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Mergers, Splits, and Distribution Deals: Winsome Stops Laying Track, HeidelBÄR Leaves Asmodee, and Heidelberger Returns to Business

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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Board Game Publisher: HeidelBÄR Games
• In January 2017, the Asmodee Group acquired German publisher and distributor Heidelberger Spieleverlag, with the publishing part of that company being broken out into HeidelBÄR Games.

Now HeidelBÄR Games has broken off from the Asmodee Group to become an independent company, HeidelBÄR Games GmbH. Here's an excerpt from the March 2019 press release announcing the split:

Ownership has been transferred to Heiko Eller-Bilz, the previous studio manager. Much remains the same in other respects: the studio office will remain in Miltenberg, Germany, as will the HeidelBÄR team.

Likewise, our partnership with Asmodee will not completely end, since we will continue to cooperate with different Asmodee units internationally. Our first game TAGS will remain with Asmodee, and of course, we as HeidelBÄR Games will continue to support TAGS wherever we can.

For us HeidelBÄRs, this step is a return to our roots. As Heidelberger Spieleverlag, we had operated as an independent games studio for years, with all of the flexibility, creative chaos, personal responsibility, and long-term cooperation that comes with it. As HeidelBÄR Games GmbH, we still aim to create original games connecting geeks, non-gamers, and families alike.
The next title coming from HeidelBÄR Games is Wordsmith from designers Bill Eberle, Peter Olotka, and Greg Olotka — this being a new edition of their Eon title Runes — and you can watch a preview of the game here.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
• In a related development, Heidelberger Spieleverlag has returned to business as of April 2019. How? Former Heidelberger Spieleverlag executive Johannes Kastner had launched the wholesale business JoeKas WORLD in 2018, distributing titles from Ferti Games, Jolly Thinker, Mebo, and others, but with HeidelBÄR Games now separate from Asmodee, Kastner has adopted the Heidelberger Spieleverlag brand once more, with that company now handling titles from HeidelBÄR, among others.

Whereas publishing and distribution were combined in the former Heidelberger Spieleverlag, HeidelBÄR notes that the two will remain independent in the future:

The separation of distribution and development has proven to make sense in many respects, and so the two divisions remain separate companies as Heidelberger Spieleverlag and HeidelBÄR Games.

What used to be a company with more than 30 employees and many international partners is now a small enterprise in the process of being established. The German localization and distribution for partners transferred to Asmodee will remain there. However, further publishers are to be added as new partners. In the future, HeidelBÄR Games will also return to the localization business and release German versions of international game titles, which will then be distributed by Heidelberger Spieleverlag.
From gallery of W Eric Martin
Board Game: Black Rose Wars
Grey Fox Games developer Josh Lobkowicz has started a new game publishing company called Travel Buddy Games, with titles from this company intended to come in a small package suitable for traveling (duh), while also being approachable by mainstream game players and tied thematically to a travel destination, both to inspire travel to this location and to serve as a reminder of the place for those who have been. Lobkowicz hasn't yet announced any titles for the line, but he lays out what he's looking for on the TBG website should you be a designer with an appropriate game.

• U.S.-based publisher Ludus Magnus Studio funded Black Rose Wars on Kickstarter to the tune of $1.3 million, but after delivering product to backers (which is currently scheduled for June 2019), LMS will let Ares Games handle distribution of the game to retailers, albeit without all the KS bells and whistles. Here's an excerpt from an Ares Games press release:

The agreement brings to the next level the creative collaboration between Ludus Magnus and Ares, which already produced miniature crossovers between Sine Tempore and Galaxy Defenders, and between Black Rose Wars and Sword & Sorcery. Ludus Magnus also designed several of the miniatures for the new Sword & Sorcery cycle, "Ancient Chronicles"...

The retail version [of Black Rose Wars] to be published by Ares Games will be different of the KS edition, being adapted to distribution in the hobby market in terms of size and retail price, while still providing a fully satisfying gameplay experience.
Ares Games also plans to distribute the retail edition of Ludus Magnus Studio's Dungeonology: The Expedition, which is being funded on Kickstarter (link) through April 2019.

Board Game: Pennsylvania Railroad
Board Game: 1836
• U.S. publisher Winsome Games has apparently run out of track, so to speak, with company owner John Bohrer announcing — as published on BGG courtesy of Ingo Griebsch — that the 2019 Essen Set "is probably the last Essen Set we will produce".

That set consists of two games — Pennsylvania Railroad and 1836 — and while Bohrer notes that Winsome will end with a smaller production run than it had in 2018, this won't be the last time you see game designs from him: "I am 63 years old and retired. Making all these Essen Sets is more difficult than many seem to think. I will still create games and they might be licensed. There are 6 existing Winsome Games licensed to big firms that have not yet been announced by the licensees."
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