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Mayfair Games, Inc. records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 117.9891

This collection is a compilation of game development, business, and collected materials from Mayfair Games, Inc., with the bulk of the materials dated between 1982 and 1996. Materials within this collection include correspondence, legal papers, financial papers, manuscripts, clippings, notes, printed materials, photographic material (slides, negatives, transparencies, photographs, contact sheets), sketches, scrapbook, notebooks, writings, video (VHS tapes, U-matic tapes), audio (cassette tapes, microcassette tape), digital media (3½” floppy disks, 5¼” floppy disks, Iomega 20 MB cartridge), realia, articles, artwork, blueprints, maps, transparencies, miniatures, ephemera, and graphic design materials including proofs, paste-ups, and tear sheets.



The business papers include legal, financial, employee papers, and correspondence. Game development content includes development papers for role-playing games, board, dice, and card games. Marketing and art department papers exhibit extensive graphic design process work. Of particular interest are original manuscripts for role-playing games, especially RPGA tournament manuscripts, which were likely used at events and typically not saved. Extra-curricular activities, such as participation in conventions and publications, are also represented.



The Mayfair Games, Inc. records have been arranged into fourteen series, five of which has been divided into subseries, and three subseries further divided into sections. This collection is housed in 199 archival document boxes, 5 rolled storage boxes, 7 oversized boxes (boxes 217-224), and 18 additional archival media boxes, with additional oversized folders stored in 4 map case drawers. Digital files imaged from floppy disks and one compact disc are accessible on-site at The Strong via access hard drive.



Some materials have been restricted until 2042, including those related to the Mayfair Games v. TSR legal disputes. Additional sensitive material has been designated as restricted.

Dates

  • 1965 - 2022
  • Majority of material found within 1982 - 1996

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Access to portions of this collection have been restricted. These documents will not be open for research use until the year 2042; they are denoted as such in this finding aid and are separated from unrestricted files. Access to media and digital materials requires advance notice. Currently, access to data cartridges/cassettes, and some floppy disks due to formatting; it is possible that certain other formats may be inaccessible or restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Though the donor has not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, he has given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.

Extent

132.6 Linear Feet (This collection is housed in 199 archival document boxes, 5 rolled storage boxes, 7 oversized boxes, and 18 additional archival media boxes, with additional oversized folders stored in 4 map case drawers.)

512.1 Megabytes

Overview

The Mayfair Games, Inc. records comprise game development papers, business records, and collected materials. The bulk of the materials are dated between 1982 and 1996.

Historical Note

Named for the Chicago, Illinois neighborhood where it was founded, Mayfair Games, Inc. was founded in Spring of 1981 by Darwin Bromley, his brother Peter Bromley, and friends Todd Fischer, Neil Zimmerer, Ken Kaufman, and Jim Griffin. What started as a part-time hobby soon flourished into a full-time, successful business.



The company’s earliest published products were minigames; these military strategy games, packed in zip-lock bags, led to the company’s early success. These games included I.C.B.M. (1981), The Castle, Space Empires (1981), Transylvania (1981) (notorious for being misspelled on the cover), and Richard I the Lionheart (1981). Three of these games were nominated for the Charles S. Roberts Award, a prize for excellence in the historical wargaming hobby, named for the “Father of Wargaming” and founder of Avalon Hill.



December 1981 saw additional military simulation games published: Red Star Falling, Wake Island, Sheridan’s Ride, and Morgans Rifles. The first non-military publications were Encounters (1982), Demo Derby (1982), Family Business (1982), and Empire Builder (1982), which became a leading seller for the company and was the first in a series of “crayon rails” games.



Licensed games played a big role in Mayfair Games’ business; some of these games were Sanctuary (1982) (based on Thieves’ World anthologies by Robert Lynn Aspirin), Dragonriders of Pern (1983) (based on Anne McCaffrey’s science fiction series), Elfquest (1986), Lone Wolf and Cub (1989), Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Game (1986), and Hammer’s Slammers (1984).



Additional board games included Cosmic Encounter (1991), The Road to the White House (1992), and various railroad games such as Eurorails (1990), Uncle Happy’s Train Game (1993), Nippon Rails (1992), British Rails (1984), and many others. The first of its card games, Encounters and Family Business, debuted in 1982. Subsequent card games were Express (1990) and SimCity: The Card Game (1995), a collectible card game.



Bill Fawcett, hired as marketing director in 1982 and an avid role-player, encouraged Mayfair Games to produce its first role-playing game series: Role Aids. The first titles, Beastmaker Mountain (1982), Nanorien Stones (1982), and Fez I: Valley of the Trees (1982) were compatible with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and were run at the Chicago Wargaming Association’s convention and Gen Con XIII. In addition to Role Aids, Mayfair published role-playing games for the DC Universe; DC Heroes was designed by Greg Gorden and utilized popular gaming systems of the 1980s. In 1987, Mayfair released a completely rewritten version of City State of the Invincible Overlord, first published by Judge’s Guild. Chill, originally released by Pacesetter in 1984, was published in 1990 and was the first in a series of horror games.



Ray Winninger became Mayfair’s editorial director and revamped the Role Aids line based on the second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with the first title Demons, published in 1992. This line was a source of conflict when Mayfair Games was sued by TSR, Inc. in 1991 for the violation of their 1984 trademark agreement. The legal dispute culminated in 1993 when the judge found that although Mayfair had violated the 1984 agreement, they had tried to correct the violations when possible. However, prior to a final decision, Mayfair sold the entire Role Aids line to TSR. Mayfair continued to publish role-playing games with its Underground line, which used the DC Heroes system where “players took on roles of superhero ex-mercenaries in a dystopic future.” Mayfair’s publication of role-playing games declined and ended in 1996 with the focus turning to a new style of board games.



Very few German games had made it to North America, but in 1995, Mayfair Games began buying rights to German games—the result of Darwin Bromley’s passion and encouragement from Jay Tummelson (who later started Rio Grande Games, which became the foremost publisher of Eurogames in America). One of the first German-style games to be published in North America was The Settlers of Catan (1995); it gained popularity and released four expansions, and the game has sold more than 22 million copies worldwide. The Settlers of Catan opened the door for other German-style games in North America and influenced a generation of game designers to adopt similar design elements.



Mayfair Games sold most of its assets in 1997 to Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE), becoming Ironwind, Inc. and publishing under the Mayfair Games trademark until 2018, when assets were sold to the North American branch of Asmodée Editions.

Biographical Note

Darwin Paul Bromley was born in 1950 in West Virginia to N. Paul and Janet E. Bromley. Darwin graduated from Marshall University in 1972 and Northwestern Law School in 1975. He practiced law from 1975 to 1981 in Chicago, until he, his brother, Peter Bromley, and friends started Mayfair Games, Inc. As a child, “Darwin loved to watch the trains hauling coal from the western edge of the Great Appalachians.” Railroad games became a way to combine his love of railways and games.



Stemming back to 1965, Darwin and Peter actively collected games and comic books [many records of which are contained in this collection]. Darwin was a self-described game historian and hobbyist with interests in railroad games, collecting comics, Japanese prints, model trains, art glass, railroad memorabilia, travel, and photography.



Darwin’s accolades include having been on the Board of Directors for The Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA), a member of the Governing Committee of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design, a staff member for the Chicago Wargamers Association (1979-1982), and a participant in the Scouting Organization. His game and design credits include Empire Builder (1982), British Rails (1984), Dragonriders of Pern (1983), and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Game (1986).



Peter Bromley was also an active hobbyist and brought to Mayfair Games editorial skills, computer experience, and knowledge of the publishing history of wargames. Peter passed away in 2016 and was followed by Darwin who died in 2019. Their collection of games was donated to The Strong National Museum of Play in 2017.

Arrangement

Series I: Finances, 1978-2010

Series II: Employees, 1984-1996

Series III: Legal, 1975-1996

Subseries A: Board games, 1982-1996
Subseries B: Card games, 1985-1996
Subseries C: Dice games, 1984-1985
Subseries D: Role-playing games, 1982-1995
1. Chill, 1984-1994
2. DC Heroes, 1982-1992
3. Role Aids, Invincible Overlord (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons compatible), 1982-1994
4. Underground, 1992-1995
5. General role-playing games, 1982-1997
Subseries E: Corporate documents, 1982-2011
Subseries F: TSR, Inc. and Mayfair Games, Inc. disputes, 1975-1994
1. 1980s litigation, 1981-1989
2. 1990s litigation, 1987-1994
3. Collected materials, 1975-1993
Subseries G: General legal, 1980-1996

Series IV: Correspondence, 1980-2006

Subseries A: Business correspondence, 1980-2000
Subseries B: Consumer support, 1984-1996
Subseries C: Internal correspondence, 1985-1996
Subseries D: Holiday and greeting cards, 1985-2006

Series V: Game development, 1971-2003

Subseries A: Board games, 1972-2003
Subseries B: Card games, 1971-2000
Subseries C: Dice games, 1982-1995
Subseries D: Role-playing games, 1982-1996
1. Chill, 1989-1996
2. DC Heroes, 1983-1996
3. Role Aids, Invincible Overlord (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons compatible), 1982-1996
4. Underground, 1991-1996
5. General role-playing games, 1983-1993
Subseries E: Game concepts, 1980-1997
Subseries F: General development, 1977-1997

Series VI: Graphic design, 1982-1996

Series VII: Production, distribution, and sales, 1981-2007

Subseries A: Production, 1983-2007
Subseries B: Vendors, 1981-1995
Subseries C: Sales, 1982-2007
Subseries D: Distribution, 1984-1996

Series VIII: Marketing and press, 1978-1996

Series IX: Publications, 1975-1994

Series X: Conferences and conventions, 1977-2008

Series XI: Game tournaments, contests, events, 1988-1996

Series XII: Awards, 1987-1995

Series XIII: Collected materials, 1965-2017

Subseries A: Supporting material, 1965-2017
Subseries B: Bromley collected materials, 1965-1994
Subseries C: Synergy Team, 1975-1983
Subseries D: Judges Guild, 1977-1982
Subseries E: Crystal Publications, Inc., 1982-1984
Subseries F: RPGA tournament manuscripts, 1982-1993
Subseries G: Model Railroad Industry Association, 1990-1996
Subseries H: Purchase, sale, and auction of games, 1968-2007
Subseries I: Investments, 1979-2002

Series XIV: Digital files from media, 1988-1997

Related Materials

Researchers may want to reference It’s All A Game: The History of Board Games from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan by Tristan Donovan and Eurogames: The Design, Culture and Play of Modern European Board Games by Stewart Woods for more information on The Settlers of Catan and the role Mayfair Games played in the board game industry. In addition, Designers & Dragons: A History of the Roleplaying Game Industry by Shannon Appelcline has a chapter on Mayfair Games’ history and role-playing game products. Inside Collectible Card Games by Thomas Owens is also available in the library for reference and a copy of the manuscript is in box 139, folder 4.



Additional materials transferred to the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong include company profiles/information, press kits, catalogs, newsletters, and serials that provide insight into the game industry, but also reflect the types of materials that were collected as reference material by Mayfair Games.



Museum artifacts which are part of this collection include game prototypes, mockup game boxes, game pieces, card decks, and additional game realia. Hundreds of game and prototype titles published by Mayfair Games Inc., as well as games collected by Peter and Darwin Bromley (not published by Mayfair Games, Inc.) are held in The Strong’s comprehensive collection of games. Additional electronic materials are held in The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG). The majority of these materials were donated to the museum by Darwin Bromley in the same accession lot.



For related archival materials, please refer to the Sid Sackson collection, which references a few of the same gaming industry names in this collection. Also, of note is the game idea, drawn on a napkin in box 115, folder 12; correspondence in box 29, folder 18 (mentioned in Sackson’s 1990 diary); and a card in box 30, folder 8. Also refer to the Bruce C. Shelley papers and the correspondence from him in box 28, folder 6.

Processed by

Nicole Pease, February 2020 - July 2022
Title
Mayfair Games, Inc. records
Status
completed
Author
Nicole Pease
Date
July 2022
Description rules
dacs

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

Contact:
The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.263.2700
585.423.1886 (Fax)