French board games publisher Wonder Dice has landed in hot water after being accused of plagiarizing elements of its forthcoming Alien-based game, Alien: USCSS Nostromo, from Nostromo, a game pitched to the company by game designer François Bachelart in 2010.
Concerns were first expressed in a statement from French board game designer collective Société des Auteurs de Jeux. The group showed the similarities between Bachelart’s unproduced project, most notably the settings and rules of both titles. More similarities were uncovered by Board Game Geek user Domitien AW, who uploaded a comparison of the rulebooks of the two games. While they aren’t identical, there are arguments that Wonder Dice did not change enough from Bachelart’s original product to claim their game as an unique product. Wonder Dice included no mention or credit of Bachelart when they unveiled the game.
Speaking to Kotaku, Wonder Dice CEO Aldébaran Geneste explained why Bachelart’s game was rejected, and refuted substantial connections between the company’s game and Bachelart’s. “Its principle was not fitting with [a] commercial target. So we had to design a fully new game. The only resemblance is the fact that the background is the Alien Universe and more specifically the Nostromo spacecraft,” said Geneste.
Bachelart revealed that Wonder Dice offered him a credit in the game’s manual and the opportunity to design a future game with the company once the similarities were uncovered, but he rejected the offer, wishing for Wonder Dice to to cease sale of the game immediately. “We thought this would be the best way to calm down all the defamation and insults we got from some people of the community,” said Geneste. Both the game’s website and Facebook page went dormant following Bachelart’s remarks.
Now, Wonder Dice is threatening legal action against anyone questioning the validity of their claims in a press release, deeming those who are critical of their practices as those who “participated [in] this lynching.” The statement also said that critics “will have to personally compensate” the company if the game doesn’t meet its sales goals as a result of the backlash.
“We have unfortunately experienced a concrete example of the way jealousy is exerted against people who succeed by their own hard work,” reads the company’s statement. “Fortunately, not everybody thinks that way and we sincerely thank all those who gave us their support during such hardship.”
The threats of litigation levied by Wonder Dice come shortly after French game developer Quantic Dream filed suit against two French media outlets for stories depicting the studio as mismanaged and unsafe. The key difference is that Wonder Dice appears to be targeting message board users, members of the board game community and advocacy groups like the SAJ with similar aggression, not journalists. The move is crass and alarming to the point that it might kill the game’s viability, even if Wonder Dice moves forward with its release.
The board game industry doesn’t allow for the trademarking of ideas, meaning Wonder Dice would be legally able to release their game despite the accusations of theft. The case against Wonder Dice will instead play out in the court of public opinion, and it doesn’t bode well for them. The board game industry is small and close-knit, and doesn’t shy away from publicizing issues that arise within it, especially when the charge is something as hefty as plagiarism.
The future of Wonder Dice’s game is unknown at the moment, though they seem to still be planning to release it at some point: “We give them appointment for the release of the game which is upcoming very soon now and to the numerous gamers who, we do not doubt, will spend delicious evenings and nights appreciating our ideas.”