Phil Hall is the designer of the Blue Max board game.

I thought I had an understanding with Phil from February 2010 that I could proceed developing an online version of his game.

Phil did not in fact give me his permission.

It took over a year for me to learn I had got it completely wrong.

Blue Max is no longer available on Hexcell Games.

A Little History

I started developing my version of Blue Max in late 2009. It got a quiet public release in late December of that year, only after I had unsuccessfully tried to contact Phil Hall by email. I always acknowledged that this was not my design and credited Phil in the about pages and provided a link to the Canvas Eagles site.

In February 2010 Phil contacted me through the site. It turns out that I had the wrong email address when I had tried to contact him previously. I explained my position and he explained that the website had sole permission to do an online version of Blue Max and he would only let me go ahead if were OK with it. In a follow-up email he informed me that he had spoken to and they were fine with it. In his own words “I have no objections, so best of luck with it.”

Five hours later Phil sent me another email. He had legal advice that in order to protect his copyright he needed to stop more copies of Blue Max appearing online. So he asked me not to put it online.

Now here is the thing: I did not get this second email.

I only know of it and its timing because Phil forwarded me a copy of  the email replete with timestamp. Had I received it back then Hexcell’s version of Blue Max would have stopped development there and then. As it was both Phil and I left the discussion with completely different understandings about what would happen next.

More Recent History

On April 12 2011 I received an email from one of the site users informing me that my use of Blue Max was “illegal”. This was totally unexpected. I replied I had permission from Phil Hall to use Blue Max and asked him where he got the idea.

Shortly thereafter another user posted in the Hexcell Games forums a partial copy of a forum post made by Phil. I went to where I found several more posts by Phil.

This was the first I had heard of Phil not giving his permission to me to use Blue Max. I immediately emailed him to see if this was indeed true. He replied that it was, including a copy of the email I did not receive back in February 2010.

I removed Blue Max from the Hexcell site, even before I had written an extremely apologetic email to Phil.

You expect me to believe this?

Right, so you just happened to get the “Go” email and not the “Stop” email? That seems extremely convenient, don’t you think?

It does. And I have no excuse or explanation for how it happened other than: That’s how it happened.

I would understand if you think I am a jerk. Trust me – I feel like a jerk right now. In hindsight I can see that I did everything above board – seeking permission at the beginning, continuing on under the impression I had it and immediately pulling the game when I learned that I didn’t. But that does not stop the sickening feeling at the thought that somewhere, out there on the Internet, are people who now think I am a jerk. Or that Phil Hall, designer of a game I love, now thinks I am a jerk.

The Future

Blue Max is gone from the Hexcell site. Perhaps some time in the future Phil in his magnanimity might allow me to resurrect it. If he doesn’t I begrudge him nothing. Its his IP and he needs to defend it.

I am going to take a break from Hexcell Games for a while. Think about the lessons I have learned and the direction I want to take it. There will eventually be new games of my own design on the site. It is extremely doubtful any of them will feature WWI aerial combat.

Begin the commiserations and/or trolling now.