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Screwed By The Lawyers / Tabletop Games

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  • The owners of the Legend of the Five Rings card game were forced to change the art on the card backs because, according to the International Olympic Committee, it was too similar to the design of the Olympic rings. (For a Collectible Card Game, changing the card backs is pretty much a death sentence for the value of any cards made pre-change.)
  • A popular game from Cheapass Games was "Before I Kill You, Mister Bond". (The premise was that villains don't just shoot the captured agent because he's worth more points if he's taunted a few times first.) It was pulled off the market after a cease-and-desist from MGM, and reissued as "Before I Kill You, Mister Spy". MGM didn't like that one either. Cheapass later re-released the game as "James Ernest's Totally Renamed Spy Game", and so far seems to have not garnered any attention from MGM again.
  • In the 1970s, TSR narrowly avoided a lawsuit from Chaosium when they tried to incorporate the Cthulhu Mythos into the nascent Dungeons & Dragons. Chaosium, who had been sold the right to produce Lovecraft-related board games by copyright holder Arkham House, stipulated that TSR could keep the content if they credited Chaosium's "Call of Cthulhu" series. TSR backed down and removed the content instead.
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    • A similar situation occurred with Elric material, Chaosium owning the rights and TSR publishing some content. It didn't help that Michael Moorcock failed to realize that two different companies were involved and approved TSR's publishing material he had licensed to Chaosium. The situation was resolved as with the Cthulhu material.
    • TSR also produced a board game called The Battle of the Five Armies in the mid-70s based on The Hobbit. They were forced to remove it from the market because they did not license it with the Tolkien estate before hand. The more Tolkien-inspired aspects of Dungeons & Dragons disappeared soon after, or were renamed as more lawyer-friendly versions (hobbits became halflings, ents became treants, etc.).
  • After Gary Gygax was forced out of TSR he decided to create a new fantasy role-playing game with Game Designers Workshop. He was going to call it Dangerous Dimensions, but when TSR threatened a lawsuit saying "DD" was too close to "D&D" he changed it to Dangerous Journeys. The first few books were produced, then TSR sued anyway for copyright infringement, seemingly based on the idea that it was an updated version of D&D. In an out-of-court settlement they ended up buying the rights to the game, and they immediately shelved it.
  • When BattleTech first debuted, it made liberal use of 'Mech designs licensed from various Japanese animes. Problem was that they weren't properly licensed, and Harmony Gold, the American distributor and owner of these designs, took issue with the 'Mechs. They are now called the Unseen. In summer of 2015, Catalyst Gaming Labs, the company that produces BattleTech, announced that after years of trying to resecure the rights to the Unseen images, they had instead decided to retcon their appearance using new, created-by-Catalyst artwork that was similar to their original appearances while being just different enough to keep the lawyers happy.
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    • Even worse, there is, officially no first edition of BattleTech at all. The first edition was actually a game called "BattleDroids". The word "droid" is a registered trademark of Lucasfilm. Depending on who you talk to, either Lucas' lawyers sent a letter to FASA, or FASA voluntarily decided to change the name to curry favor with Lucasfilm as groundwork for (ultimately unsuccessful) negotiations to do a Star Wars RPG. Either way, FASA took the opportunity to refine the game while renaming it.
    • The events that led to the Unseen involved another example of being screwed by the lawyers: FASA filed a lawsuit against Playmate Toys due to their unlicensed use of the likeness of one of BattleTech's iconic mechs for a toy for the Exo Squad toy line. The court ruled in FASA's favor that it was a violation of their copyright, but also ruled that FASA wasn't due any money since it didn't directly compete with their own products. It was about this time that they realized that they didn't actually have the rights to the Unseen and stopped using them before Harmony Gold went after them.
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  • The Pokémon trading card game: The franchise's owners were sued by self-proclaimed psychic Uri Gellar, who claimed they used his persona in a negative way as Kadabra. The company won, saying it didn't base Pokemon on people (although Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan and Wobbuffet may beg to differ, and, in all fairness, the Japanese name for the mon, "Yungerrer", and said mon's use of bending spoons to demonstrate psychic powers are clear references), but there still hasn't been a release since then of a Kadabra card in the game. Oddly, Abra and Alakazam do show up, even though (since older cards, including all printed Kadabra cards, are disallowed in tournaments) Alakazam can only be played nowadays with special cards allowing the playing of evolved Pokemon, or in the case of a few Japanese releases, as special variants that don't count as evolved at all.
  • When White Wolf released their sci-fi game Æon, they ran afoul of MTV, who saw it as challenging their trademarks for Æon Flux. WW settled things by renaming Æon to Trinity; as a result, copies of the original corebook with the Æon name are much sought after. The new edition gets around the issue by making the full title Trinity Continuum: Æon, which is apparently different enough for the lawyers.
  • Games Workshop loves this trope, as seen under "Damnatus" in the Fan Works section, among others. However, one case ultimately resulted in Hoist by His Own Petard, which was a legal battle with Chapterhouse Studios, a third-party that creates bits and models that aren't available from either GW or their subsidiary Forge World. Chapterhouse Studios won the battle because the judge in question had done extensive research into both companies and the subject, then ruled that he saw in no sensible way how Games Workshop had created their own "style" which in turn could be legally copyrighted (only having Shoulders of Doom and skull iconography doesn't cut it). He also judged that Games Workshop cannot copyright models they don't produce (Chapterhouse Studios for example offered full kits that could be used for Warhammer 40,000 since Games Workshop had no actual models released in these cases, only rules). GW, spiteful, then proceeded to pull everything they did not have a model for from their later rule books. Hoist by His Own Petard finally kicked in when the fans of the game, upset about the removal of beloved units and heroes, dialed down shopping which contributed to GW's long string of failing sales.
    • They later did it again when they released Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, renaming their Orc, Elf and Dwarf factions with trademarkable but ridiculous names "Orruk", "Aelf" and "Duardin", among others.
    • This trend would continue with 40K when GW tried but failed to trademark the name "Space Marine." This resulted in the Imperial Guard being officially renamed to the Astra Militarum, and would continue with the release of the Gathering Storm supplements and the 8th edition rules by changing the Eldar race to the Aeldari (as the word 'Eldar' was coined by J. R. R. Tolkien to describe the elves), the Craftworld Eldar to the Asuryani or simply Craftworlders, the Dark Eldar to the Drukhari, and the Tau race to the name of their homeworld, T'au.
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