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Quick question about rules on Kickstarter regarding board games.

billwillbillwill Registered User regular
edited December 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
I'm working on a larger board game, but I'd like to wet my feet concerning the whole process by publishing something a little smaller first.

My friends and I have an alternative way of playing Cranium. It requires a board and a separate set of rules, but other than that, it uses all of the category boxes and pieces from the original Cranium set.

Is it legal to raise money and distribute this board and alternative rule set? I wouldn't actually be distributing Cranium, so any potential buyers would still need the game itself.

I seem to remember seeing a project on Kickstarter where a person (who had his project fully funded, if I remember correctly) basically redesigned pieces for a popular board game and sold those because the ones currently available were inadequate. If that was allowed, mine should be, right? The only potential concern I see with my product is obviously copyright, but would that just be alleviated by not advertising the product as being like a "Cranium Expansion" or whatever?

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  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited December 2011
    How else would you advertise it? You'd have to let people know somehow that it's for use with Cranium. I can't imagine they'd be too pleased about that. You're going to need to talk to a lawyer. I know there's a few floating around here somewhere.

    Esh on
  • billwillbillwill Registered User regular
    Esh wrote:
    How else would you advertise it? You'd have to let people know somehow that it's for use with Cranium. I can't imagine they'd be too pleased about that. You're going to need to talk to a lawyer. I know there's a few floating around here somewhere.

    Well I mean I would still say it's for use with Cranium, but I wouldn't present it in an official manner.

    The way I think of it is it's legal for someone to produce a cup holder for a car and say it's compatible with so-and-so automobile models, correct? This seems like pretty much the same thing to me. My product would just be compatible for Cranium.

    But yes, I really don't know anything about this, so hopefully a lawyer drops by.

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  • MushroomStickMushroomStick Registered User regular
    Why don't you just use not Cranium branded, generic parts for your game? Its not like they have a patent on dice or anything.

  • billwillbillwill Registered User regular
    Why don't you just use not Cranium branded, generic parts for your game? Its not like they have a patent on dice or anything.

    Because they have all those trivia cards. Probably like three hundred total. And I just don't have the time or the skill to create enough questions and topics that manage to stay varied but are still relatively balanced.

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  • corky842corky842 Registered User regular
    What if you tweaked your rules a bit to allow for questions from Trivial Pursuit or something? Then you could put on the box: "Requires trivia cards from another game such as (list all the games you've tested it with), Cranium is recommended"

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  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    corky842 wrote:
    What if you tweaked your rules a bit to allow for questions from Trivial Pursuit or something? Then you could put on the box: "Requires trivia cards from another game such as (list all the games you've tested it with), Cranium is recommended"

    I've never played Cranium, but I'm assuming it uses a different set of categories than Trivial Pursuit? How would they both work with the same "game"?

  • corky842corky842 Registered User regular
    That's what I meant by tweaking it. You're using the cards from Cranium? Use the base rules. Using game B? Use these slightly different section of rules that tell you what trivia category to use.

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  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    corky842 wrote:
    That's what I meant by tweaking it. You're using the cards from Cranium? Use the base rules. Using game B? Use these slightly different section of rules that tell you what trivia category to use.

    Then he'd have issues with two different companies.

  • AiouaAioua Ora Occidens Ora OptimaRegistered User regular
    I'm pretty sure these kind of things come down to how much of the other IP you use. Like is your custom rulebook going to have to mention the trivia cards? Because IIRC the card cartegories all have "clever" trademarked names. So you either have to awkwardly work around them, or risk putting those in.
    At any rate, the more popular it is the more likely you get sued as a matter of course. I'm pretty sure it's fair use, but do you have the resources to defend yourself against Hasbro's lawyer army?

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  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    You might also try contacting Hasbro directly to find out what you can and can't do with their board games.
    They might have a FAQ or something on their website, or at least some contact information. Failing that, post something on their Facebook or drop them a tweet.

    You don't have to put any details, just "My friends and I have an alternative way of playing Cranium. It requires a board and a separate set of rules, but other than that, it uses all of the category boxes and pieces from the original Cranium set.
    Is it legal to raise money and distribute this board and alternative rule set?" should be sufficient.

    Ringo wrote: »
    Well except what see317 said. That guy's always wrong.
  • MushroomStickMushroomStick Registered User regular
    billwill wrote:
    Why don't you just use not Cranium branded, generic parts for your game? Its not like they have a patent on dice or anything.

    Because they have all those trivia cards. Probably like three hundred total. And I just don't have the time or the skill to create enough questions and topics that manage to stay varied but are still relatively balanced.

    Honestly, this is sounding more like the kind of thing where you'd just make a pdf of your house rules with a printable alternative board available for free on boardgamegeek or something.

  • billwillbillwill Registered User regular
    Aioua wrote:
    I'm pretty sure these kind of things come down to how much of the other IP you use. Like is your custom rulebook going to have to mention the trivia cards? Because IIRC the card cartegories all have "clever" trademarked names. So you either have to awkwardly work around them, or risk putting those in.
    At any rate, the more popular it is the more likely you get sued as a matter of course. I'm pretty sure it's fair use, but do you have the resources to defend yourself against Hasbro's lawyer army?

    Yeah they do have clever names, but I would refer to them by the color of their category.

    And I don't want this to be extremely popular. This is just to wet my feet with Kickstarter. I don't want to raise more than a grand for this. It's one and done... I'm not really worried about Hasbro suing, more I'm hoping that Kickstarter won't randomly take down my project because they think it violates copyright. Which I'm fairly certain it doesn't, but I just want to be sure.

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  • FyreWulffFyreWulff Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited December 2011
    I think in this case you're just going to have to do the dirty work and replace the vestigial bits of Cranium that your game still uses. 300 Trivia questions seems like a lot but you can push through and get those done within a couple of weeks - remember that this is the first draft, so don't waste too much time writing them up, you can always go back and improve them later. Heck, just write up 100 at first and beta test the game that way.

    FyreWulff on
  • RialeRiale Registered User
    billwill wrote:
    Why don't you just use not Cranium branded, generic parts for your game? Its not like they have a patent on dice or anything.

    Because they have all those trivia cards. Probably like three hundred total. And I just don't have the time or the skill to create enough questions and topics that manage to stay varied but are still relatively balanced.

    This is the key, to me. You're asking people on Kickstarter to raise funds for your project. What is assumed in this is that you are providing a product of some kind, that is, you are putting in some modicum of work. If your product is worthwhile, people will fund you, otherwise they will not. This is the basis of Kickstarter.

    By saying that creating the cards takes too much 'time and skill' and that it is easier for you to use the trivia cards from Cranium, is essentially saying that you will be selling the hard work of someone else (in this case the creators of Cranium) and that's bad.

    If you want to raise funding on Kickstarter, a better idea would be to brainstorm some trivia questions of your own, perhaps using Cranium as a launching point. This is how games get made. There's a lot of work involved in the process. If you don't have the time for this, I don't think Kickstarter would be an appropriate avenue. You would be better off simply creating a .pdf as another poster suggesting and uploading your ruleset (because right now this sounds like a custom ruleset rather than a new game) to a place with interest in it.

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  • MushroomStickMushroomStick Registered User regular
    edited December 2011
    billwill wrote:
    And I don't want this to be extremely popular. This is just to wet my feet with Kickstarter. I don't want to raise more than a grand for this. It's one and done... I'm not really worried about Hasbro suing, more I'm hoping that Kickstarter won't randomly take down my project because they think it violates copyright. Which I'm fairly certain it doesn't, but I just want to be sure.

    A thousand dollars to develop a text file and maybe an image file for a board? The scope of this project is too small to warrant that. Now, if you were to go ahead and make all your own cards and stuff, then maybe you've got a project worth investing in. Also, you would learn a lot more about publishing a board game that way.

    MushroomStick on
  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    billwill wrote:
    And I don't want this to be extremely popular. This is just to wet my feet with Kickstarter. I don't want to raise more than a grand for this. It's one and done... I'm not really worried about Hasbro suing, more I'm hoping that Kickstarter won't randomly take down my project because they think it violates copyright. Which I'm fairly certain it doesn't, but I just want to be sure.

    This is not what Kickstarter is for. At all.

  • billwillbillwill Registered User regular
    edited December 2011
    To clarify a few things:

    The board doesn't just rearrange the movement of the pieces. It fundamentally changes how the game is played. I still have done (and will have to do) much research in order to ensure that it stays balanced.

    And I'm not saying I need a thousand dollars to develop this. The way I see every incentive for board games on Kickstarter is that after you donate a certain amount of money, you get a copy of that game. It essentially is a pre-sale for that game. I would be producing the alternative board (and maybe including a few extra pieces) and distributing that. I just said a grand off the cuff to show that I'm not looking to make this a huge thing, as many of the board games on Kickstarter look to raise over ten thousand dollars sometimes. Just to clarify, I'm not raising money for the research, but the distribution. And I wouldn't do it for profit. Based off the research I've done, I can make and distribute the board for ten dollars a pop. I would most likely just set the donation goal as low as possible.

    And Esh, Kickstarter is a way to "fund creative projects." Which is what this is.

    billwill on
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  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    If you dont want to risk anything, the answer is to make your own board and make your own questions. You wont be able to cleverly say "Use a cranium board and all their cards for our game" without gaining some suspicion from kickstarter and Hasbro. For the most part, the only thing that there is for cranium to protect is their brand name and the assets, You cant just sell a game that requires their brand and assets without some risk. Its less like making an accessory to a game, and more like stealing all the sprites out of mario and making your own game then selling it. Its not that it hasn't been done, but I wouldn't try to make a kick starter for it.

  • MushroomStickMushroomStick Registered User regular
    billwill wrote:
    To clarify a few things:

    The board doesn't just rearrange the movement of the pieces. It fundamentally changes how the game is played. I still have done (and will have to do) much research in order to ensure that it stays balanced.

    And I'm not saying I need a thousand dollars to develop this. The way I see every incentive for board games on Kickstarter is that after you donate a certain amount of money, you get a copy of that game. It essentially is a pre-sale for that game. I would be producing the alternative board (and maybe including a few extra pieces) and distributing that. I just said a grand off the cuff to show that I'm not looking to make this a huge thing, as many of the board games on Kickstarter look to raise over ten thousand dollars sometimes. Just to clarify, I'm not raising money for the research, but the distribution. And I wouldn't do it for profit. Based off the research I've done, I can make and distribute the board for ten dollars a pop. I would most likely just set the donation goal as low as possible.

    And Esh, Kickstarter is a way to "fund creative projects." Which is what this is.

    While this project may not necessarily violate the terms of Kickstarter, a trivia game that uses another trivia game's... trivia just doesn't sound like something many would donate into. Like I suggested earlier, what it sounds like you want to do could be accomplished by releasing a pdf with your alternative rules and board for free.

  • Skoal CatSkoal Cat Registered User
    Cheapass Board games sells games that require other game pieces, but as far as I know, it is always not game specific.
    Example, character tokens, trivia cards, spinner, all generic equipment.

    ceres wrote: »
    Skoal Cat is correct.
  • mr_michmr_mich Registered User regular
    You may want to check this site instead of Kickstarter, as it seems more appropriate for your project: https://www.thegamecrafter.com/

    You design art and choose pieces/packaging and can either order a bunch and ship them out yourself, or have them packaged on-demand for each order (at a higher unit cost). Kickstarter is a way to crowd source venture capital on a micro-level, not...this.

  • JohnnyCacheJohnnyCache Starting Defense Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    billwill wrote:
    Aioua wrote:
    I'm pretty sure these kind of things come down to how much of the other IP you use. Like is your custom rulebook going to have to mention the trivia cards? Because IIRC the card cartegories all have "clever" trademarked names. So you either have to awkwardly work around them, or risk putting those in.
    At any rate, the more popular it is the more likely you get sued as a matter of course. I'm pretty sure it's fair use, but do you have the resources to defend yourself against Hasbro's lawyer army?

    Yeah they do have clever names, but I would refer to them by the color of their category.

    And I don't want this to be extremely popular. This is just to wet my feet with Kickstarter. I don't want to raise more than a grand for this. It's one and done... I'm not really worried about Hasbro suing, more I'm hoping that Kickstarter won't randomly take down my project because they think it violates copyright. Which I'm fairly certain it doesn't, but I just want to be sure.

    Why do you need to "wet your feet" with kickstarter? PLEASE don't post bloated kickstarters. Kickstarter works because it has a strong community. SELLING an idea for 1000 dollars "one and done" so that you have 1000 bucks to work on your REAL project isn't against the letter of kickstarter policy, but it's kind of shitty. Kickstarter is for funding things. Not for selling things, per se. That's what ebay or amazon marketplace are for.

    Now that I've wagged my finger:

    Board games are tricky. They are two properties. There's the mechanics of the game, itself. This is actually, believe it or not, patented like a device. Only WHOLE games and genuinely innovative mechanics can be patented, not rolling mechanics or concepts like integers representing a characters health. This is rather subjective - new gambling games invented for casinos are usually granted patents, and the makers of magic have a very questionable patent on the concept of "tapping" cards, but other basic game mechanics have been ruled "necessary and basic" to the industry and thus unreservable.

    Then there is the IP. The IP is the actual copy text of the materials and the brand of the game/game world. It's also very dodgy, because original fiction and design can be copyrighted, but mechanics, numbers, etc really cannot.

    So for example, Games Workshop (the people that make Warhammer) can't patent "Space Marines" because that's a very generic term. They can't patent "Rolling a d6 vs a target number" - but they can copyright the text of their rulebook, the look of their charts (but not the numbers on them), and the proper names of the space marines and their home planets. But some of them are derivative. So Games Workshop can own IP on "Ultramarines" and the use of "Ultramarine" as a proper name for a space marine, but they can't copyright the word ultramarine - it's a color.

    These thing generally get settled on a case by case basis and they are VERY capricious. For example, one court found someone couldn't say things were "recommended" for use with Dungeons and Dragons, but they could say it was "Compatible"

    Another ruled the concept of using points for health couldn't be reserved, but the term "health points" could be copywritten. The alleged infringer changed their nomenclature to "health points" and was able to publish without challenge.

    Back to wagging my finger:

    Game design is a small world and what you're planning to do is not going to be well received by the people who will be reviewing, distributing and shelving your product. It could substantially damage your larger, original endeavor's business reputation down the road. Ask yourself if it's really worth doing.

    My advice: Codify your improvements. Write down how you feel you've improved cranium. And write your own game along those lines. If you need a bunch of trivia questions written but you're lazy or busy, go to a site like elance.com and hire someone in india to do it cheap. Like I bet you wouldn't spend 150 on it.

    JohnnyCache on
  • billwillbillwill Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    Thanks guys, especially JohnnyCache; the advice has all been very useful.

    There are a few things that I am confused about, however; I didn't mean for anyone to take offense.

    Kickstarter is a place to raise money for ideas. And while it is for funding things, I've noticed in every listing for a board game, the incentive is to receive the actual board game. So for that category, at least, Kickstarter seems to be used essentially just to pre-sell.

    JohnnyCache: I'd be using virtually every cent to fund and distribute the idea I posted in this thread. I don't want to raise 1,000 bucks for one project and then use it for another; that's obviously extremely immoral. When I say "wet my feet," I'm referring to the fact that I don't want my first project to be a huge undertaking. I need experience and knowledge of how everything functions before I want to post my more ambitious game. And the way to do that is with smaller projects first, no?

    billwill on
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  • MushroomStickMushroomStick Registered User regular
    What we've been trying to get across is that kickstarter isn't really for your practice game, but it is for when the time comes with the more ambitious one.

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