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The TGG


The Fall and Rise of Mayfair

Spring 1997/Vol 4, no 1

ICE and Mayfair are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement concerning the acquisition of the business of Mayfair and its game lines by ICE. Mayfair's business will retain a separate identity and will operate as a stand-alone company. The actual structure and management has not been finalized as yet and further press releases will clarify matters.

The new Mayfair will retain the services of both Darwin and Peter Bromley in a non-managerial game design and development capacity.

Mayfair will continue to publish The Settlers of Catan and will institute a demo and tournament program centering around this game. Mayfair will also publish future Klaus Teuber products including The Settlers of Catan boardgame expansions, The Settlers of Catan card game and its expansions, and Entdecker. Mayfair will continue to publish the classic train games and licensed boardgames for which Mayfair is so well known. Mayfair will also be publishing addition games, including designs from Bernd Brunnhofer, Wolfgang Kramer and Alan Moon.

Mayfair does not plan to continue publishing Fantasy Adventures, Chill, Underground, or Sim City. All of these properties will be offered for sale.

ICE Management

The above announcement was made at the 1997 GAMA Trade show in Reno, NV; it ended a three month period of anxiety, disappointment and elation for train gamers across North America. For those of you who many not be aware ICE stands for Iron Crown Enterprises. ICE has been the long-time producer of Middle Earth related games such as the card game and the RPG system, as well as Silent Death, Rolemaster and a host of other games.

While some of us had been aware that Mayfair Games was experiencing some financial difficulties, it was not until November of 1996 that our suspicions were confirmed when the company laid off two thirds of its employee workforce.

The TGA Board had discussed our concern about Mayfair's ailing financial health starting sometime in late summer and had already made contingency plans for our operations if Mayfair should fold. While Mayfair did not support us on the whole, the TGA did derive some income from advertising which Mayfair placed in our various publications and the organization benefitted as a whole by Mayfair's ability and willingness to send Puffing Billy conductors to various conventions around the country. In short, Mayfair Games had been a good corporate sponsor to the TGA. That all train gamers enjoyed Mayfair's production of train games goes without saying.

It was at the point of the layoffs that many of us prepared ourselves for the end and it was not long in coming. The success of the Settlers of Catan games (first and second editions) had allowed some of us to hope that even then Mayfair would be able to pull itself back from the brink of financial insolvency but it was a forlorn hope at best.

The official announcement that the company was closing its doors came at the end of January when it was announced that Darwin and Peter Bromley, along with Trella Wilhite, would be setting up their own consultancy firm and that Mayfair Games, Inc would be shut down on February 21st.

There are many people who would like to debate why Mayfair failed. Some blame personal problems invading the work space, others blame bad marketing decisions, others talk about a downturn in the gaming market as a whole. I don't know if any one problem could have caused Mayfair's demise or if it was a mixture of many difficulties but I also know that this is not the forum to debate the issue. Most train gamers are happy to accept the fact that Mayfair has risen from the ashes and will be producing new train games in the near future.

Yet, that was not the end of the story. Rumors abounded that Mayfair was up for sale and might still return to life. At one point, a sale to Wargames West seemed imminent but the deal fell through in the eleventh hour. As a side note, five of the six remaining Mayfair Games, Inc employees were hiredby Wargames West and now work in what appears to be a new manufacturing arm of the long-time distributor. Many of them I had come to know over the past few years and I can wish them only the best in their new endeavor.

At the last, only Lou Rexing, Mayfair's longtime Sales Manager, remained at the company to fill orders and field questions by the loyal customers of the company.

That might have seemed the end but in my conversations with Lou, I had been told to hold back on making any definitive statement about Mayfair's demise in the TGG, that perhaps there was life in the old girl yet. Of course, Lou could not give me any more details until contracts had been signed or an official announcement had been made. This announcement was made, as I have said, at the GAMA Trade show.

Again, after conversations that I have had with Lou, I feel quite excited about this newest incarnation of the game company. Lou has assured me that India Rails will be put back onto Mayfair's production schedule and that a tentative fall date has been set for its release. A nice touch is that India Rails will be released as a boxed game--that's right a boxed game! For the many train gamers who have suffered with the incredible bubbling, cracking, fall apart at the worst moment tube games, this anouncement will bring us much relief.

As for the 18xx games, I cannot tell you. Lou had not really looked at the numbers yet to see if they were financially feasible to produce. Let's face it, the train game genre of the market is a small one. If you love these games, call or e-mail Mayfair and let them know that you care about the continued survival of their 18xx line. Tell them what they are worth to you and what you would really pay for them. Be honest because that is the only way Lou can make an informed decision about producing these wonderful games. Remember, Mayfair Games still has the rights to produce Bill Dixon's 1832 and 1850. The Barnhorst/Marquardt 1869 was still in negotiations when Mayfair shut down so that game is even farther up in the air than the Dixon creations.

Not only did Lou confirm that Mayfair Games, Inc was still committed to producing train games but that the company wished to remain as supportive as possible of the TGA. In their leaner incarnation, that might not mean advertising revenue because money might be tight for a while but in concrete ways that would benefit our organization. Now, to me that if that kind of support is to be meaningful, it must translate as a benefit to the many train gamers who have given of their time and money to help keep the TGA going and growing. The details have yet to be worked out but I have some definite proposals that I will discuss with Lou and the new owners of Mayfair Games, Inc..

So, Mayfair has died and been reborn. Train gamers across the country are applaouding because it means that our addiction will still be fed. New installments of our beloved train game systems such as Empire Builder will appear and original entries to the genre can be anticipated.

 


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