22 February 2018
Samuel Bailey claims Cole Wehrle based Root on sci-fi strategy game
Deep: Enemy Frontier, the sci-fi strategy game with echoes of cave-exploring adventure Vast: The Crystal Cavern, has been cancelled as part of the fallout between its designer and the studio set to publish it.
Leder Games announced that it would be bringing out Samuel Bailey’s asymmetric strategy design last spring. This week, however, the publisher announced that it had decided to drop the project, but had plans to resurrect the name, concept and theme at some point in the future with a different title, with Bailey retaining his gameplay design.
The announcement in a BoardGameGeek thread quickly turned sour, though, as Bailey responded to the news with a lengthy post claiming that he should legally be entitled to the overall rights to the game and its theme according to the contract signed by the designer and studio.
He went on to accuse Leder of ‘plagiarising’ his ideas in upcoming game Root, an asymmetric fantasy strategy game designed by Cole Wehrle that raised more than $600,000 on Kickstarter.
“Leder Games did not only steal a years [sic] worth of time and effort from me, not only did they plagiarize my concepts and mechanics for their game Root, but now they are trying to strip half the game I had made away from me in an effort to make it again themselves,” Bailey wrote.
The thread continued to get messier, as Wehrle jumped in to defend against the accusations, attacking Bailey for “badly misrepresent[ing] the facts” and retorting that “no mechanical element of Root was taken from Deep”.
“Both Root and Deep are asymmetric games in the house style of Leder Games (that is, very asymmetric),” Wehrle continued. “They are also both strategy games that deal with power and empire. I can think of dozens of games that engage with the subject.
“When I started working on Root seriously, I had already played Deep. You are right about that. Indeed, we had even worked on elements of it together. For this reason I very deliberately gave your inchoate design the maximum amount of space to grow. I didn't want to step on your toes. So, rather than starting from the conventions of science fiction and 4x games, I built my game around geopolitics and card driven games (CDG wargames and COIN games were particular sources of inspiration, but others have been mentioned as well). It has an entirely different mechanical lineage and it shows at every level of the design.”
The sparring continued in the thread amidst comments from fans expressing their regret or lending their support to either side of the argument, spilling out into a Reddit thread where Bailey responded to comments from users about the complex situation.
"I attempted to handle this in private for 7 months now," he wrote in response to questions over why he had opted to bring up the matter in a public forum. "Sometimes bad incidents need to be brought up in public, as there is not other recourse for the wronged party."
Whether the heated disagreement will culminate in any more serious action is unclear for now – the short of it is that Deep as it was, in name, theme or design, will not see the light of day.