If you’re a fan of the Avalon Hill board game Merchant of Venus, you have a surfeit of good news, it seems. Perhaps not so good for the companies involved, though…
Yesterday saw two announcements regarding this classic game. First, an announcement from up-and-coming game company Stronghold Games:
Stronghold Games, in conjunction with the Designer and license holder, A. Richard Hamblen, announced yesterday that we will reprint “Richard Hamblen’s Merchant of Venus“.
We look forward to bringing you this great game during 2012 !
This was also the feature of a live webcast from the Essen Spiel 2011 game fair.
Good news, eh? Well, yesterday also saw an announcement from Fantasy Flight Games:
More than a year ago, Fantasy Flight Games signed an exclusive licensing contract with Wizards of the Coast, LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc., to return this classic 1980’s board game of interstellar trade and exploration to print.
Since that time we’ve been working hard to produce what will be a fantastic edition of Merchant of Venus, one that remains true to its magnificently campy core, while expanding the game in surprising ways that will cause even the most hardcore fan to celebrate.
Once they heard about FFG’s announcement, however, Stronghold Games followed up with the following:
It has come to our attention that Fantasy Flight Games has laid claim to the license for the reprint of Merchant of Venus.
First and foremost, Stronghold Games bears no ill will towards Fantasy Flight Games over what can only be deemed as an unfortunate situation. In fact, we remain fans of Fantasy Flight’s work within the game industry.
However, over 18 months ago, we began negotiations with Mr Hamblen for the license to Merchant of Venus, finally signing an agreement recently. After much research, Stronghold Games feels very strongly that the license is solely Mr. Hamblen’s to offer, and he has selected Stronghold Games for the reprint.
In our opinion, the party that has sold the license to Fantasy Flight Games does not own the rights to this license. Mr Hamblen has also expressed to us his firm belief that the license is his alone to offer.
At this time, we are intent upon defending our and Mr Hamblen’s claim to this license, noting once again that we view Fantasy Flight in the highest regard and regret that they have been put into this position.
I’ve got to say, this looks incredibly sticky. Apparently we’ve got two parties claiming they have the rights to the original game, each of whom has sold those rights to different licensees, at exactly the same time. Yeesh. Obviously without seeing the original contract between the designer and Avalon Hill (the original publisher), it’s impossible to tell what’s what, and this looks destined to end up in court at some point. FFG (and WotC) has deep pockets.
Although wouldn’t it be nice if both companies could just agree to each market their own version of the game and let the chips fall where they may? Yeah, that’ll never happen, and honestly if it was my game or I had shelled out a lot of money for a license, I wouldn’t be inclined to do so either.
(Full disclosure: I’ve been friends with Stephen Buonocore, one of the managing directors of Stronghold Games, for many years.)