In an unprecedented move in modern times, Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast is suspending shipment of its next physical release, The Deck of Many Things, due to defect. The announcement was made Friday, a little more than two weeks ahead of its expected release on Nov. 14. Polygon spoke with executive producer Kyle Brink ahead of the announcement.
“We are going to be suspending the ship date until we can get to the bottom of this and re-manufacture and re-distribute copies that don’t have these issues,” Brink told Polygon Friday on a video call. “The defect rate is too high. I cannot in good conscience ship this stock. We need to fully inspect it, understand exactly how many units are defective — all that.”
The Deck of Many Things is the physical embodiment of a magical set of playing cards first added to the lore of D&D in 1975. The elaborate boxed set, dubbed an “innovation product” by the Seattle-based publisher, includes 66 Tarot-style cards with a foil applique and two hardcover books: The Book of Many Things and Card Reference Guide. The former is still expected to release digitally on Oct. 31 for those who pre-ordered the product online, while the latter is only available as a physical product alongside the cards.
Quality issues were present in one of two pre-release copies sent to Polygon for review in late October, and included three major issues.
First, the cards as shipped had conflicting shapes, with some cards concave and others convex. As a result, they required a lengthy breaking-in period before they would lay flat on the table. Second, the paper bands used to secure the cards for shipment were so tight that removing them damaged the foil on the edge of the cards. Third, not all the cards were the same size, meaning that they could not be easily shuffled. Huge clumps of cards would slap onto the table, rather than riffle smoothly.
Additional cosmetic issues were also present, including creases from handling, a high variance in centering from card to card, and disfigured edges.
Brink says his team remains confident that customers who pre-ordered the product — which has a bundle price of $109.99 on the Wizards website — could still receive their orders before the end of 2023. But a significant quantity of product has already been sent to multiple distribution partners, including Amazon, and inspection will take time.
“We hope that our investigation will meet our expectations [and] that we will be able to get product out to people this year,” Brink said.
This is not the first quality issue with Wizards’ D&D products that Polygon has encountered, and those issues have not been limited to either its Chinese or United States-based printing partners. Brink said, however, that he believes these specific issues are unrelated to past problems.
“We learn from every problem,” Brink said, “and so that problem doesn’t happen again. We don’t make a lot of cards for D&D.”
Quality issues are, according to Brink, unrelated to a company-wide cost-saving strategy at Hasbro that asks departments to “design for cost,” which was a talking point mentioned by CEO Chris Cocks during an investor call on Thursday. If anything, Brink said, some of these problems could be related to the Rhode Island-based game and toy manufacturer’s recent efforts to reduce waste in its packaging — specifically not using “cello wrap,” a non-biodegradable plastic wrapping that most board game publishers ship their cards in.
“So this is all for a good cause,” Brink said. “Obviously, we want to reduce plastic waste, and so we use paper packaging. We inspected very closely everything throughout the production process to make sure everything was going fine with that, and yet some of the problems that we are seeing here are specifically because of some of the paper packaging that we use.”
The Deck of Many Things has been available for pre-order for some time now, including from Wizards directly as both a digital and physical bundle and as a digital only product, which does not include cards or Card Reference Guide. Brink said there would be no delay in previously promised digital materials reaching customers in a timely fashion. Early access for those that pre-ordered begins on Oct. 31.