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Merchants of Venus Reprint: The controversy unfolds...

Stephen Keller
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First was the announcement on the Podcast 'The Dice Tower' that Stronghold Games was intending on publishing a reprint of Merchants of Venus.


Then came Fantasy Flight Game's web announcement of their same intentions:

Fantasy Flight Games is delighted to announce the upcoming release of Merchant of Venus, a board game of space traders and alien riches. Two to four players race through the galaxy on a wild dash for cash, locating and establishing vital trade lines to transport goods from the planets where they’re common, to the planets where they can sell for maximum profit.

A day in the life of a space trader

Aliens sell you their goods, and you’ve got a deadline to hit high market on a distant world. Streamlining your trade route is vital, as is boosting your ride, tweaking it out with all the latest and coolest upgrades. However, money invested in your ship cuts into your bottom line, making it a tough choice each trader will face as they compete to become the richest and greatest space trader.

Pilots, lasers, and shields can help you bypass the hazards of space travel. Increased cargo holds let you transport more goods with each voyage, and better pilots and drives can speed your ship across the galaxy in record time.

Meanwhile, you can pick up passengers able to pay for their rides and eke a profit out of the emptiest stretches of space. Transport enough, and your fame may translate to wealth later on, especially when alien cultures learn about your most distinguished guests.

A new lift-off for a classic game

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.

We’re excited to announce that Fantasy Flight Games will release Merchant of Venus in the first quarter of 2012 and we are now accepting pre-orders. For more information, please contact the FFG Sales Department at



Then came Stronghold's response to the controversy:

Statement from Stronghold Games Regarding “Richard Hamblen’s Merchant of Venus”

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.

Kevin Nesbitt and Stephen Buonocore
Managing Directors
Stronghold Games LLC



And finally came Fantasy Flight's further response:

Dear "Merchant of Venus" fans,

Like yourselves, I am saddened by the confusion and issue that has arisen in the publishing-rights for "Merchant of Venus" (MoV) between Stronghold Games and ourselves, an issue that surely was uninvited by either side.

More than a year ago, FFG signed a deal with Hasbro for the right to re-publish MoV. Since then, we have been worked towards republishing the title with great excitement and dilligence. The artwork, graphic design, game and production development of our version of MoV is among the best FFG has done to-date, and we had been looking forward to making our official MoV announcement early next month. It was our intention to publish the new MoV in March 2012 (which remains our plan, discovery of this unfortunate issue notwithstanding).

As a significant part of our royalties to Hasbro for MoV sales were specifically stipulated as going to the designer (i.e. Mr. Richard Hamblen), we have no reason to believe that he was not fully aware of our MoV republishing project. We have nothing but the greatest respect for Mr. Hamblen and his creations ("Magic Realm" was my first personal Avalon Hill board game purchase) and I'm hopeful, despite these issues, that his work again will see the light of day and that he'll be rewarded for his innovation once more.

I also have the greatest respect for Stronghold Games, and I've seen no reason to believe they've been acting in bad faith in their endeavors. It is unfortunate such an issue should disrupt their publishing plans, as it is unfortunate it has disrupted ours.

That said, FFG has every reason to believe the MoV rights licensed to us by Hasbro are true and correctly given. I hope that you, the MoV fan, can understand and appreciate our desire to publish a game on which we have been working in good faith for a substantial period of time with great expense, and for which we have the rights.

We are in open communication with both Hasbro and Stronghold on this, and will be digging into more details next week to clarify the issue. I'm hopeful that all parties are reasonable and that a mutual desire to see MoV in print again will not cause the game to get stuck in long dispute.

Thank you for your patience in this delicate matter.

Best Wishes,

Christian T. Petersen
Fantasy Flight Games



It's at least a little heart warming that both sides seem to genuinely want to peacefully work this out. Clearly each side has already made investments into this endeavor so a polite handshake isn't going to rectify this situation.

Bottom Line: We've got a problem....

*originally posted on
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