ripoff Artists claimed this was to be Up Front! Couldn’t they make enough changes to the game to get around the copyright issues? Why not go in the direction Legion Wargames did with B-29 Superfortress – as an homage to Avalon Hill’s B-17?

When it’s all said and done, I’ve gone on the record plenty of times before you will not see Up Front! (and seemingly Airborne in Your Pocket as well) from Valley or Radiant. Rik Falch has swindled plenty of people out of hard earned cash and, as court documents clearly show, Rik and the folks involved in his business have no interest in getting a product in anyone’s hands anytime soon. Personally this makes me sick.

So I’ll finish by making a mighty bold statement…

Up Front! backers are currently being promised the game will be in their hands before June 6th, 2014 – the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day invasion. If at that time Up Front! has not been received by the 2407 backers of the project, I will personally go forward (along with my designer friends) with plans to provide the public a game very similar to the Avalon Hill classic. We will not petition crowd funding backers or ask anyone to pay a solitary penny until the game is “in the box” so to speak. We’ll pay for a small initial production run out of our own pockets.

I’ll be the first to say we won’t be able to provide the same sort of massive content promised by the Up Front! Kickstarter (and I’m sorry to say I can’t help those who backed Airborne because I haven’t a clue as to what was on the design table) but I can tell you it won’t take nearly a half million dollars and over a year and a half to get the game onto your table top. And it won’t cost you a red cent until it’s produced.

Oh, and for Rik Falch? I welcome him to publicly respond to my calling him a cheat and a thief. I’m certain he won’t because if he doesn’t have the stones to come clean with the people who’ve handed to him over $400,000 he certainly hasn’t them to take me on…

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Jeff McAleer

Founder/Editor-in-chief of The Gaming Gang website and host of The Gaming Gang Dispatch and other TGG media, Jeff tackles any and all sorts of games but has a special fondness for strategy, conflict sims, and roleplaying games. Plus, he's certainly never at a loss for an opinion...

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  1. Thank you for the article. I backed the project, even though I had a set of cards that I had printed up for myself. I figured since the D-Day dice project was completed, I’d get Up Front in a reasonable time frame. Live and learn; I’ll never back another kickstarter game project. If it is a good game, then I’ll pick it up after it’s produced.
    On a positive note, Steve Jackson games did eventually get OGRE out the door and SJG has great customer service. I had taken a job in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and SJG shipped the game to me, in the middle of nowhere for free. I can’t imagine how much that must have cost to ship that 30 lb. beast.

      1. SFG game me three options:
        1. Delivery to a USA address
        2. Delivery to KSA, they pay postage
        3. or full refund

  2. If you need help getting that game out, you know we’ll help you, Jeff! It might be a good excuse for you to come out to Orange County, see the factory, and meet everyone. I’m a big UP FRONT! fan, but avoided this Kickstarter myself.

    Alan Emrich
    Victory Point Games

    1. Truthfully, Alan, I’d still love to see this get produced by Valley/Radiant/Whoever They Are mainly because of all the money backers have invested into Up Front! Unfortunately I really don’t see that happening any more because it looks as if Rik Falch is logging into the Up Front! Kickstarter on a daily basis more to look to see if there’s any mention of the magical words “class action lawsuit” in the comments rather than to update folks on what’s going on with actual production on the game. I will mention over the past week or so more artwork PDFs have appeared in the Kickstarter updates but my understanding is those cards are being developed by volunteers so they aren’t any sort of real indication of Up Front! going to print.

      Three months from now, if it still looks like Up Front! is vaporware, I’m serious about exploring working on a title inspired by the original and getting it in front of the public.

  3. I requested my money back from Falch & Co. before the expiration on my right to dispute the credit card charges. I gave them a week to respond. [crickets chirping].

    I disputed the charge on my CC and was refunded by Chase Bank. I’m still getting updates and I believe that the Falcher will send me a game if it ever gets printed. My guess is that my bank ate the cost of my refund.

    So, for me? Best of both worlds.

  4. Sorry because I’m french and I may not be fluent with all the subtleties of the english language. But as I’m an history teacher, I wondered if the June 6th, 2014 would not be the 70th (seventieth) birthday of the D-Day (by the way, thanks to you, american boys, for having freed us) instead of the sixtieth as written in this very informative opinion ?

    1. Hahahaha! Thanks for the catch Orlov! If memory serves, I was reading one of the updates to the Kickstarter mentioned the release date they were now aiming for was the sixtieth anniversary and I didn’t do some really easy math in my head while I was writing the piece. You are absolutely correct as to 2014 being the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Maybe the KS update was insinuating Valley Games would be going back in time to release Up Front! It’s possible we might see the invention of time travel before we ever see the game reach the public…

  5. I’m an AiYP backer and I don’t mind getting taken for a Line4Life pledge. There are bad people and I’ve more then gotten extra free-ish stuff from other Kickstarter projects that exceed the amount lost here. But what really pisses me off, is that I’ve seen proof Kickstarter knew of the legal troubles while the UF project was on going and they didn’t do anything. Why lose their 10% (or whatever it is) when they can take their cut and let all those backers suffer.

    1. That is a serious issue as I understand plenty of backers were contacting Kickstarter regarding the legal issues while the project was still live. I’ve seen KS kill a project for a lot less so I was a tad surprised to see they didn’t get involved.

  6. Jeff,

    I was able to extract my money from KS/Amazon/VRE after American Express went to bat for me. I received my refund in the middle of 2013, and had been trying to help out fellow grogs by consolidating useful refund data and backer experiences from refund requests, etc. into one thread, before being suspended by the powers that be at BGG. They said it wasn’t for that reason, but instead for responding to those trying to derail my efforts. BGG has been a mixed bag when moderating this issue, so it is hard to tell where they fall on it… in the $ pile (publishers) or the gamers.

    Anyway, I appreciate your summarization of the facts, albeit laced with opinion. FWIW, if I ever needed meatbags to send up against a bank of HMGs, I know the Up Front/VRE/RikTor apologists would be the perfect recruits for the job – they don’t care about logic or facts (man, you are going to DIE! if you charge those MGs!) and will fight to the end, like an entrenched Japanese soldier on Tarawa.

      1. Yes, after I submitted that comment, I realized that the nuance about it being an opinion piece wasn’t necessary. Of course its your writing, from your perspective. I liked it and agree with all of your opinions. Thanks for summarizing this process, which has been anything but Up Front.

        1. Hahahaha! I knew you took it as the op-ed but I was just pointing out when it comes to the whole Up Front! fiasco it seems as all we have to bandy about is opinion and conjecture since cold, hard facts are awfully hard to come by…

          Plus, just about anything I write around here has some touch of my opinion in there somewhere. 🙂

  7. Falch & Co. do seem to fit the title of Deadbeats. Word from his Facebook page is that he’s now moved to Australia. Got a new job there of course, certainly not to try and run away from his problems like he seems to have done in the past. Continually. So yeah, I pretty much believe that Up Front! coming out by the 70th Anniversary of D-Day will first need to be announced by pigs flying over the frozen landscape of Hell before people see the game in their hands or on the store shelves.

    I will say though that if you make good on your promise I’ll be right there in line to give you my money for the game.

    1. It does seem like Falch is getting out of Dodge, don’t it? Speaking of trying to put something together if the project never reaches backers, I had a conversation a while back with my buddy – game designer Hermann Luttman – and he had mentioned he was surprised no one had simply built a new design and released it. We have to be honest here and keep in mind very rarely do you run across a game which is 100% completely original in its mechanics as just about everything is built upon a foundation of something which came before. Obviously, if we were to move forward in this direction I’d reach out to original designer Courtney F. Allen; I’m sure he’s invested plenty of time and energy into the vaporware edition and would like something in return from all that work.

      If, and it’s a big if because miracles supposedly happen and folks could see V/R/E release Up Front!, things would progress to the stage where I’d be working on getting an “Up Front!-ish” game out to the public I’d have a role closer to developer than anything else; I have the contacts in the industry to get something like this done but would put it in the hands of people I know and trust, say a Victory Point Games or GMT, who could put into production an eventual final run of say 3000 copies. The truth is Up Front! is a very niche title and, although there’s a lot of passion for the reprint, it isn’t as if we’re talking about tens of thousands of copies being sold – that’s why Hasbro has never put together a reprint – it doesn’t fit into their scheme of how many units need to be sold for the giant to consider Up Front! a profitable endeavor.

  8. I backed both. Heck, I backed for one complete version of Up Front, another base game as a birthday present to a friend, and Line of Life for AIYP. If you really are a man of your word Jeff I’ll gladly help you get what you need to make your game an inexpensive option to all backers of Up Front.

  9. Kudos to you Jeff! I am one of those who backed the project. Then, around September of last year, I had enough of Rik’s dishonesty, and contacted my CC company. I was able to secure a “provisional” refund; in other words, my CC was given a credit for the initial charge, and if the game does in fact get released then the charge will be reapplied – otherwise I’ve gotten my money back.

    This is all due to my CC company’s kind customer service policy, and I am truly lucky to have received the refund. However, I am still more than angry about what has been done – and continues to be done – to backers; the continual (and meaningless) “art updates”, and the constant ‘pie-in-the-sky” statements from possibly naïve, but probably stupid, “volunteers”.

    I wish you success with your version of the game, and will gladly stand in line to buy one.

    1. Good to hear another backer got their dough back Greg. I’ll mention looking to produce a new game is still in a very early speculative phase; I’m still at work on the revised edition of the Knights & Magick miniatures rules and not ready to get heavily involved in another project at the moment. Yet come May or so, if we still just see those art updates and such (Doesn’t it seem as if Rik and his crew are promising to include every unit which even sniffed the front lines of WWII at this point?), then this will move from the “just talking about it with friends” to “lets charge forward and get this cooking” stage.

      1. No worries, Jeff – I’m not holding you to any timeline (or to producing it a all). It’s all a very sad situation, and I know your offer has buoyed several spirits, so you’ve done a good thing.

        Best of luck with Knights & Magick!

      2. Count me in as another person would love to send money your way for this project. We need to support those companies/people who support us back! I imagine there are quite a few more how feel that way. Keep on keeping on!

  10. Thanks for the op-ed piece.. I too backed both of these games..

    What really has me upset is that AIYP is a free game.. there should have been no legal issues in getting us the game.. It was DONE.. however it still isn’t DONE wtf? Right?

    AIYP was conceptually awesome to me as the high solo play value..

    Anyhow I am in the lets sue these a$$holes box.. 400k$ and over 3000 claimants seems like a reasonably high theft, ripe for class action, Also I am a Canadian and US Citizen, so if the claim has to be based in Canada, no problem..

    1. I’d say if I backed either (or both) that “sue the hell of of them” boat would have a prospective captain in myself. On that note I ran a little crowdfunding project for TGG a little while back and I can say making sure people actually got the things I was offering was a tough nut. Not because any of the companies who were supporting the site with free games were looking to rip anyone off but when you were looking at a couple (or three copies) of something heading out to backers wasn’t a top priority for these companies supporting paying customers. That said, if someone emailed me asking what happened to XYZ game, I made sure to follow up with said companies to make sure things were taken care of and, to my knowledge, they were.

      Granted we’re talking about a grand total of about $800 (which was a big deal for me because I was undergoing cancer treatment at the time and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to continue running TGG) so it wasn’t as if thousands of dollars of backers money was in the mix but I did my best to tackle any issues as if it was some big project.

      As for the op-ed, no thanks are needed; if I see something which strikes me as a load of BS I’ll call it as I see it. I know it doesn’t make me the most popular guy in the gaming industry (or game review arena for that matter) but I can’t play off being someone I’m not. If someone wants to hear about how every game on the shelves is “awesome” or every Kickstarter is worthy of your hard earned money then they’d be best suited visiting another website. I don’t write things to be controversial but simply because I have something to say. You’ll find I don’t present some canned schtickt but just what’s on my mind.

      I guess this post has generated some activity over on BGG (or at least the referral traffic has been indicating hits coming from BGG) and I’ve received some emails either asking me what my plans might be for Up Front! or – many more in fact – asking me who the f&#! I am to even consider looking to try to get a game like Up Front! out there when hundreds of people were duped into supporting the Dewey, Cheathum, & Howe edition and now I’m going to rip these people off again. I’d just like to point out I’d be one of the first people to not financially support Up Front! who’d still love to see DC&H get it out to the public; alongside Airborne Kickstarter Money in My Pocket…

      What I never proposed was to ask any backers to send me money. I never said I was looking to screw over Mr. Allen by ripping off his design but the conversation I’ve had with a couple designer friends led me to consider mimicking some of the mechanics which made Up Front! a classic. Obviously at some point Courtney is going to realize the DC&H game is never going to see the light of day so by all means he’s the guy we want on board if I had anything to do with getting this off the ground if DC&H wants to fumble the ball. Truthfully, I’d never really see a dime from the whole thing because I’d just be looking to gather some of my gaming industry connections together to pull this off.

      Honestly, I don’t even know if DC&H ever had the rights to move forward with Up Front! in the first place because Mr. Faulch never went on the record to indicate they had acquired the rights, or licence to move forward with Up Front! in the first place; we heard a lot of double talk but I’m not aware of any indication Valley or Radiant or whatever the new Australian company might be called legally could pursue the Kickstarter in the first place regardless if the designer was on board. On a side note, Courtney Allen has been pretty quiet in this whole matter outside of stating Radiant wasn’t waiting for anything from him since the redesign work was done. It would be nice to hear Allen go on the record because I’m sure this fiasco isn’t doing his reputation any favors…

      At the end of the day, I’m sorry to see so many gamers (devoted to a genre I love) effectively get robbed blind. If the D-Day anniversary comes and goes I already mentioned I’d like to explore doing whatever I can to help get Up Front! or a very similar game in the hands of backers. If the BGG crowd wants to spin it as I’m looking to take another dime out of backers’ pockets – as I’ve pointed out will not happen – and present it as if I’m sort of asshole so be it. Knock yourself out continually chasing your tails by rehashing the Valley/Radiant/Koala Bear Games story ad nauseam if you’d like. To the naysayers I will point out I’m smart enough to share my thoughts on a website which benefits and rewards me as opposed to making someone else money by contributing interesting and thought provoking content…

  11. I’ve been wondering; with the recent news in the lawsuit and loss of the Kickstarter, who actually owns the IP for Up Front? Did Valley/Radiant Games ever actually own it?

    There are those of us with ties to the industry who are interested in picking this up and running with it – though, admittedly, a year down the road when people duped by the last campaign won’t be demanding that we fulfill promises made by Valley.

    An update would be cool.

    1. I have to say, from the rumblings I’ve heard, the whole Valley/Radiant/Whoever deal has turned into a real clusterf&%! since I heard Falch is claiming to the courts the monies received through Kickstarter were “donations”…

      1. Oh geez.

        Well, I live in WA, so I guess I’ll be hearing a lot more about it in the coming weeks and months.

        Btw, just so someone says it to you, “You were right.” and “You told them so.”

  12. Hey Jeff I enjoyed the article.I discovered the kickstarter late and messaged old Rik a few times asking if they were going to do a second run.I was so envious of the original backers at the time I kept going back to the page.Anyway after researching moreI eventually came to your article.I would definitely like to see a similar game be made if the original is never going to see the light of day again.If you are still planning to go ahead with such a project I hope you keep everyone updated.Like I said I would definitely buy a similar version to this game if it was in the box and ready to ship.

  13. AIYP – I had no idea that Rich Falch’s cartel had involvement. I didn’t pledge to the KS for it but I did build a Vassal Module for Emmanuel Aquin , who seems a very decent guy, I suspect he did not do too well out of it.

    The Vassal Module is here

    If Emmanuel is the rights holder and he approves I can post the full version , with all the content.
    Hopefully this will be a small consolation to those who supported the KS.

    I will contact Emmanuel.

    If there are any issues or missing content post on BGG and I will pick it up.

  14. I just discovered this fantastic game. I’m playing it in a weekly basis with a friend who has an original copy as well as the WarGame Vault one. My question is, why someone does not attempt to re-lunch this incredible game? We are seeing so many KS of old games such as Successors, Britannia,… why not this one? I think it won’t be that difficult, at the end is “just” a card game with no board or expensive miniatures. Or even more if there is a legal rights issue, you just could rename it and keep the mechanics.

      1. That’s great! But whatever happened with your plans “to provide the public a game very similar to the Avalon Hill classic?” I’d love to hear the story there.

  15. Just for the record, the other scam artist involved in Valley Games at the time this whole incident happened goes by the name of Torben Sherwood. He’s still active in the community too… despite running off with hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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