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MicroProse Buys out Hartland Trefoil

Early Spring 1998/Vol. 5 No. 1

Last Autumn, something happened (very quietly) that most of us train gamers were not aware of --MicroProse bought Hartland Trefoil from Francis Tresham, the originator of the 18xx series of train games. In the interest of keeping us all informed, I have included below a copy of the press releases from both Hartland Trefoil and MicroProse. Chris Lawson of the UK, designer and publisher of 18xx gamekits, has graciously consented to allow me to reprint his comments. I considered him to be the best source of information on this situation.

Press Release - HARTLAND Trefoil Ltd

Hartland Trefoil Ltd., the specialist board game company that originated Civilization and the '18XX' game system, have [sic] been bought by MicroProse Inc., the American computer game company who have been producing the computer version of this game.

The many enthusiasts for Hartland Trefoil products can be assured that the change will open wide horizons. Francis Tresham who founded Hartland Trefoil in 1974 will now be available to MicroProse in the origination of new computer game concepts. It is also anticipated that all properly licensed products of Hartland Trefoil will continue to be available, normally from existing sources. Even more significantly, the highly qualified Hartland development team has transferred intact to a brand new company Tresham Games Ltd. The first priority of the new company, which retains the former directors, will be to ensure that '1825' remains available and that new Units and kits for the game system continue to appear. The second priority will be to develop totally new games. About the only major difference between the new company and the old one is that Tresham Games will be adequately financed.

Press Release - MicroProse


ALAMEDA, California, December 2, 1997 ? MicroProse® , Inc. (Nasdaq: MPRS), a worldwide interactive entertainment company, today announced the acquisition of Hartland Trefoil, Ltd., the original creator and publisher of the CIVILIZATION? board game. The acquisition further establishes MicroProse, the publisher of the award-winning and best-selling SID MEIER'S CIVILIZATION® family of computer-game products, as the preeminent holder of worldwide computer game and board game rights under the CIVILIZATION brand.
Founded in 1971 by game designer Francis Tresham, Hartland Trefoil published the original CIVILIZATION board game in 1980 and has marketed the game worldwide through licensing relationships with distributors and third-party publishers of board game products. Since approximately 1982, the Hartland Trefoil board game has been distributed outside Europe by Avalon Hill Game Company. Hartland Trefoil has also developed and published other popular strategy board game products such as 1829 and SPANISH MAIN.

Francis Tresham, creator of the CIVILIZATION board game and General Director of Hartland Trefoil, will continue to design games as a consultant for MicroProse. "As publisher of the internationally well-known CIVILIZATION family of computer games, we are delighted to be joining forces with the creative mind behind the outstanding CIVILIZATION board game," said Derek McLeish, Senior Vice President of Marketing for MicroProse. "The combination of our computer game products and Hartland Trefoil's board game products further strengthens one of the most recognized brand names in the industry."

To date, MicroProse's CIVILIZATION computer game products have generated sales of more than two million computer games worldwide and rank as one of the most critically-acclaimed series in computer gaming history. With the original game already inducted into the Computer Gaming World Hall of Fame, SID MEIER'S CIVILIZATION® II was hailed as the "Game of the Year" in 1996 by Time Magazine, PC Gamer and Computer Retail Week and "Strategy Game of the Year" by Computer Gaming World. More than a year after its initial release, it remains one of the top 20 best-selling games in the United States.
MicroProse recently released its CIV II FANTASTIC WORLDS? expansion CD-ROM that features science fiction and fantasy-based scenarios and an advanced scenario construction kit. Where past CIVILIZATION games focused on historical occurrences, CIV II FANTASTIC WORLDS gives strategy enthusiasts and gamers alike the chance to explore 19 new, incredible science fiction and fantasy scenarios where anything can happen ? and does. In mind-boggling, alternate worlds, players can meet up with everything from dinosaurs to aliens, as well as create their own worlds using the scenario construction kit. Other CIVILIZATION products are currently in development including the recently announced ULTIMATE CIVILIZATION II ?, a multiplayer version of the best-selling, award-winning SID MEIER'S CIVILIZATION II.

MicroProse, Inc. is a leading developer and publisher of interactive intertainment software for use on CD-ROM-based personal computers. The company is also developing software for use on next-generation 32/64-bit console machines, the Internet and online gaming services. The company has five development studios located in Alameda, California; Hunt Valley, Maryland; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; and Chipping Sodbury, England. Products are available nationally and internationally and are sold through major distributors, retailers and mass merchants. Product and company information is available for download from the MicroProse Web site at

SID MEIER'S CIVILIZATION and MICROPROSE are registered trademarks and CIVILIZATION, CIV, CIV II, CIV II FANTASTIC WORLDS and ULTIMATE CIVILIZATION II are trademarks of MicroProse, Inc. or its affiliated companies. All Rights Reserved.

This information can be found at the MicroProse site. (

The following comments can be found on Chris Lawson's web site:
Blackwater Station ( I have condensed and compiled them from several different commentaries so as to present it in a cohesive format for our readers.

It would seem to me that the reason for MicroProse buying Hartland Trefoil would be to obtain the name Civilization. Back in April 1997, Activision obtained the rights to the trademark Civilization from Avalon Hill. This led to a bout of name calling between MicroProse and Activision as to who were the "true" owners of the name. To strengthen their claim, MicroProse purchased HT lock, stock and barrel. Around this time also, GT Interactive broke off the merger talks they were having with MicroProse, coincidence?

The end result of all this would seem to be Francis receiving an unexpected sum of money for nothing. For the 18xx hobby there is the big question of what attitude will MicroProse take. How are royalties for 18xx games going to be paid. Is MicroProse really interested? Will they "allow" new releases of 18xx games? Let's hope so, my opinion is that they are not really concerned as they are not in the board game market.

While I have been told that MicroProse has no interest in the Board Game market, it would seem to imply that they wanted the rights to the names (of Civilization and 18xx) and/or they are looking at board games as a starting point for further computer games. I understand they plan to use Tresham Games in a consultant role for this (i.e. to see if a board game design is suitable for such conversion).

How it will effect the hobby 18xx "cottage industry", I guess only time will tell. I am one of the few gamekit producers who actually pay a royalty for the 18xx gamekits, most others do not. We may see a different attitude now a large company has the rights (and may want to enforce them). It may also effect companies such as AH who produce Adv. Civ and 1830 for the PC (but I suspect not).

I expect that Francis will now act as a sort of middle man between MicroProse and companies like Mayfair and even amateurs like myself. Maybe things will run as

I am with Chris on this issue. At the moment, it would appear that MicroProse is merely attempting to solidify its rights to the name "CIVILIZATION" and nothing more. But who knows what will happen in the future? The people at Mayfair have remained mute on the subject but I suspect that they are unwilling to say anything until they have a full understanding of their rights and responsibilities in this situation. From previous conversations with the former owners of Mayfair, it was my understanding that the rights to publish 1856 and 1870 were granted on an individual game basis. What this means in terms of future 18xx releases no one knows as of yet.

Winsome Games who has touted Carl Burger's 1831 have also remained silent.

Personally, I can only await with interest this further development in the shake-up of the train gaming world. For train gamers, we live in interesting times.



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