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A party game in which it is TOTALLY POSSIBLE to drop a boxcar full of rabid piranhas onto the King of France. LIKELY, even
A party game in which it is TOTALLY POSSIBLE to drop a boxcar full of rabid piranhas onto the King of France. LIKELY, even
A party game in which it is TOTALLY POSSIBLE to drop a boxcar full of rabid piranhas onto the King of France. LIKELY, even
10,666 backers pledged $556,596 to help bring this project to life.

Custom cards / Shipping Update / Seattle / and SOMETHING RAD


Hello everyone! IN TODAY'S UPDATE:

  • Custom cards photos! (A TEASE)
  • Shipping update!
  • Seattle in March – and other conventions in 2014!


It's a great sign that so many people have been posting so many fun photos of their game that it's taken a little bit to go through them all!! I have chosen some new CUSTOM CARD WINNERS and queued them up to post at over the next week and beyond. One a day, or thereabouts, until we get through all 50! 

(Which means that we have about 7 weeks left for the contest – and I'm certain that everyone still waiting for a game will have theirs by then. The reasons why are in the next section!)

I posted three custom card winners in a previous post, but here's a little tease of the next three winners! These are the new cards I created:

But who gets these cards? I won't reveal the winners now – you'll have to check in at over the next couple of days!!

To enter the contest yourself, post a creative picture (define that however you like) and tweet it with #machineofdeath! If you don't have Twitter, you can also email it to me (info at If you don't have email, how are you even a part of this Kickstarter? 

But I like Twitter because it lets everyone else see it too, just by searching the hashtag!


I'm very pleased that, as of my last count a few days ago, only 339 orders remained in our shipping company's "yet to ship" queue! (Not counting reships due to returned packages, of which there are about another 40.) 

Unfortunately, the reason these had not yet been shipped is mostly because they included something special: a personalized certificate, a specific box number, cards in tins or German, things like that.

I hate that! I hate that the people who ordered the most special games are having to wait the longest. But I do think I have finally figured out the reason, and it may surprise you.

A few days ago, I made a video exploring some possible reasons why things are taking so long – seeking a unified theory of slowdown, as it were. Check it out:

That video was made the day we returned home from the shipping company warehouse, having found a huge pile of orders sitting stalled – and all the rest queued up, unprocessed, behind them – due to questions like "How many spacers are supposed to go in this wooden box?" and "Where is the perfectly unremarkable game that is supposed to go in this order?" and "I dunno, something about a book??"

My assistant Aimée and I spent six hours packing each order by hand while the warehouse staff looked at us in a completely uninterested (and occasionally condescending) manner. But at least I had confidence that the REMAINDER of the orders had nothing preventing them from shipping immediately, and I could go back to my 12-hours-a-day task of answering emails trying to correct all their prior mistakes.

CUT TO: Monday afternoon and no progress had been made with the shipments! Also I checked what they were charging me for freight and it's not too different than what I'd pay if I did it myself. Also there have been so many unanticipated issues with their work that I had this gnawing feeling in my gut just dreading what the next one would be.

So I fired them! 

And told them to put everything on a truck and send it to me!

And rented the vacant office next door! 

And hired some intelligent people!

And spent a very late night twisting the shipping company's spreadsheets into a packing list format! 

And now we are shipping everything ourselves.

Which means this is happening:

There are still a handful of hiccups – in a hilarious twist, the request for them to send me everything on a truck took as long for them to process as the orders themselves were taking, which means I'm still waiting for a bunch more to arrive today and tomorrow – but they are now all passing through my (or my trusted minions') hands and thus I actually smiled and laughed a bunch yesterday which is a really nice feeling.

I don't want to throw the company under the bus too hard – except to clarify that it is not Make That Thing, run by my friends Holly and Sara and which would have done a better job, probably, but which the freight-from-China circumstances precluded us from using – because this company did do an excellent job at one thing: putting a super simple order into a super simple box and repeating that 9,000 times. 

But when we presented them with customized orders, and inventory in low quantities that couldn't tolerate any being lost in the caverns of the warehouse, and similar-looking items that were in fact different inside – and then, furthermore, told them to stop all foreign shipments when I heard about the issues some international backers were having with FedEx deliveries – it was just an anchor dropped through their deck. They completely derailed. In the words of my favorite website,, you might even say the project became in grave danger of "splitting in two and sinking, as the crash left an eight-metre hole on one side and it is tilting at a 20-degree angle."

If you are interested in writing a business manual with "Lessons For CEOs" and "Management Tips" and "B2B Methodologies Easy To Digest While Browsing This Book At The Airport", here are a few strategies I would not recommend you include:

• Never have a single human being who understands all parts of a project. Always make sure that responsibilities are divvied between four or, ideally, more than six people so that no single person has a complete understanding of the thing from start to finish.

• Never empower lower-level employees to solve problems on their own, or institute a system where they can flag them and have them addressed up the chain. Instead, allow problems to sit around unaddressed until someone with power notices and asks about them (or ideally, until the end of the universe, so that way nobody has to deal with it, ever!).

• Always promise whatever the customer wants to hear so he will stop bugging you, regardless of whether what you have promised is feasible or will actually happen.

And you know what? I would much rather if there be mistakes, they be my honest mistakes and not dumb mistakes I have to take responsibility for. 

I am super privileged to be (and somewhat spoiled by being!) a self-employed person who can just do things, who can turn on a dime, who can follow my enthusiasm, and who can make decisions based on what is intuitively best for the project. 

Interacting with a monolithic organization where none of those things are true has been a tough process! Because for those people, if something goes wrong, it's bad and you have to hear from me yelling at you all day long, but if something goes well, who cares – you don't care about the product or the campaign, you're just a hired hand. 

The result over time, I think, is that you become a human whose work is a source of net negative experiences. So I think what I saw was people who have learned to stifle their reactions to things going wrong, in order to avoid that average skewing even more negative. Thus, they don't care; thus, your orders were sitting around moldering while I pulled my hair out every day.


• The wizard's curse stretched back in time to YEARS AGO, before I ever CONCEIVED of this game, to when this shipping company was first founded and its hiring and training practices were codified; 

• Or, much more likely, everyone there read this book by Ryan North:

I think they must have given this out in bulk at that place. 

ANYWAY. Everything is solved now forever. Hooray!!


In about a month I'll be in Seattle for the Emerald City Comicon, March 28-30! One of my favorite shows of the year. I'll have the game and the expansions for sale (of course); I will be offering custom cards on demand; and I'll also be involved in the following events:

Machine of Death Draw-and-Guess: "Join cartoonists playing a non-trademarked version of Pictionary, using clues issued from a Machine of Death. The Machine, of course, can tell you exactly how you are going to die in just a few cryptic words!" This panel will be hosted by me and Ryan North, and feature FAMOUS ARTISTS Aaron Diaz, Dylan Meconis, Becky Dreistadt, and Kris Straub! Always a hilarious time. • Friday, March 28, 4:10pm, Hall B

How To Sell Merchandise Without Feeling Like You're Selling Out: "As a creator you might be or be thinking about selling merch online but you don't feel like t-shirts are really your 'thing'. Join TopatoCo creators David Malki, Chris Yates, & Dante Shepherd for our talk about creative merch & beyond the ubiquitous T-shirt." I hope by the time the panel rolls around, I will have formulated a clever answer to the question in the panel's title. • Saturday, March 29, 3:00pm, Room TCC 302

Urban Dictionary – The Game Show: "What do those terms in Urban Dictionary even mean? Has anybody ever used them before, for realsies?? In this GAME SHOW, our group of panelists attempts to define the weirdest, grossest terms the website has to offer. Mostly they will get it wrong!!" This DEFINITELY 18+ panel will be hosted by me and feature contestants Ryan North, Chip Zdarsky, Erika Moen, and Kate Leth! • Saturday, March 29, 6:10pm, Hall B

Professional Tools for Self-Publishers: "Join a pair of independent publishing professionals for a discussion of avenues to self-publishing and tools for bridging the gap between D.I.Y. and traditional publishing models; followed by a Q&A and troubleshooting session for self-publishers." Hosted by Rachel Edidin of Wired, and featuring me as well! I'm the other half of the pair!! • Sunday, March 30, 11:00am, ROOM 2B

Later this year I'll also be at:

  • Toronto Comic Arts Festival, May 10-11
  • Maker Faire Bay Area, May 17-18 (San Mateo) (tentative)
  • San Diego Comic-Con, July 18-21
  • Gen Con, August 14-17 (Indianapolis)

But more details on those as they approach!


MOD backer David Cole tweeted this picture a while back:


 So, you know what you have to do.

Also, hats off to you, social media person at Meetup who is also a Machine of Death fan and who has the power to do things like this within your corporate environment! If you ever write a business book, I know a few people who could stand to read it.

Shaun Beaver, Nic Covell, and 15 more people like this update.


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    1. Ian Wellock on

      Thanks @Malki ! - as other people have said, I'm almost sorry to get to the end of this as this KS project has been far and away the best I've been involved with. You're a legend, sir.

      So after 8 days in UK customs, my order has finally cleared! Hurrah! Of course, now they want me to pay charges on it, but one step at a time is good!

      Also, this:
      (hover over the image with the mouse pointer too for extra super fun happy times)

    2. David Malki ! 7-time creator on

      @Paul – "It hurts to see this go so badly wrong after telling so many kickstarter project leads that they really should use a proper fulfilment company rather than trying to do it themselves." – I totally agree. And I should emphasize that they shipped around 10,000 packages successfully with no problems, which is labor I did not end up having to do, which is great. It's only because I have been running a company and doing my own shipping for years and years that I identified how it could be done better, and decided it was doable to take it on myself! And I was correct; all but about 20 of the very last straggler orders were shipped within about 10 days of the writing of this update.

      @Ben W – You're fired

      @Ian – I am sorry that I do not know! But I hope someone can share their own experience!

    3. Ian Wellock on

      Anyone got any idea how long UK customs take to process a deluxe box?
      Mine has been there for a week now :-/ with no notification...

    4. Pit on

      Fabulous!!! Machine of Death box #666 just came to Norway, ave Satana! :)

    5. James Carlisle Holder on

      Thanks for sharing your experience despite its frustrating nature! As someone still fulfilling their first Kickstarter, I appreciate the words of warning.

    6. Missing avatar

      Kristy on

      Box #081 and Club Excitement member! Yay!
      I feel special. Thanks, David.

    7. Missing avatar

      Ben W on

      So I'm wondering, can you put more words in your updates? It's one thing I've always felt is lacking on kstarter is more words, just loads and loads of 'em. They're so cheap they're nearly free! Go on! You can do it, just spew em out.

    8. CAY on

      FedEx... I didn't mind getting an invoice for the VAT 2 weeks later and out of the blue, but I did mind being invoiced for outrageous VAT handling fees which were more than 4 times the amount of the VAT requested.
      Let's just say that I do not like them very much at the moment

    9. Missing avatar

      Adrian on


      You guys.

      As always, you have provided a jaw-droppingly awesome update, and give an example of how a Kickstarter should be run. Mistakes happen, poor decisions may become evident after the fact; this is true of any project.

      But here, the team (and its leader) steps up, owns the issue (with hilarious, well-deserved under-bus-throwing tagged on), and demonstrates its responsibility by solving it.

      I look forward to a lifelong fandom of your projects. Keep on being awesome. :)

    10. Tim Ellis on

      I love that the book war has now encroached upon the updates here.

    11. Romain Brunetaud on

      I must say I may have been extremely lucky but despite all these problems I received my deluxe game in France just a week or so after the shipping started with only minor FedEx issues like receiving a taxes invoice with the game labeled as a Video Game Console or something similar (I do not think I may have affected the tax bill anyway).

      By the way, this Kickstarter was great for me and I just hope I have been for you too guys.

    12. Nicolaj 'Chico' Klitbo on

      I starter to sweat a little too, when he mentioned Denmark :-) but I'm sure it will work out well

    13. Kasper R. A. S. on

      The mention in the video of a box going both to Denmark and Japan had me worried for a bit (seeing as I'm from Denmark), but I am confident that everything will work out. The live report from the shipping company's warehouse does fit very well with my mental image of shipping company warehouses, so it all makes sense.

      Anyhow, keep up the good work and don't get too stressed up! :)

      Club Excitement for the win!

    14. Paul Howie on

      It hurts to see this go so badly wrong after telling so many kickstarter project leads that they really should use a proper fulfilment company rather than trying to do it themselves. You actually do that and it turns out they're largely incompetent and you need to finish it yourself anyway... I wonder if there will ever be a good, quick way to properly fulfil complex KS orders?

      Maybe I should start a logistics firm in three continents specialising in complex order fulfilment services? I'll look into it next time I have a spare half-hour.

    15. Pit on

      Proud member of the #666 & excitement club!

    16. Phil Peterson on

      That book cover is great, I wish I had a few to cover up the stacks of "who moved my cheese" books at the office.

    17. SgtYamm on

      Flipperspiel is my new favorite word

    18. Ben Piltz on

      Maybe the wizard is extremely pentaphobic, and took out an extra dose of wrath upon us.

    19. Kymberlie R. McGuire

      Box #555 and member of Club Excitement saying thanks for the update! Noticing that the two people below me also have boxes with 5s in them (#5 and #516), I'm wondering if somehow the boxes with 5s got extra cursed by the wizard! (If extra cursing is a thing.)

    20. Andy Satterthwaite on

      Yay - Box #5 from New Zealand happily joining club excitement.
      Just want to say that, while I know the delays have been frustrating for everyone, the constant (and hilarious) communication from you, Mr. Malki, make it a comparative pleasure.

      Perhaps Club Excitement could get an exclusive "Death by Shipping Company" card :-)

    21. Missing avatar

      Ian Castruita on

      Great update! I'm sorry to hear about all the shipping problems... but I've also never been so entertained to hear about shipping problems!

    22. Ben Piltz on

      Great news to hear!! Club Excitement in addition to getting to play the game soon!! Box 0516 reporting in! Looking forward to my delivery notification!

    23. Omni Desol on

      Wooooooooo, Club excitement represent!

    24. Missing avatar

      Darren Benford-Brown on

      At last!!
      Glad to see the light is at the end of the tunnel for you guys.
      Looking forward to receiving the game in deepest darkest Suffolk, UK!

    25. Wibble!

      You mentioned merchandise and it made me realise what had been nagging at me in the back of my mind - something was missing from the picture - no option to purchase a Machine of Death custom fez!
      Fez-o-rama! :D