Feb 19 2020War Chest: Nobility adds four new units, as well as the all new Royal Decree cards. These cards give both players powerful actions that can be taken once per game. The new units have powerful board-impacting abilities that can only be brought to bear by those of noble birth! And those who may have gained power in other ways, such as the clergy.Read More →
Feb 19 2020In Inner Compass, you play as one of four characters searching for meaning in their everyday lives. (Sound familiar?) Make the right life choices, experience the full spectrum of emotions, create meaningful memories, and — ultimately — find your own inner compass. The most enlightened player wins!Read More →
Feb 19 2020In Santa Monica you are developing a beachfront community in sunny southern California! You’ll need to attract tourists, provide interesting things for them to do, build up your boardwalk and your oceanfront attractions and keep the locals happy.Read More →
Feb 19 2020
Hey check out the cool new Registered Trademark AEG Logo. Yep, we are officially official now.
Pretty Snazzy. Looks like we should go back and change the files on our product reprints so we can show off our cool new logo.
What does it mean to have “registered” a trademark? Registration is a formal process where an application is submitted to the US Patent & Trademark Office (the “USPTO”) and an examiner reviews the application to determine if the mark is legally able to be registered. The mark is then published for objection and anyone anywhere who believes that the mark should not be registered can object. Once that comment period passes without objection, the USPTO issues a notice of registration and the owner of the mark is legally allowed to denote that the mark has been registered by using the ® symbol.
Anyone can claim a trademark by using the symbol. That’s called a “common law” trademark. It indicates that the mark is considered a trademark by whomever is using it. Once you claim a common law trademark you have to be ready to defend it, protesting any use of that mark by an unauthorized 3rd party. If you want to fight about the matter in court, the outcome can be bad – you might lose the right to use the mark and you might end up paying legal fees to the other parties. If you win, at most you’re likely to be able to stop the use of the mark by the other party but you probably won’t recoup any damages or your legal fees.
Registered Trademarks are much better protected. You still need to actively work to ensure that nobody is using your mark without permission, but in a dispute you have a lot of leverage – the USPTO has set the bar high for someone to dispute your ownership. Plus, you will have a better chance to recoup damages and legal fees. These advantages mean that most of the time you won’t face much risk of someone using your registered trademark without permission.
Getting the mark registered has additional benefits. There are large ecommerce systems which provide protections to companies that are in their Brand Registry, which you can only join if your mark is registered. And if you want to pursue registration of your trademark outside the US, it helps a lot if you have already gotten your mark registered by the USPTO.
This is one of those things that I knew we had talked about but I had not realized someone had set it into motion at the company. I was very excited that we had been approved and also very relieved.
Why? What is the worst thing that could happen when you try to register a trademark?
Oh, I don’t know, the United States Olympic Committee could give you a call and tell you that you must stop using the logo for your samurai game because it is protected by an act of Congress.
That is right, five Interlocking rings are protected by an act of Congress. Not just the Olympics Logo but linking five rings together.
And you see…our little Samurai game had five interlocking rings.
Does this look like the Olympics Logo? Nope. Does it matter? Nope.
We applied to register the L5R trademark and then we got the letter: “You must cease and desist use of your logo immediately” Sincerely, the USOC.
Did I forget to mention that we got this letter just as we were in the process of selling Five Rings Publishing Group to Wizards of the Coast? No? Well I can tell you that having to notify the other side in a transaction that there may be a teensy tiny problem with the intellectual property at the heart of a planned acquisition can set off a tsunami of problems…
We all freaked. Changing a logo is not the end of the world, but it is when it is on the back of every card you have printed. In their defense the USOC was pretty cool. After I calmed down my team got on the phone and explained our situation. Stopping now would kill our company. We could phase out the logo over the next nine months to a year and probably make it work. They were cool with that and a new logo was created.
So did we register the new L5R logo? Absolutely not. We had kicked enough ant hills for the time being and we had bigger fish to fry. We successfully transitioned the game from one card back to the other and were satisfied with a over the ® .
Ever since, we’ve been leary of pursuing registration for our trademarks. Fool me once and all. But as the tabletop gaming market has exploded with new publishers and an avalanche of new products, and as we’re going global and selling in Asia and Europe, we’re increasingly concerned with the ability we might have to respond to someone flagrantly trying to rip us off, or even just get leverage over us in a negotiation for sublicensing.
We’re very happy that we’ve gotten the registration for our logo and for our company name, and that we didn’t get any surprises from enormously powerful quasi-governmental agencies this time!
Feb 19 2020Every spring, millions of monarch butterflies leave Mexico to spread out across eastern North America. Every fall, millions fly back to Mexico. However, no single butterfly ever makes the round trip. Mariposas is a game of movement and set collection that lets players be part of this amazing journey.Read More →
Feb 19 2020In Tiny Towns: Fortune, the creatures of the forest have found a way to trick each other into thinking shiny bits of metal have arbitrary value. It's very useful so much so that you can use this thing called "money" to get other creatures to give you almost anything in return for the right number of shiny bits. If only earning money weren't so difficult!Read More →
Feb 19 2020This expansion features new advancements and vale cards that add variety and new twists to old concepts. Some new advancements have additional resources that can be activated if you have the required icons on the card. The new level 4 advancements offer tremendous power but are also the most expensive cards in the game. Read More →
Feb 9 2020
After three days of play at Gencon 1997, the players remaining in the L5R championship event had been reduced to the final 16 contestants. We had decided long before the show that we would clear out our booth (at the time I think it was a 20 by 30 island) and play the finals right there on the floor of Gen Con exhibitors room. We had done it the year prior without much incident.
This was the last time Gen Con would let that happen.
Imagine a major CCG finale being crammed into a 20 by 30 booth in a convention hall. 8 player tables, judges, staff, and then the throng of people wanting to watch the finale. Heck there were 200 L5R players that had been eliminated from the event plus people who had been following the story. It was a madhouse from start to finish. We did not imagine that so many people would want to watch the finals of the event but the legend of L5R had grown and not only L5R players were there to see the finals. My continued apologies to the companies with booths around us that year. It was not cool to block the aisles all day Sunday. Well, it was cool, but we wouldn’t do it again.
All of the Major Clans were represented on the final day. We were prepared to put on a show. John Wick had prepared envelopes in the possibility of each Clan winning. After the first round of play a number of Clans were knocked out and John got up on a chair, and being the great story teller and GM he is, began weaving the tale of the final battle AND as he did so would rip up the envelopes of the eliminated Clans. It was very dramatic. In the round of 8, the final Shadowlands player was eliminated and everyone cheered. The Emerald Empire was saved. In the final 4 was Crane vs Phoenix and Lion vs Phoenix.
A Crane vs Lion finale was a dream finals scenario for us considering how prominent Doji Hoturi and Toturi were in the story. But before that happened the Shadowlands had one last word. You see, five Phoenix clan players had made a pact before the event began. They were each playing for one of the elemental masters of the Phoenix and some of them had turned to the Shadowlands for help. When the final Phoenix player was eliminated he jumped up and took off his Phoenix shirt and underneath was a Shadowlands shirt. He screamed to the crowd. “I played for Isawa Tadaka the tainted master of earth!!! If I had won Gencon…. There would be 1000 years of darkness.” A hush from the crowd and then another cheer. Holy crap you cannot make this stuff up. THAT is why the L5R story worked. Because that player believed that he had a level of ownership over the L5R story. And he was right! If he had won we would have plunged the Empire into the depths of the Shadowlands.
Then things got strange in only the way they can at an L5R event. Dave Williams Recalls that the he two finalist did not want to play each other. They just wanted to make sure the story ended the way they wanted. We literally and to convince them to play. After they agreed to play their match, they played as hard as they could until the final game where the Lion player had an overwhelming force to send to attack the Crane’s final province. He declared the attack, pushed the army forward and looked up at the Crane player.
“Is that it?”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
They NEVER resolved the attack or ended the game. Everyone knew who the winner was, but they would NOT defeat each other. It had to be Toturi & Hoturi defeating the Dark Lord together. That’s all that mattered. In the end, the Lion Clan won Gencon but the first L5R story got a storybook ending in large part due to the players.
Rich Fukataki who was instrumental in bringing Pokemon to Wizards of the Coast was at the event and called it the greatest marketing event he had ever seen. How could we know that ownership of the story was so powerful. When L5R was at it’s best the players were the true masters of the story. The belief that if you were a champion or did something super cool for the community you would influence canon and become a legend yourself was as powerful as anything we have ever done.
At some point near the end of that Sunday, Ryan Dancey put his arm around me and said ”You were right Z. I’m glad we are continuing this game.”
At Gencon that year we looked like the king goose on the pond, and we were. What was surprising to us was that Wizards of the Coast had purchased FRPG that same summer and there was almost no news or talk about that at Gencon. L5R was already tied up in a very confusing partnership with AEG, FRPG, and Isomedia and many people felt that AEG was the publisher so for the first part of that time it was not big news. How it happened was as unbelievable a story as the ones we were weaving in our games. I’ll jump back to that story next.
Feb 6 2020
Non-gamers would think it is strange that each day when I watch the news about the corona virus I think about a game. I do. I am betting anyone who has played Pandemic has thought about that game recently and I would also think that anyone who has played that game understands a lot about how these things can get out of control.
I already tend to lean towards being a germaphobe. I am not quite Howard Hughes, but I have hard rules at AEG about staying home and getting well when you have the flu, a cold, or any other illness. I do not reward the idea of toughing it out and coming to work. Stay home, it’s 2020, you can work from your bed if you must.
It sounds like China is already doing quite a bit to lock this down but it is very likely to get worse before it gets better. Many Chinese factory workers live in one place and work in another. They migrate between home and work during holidays. China already extended the new year holiday to the 10th of this month to have workers stay home for a longer period of time. We have verified with our partners in China that there is a lot of fear surrounding the virus and many people are not leaving their homes. There is a good chance that the holiday will again be extended, and even if it is not, there is a good chance that many workers will choose not to return to work until they think it is safe.
So what do we do about products, delays, and release dates?
Nothing. We do nothing. We don’t complain, we don’t push, we avoid being that moron in the Jaws movie who tells everyone it’s safe to go back in the water. It’s safe when it’s safe. Our first and only priority is to support those that have to consider the health and safety of the people we work with in China.
I don’t have any real clue how bad it is other than reports from friends in China and reports on our news. We hope that it will be contained and over soon for our friends and basically for everyone. I do know that gamers should be smart enough to know you do not screw with a cooperative game when the cost is being counted in real lives. Need a reminder? Break out a copy of Pandemic, or Virus, or Viral, or just about any Zombie game and hope that we have some gamers that know how to beat these games in charge of beating this thing in real life.
2/4/2020 – As of now no-one is reporting to us that we will miss print and ship deadlines, but if it happens our plan is to roll with it and support our partners. We will keep you updated.
Jan 16 2020
As a company making fewer new games I also felt that I should also talk about expansions to those games. I personally love a good new expansion for my games. It is a great reason to bring the game back to table for a fresh and interesting play.
I also understand that expansions were a big part of AEG’s business plan for many years. CCGs and RPGs are built to be expanded and that is often how the long tail money is made and also how you keep players engaged in those games. As we transitioned into card games the expansions continued. Thunderstone, Smash-Up, and even Mystic Vale all IMO benefited from expansions.
We also tried to expand some games that did not need it like Fantahzee.
Many retailers are now saying that they do not love games with lots of expansions. The expansions are harder to keep stocked in stores. There is the fact that an expansion is targeted at a smaller audience of people who already own the base game so the market for an expansion, even a great one, is determined by size of the active customer base.
So where have we landed on expansions as we grow and change as a company?
We currently have quite a few expansions into development. But only about 50% are making the final cut. We are not automatically assuming a game will get expansions before it is published. We are also not putting expansions on a timeline-based development schedule. Anyone who follows AEG knows that Smash Up expansions have come out every spring and fall for quite a few years, and internally we normally set a release date and work backwards from that date.
That has changed. We now have a target date for completion of development for expansions but it is not tied to a release date. This gives the designers and developers a date to hit without it being etched in stone and also without the company counting on that expansion for cash flow projections purposes.
Our track record for making great expansions is very good so I am not saying that we have made these changes because we feel our products were not great. They are great. Our goal is to alleviate some of the bad stress associated with developing on a schedule and replace it with good stress based on quality of work.
We could have rushed out the Tiny Towns expansion so that it hit in time for Holiday sales last year but it was not quite ready so it is releasing in February. It is awesome BTW. There is no spring expansion for Smash-Up which means we are shaking up that release schedule as well. (News about Smash Up in 2020 is coming in March). I am desperate for another Space Base expansion but the gears have not clicked together yet and so we continue to work and play. (It’s tough work but someone has to do it)
I have also approved the idea of micro expansions. We have some very cool ideas that don’t require a full expansion so look for these in the future.
The funny thing is that we have published fewer games, but made more hits, which means that there are better opportunities for exansions. It is wonderfully chaotic and fun and hard to balance but we are loving it.
I know we have officially announced expansions for Tiny Towns, Mystic Vale, and Cat Lady coming in the next few months and I have approved final game play for expansions for a number of other projects. Just know that when you see expansions on our schedule they are under the same watchful eye as our new games.