The Guild of Blades Publishing Group is a Detroit area based adventure games and entertainment
publishing company. Today the company is the publisher of a half dozen unique gaming brands
and publishes and distributes more than 100 in print gaming SKUs. These games range from
historical and fantasy board games, miniature games, role playing games and general strategy
games. Its core brands include the Empires of History line of historical board games,
Overlords: Fantast Battlescape Wargame line, Button Wars Tactical Spaceship Combat Game,
Worlds of Heroes & Tyrants Fantasy Quest Board Game and Epic Adventure Role Playing Game and
Heroes Forever Role Playing Game. The Guild of Blades is also the publisher of a growing
catalog of electronic downloadable PDF games with brands such as Grunt 3rd Edition Fantasy
Miniature Battles, Dark Realms Role Playing Universe, Risk Variants, G-spot Games's adult
humor products and e-product versions of select print games. More recent major expansion
programs include the Guild's launch of the Empires of History Online Gaming Network, a
growing network of turn based multi-player online strategy computer games plus the Guild of
Blades Fiction Group.
From Humble Beginnings
The Guild of Blades began as a small group of friends organizing a local
game club for the Detroit area and its first publication, the Guild club newsletter, was
released in 1994. The game club remained small and the planned expansion of the club and
newsletter never materialized. In 1996 company founders Ryan Johnson and Bruce Dowrie led a
small design team to create the Guild of Blades' first game, Grunt Fantasy Miniature Battles.
A mere 100 copies of the photo copied miniatures game rules were created and began being sold
through a couple local hobby shops and throughout the Midwest via a local hobby distribution
company. Grunt's first 100 copies sold out in about three months.
With the first printing of Grunt sold out and the market demanding for more, a realization
occured among the founders of the Guild that game publishing might hold a real financial
future. Work on an improved second edition for Grunt began and the Dark Realms Role Playing
Universe entered design stages. The Guild of Blades domain was secured and the Guild joinned
the early wave of game companies promoting through the Internet. Grunt 2nd Edition Fantasy
Miniature Battles was released in early 1997 and proved a solid success for a "small press"
company. In 1998 the Guild expanded its game lines with the introduction of the Dark Realms
Role Playing Game and its first Empires of History board game, The War to End All Wars, though
the game industry itself had taken a major turn for the worse. The Guild of Blades began 1998
selling through 13 different distributors and direct to about a dozen retail shops. By the
end of the year 11 of those distributors had gone out of business. During that period the
Guild launched its own small press distribution system and bundled a dozen company's products
for sale to retailers who were themselves having difficulty ordering product due to the near
collapse of the hobby game distribution tier.
In 1999 a new crop of small distribution companies entered the market and the Guild of Blades
once again put its primary focus on publishing new games. It was a tremendous growth year for
the Guild of Blades, with the release of many new Empires of History Games, expansion of the
Worlds of Heroes & Tyrants RPG line, introduction of the Heroes Forever RPG and much more.
Europe 1483 was first published and the 1483 Online game was initially launched as a
play-by-email game. 1999 was also a pivitol year in the nature of the hobby game market and
the consistency of its distribution systems. Due to the changes in its primary market,
the Guild of Blades began a slow transition to internalize most aspects of its printing
and manufacturing process, developing its own print and production center to produce its
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From 2000 to 2002 the company struggled to grow as it encountered a dramatic shift in the
viability of its distribution network. The hobby game distribution companies were changing
once more, this time with another two of the four leading distributors in the United States
closing their doors and with the remaining distributors shifting their focus to more and more
support of collectible game publishers only. At the same time multiple larger companies from
the toy and computer game industries entered the hobby game market to get a slice of the ever
growing collectible games product category. That was effectively the last nail in the coffin
on the effectiveness of using the three tier system (Publisher/Distributor/Retailer) within
the hobby market to distribute the Guild's games.