Fantasy Games Unlimited was a publisher of miniature war game
s and fantasy role playing game
s. It was started in 1975 by Scott Bizar.
It's probably most famous for being the original publisher of Chivalry & Sorcery
and Space Opera
. Although generally known as a role playing game company, its first two products were wargames called "Gladiators
" and "Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age
" (based on the Conan
universe). It also released a very early role playing game in 1976 called Bunnies and Burrows
. As the name might imply to some, it was based on Watership Down
It was not actually a game development company. No games were developed in house. It solicited outside works from authors and then published them and arranged distribution. FGU seemed to favor highly complicated rule sets, things hardcore gamers really got off on. Authors were generally signed to contracts that allowed them to retain the rights to their games but could not sign over republishing rights to another company as long as Fantasy Games Unlimited was actively publishing.
For a time the company was based in New York
state. In the late '80s it moved to Gilbert, Arizona
. Around 1987 it ceased general operation. Bizar kept the company alive on paper by opening a hobby store by the same name and a quasi-real mail order
business selling reprints of games. Much to the chagrin
of the authors, this limited reprint scheme fulfills the letter of their contracts and has prevented the rights for some FGU cult classics like Bushido
and Space Opera to revert to the authors and return to store shelves.
In 1996 Gold Rush Games
attempted to bring back an updated version of Bushido, however, Bizar refused to part with rights to the game unless draconian
fees are paid, even though it was clearly earning him little to no money. Instead of paying what they felt was double the development cost of a role playing to simply buy back the name "Bushido" the company chose to release an updated Bushido under the title Sengoku
Some cult classic FGU games have faired better. Steve Jackson Games
was remarkably successful in acquiring the rights to Bunnies and Burrows. Edward Simbalist
was miraculously able to get back his rights to Chivalry & Sorcery and license the game to Highlander Games. (Apparently, Simbalist's experience with Highlander Games turned sour and the rights moved to Brittannia Game Designs
FGU seems to have gone belly up because of general mismanagement. Bizar had a keen eye for spotting a trend and a large niche. Chivalry & Sorcery was D&D
for those who wanted a more historically accurate RPG and highly detailed combat. Space Opera was everything Traveller
lacked and came out in time when The Empire Strikes Back
was re-stoking Sci Fi fever. Bunnies and Burrows came out just as Watership Down was enjoying a resurgence because of a movie and resurgence in all things fantasy because of a resurgence in all things Tolkienesque
. Bushido's released coincided with the release of the wildly successful Shogun
minseries. Villains and Vigilantes
was one of the first super hero RPGs to hit the market. Trend spotting can quickly become biting off more than you can chew when you're a small time company. FGU's ability and willingness to promote and support a dozen role playing games was beyond Bizar's small staff. Authors became quickly disgruntled, especially when they had to hound Bizar for royalty checks.