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Martin Wallace» Forums » General Creator Forum

Subject: A response and clarifications to my AoS post rss

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Martin Wallace
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Hi folks,

As the other thread seems to be heading off to the horizon I thought I would start a new one to respond to some of the comments made and add some clarifications to help people better understand my position.

Many people seem to be under the impression that at some point in time a judge made a decision that AoS belonged to John Bohrer. That never happened, there has never been a day in court. Now, there have been a number of rounds of legal jousting, so this will take a little time to go through.

Let's start by discussing the mediation between myself and John Bohrer, as judged by Franz-Benno Delonge. That mediation occurred to determine how the royalties from AoS should be split, it had nothing to do with who owned the game. FFG were keen to license the game but would not sign a deal without John being involved. They were offering a royalty of 10%. John wanted 50% of that rate. My take was that under normal circumstances if a publisher sub licenses a game then they take 50% of the royalties and pass the rest on to the designer. In this case I am both the publisher and the designer. Therefore I felt it was fair for Warfrog to receive 50% of the royalties and the remaining 50% be split between myself and John. John would not agree to this so hence the mediation. I asked Benno to make sure he talked to James Hamilton, as Hammy had the evidence that John had been paid to do the development work on AoS. Benno delivered his verdict, that the royalties should be split 50/50, i.e. the deal John wanted. I asked Hammy if Benno had talked to him, to which the answer was no. Therefore I felt justified in rejecting a decision where the judge had not taken into account all of the evidence. Soon after Benno sadly passed away from throat cancer. I suspect he did not give the matter his full attention as he had bigger issues on his plate. I've never mentioned this in public before as I do not feel it reflects well on Benno. I think sufficient time has now passed for me to make this information public. Also note that mediation is meant to be confidential. Christian Petersen is completely in the wrong for revealing any details of this mediation. I can only assume it was done to hurt me as I would not agree to license the game to FFG.

As no deal could be agreed I took the design to Mayfair. They tried to register the trade mark for the title. John opposed this. After many months of legal preparation Mayfair asked me if they could withdraw the application. They had already spent $60,000 on lawyers and the case was still many months from being settled in court. John was representing himself, his father is a patent attorney, and so had no legal costs to worry about. He simply used delaying tactics to increase Mayfair's costs. Thus we changed the name to Steam.

Now, it is important to note that no decision in court was made here. Mayfair simply withdrew the application. John then registered the trade mark himself. As opposing it would be as expensive as lodging it nothing could be done to stop this. John told EGG that he had won the case, when in actual fact nothing of the sort had happened. Please note that holding the trade mark on a name does not mean you own the design, it simply means you can use that name on a box.

I had assumed that no company would be stupid enough to license the game from John. How wrong I was. When EGG decided to license the game from John they were still dealing with me directly over the expansion for Railways of the World. I am still confused as to why they never emailed me to ask whether John really had the rights to the game.

EGG then decided to sue me over licensing the game Steam to Mayfair. The basis of this case was a contract I had signed with Eagle Games (the old Eagle, before they went bankrupt) for the AoS development original known as Railroad Tycoon and now known as Railways of the World. They withdrew their case after my lawyer pointed out that the contract stated in black and white that the rights to Age of Steam resided with Warfrog. Once again, no actual day in court. However, I was still left with legal fees in the order of $12,000.

My relationship with EGG then went into deep freeze. Before this point they had licensed Brass from me. Years later I had to hire two lawyers to regain the rights to this. It turned out that EGG had trade marked the name without informing me. Unless you read the trade mark press on a regular basis you are never going to know whether someone had trade marked something without your permission. They had also reprinted the game without paying me any royalties. During the negotiations Rick Soued asked me if he could secure the rights to Age of Steam from me. I regained the rights to Brass but at a high cost in legal fees, around another $17,000.

Now, people are wondering why I do not simply let this go. My reasons for continuing to raise this issue are that EGG are bad actors. They have knowingly published a game that I hold the rights to without paying royalties. They republished Brass without informing me or paying royalties. They have also done the same thing to at least one other designer. I cannot say more as there may be legal action at some point in the future. I know they lied to JKLM when they were selling their stock on consignment. This is a pattern of behaviour that indicates that EGG are willing to act in manner outside of the normal constraints that other companies operate within. They are happy to cheat designers of royalties. I know for a fact that people have been sacked from EGG for objecting to this behaviour.

To sum up, yes, I'm sore. I'm down almost $30,000 in legal fees for cases that were not of my choosing. I've lost control of one of my best designs. I'm annoyed that some people seem to think this was my fault, that somehow I made a bad deal. The truth is I never made a deal. I designed Age of Steam. With James Hamilton I published Age of Steam, who on earth did I need to make a deal with. Someone will point out that the box says it is licensed from Winsome. This was done at the time to promote John's company, in the same way that he put my name on games that he published that I had not designed. If I did make a mistake this was it. I trusted John and he then betrayed that trust for his own personal gain.

I hope that helps clear up some issues around this rather depressing case.

Martin Wallace




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Clyde W
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Other post? Now I'm super curious, must go find! Love me some BGG drama.

Edit: found it! A word from the designer of Age of Steam

Wow that suuuucks.
 
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Darryl with one "R"
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Frog1 wrote:
...this rather depressing case.

Regardless of how one feels about the merits of the arguments on both sides, I suspect everyone in the BGG community can agree on this line. This is indeed depressing.
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Eric Flood
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You reference at least three relatively well-known entities as "bad actors" here (Christian Peterson, John Bohrer, and all of EGG), and I do not recall the details but in the past dramas, there have been a handful more.

The issue I keep coming back to with this whole thing is the principle that if everyone around you is a jerk, it is usually you who is the jerk (I'm not calling you a jerk, to clarify). Whenever trademark or publishing issues comes up, you somehow seem to keep being surrounded by people who want to hurt you, and for some reason this doesn't seem to happen to most other designers. No other designer who has worked with John seems to have a problem. No other designer who has worked with EGG seems to have a problem. No other designer who has worked with Peterson seems to have a problem.

So..is it really everyone else who is the problem?
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Martin Wallace
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Eric,

If you read my post carefully you will see that a number of other people have had similar issues to myself with regards to EGG. I've only had one issue with Christian, which is that one post. I suspect a number of the designs released by Winsome are actually designed by John and released under a pseudonym, so he does not really deal with other designers. All of the IP issues I have had have not been with a number of different entities, they have all been with the same actors, i.e John Bohrer and EGG.

Martin

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Hi Martin,

What do you hope to achieve with these posts?
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Martin Wallace
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Well, I would have thought that was fairly obvious. A company is publishing one of my designs who has no right to do so. I think that is pretty serious. That company has a record of doing this repeatedly. Why is this company still in business? Why should such bad behaviour be ignored or even rewarded. As legal action is so expensive the only way to police the behaviour of companies is through public awareness. I am making the public aware that this company are behaving in a manner which is detrimental to the gaming hobby.

Martin
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blueatheart wrote:
You reference at least three relatively well-known entities as "bad actors" here (Christian Peterson, John Bohrer, and all of EGG), and I do not recall the details but in the past dramas, there have been a handful more.

The issue I keep coming back to with this whole thing is the principle that if everyone around you is a jerk, it is usually you who is the jerk (I'm not calling you a jerk, to clarify). Whenever trademark or publishing issues comes up, you somehow seem to keep being surrounded by people who want to hurt you, and for some reason this doesn't seem to happen to most other designers. No other designer who has worked with John seems to have a problem. No other designer who has worked with EGG seems to have a problem. No other designer who has worked with Peterson seems to have a problem.

So..is it really everyone else who is the problem?

Do yourself a favor and look at the BGG threads. Both Martin and others have to be careful or face lawsuits so sorry for the cloak and dagger explanation but it is necessary. You can fine plenty of cases of these three people screwing over other people besides Martin...quite frankly dozens of cases for each.

I volunteered for a few game companies in the past, and some treated their volunteers like royalty and other had ridiculous demands for next to nothing in rewards. I have worked once for Wallace and he treated me amazingly and with grace even though I didn't come through because of health issues. I have worked for other people including proof reading of rules, game rules editing, play testing, demoing, selling at cons, etc You can truly measure a person or a company by how they treat their lowest paid employes. I have seen a lot of people hurt by the industry and as a consequence I really have backed away from helping people, but I would in an instant help Martin, Zev, Jay Tummelson, Launius and several others if they asked.

Just to clarify, most of the people in the industry that I have met over the last 20 years are great, warm, friendly people who still go out of their way to say hello and ask me how I am doing when I make it to a con now and then. But there are some really nasty sorts that I try to avoid at all costs.
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Mr. Wallace,

Thank you for your detailed explanation. Your description of the mediation does make more sense now, though I understand that you feel the judge made a bad decision because he didn't have all the facts, but suppose he had spoken to Hammy and still decided the way he did - would you then have accepted his judgment?

Regardless, I am still a little confused about what rights EGG is illegally infringing on. There is a trademark, and there is a license to publish something under a given name. If I'm not mistaken, a game's design can't be copyrighted. Only the names, text, art, etc. So if John Bohrer owns the trademark, what rights do you believe you own that he does not?
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Artur Beznosyuk
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AmadanNaBriona wrote:


Regardless, I am still a little confused about what rights EGG is illegally infringing on. There is a trademark, and there is a license to publish something under a given name. If I'm not mistaken, a game's design can't be copyrighted. Only the names, text, art, etc. So if John Bohrer owns the trademark, what rights do you believe you own that he does not?


I think he made it pretty clear that there are no actual law violation here, just huge morale and ethics violation (since he is original designer).
But morale and ethics are subjective, so someone may think EGG made a perfectly right move in chasing profits (at the end of the day that what businesses are supposed to do).
Or somebody (including me) may think that they made morally bad thing and decide not to support such business practices.
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blueatheart wrote:
You reference at least three relatively well-known entities as "bad actors" here (Christian Peterson, John Bohrer, and all of EGG), and I do not recall the details but in the past dramas, there have been a handful more.

The issue I keep coming back to with this whole thing is the principle that if everyone around you is a jerk, it is usually you who is the jerk (I'm not calling you a jerk, to clarify). Whenever trademark or publishing issues comes up, you somehow seem to keep being surrounded by people who want to hurt you, and for some reason this doesn't seem to happen to most other designers. No other designer who has worked with John seems to have a problem. No other designer who has worked with EGG seems to have a problem. No other designer who has worked with Peterson seems to have a problem.

So..is it really everyone else who is the problem?


Victim blaming? Really?

Martin has been the most vocal voice on this but that doesn't mean he's not the only person screwed over. And Martin is in the fortunate position where he's a known designer so he doesn't need to worry as much about getting a bad name. But other fledgling designers might feel like they have to cop the abuse to get their name out there.

I'm not saying that EGG has screwed anyone else over in such a manner, but just because Martin is vocal on this while nobody else is doesn't mean that it didn't happen.

There are loads of great games out there by great publishers that help the industry. Support those guys! Don't support a company that is running a Kickstarter that doesn't even credit the game's designer. If you want a Martin Wallace game, Brass is great, AuZtralia is lots of fun and Moa has flown completely under the radar (which is thematic I guess given kiwis don't fly).
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Frog1 wrote:
A company is publishing one of my designs who has no right to do so. Martin


If this were true you could stop them instead of creating forum posts on bgg, no? If they have no rights to it then you should be able to hire a lawyer for at the bare minimum a cease and desist pretty easily.
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snotrabjorn wrote:
I think he made it pretty clear that there are no actual law violation here, just huge morale and ethics violation (since he is original designer).
But morale and ethics are subjective, so someone may think EGG made a perfectly right move in chasing profits (at the end of the day that what businesses are supposed to do).
Or somebody (including me) may think that they made morally bad thing and decide not to support such business practices.


Okay, but it seems like EGG's position is that they licensed the game from the guy who owned it. If I wanted to license a game and publish it, and I have one person who owns the licence, and another guy who says he got cheated and even though the first guy holds the license, he shouldn't because it's not fair... do I walk away, do I try to unravel what's obviously a very complicated and lengthy he-said/he-said situation, or do I go ahead and deal with the guy who holds the rights?

It appears EGG did make an effort to pay Wallace to satisfy him, but they didn't offer enough.

I am not on EGG's side necessarily, but I'm also not seeing how they acted unethically, unless you believe there's a moral imperative to find the original designer of any game you want to publish and make sure he gets paid what he wants, even if he no longer holds the rights.
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Martin Wallace
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Hi David,

If Benno had come back with a decision that split the difference between John and I, then I would have probably agreed. I always thought that was the point of mediation, to seek a compromise that all parties would settle for.

You are correct, you cannot protect a design. Copyright only protects the expression of a set of rules, not the intent behind them. Trade mark protects a specific title, not the content. Thus you are right, there is no reason why EGG cannot go ahead and publish AoS. Having said that, that means any company can print any game they wish as long as they change the expression of the rules and the title. The only thing that stops most companies doing this is that it would hurt their image. I created AoS, which I feel gives me some form of ownership of that design. I sold that design to Mayfair. They then sold it on to FFG. Why should EGG be allowed to publish the game when another company has paid good money for it.

For the hobby to remain healthy designers should be financially rewarded for the work they do. If you follow the logic of your point then publishers could go ahead and print whatever games they want with no regard for the designers. I think that would be a bad thing. Companies need to know that such bad behaviour will impact on their reputation and their sales.

I hope that answers your question.

Martin
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Thank you for the clarifications Mr. Wallace. First of all, I really like your designs and enjoy them very much (Brass, London, Auztralia). I don’t own Age of Steam, and really don’t want to pass on this KS because I really like Mr. O’toole’s art, and the game design is great.

I’m curious. Is there anything at this point that can bring you, EGG and Mr. Bohrer together to find a solution? I think that everyone in this hobby would benefit and celebrate this. I’m alost certain that they’re reading all these posts as well. So please...
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Zirkonia wrote:
I’m curious. Is there anything at this point that can bring you, EGG and Mr. Bohrer together to find a solution? I think that everyone in this hobby would benefit and celebrate this. I’m alost certain that they’re reading all these posts as well. So please...


Considering this ordeal has been going on for more than a decade and at some point he was already offered royalties and refused, I'd say no there isn't.

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Hi Martin, there are several things that still (to me) look confusing:

1. Is the statement from EGG in 2009 correct and you didn't want your name in the rulebook/on the cover? What is the situation today? Are you against game being attributed to you as the designer even if no payments will be made?

2. Will there be an updated, up to 2019 standards in terms of components and graphics, version of Steam released this year? Is there a chance for Steam 2.0 this/next year?

3. Are you working on any new train games? AuZtralia was an amazing good surprise in more than one way.
 
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Frog1 wrote:
Well, I would have thought that was fairly obvious. A company is publishing one of my designs who has no right to do so. I think that is pretty serious. That company has a record of doing this repeatedly. Why is this company still in business? Why should such bad behaviour be ignored or even rewarded. As legal action is so expensive the only way to police the behaviour of companies is through public awareness. I am making the public aware that this company are behaving in a manner which is detrimental to the gaming hobby.

Martin


It must be noted that this line of reasoning yields slanderous results.
 
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deniswolf wrote:
Hi Martin, there are several things that still (to me) look confusing:

1. Is the statement from EGG in 2009 correct and you didn't want your name in the rulebook/on the cover? What is the situation today? Are you against game being attributed to you as the designer even if no payments will be made?

2. Will there be an updated, up to 2019 standards in terms of components and graphics, version of Steam released this year? Is there a chance for Steam 2.0 this/next year?

3. Are you working on any new train games? AuZtralia was an amazing good surprise in more than one way.


I did not want EGG to publish the game then. I do not want EGG to publish the game now. They do not have the rights to do so. John Bohrer does not own the rights to this game. Having my name on the cover is academic, as there should not be a cover for my name to appear on.

I am hoping FGG will produce a new version of Steam. I discussed this with them last year and they seem interested. The problem with big companies is that they move slowly.

I'm not actively working on a train game at this point in time. Having said that I do intend to return to the theme at some point in time. The original idea behind AoS was to produce something that looked nicer than 18xx. I want to create the best looking train game ever, matched with excellent rules. That will probably mean working with Roxley.

Martin
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I think everyone at Roxley just got overly excited with that comment Martin .
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If I am going to buy the game anyway, can I just PayPal you like ten bucks so I don't have to feel bad about it?
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Thank you for the detailed reply!

Frog1 wrote:

I'm not actively working on a train game at this point in time. Having said that I do intend to return to the theme at some point in time. The original idea behind AoS was to produce something that looked nicer than 18xx. I want to create the best looking train game ever, matched with excellent rules. That will probably mean working with Roxley.

Martin


So by 2029 The Train Game from Martin Wallace will be the one published by Roxley, I presume. This could be a happy resolution of the whole story, the same way it happened with Brass. Hooray to the bright possibilities!
 
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Frog1 wrote:

I did not want EGG to publish the game then. I do not want EGG to publish the game now. They do not have the rights to do so.

Martin


Hi Martin, I'm a little confused as you keep saying this but it's not really true is it?

You just admitted in your own comment further up that there is no legal issue with the EGG reprint so I'm not sure why you keep framing it as though EGG are infringing upon any legal rights.

Then you neglect to mention that EGG claim (and have provided some manner of evidence for) the contract sold them the rights to the game for an up front payment of £10,000; where again they can actually show the payment being made. Now I know you dispute that the rights were in fact sold in that contract, but there's absolutely nothing to show for this other than your word.

So the whole thing just devolves into a he said she said which let's face it isn't useful to anyone.

If there's no legal recourse here, and if only one side has provided any actual evidence to back up their claims, then the only question is one of ethics, right and wrong, of whether people were taken advantage of. That is an incredibly murky area and I don't think anyone commenting in this thread can really say one way or the other; nor could anyone in the last 10+ years.

So I guess I'm just struggling to understand what this post is for?
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What a waste. No one here actually understands what I am implying. I am referring to people's energies. Wrapped up in the minutia of unlawful behaviour by a corrupt system.

It would be great if someone could design a game about the misguided teachings and interpretation of the whole of our reality. This of course would require that the designer be completely in the know of how things work and the Flow of energies. Someday...perhaps?
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Thank you for explaining this with all the concise clarity of a Martin Wallace rulebook.
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