Merchant of Venus was originally published back in 1988 by Avalon Hill. The game is an exploration and trade game set in space and is considered a ‘classic’ from Avalon Hill. Nowadays, you need to spend hundreds of dollars to pick up a copy in the second-hand market.
The good news is that Merchant of Venus is finally going to be republished. The bad news is that two companies both believe that they have licensed the rights to republish the game.
Fantasy Flight Games has licensed the republishing rights from Hasbro Inc, who purchased Avalon Hill back in 1988 and thus believes that they own the rights to the game.
Stronghold Games has licensed the rights from Richard Hamblen, the original designer of Merchant of Venus, who obviously believed that he had all rights to the game.
It is an unfortunate situation; both are excellent companies that were acting in good faith.
While the legal advisers sort the whole situation out, we the gamers can take solace in the fact that there WILL be a re-release of Merchant of Venus in the near future.
One thing that seems likely is that FFG will produce a revised edition of the game, while Stronghold would most likely reproduce the original (with improved components), and that most people will either prefer one or the other. Either will, I’m sure, still be excellent games. It kind of reminds me of the Original Trek vs. Next Generation debate that occurred way back when Next Generation made its debut. Today, it is generally agreed that both series have their own special place in the Trek universe.
With this in mind, it would seem the simplest solution would be for both companies to release their own versions, but is the gaming hobby market big enough to support multiple releases of the same game?
In the end, it will be a figured out by the lawyers and will depend on who actually owned the rights (which may be pretty fuzzy and not easy to decipher). It is just a shame that two great companies are in this situation, and that as a result we will most likely have to wait a little longer before a new generation of gamers gets to play this classic game.
Oh, and as to Original Trek vs. Next Generation. I was originally offended that they dared to make a new series with new characters and refused to watch the first season of Next Generation. My love for everything Star trek won out in the end, and I started watching ST:TNG. Now, although I love the original still, Next Generation is my favorite by far. I’m just not sure what would have happened if Next Generation and a reboot of the original series were released at the same time.
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I doubt we’ll see two editions of the game with the same title. What may happen is FFG will release Merchant of Venus, as they probably will win the battle for the rights, while Stronghold releases a new title based upon many of the mechanics of Mr. Hamblen’s original design. Two titles sporting the same name just won’t fly…
2 editions won’t be released of that I feel pretty certain. Out little niche hobby world is not big enough for to support 2 like that at all. If FFG gets it I doubt Stronghold will even attempt anything similar. Hell we had Duck Dealer which was a reworking (and in my opinion a very deserving and much improved version) of the game already. It’s unfortunate this happened no doubt, we just have to sit back and wait to see what pan out from it.
Maybe they’ll make a deal and one of them (probably Stronghld) will issue Magic Realm instead.