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The "Susan's dilemma"

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coco
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Joined: 07/27/2008

Hi, all!

I'd like to read your opinion about this subject.

As you may already know, I run a small indie publishing company (www.nestorgames.com).

I've published a few games so far. One of them is "Yavalath", by Cameron Browne's LUDI.

As you may notice, other games can be played with a Yavaleth set too. One of them is called "Susan" (hence the "Susan's dilemma). A geek user pointed me to that game and sent me a few e-mails talking about this.

I could easily break the agreement with Cameron and publish a "Generic 61 hexes board with counters in 3 colours". This way I don't have to pay a royalty to the author and I might even sell more copies, because I can say "you can play Yavalath, Pentalath, Susan and ...." on my website. Wow! So many games in just one set!

Of course I won't do this. I treat my designers very well. They are the basis of my company. But now I can't publish "Susan" (Stephen Linhart). So as a publisher I'm "trapped" with a game (a great game).

What if I publish a game that uses a chess board and a few counters? I will be trapped with another game!

I think this will make me focus on themed games. Themed games override this situation easily.

But here is a question:

What if somebody publishes 3 or 4 "universal sets" so a huge amount of abstracts can be played with them?

What if the market pushes me in that direction?

Néstor

Dralius
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Joined: 07/26/2008
Might Work

coco wrote:
What if somebody publishes 3 or 4 "universal sets" so a huge amount of abstracts can be played with them?

What if the market pushes me in that direction?

Themed games seem to be where the market is unless you’re talking about checkers and chess which sell in the millions. Only a small handful of modern abstracts sell well. Considering your means of production you can try making game systems like piece pack but geared more to abstracts and risk very little.

If I were to make a set I would research public domain abstracts and accommodate as many as possible making sure to have representatives from all possible families. Then include a CD with the rules on them.

InvisibleJon
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I think you can have your cake *and* eat it too...

coco wrote:
I've published a few games so far. One of them is "Yavalath", by Cameron Browne's LUDI.

...and...

coco wrote:
...I might even sell more copies, because I can say "you can play Yavalath, Pentalath, Susan and ...." on my website. Wow! So many games in just one set!

Of course I won't do this. I treat my designers very well. They are the basis of my company. But now I can't publish "Susan" (Stephen Linhart). So as a publisher I'm "trapped" with a game (a great game).

So you're already publishing a game that can be played in many different ways. You have the (understandable) urge to market the game so everyone knows how versatile it is. You also want to treat your designer fairly (which is laudable). These different goals are not at cross-purposes. You can accomplish all of them simultaneously.

You should ask C. Browne for permission to market the Yavalath set you're selling with the, "and you can play these other great games too!" approach you mentioned. (With the nature of the contract you have with him, you may not even need permission to change your marketing approach. Even so, it's better to start by asking.) If C. Browne is reasonable, and moderately motivated by profit, I expect you'll receive permission to do so. After all, a wider audience translates to more sales, more name recognition for the designer and the game, and more royalties.

Sounds like a win-win to me... =)

coco
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the other authors

Yes, but what if the other authors (Susan, Hexxagon,...) don't like the idea?

Néstor

InvisibleJon
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I'm stumped.

coco wrote:
Yes, but what if the other authors (Susan, Hexxagon,...) don't like the idea?
Ah! The way you wrote your first quote, I thought you'd already handled that.

Um...

I don't have an answer for that. Get permission from all of them? Probably not...

Yep. I'm stumped.

coco
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Joined: 07/27/2008
dilemma

Me too. It is a "dilemma".

Look what Cameron has just shown me:

http://www.cameronius.com/games/multihex/

I'm tempted!!

Néstor

metzgerism
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Joined: 06/19/2009
Pure abstracts are tough in

Pure abstracts are tough in this regard, because a standard Go set will honestly cover a lot of them.

Here's the bottom line: If you want a game's actual name ANYWHERE on your site/sell sheet/box/bag/rules, etc, you should be paying royalties and supplying the rules in full with the set.

For example, if you were to go out and make your 13x13 Go board, let's say I offer you use of one of my games (Shintai or Xoo), including the name of the game and the complete rules, in exchange for a royalty of some sort. Otherwise, the best you can do is mention "Go, Gomoku, and many other Gomoku variants." However, if you used the name of my game, the rules, or referred to it in more than passing terms, then I would be upset.

So basically, you COULD repackage Yavalath as a combined set of games, and include rules for both/all games as you see fit and can obtain agreements/contracts for. You would continue your agreement with Cameron as it is currently written.

None of this is from a legal standpoint, just ethical opinion. I know that you are an upstanding guy and aren't going to screw members of the boardgaming community and that this is the kind of advice that you are looking for.

Jpwoo
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comprimise?

Print a set of rules for Susan's game. offer it for sale for a buck with purchase of the main game, send 100% of the proceeds to Susan.

I'm guessing as a small press you are doing most of your sales through the web, and the one dollar add on being only a click away makes it an easy sell.

metzgerism
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Re: Selling the rules for $1

It's not worth the dollar for most people - the internet is vast.

coco
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Joined: 07/27/2008
agree

metzgerism wrote:
Here's the bottom line: If you want a game's actual name ANYWHERE on your site/sell sheet/box/bag/rules, etc, you should be paying royalties and supplying the rules in full with the set.

Hi, Steve! Yes. I agree.

Quote:
However, if you used the name of my game, the rules, or referred to it in more than passing terms, then I would be upset

That will never happen.

I like the idea of the set of rules for a buck...

Néstor

coco
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Joined: 07/27/2008
Susan rules

Jpwoo wrote:
Print a set of rules for Susan's game. offer it for sale for a buck with purchase of the main game, send 100% of the proceeds to Susan.

I'm guessing as a small press you are doing most of your sales through the web, and the one dollar add on being only a click away makes it an easy sell.

Susan rules are just a paragraph! :-D

However, this is a clever approach to the problem!

Néstor

Jpwoo
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I hope you figure something

I hope you figure something out and I applaud your loyalty to game designers.

Another option is to offer the other designer a weblink, if the rules are really that short, she might be willing to take some publicity in trade.

coco
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Joined: 07/27/2008
Authors

I've e-mailed Susan and Taacoca's authors to know their opinion.

Néstor

JB
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Joined: 02/06/2009
A book

I'm working on a card game. One of the first questions people ask me (like at a party) is "Can it be played with a standard deck?" I always reply with a strong "No." From the very begining, I set out to make a game where many of the rules where IN the cards- so to speak.

If I had designed a card game that could be played (easily) with a standard deck. I wouldn't be foolish enough to try to sell cards. The best I could hope for is to find a publisher who is putting together a book of card games.

Now, I looked at your site. You make very nice components. (In fact, if your interested I'd love a flexible version of Rise of the Cheiftian.) If I were you, I'd start compiling a book of abstract hex games. That way you could pay each of the designers as small article writers. You may want to surf over to Looney Labs. They make these little pyramids and have sold a couple small rulebooks with various games.

If any of the people currently have a hot selling game you may want to wait. But once their inital run is out, any money you can offer may be plenty.

coco
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Cheiftian

JB wrote:

Now, I looked at your site. You make very nice components. (In fact, if your interested I'd love a flexible version of Rise of the Cheiftian.)

Hey, thank you :)

What is that game? Does it fit FORMAT 1? Is it published? Is it yours? If it is, why don't you participate in the design contest?

Néstor

coco
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Joined: 07/27/2008
Susan

Stephen Linhart (Susan) agrees :)

Néstor

coco
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Joined: 07/27/2008
HEX

Hi,

Here is a different problem, but in the line of Susan.

I've just published a portable 11x11 HEX set.

I assume HEX is now public domain, but I'm not 100% sure. I've seen many websites offering HEX boards and counters. So I've decided to:

1. Publish it without a rulesheet.
2. Try to contact the Piet Hein family (with relative success. Just 1 inconclusive answer. No more.). I'd like Mr Piet Hein to receive some credit. I'd like to do the same with Mr. Nash, but I find it even more difficult.

Néstor

SiddGames
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Joined: 08/02/2008
I'm pretty sure Hex is in the

I'm pretty sure Hex is in the public domain. Wikipedia doesn't come right out and say so, but it's been published by various people (in fact, the name Hex is the Parker Brothers name), has online versions, etc.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hex_%28board_game%29

Someone has published a version through The Game Crafter recently as well:

http://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/hex

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