This is Audio EXP for the 12th of September 2020, and the title of this episode is ‘Avalon Hill and the tale of two HeroQuests’.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #61]
160 years ago in Springfield, a board game company called Milton Bradley was founded. It’s hard to imagine that professional board game designers existed in 1860, but they did.
Skip forward nearly 130 years and bring the spotlight to the UK division of Milton Bradley. Stephen Baker, who works for the company, has finished the design of his new game HeroQuest. The UK division turns to Games Workshop to help produce and sell the game.
HeroQuest does well and so the next year, in 1990, a slightly modified version goes on sale in Canada and the US.
This development catches Greg Stafford of Issaries out nearly ten years later. Stafford had learnt that Robin Laws was a fan of the Glorantha setting and wanted the designer to create a new game based on the setting. There was already RuneQuest, but there was room for one more.
The term HeroQuest already existed for over 20 years in Glorantha, but Stafford and Issaries couldn’t use it as Milton Bradley had got there first. They called their game Hero Wars instead.
The Hasbro owned Milton Bradley continued to make HeroQuest games for many years too. The most recent was an Amiga computer game, put together by Gremlin Interactive, called HeroQuest II: Legacy of Sorasil. That came out in 1994.
Then there was a long and important pause.
Hasbro let the Trademark on the word “HeroQuest” lapse, and so Greg Stafford snapped it up and in 2003 Hero Wars was renamed to HeroQuest.
Issaries and Moon Design, who published the second edition of HeroQuest the roleplaying game, merge. Later Greg Stafford then merges them back into Chaosium and Chaosium continue to publish HeroQuest RPG content.
And so, we have two HeroQuests and a bit of a stalemate.
The stalemate is this; while Chaosium has the Trademark on the word HeroQuest, Hasbro owns the copyright on the board game and its mechanics.
Chaosium is straight-talking when it comes to this issue. If you check out their licensing statement, they say this;
We are not going to do anything in terms of licensing our Trademark for the name “HeroQuest” unless Hasbro gives their permission to use their HeroQuest related copyrighted material. Thus far, Hasbro has NOT given anyone permission to reprint their game. By permission, we mean in writing, via a contract. Licensing intellectual property isn’t done via a phone call or some quick chat. It is done via legally binding contracts if it is to be done professionally and according to the law. As soon as any game company has a license from Hasbro to use their HeroQuest game related intellectual property we will be very happy to enter discussions with that company about licensing our Trademark for the name “HeroQuest”.
In other words, Chaosium says they’re happy to work with another company to help bring back the HeroQuest board game, but they need Hasbro to move first. Hasbro needs to awaken the dormant board game and then get in touch.
Now, let’s skip forward to July 2020. A company called Restoration Games files some paperwork that mentions HeroQuest.
Remember how Chaosium made a point of saying that Hasbro had made no effort to let anyone else pick up the dormant HeroQuest board game. Well, that’s what Restoration Games specialise in doing. The clue is in the name.
Restoration Games filed paperwork to Trademark the name “HeroQuest Legacies”, not HeroQuest. How important that is, we don’t know, but it certainly led to speculation that the HeroQuest board game might be coming back.
I reached out to Chaosium at the time and satisfied myself that Restoration Games was not working with them.
A previous attempt to make an unofficial 25th-anniversary version of HeroQuest via Kickstarter was blocked. Chaosium is serious about protecting its Trademark.
Here’s where things get spicy.
Just this week Hasbro announced that they would move another one of the board game brands, Avalon Hill, out from the control of Wizards of the Coast.
That news by itself is pretty interesting. Last week’s Audio EXP was about the big bets companies have been taking on the digital tabletop. Implicit in that is that board games are doing well. Companies are racing to invent the Netflix of board games because they see the market for it.
It’s just speculation, but perhaps Wizards of the Coast was busy enough with Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. Hasbro wanted more from Avalon Hill and so promoted the division higher up the corporate hierarchy.
Now, in our timeline we’re nearly caught up with today. Just yesterday people spotted a HeroQuest countdown timer on heroquest.avalonhill.com.
Yeah, right now, Avalon Hill doesn’t have a website of their own. If you point your browser to avalonhill.com you’ll redirect to avalonhill.wizards.com, a subdomain similar to the one D&D and Magic: The Gathering both have.
However, HeroQuest is being kept off the wizards.com domain. The countdown timer, and you can see what it looks like from the links in the show notes, is firmly an Avalon Hill branded thing.
But what will they do without the Trademark to the term HeroQuest?
Well, Chaosium is on record saying that they’re happy to chat once the ball is rolling again. The ball is now rolling so let’s hope conversions have been productive.
The Restoration Games paperwork on HeroQuest Legacies may have been what sparked Hasbro into action again. They may be looking to defend their property, to show it’s in use, or perhaps they saw the opportunity to work with the specialist. Maybe their eyes just opened to the commercial potential of the game.
At the time of recording, there are 10 days until the HeroQuest timer hits zero. We can expect news from Hasbro then.
So, what else has been going on in the geeky news on the site this week?
Following on from the Virtual Crunchyroll Expo there’s been a glut of great looking anime trailers. So, rather than restricting the posting to just one a day, I’ve increased that to two.
Yeah, those are just the highlights. I did tell you there were a lot. You can find links to the trailers in the transcript.
Another significant trailer that came out this week, not one anime-related, is Denis Villeneuve’s Dune movie.
It reminds me of the classic Dune movie. I think that’s a good thing.
I don’t know the Paul Atreides actor, Timothee Chalamet, very well at all but it’s fun watching Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho and weird seeing Thanos actor Josh Brolin as Gurney. In the classic movie, it was Patrick Stewart who had that role.
It’s not just been trailers that have edged up the number of articles on the site this week. Kickstarter has been going strong too, with lots of big projects taking flight.
The game is deadly. Characters have about 6 health, and a humble pistol does about 1d10 damage.
Acheron is inspired by games like Call of Cthulhu, World of Darkness and Dishonored. It has a 1930s vibe, and it set in a world that’s surrounded by an impregnable wall.
Except, the wall was breached and horrors came flooding through. The government covered it up. The result is a deadly setting where the average person doesn’t believe in magic or the danger they’re in.
All this comes to a roleplaying head given the powerful factions that compete for resources in this sealed world. It feels like a setting ripe for both dangerous adventure and some great storytelling.
So, in the spirit of not missing out, I tweaked the daily digest email from Geek Native. For the last few years, it has included the most recent 5 articles from the site, providing the article hadn’t already been in the daily digest email.
I’ve increased that number to 7 and tidied the email formatting a little. So, you get the most recent article across the top of the email with a big image header and then two columns of three smaller stories.
Hopefully, that means fewer articles are missed out, and yet the email is still easy to scan.
Here feels like a good place to talk about some of the stories that you might not want to have missed.
Luka Rejec has made a version of Ultraviolet Grasslands available as a free download.
Luka calls the 70-page primer on the psychedelic heavy metal RPG the “Player Guide”.
Adult Swim have also made a free RPG available. It’s for Tigtone and it uses D&D 5e rules.
I don’t know the show, but it looks like madcap fantasy adventures and Adult Swim suggest readers should be 18 or older.
While these RPGs are being given away for free, there’s a big publisher who’s determined to get into the money-making side of the booming tabletop industry. That publisher is Andrews McMeel.
We’re about to mention three different games.
Into the Dungeon was a successful Kickstarter for an illustrated solo RPG. Hari Conner’s book has been picked up by Andrews McMeel, and you can now order it from places like Barnes & Noble or Amazon.
Andrew Kolb’s Neverland is 5e compatible game in the Peter Pan setting. Except, it’s been many years since Peter Pan’s adventures.
It’s a hex-crawl of a game better suited to older readers than Peter Pan’s intended audience. It looks gorgeous and joins the Andrews McMeel family.
Lastly, Andrews McMeel also stepped in to back the Afropunk Swordsfall RPG. This game is very well known on Twitter, as a well-developed offering and even an eCommerce shop of its own.
Speaking of eCommerce, you can check out DriveThruRPG’s proposed new look. Simply head to the homepage and click on the facelift teaser link. You’ll wind up at preview.drivethrurpg.com.
The new site is a work in progress, and not all page templates have been made yet. I think you’ll like what you see as it’s a much cleaner design, I say that knowing many people don’t like change.
However, DriveThruRPG’s new look doesn’t shy away from sideways scrolling, and that’s never a straightforward design decision to make.
Over at DriveThruRPG you can find Adamant Entertainment’s latest game. It’s called Star System: Every Star A Destination and it’s the first in the Star System series.
A whole host of D6 system designers are on board for this project led by West End Games and Star Wars RPG creative director Eric S Trautmann.
There’s a controversy around the game, though, which I blogged about and received a response too.
Adamant Entertainment is founded by Gareth-Michael Skarka. Skarka even worked on Star System. The sticking point is that Skarka is nine years late on a tabletop RPG Kickstarter project called the Far West.
Why is Skarka working on a science-fantasy game when he’s nine years late on other?
Well, Eric Trautmann popped over to Geek Native to explain. Eric said;
My whole role at Adamant is to put together projects like this, leaving Gareth freed up to continue work on Far West. My putting this together is unrelated to Far West.
As I said in the original post if Star Systems means Adamant can get into a better place with logistics then it might help Far West. If this is the case, great.
I can see why some backers are frustrated, though.
Another interesting logistics challenge is EN Publishing’s Level Up project.
The idea is to make advanced rules for D&D 5e, and the initial reveal of playtest material do away with fantasy races in favour of a heritage and culture approach.
If the plan is have rolling playtests then that’s impressively ambitious. The intended result is a game that’s both crunchier and more flexible. I think that’s also a bold aspiration. Crunch and flex are pretty close to opposing positions at times.
Most impressively about Level Up, though, is the huge team of writers. I see some familiar talented faces there as well as creators I don’t know. If the logistics of coordinating such a large group are sorted, then I think the diverse range of experience and points of view will only help the Level Up project be better, though.
I want to mention two virtual conventions coming up before we end the podcast. Before that, though, I want to mention a shrink-wrapped box of first edition Pokemon cards.
The old record for such a box selling at auction was set last year when someone paid $78,000.
How much do you think a similar box sold for this month?
Wow. That’s more than double.
And what a debate too; do you keep the box shrink-wrapped and valued at $198,000 or do you succumb to the temptation that there might be rare first edition cards inside worth far more?
Would you open the box?
Okay, those two online events for your calendar.
One is Roll20Con 2020. That will run from October 23rd to the 25th. Money raised goes to a diversity in tech group called Code2040.
The second is Virtual Tabletop Gaming Live which replaces Tabletop Gaming Live due to be held in London until it was cancelled due to the lockdown. Virtual Tabletop Gaming Live is September 26th to the 28th.
Remember, Geek Native’s patrons can vote in the RPG Publisher Spotlight until the end of the month.
And on that note, let’s call it a wrap. Keep safe, stay out of melee range and see you next week.
Check the comments below to see what readers have to say.