If you own a smart phone, you are no doubt familiar with Zynga’s infamous Words with Friends. An almost exact copy of Scrabble, with some changes to point values of letters, Words with Friends became so popular it even spawned a board game to rival the very board game it originally ripped off.
Unknown to me until today, outside of the U.S.A. and Canada the Scrabble trademark is owned by Mattel. And Mattel has now attempted to enforce its trademarks against Zynga, taking the fight to the English Court System first to the High Courts and then to the Court of Appeals.
But strangely enough, NOT for Words with Friends. The straw that broke the toy company’s back in this case was Zynga’s release of Scramble with Friends. Zynga didn’t even rip off Scrabble in Scramble. In that game, they ripped off Boggle.
But Mattel actually holds a trademark (CTM) to not only Scrabble in England, but also the word Scramble as it applies to electronic games. And they petitioned the court over the similarity between the Scrabble and Scramble words, as well as a similarity present in the Scramble with Friends logo.
The High Court dismissed all of Mattel’s claims, after which Mattel went to Appeals for another go. Appeals instead found mostly in favor of Mattel. Scramble was indeed too similar to Scrabble, and while many generic uses of the term Scramble are all over the Internet the trademark is still valid on that too.
Will Zynga have to rebrand its game in the EU? There’s no word yet what the ruling will mean for the future. While the inability to trademark actual gameplay is just about an established legal fact, words and especially names will certainly get you into hot water. Going back to the example of Words with Friends, a visually and vocally dissimilar name attached to a clone of a game is obviously the winning combination.
Releasing at Essen, in October, from DLP Games is Orléans, a game designed by Reiner Stockhausen (Crazy Kick, Dolce Vita, Siberia). In this medieval themed game set in France, players must assemble various trade craftsmen like knights, farmers, merchants, and monks to dominate trade, construction, and science. The game is for 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up and a play time of 90 minutes. Components include 4 cloth bags, player boards, and merchant tokens, 40 trading stations, 28 wooden cubes, 104 tiles, 90 goods tiles.
Neuroshima Hex: Mississippi
In this army pack for Neuroshima Hex, the Mississippi army are ready to lay waste to their opponent’s headquarters with their toxic bombs. This faction also has a noticeable resistance to attacks and ability to bypass the enemy’s defense. However, the army’s disadvantages are a low number of Warriors, low mobility, low toughness, as well as a complete lack of armor. Pack contents include 35 army tiles, 5 wound markers, 2 HQ markers, 1 toxic bomb marker, and 5 venom markers.
Neuroshima Hex: Mephisto
In this army pack comes Mephisto. Mephisto is a giant worm, a unique synthesis of flesh and steel, which can be a serious threat to even well-armed forces. The contaminated crater, Mephisto’s territory, is a tempting shortcut route and a source of resources but it often becomes a graveyard for newcomers.
Neuroshima Hex: Sharrash
The main advantages of the Sharrash army are: mobility of HQ, the ability to blow up even the fastest enemy units and to paralyze the slower ones, and also bypassing enemy’s defense lines thanks to the mortars. Another advantage of the Sharrash is a difficult to eliminate Foundation Tile (Hole), which can easily thwart the enemy’s plans.
Boardgames That Tell Stories
A group of the finest boardgame designers answered Ignacy Trzewiczek’s invitation to take part in creating this 268 page book. They shared their anecdotes, tips and memories, making the book a unique trip over different designing styles, and a engaging guide through the world of boardgame creation. Featured guests include Bruno Cathala, Mike Selinker, Vlaada Chvatil, Antoine Bauza, and Michal Oracz.