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Gloomhaven, Blades in the Dark publishers break ties with tabletop CEO accused of assault

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The Broken Token founder denies allegations

An organizer for the game, Gloomhaven, made of laser-cut wood. Photo: The Broken Token

Major tabletop gaming companies, including the publishers behind Gloomhaven, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, and Blades in the Dark, say they’re evaluating their relationship — or outright terminating it — with accessory maker The Broken Token after its CEO was accused of assault by a former employee.

The Broken Token is a manufacturer of novel board game accessories, and is best known for a line of custom wooden box inserts for popular titles by publishers such as Fantasy Flight Games, CMON, and Wizards of the Coast. Their products are widely endorsed on YouTube, and have been recommended in articles here at Polygon. Founded in 2013, the company’s success has paralleled the overall boom in the tabletop industry over the last decade.

On Aug. 18, a former employee of The Broken Token published on Medium an account of what she said is a pattern of sexual assault and abuse by the company’s CEO, Greg Spence. The allegations led to widespread condemnation throughout the tabletop games industry on social media. Spence, in a public statement posted Thursday night, said “none of those accusations are true.”

[Warning: The accusations include references to sexual assault, abuse, and stalking.]

Former Broken Token employee Ashley Taylor alleged in her Medium post that Spence professed romantic feelings for her, was rebuffed, and he retaliated. She wrote that Spence “chose to use many opportunities to put his hands on me and sexually assault me. If I did not allow him to do what he wanted he would get increasingly angry and mentally abusive.” Taylor said she “felt stuck,” feared being fired, and that her mental health started to decline.

“I eventually gave in to him and started to do as he wished in order for the abuse to stop,” Taylor said. “I was downright miserable at this point. I now fully understood the game that he was playing and I didn’t have a way out.

“If I ever went against him my job was on the line. He expected me to be with him sexually or my job was on the line. He expected me to work all hours of the day with no extra pay or my job was on the line. I had to always abide in everything I did. I finally had enough and despite the constant threats I started to fight back.”

Taylor said she eventually left Broken Token for another company, but alleged that Spence continued to stalk her at industry events.

Taylor said that the reason she made the accusations public now was because “it happened to another woman,” implying that other individuals “have been hurt by [Spence].” But she added, “That is their story to tell. We cannot allow predators to continue doing this.”

In a statement posted to the official Broken Token Twitter account and on Facebook on Aug. 20, Spence denied Taylor’s accusations and mentioned her reference to a second accuser. “I now find myself in the very uncomfortable position of defending my integrity,” he said. “While I do so with the complete confidence that none of those accusations are true, I am genuinely sorry for how this may affect my family and our terrific team members at The Broken Token.”

“More allegations might be raised,” Spence continued. “I will take all allegations seriously and address them in the most straightforward, transparent manner possible while giving full respect and due to those who made these allegations.”

Polygon has reached out to both Taylor and Spence. Both declined to comment, and instead referred us to their public statements.

Meanwhile, those in the tabletop industry appear to be taking the accusations seriously. Prior to Spence’s public statement, Isaac Childres, the creator of Gloomhaven and the owner of publisher Cephalofair Games, said on Twitter that his company was evaluating its business relationship with the company. The Broken Token’s products were included in Cephalofair’s record-breaking crowdfunding campaign for Frosthaven, a massive role-playing board game and the third most-funded Kickstarter campaign in that platform’s history.

“Sexual assault and harassment has no place in this industry, and Cephalofair Games is committed to making it safe for everyone,” Childres said in a tweet. “We’re exploring options regarding the inserts sold during the Frosthaven KS (as well as other Broken Token obligations), and we’ll have more news soon.”

Bezier Games, makers of the One Night series of games, also published a statement on Twitter saying that it is taking action.

“We have a zero tolerance policy for harassment and are extremely disturbed by this news,” the company said. “We are currently looking into this to determine our next steps.”

Evil Hat Productions (AGON, Blades in the Dark) said in a statement that it would terminate its business relationship with the company.

Iello (King of Tokyo, Mountains of Madness) has gone to Twitter and “demanded that Broken Token cease and desist selling or promoting any officially licensed” accessories for games from its catalog “immediately.” COO Stephan Brissaud said he would donate proceeds of the last three years of sales of those accessories through Iello’s own storefront to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN).

Floodgate Games (Sagrada, Holi: Festival of Colors) has also added its voice to others on social media, saying that it will end its licensing agreements with The Broken Token.

Taylor’s initial statement notes that she informed the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA), an industry trade group, that she had reason to fear stalking and harassment from Spence at its annual Origins Game Fair convention.

Reached for comment, GAMA president John Stacy referred to a statement emailed to all members of the association on Thursday. He reiterated the organization’s “zero tolerance” policy on sexual harassment and abuse, but added that GAMA is limited in the action it can take in this situation.

“We can uphold a code of conduct at our events and programs, but we are not a court that adjudicates these types of issues to determine the truth,” GAMA said in its statement. “We will advocate for members to behave ethically and responsibly towards each other and take actions as necessary within the framework of the law.”

This is not the first time that allegations of harassment and abuse have surfaced around the Origins Game Fair. The high-profile event is traditionally a centerpiece in the tabletop gaming convention circuit. Public outcry in 2018 led to a number of functional changes in how the event is administered.

The Broken Token is not scheduled to appear as a vendor at September’s Gen Con tabletop gaming convention in Indianapolis.