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Michele Esmanech
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Last year I designed Shadow Agent which placed 2nd overall in the 2012 solitaire PnP contest among winning other prizes and getting rave reviews.

I was contacted by a few publishers, who were eager to publish the game, and I even signed a few NDAs and, eventually, signed a publishing contract with …..

The Owner, Travis Worthington, got in touch with me, via Geekmail, we talked via Skype, we exchanged feedback and, in January 15th, we signed the contract, as he said he tried the game with friends and liked it a lot.

Having signed with ….., I turned other publishers down, who were asking me to sign a contract with them.

After that, Travis asked me to write some more scenarios, which I did, but never got any feedback from him, so, last week I contacted him, asking where we were, on the game production, and today I received an email from him, telling me that he won't pursue the production since he doesn't like the game anymore, and that he'll send a release contract.

I not only am a lawyer, but I also sent all the paperwork to my colleague lawyer in the US, to follow the issue.

Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me: we signed a contract, he made a commitment, and now he's turning his back.

I'll post here how the issue proceeds.

edited thread title
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Richard Rutten
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Maybe you should try to resolve it first before going to a public forum to discuss this serious matter.
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Derry Salewski
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Really . . . you or your lawyer friend in the US didn't give yourself the advice of 'don't talk about it, especially with random strangers on the internet.' ?

Strange!

And um, I hear stories about how publishers pick up the option to publish a game and then don't do it all the time. In fact, releaseing it back to you so soon might be quite generous of him! (Unless he thinks the game sucks so badly that he hopes his competitors waste money publishing it . . . )

So I mean, feel free to post the entire contract here for us to read so we can see whether he's actually 'screwing' you.

My popcorn's ready.
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Michele Esmanech
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Blind Reality wrote:
Maybe you should try to resolve it first before going to a public forum to discuss this serious matter.


I did... No response!

scifiantihero wrote:
Really . . . you or your lawyer friend in the US didn't give yourself the advice of 'don't talk about it, especially with random strangers on the internet.' ?

Strange!

And um, I hear stories about how publishers pick up the option to publish a game and then don't do it all the time. In fact, releaseing it back to you so soon might be quite generous of him! (Unless he thinks the game sucks so badly that he hopes his competitors waste money publishing it . . . )

So I mean, feel free to post the entire contract here for us to read so we can see whether he's actually 'screwing' you.

My popcorn's ready.


True, but at this point, I don't give a damn.
Just be clear: the contract doesn't give the publisher the option to publish, or some sort of privilege, but the duty to publish it.

This post is mostly a warning and a public rant.
I will deal the issue outside of the forums of course.
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Heckle Jekyll
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
I would not be happy about a client posting on a social site.

Putting that to the side, I'd imagine that you are gonna find it difficult proving money damages. You generally cannot require specific performance of a contract and therefore money damages is most likely your only option. Proving money damages in a case like this is where your gonna fall flat, its almost impossible to prove speculation of sales on a game never sold before. IMHO, It would cost you way more in legal fees to pursue this than its worth... You can't get punitive damages on a breach of contract (I'm in Pennsylvania, but most states follow this).

Therefore your only satisfaction appears to be posting on a social site - which is something I've always advised clients to never do. Most likely Indie Boards and Games has determined that the project will not be profitable. You don't want a publisher that is not enthusiastic about the game. I'd say take it as a blessing and move on to another publisher. That would be my free advice.






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Scott Nicholson
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
I know how frustrating this is and I understand the desire of the poster to shout it from the rooftops.

I had the same thing happen to me with a different game company. They gave me a contract, held my game for 18 months, and then cancelled the contract. During that time, another game came out that had the same novel element I was proposing to use, so greatly decreased the "coolness" factor my game would have had.

(It wasn't much better with my first game, where the publisher printed the game but then put off paying royalties, and then eventually went bankrupt, so I never saw a dime.)


I've heard this happen to other designers as well, where contracts are given, games are held, and then the project is cancelled. When it happened to me, I had a number of others reach out to me and tell me how it happened to them. Sadly, this is a little-known reality in the game design business - that your game isn't published until it is published.


Part of this, sadly, is the supply and demand. There are many designers out there who are eager to make games and do whatever it takes to get published, so the publishers do have their pick of what they want. Publishers are risking a lot of money in a fickle and changing marketplace - a game that was perfect for a publisher and their target market 3 years ago is no longer a good fit.


So, I'm sorry this happened to you. The best you can do is to dust yourself off and try to resubmit it elsewhere, and hope those other publishers don't see your venting here about this publisher. Other things you can do in future contracts is try to negotiate an advance that you keep if they cancel the game, and to have a tighter time window in which they will either publish or return the game to you.


I know it's a crushing blow when you have the hopes of seeing something you've worked so hard on to be discarded when you thought it was on its way to being published. You do want to be careful what you say in public, as you want to be someone that other publishers might want to work with.
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
As a lawyer, a business owner and a board gamer, I first want to say that I am sorry this happened to you. No one likes to have expectations that are let down.

However, there are two sides to every story. The best side of your story is a great game that you want to have published! There are many ways to get that done, including KickStarter. I have to warn you that you are hurting your ability to get that done with this post. Board game publishers are a tight group, and you are unlikely to be trusted by another after publicly broadcasting in this forum.

It's hard to go back now, but keep your eyes on your goal.
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Robert Forrest
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
I feel like this has the potential to backfire and make you the designer to stear clear of...
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Jake Staines
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
I suspect that if Travis had intended to screw you in particular, or if he were specifically trying to get out of his contract, he could have hand-produced a couple of copies from your original files and sold them on a stand at a convention until it was out of print, thus fulfilling his obligation to "publish" the game and tying it up so you couldn't get it published elsewhere for the contract's duration. Unless the contract specified a minimum definition (which I'd be kind of surprised by), then to the best of my knowledge all "publish" means is "make available to the public". If that's the case, then while it's upsetting and frustrating, he is actually doing you a favour by agreeing to release you from the original contract.


(I don't like the idea of publishers banding together and refusing to deal with a designer who makes a fuss, because it kind of feels a bit mafia-like. But I can understand why they might behave like that, because nobody makes very much money in boardgames, so most publishers will be wary of getting involved with people who may end up costing them money and potentially bankrupting their company. :/)
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Michele Esmanech
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Edward J Grug III wrote:
I feel like this has the potential to backfire and make you the designer to stear clear of...


Thanks all for the advises.
At this point, my main goal is not to get a refund nor the game published (if I'm able to accomplish any of these two goals the better, but they are not my goals) I never expected money nor fame from this activity, so, at this point, I don't care.
My goal is to put Mr.Wortgington and his company to shame.

'Nough said
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Drew Thomson
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Ikim wrote:
My goal is to put Mr.Wortgington and his company to shame.


Well, I'm not convinced. And if you take this much further you risk making yourself look like a vengeful and bitter person rather than a victim who got "screwed".

I suggest that you drop it and move on. With any luck, you'll avoid dragging your own name through the mud.
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mads l. brynnum
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
sounds to me like the real problem is not that the game got cancelled, but the apparant lack of communication.
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Michele Esmanech
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Josephus wrote:
A friend of mine has been down the same road so I appreciate your frustration but the reality is that this is a common practice through many boardgame publishers.

Ikim wrote:

My goal is to put Mr.Wortgington and his company to shame.


This would have worked splendidly if you had a legitimate complaint. Unfortunately, your post is poorly judged backed by your inexperienced. It's not the publishers reputation you're putting to shame.


So, what you're telling me is that signing a contract, and deciding not to observe what the parties have agreed upon is common practice? Not in Italy, it isn't! And it should be in the US either.
I know what I have signed.
I am not here to ask for a judgement (that will be done someplace else) and I am not here to build a case nor to give proof of my statements.

Will this ban me from BGG and the community in general... Fine... I'm out anyway.
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Richard Rutten
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Michele,

Shut down your computer. Shut down your phone. Go for a walk in the woods. Scream at some trees. Go to the sauna, have a massage. Go for a nice meal. Come back tomorrow. All will be fine.
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Andrew Rowse
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Ikim wrote:
I know what I have signed.


We don't

We only know the sort of contracts that we have seen and signed, and I don't think I've ever seen one where the publisher had an obligation to publish.

Hence the skepticism.
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Michele Esmanech
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
KAndrw wrote:
Ikim wrote:
I know what I have signed.


We don't

We only know the sort of contracts that we have seen and signed, and I don't think I've ever seen one where the publisher had an obligation to publish.

Hence the skepticism.


Of course I won't publish the whole contract, but the contract is very clear that the publisher HAS to publish the game.

Anyway... At this point, I don't care about it anymore.

I'm out.
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Ikim wrote:

Just be clear: the contract doesn't give the publisher the option to publish, or some sort of privilege, but the duty to publish it.


... Which is somehow uncommon, in fact.

When a publisher signs a publishing contract with a game designer, it usually states that the designer licenses publisher the right to publish the game.
It also usually states that the publisher will lose this right (i.e. the contract will end) if he fails to publish the game before a given date, and afterwards if he fails to sell a set amount of said game per period (6month or 12 months usually).

It's not a gold standard that all publishers must obey to, but it's usually something like that.

There also usually is an advance on royalties paid by publisher to the designer. That money serves several purposes :
- show the designer that the publisher is committed to publish the game (at least commited in his intent to do so)
- since the designer agrees to let the publisher benefit from an exclusive right to publish the game, the money also guarantees that if the project faisl for any reason the designer gets something for his effort, time and lost opportunities : the advance on royalties normally is non-refundable.
- and if the game gets released but fails to sell correctly for whatever reason (bad game, badly published, badly distributed, bad luck, whatever really) the designer will at least get that money (again, it's usually non refundable).

So of course the intent behind these contracts is that the publisher commits to publishing the game and sell as much of it as possible, but the letter of the contract differs a bit from that.

I understand that your contract is quite different, which is interesting.

NB : shameless plug : make sure to check out my online book on boardgames publishing, especially the game licensing chapter :
http://www.flatlinedgames.com/08_licensing_a_game_from_a_des...
And the matching contract example :
http://www.flatlinedgames.com/contract_example
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Markus Hagenauer jr.
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Ikim wrote:

Of course I won't publish the whole contract, but the contract is very clear that the publisher HAS to publish the game.



Realy, you have a contrat saying the publisher has to publish the game?

So I hope it also tells something about the quantity and the timeframe, so you might have a chance to win a lawsuit.

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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Ikim wrote:
Of course I won't publish the whole contract, but the contract is very clear that the publisher HAS to publish the game.



Understand that you wouldn't want to publish the whole contract, but what about sharing relevant extracts where it sets out that the publisher HAS to publish.


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Michele Esmanech
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Boom04 wrote:
Ikim wrote:
Of course I won't publish the whole contract, but the contract is very clear that the publisher HAS to publish the game.



Understand that you wouldn't want to publish the whole contract, but what about sharing relevant extracts where it sets out that the publisher HAS to publish.




Simply put: no, I won't.
I'm not looking for a judge.

Take it as you like, but I don't have to prove anything, ATM.
Am I making friends, now? No, I'm not.

Do I care? No, I don't.

I'm out of BGG.
Do you care! Surely, you don't.
Do I? Neither.
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Austin Andersen
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
You should read your contract and make sure he did indeed screw you. He may have simply exercised an option built into the contract.
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Ikim wrote:
the contract is very clear that the publisher HAS to publish the game.



You're the lawyer, you know what you signed and if the contract says he has to publish it then he did in fact screw you
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Blind Reality wrote:
Michele,

Shut down your computer. Shut down your phone. Go for a walk in the woods. Scream at some trees. Go to the sauna, have a massage. Go for a nice meal. Come back tomorrow. All will be fine.



Michele~

You are an amazing game designer, please don't let one bad experience stop you from doing something you are passionate about.

I echo Richard's advice above but would even go a step further and tell you to take a holiday from BGG if you need, until next year even. Then come back and better then ever in the new year.

And I believe in karma so Travis will get what he deserves in the end.
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Rowdy Scarlett
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Sorry to hear that things have gone south on this. Watched your video and it looks like an interesting game. Good luck with getting it published.
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Trevor Kindree
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Re: How Travis from Indie Boards and Cards screwed me!
Ikim wrote:

I'm out of BGG.
Do you care! Surely, you don't.
Do I? Neither.


You'd be surprised how many people actually do care on this site. Even with the negative comments, people still care enough to write something. Hell, I don't know enough of the backstory, enough of the situation, of how things are done or not done... I've read a few stories how some publishers will sit on a game for a length of time and not do anything. I've read about lack of communication (rampant issue with some). I've also read the success stories, and seen the success stories (looking at my gaming collection).

Don't give up on a community which is (for the most part) willing to help because of a few.
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