How I Bought a Bootleg
[We’re giving our Renaissance Gamer, Brent, the week off, in preparation for The Pure Speculation Festival. Fear not he’ll be back next week. But for today enjoy Debra’s experience with “Card(tricks) Against Muggles OR How I Bought a Bootleg” -dc]
My latest game definitely cannot fit in your pocket. Unless you’re a wizard with a pocket of holding. If you were a wizard, though, that would be a weird coincidence, since the game I bought is Cards Against Muggles. Actually, to be completely honest, I bought a bootleg copy.
Let me take a moment to get up on my soapbox. Bootlegs are bad, m’kay. And deliberately buying a bootleg, whether to save money or out of a sense of entitlement, is also bad. Just like all other creative projects, game developers deserve all the money they can get for all their hard work and great ideas. The question I’ve been asking myself since my impulsive purchase is this. How bad is it to accidentally buy a bootleg? Most importantly, how bad should I feel about keeping it after I found out it was a fake?
Let’s rewind our time-turners and start from the beginning. It all started when a Florida Harry Potter fan club thought it would be fun to create a Cards Against Humanity style game, just for them, so they could play it amongst themselves. They made more copies than they needed and offered to give a few to friends who weren’t part of the club. Then someone made a Facebook post and it exploded into everyone’s social media. When the hype first hit the fan, I thought to myself “that’s cool, but somebody’s lawyers will squash it” and then immediately forgot about it.
I forgot about it, until last month when I was in an import shop at West Edmonton Mall and saw a huge black box with the words “Cards Against Muggles” on it and a price tag of about $70. I didn’t buy it right away; I did a lot of thinking and even consulted with my conscience (aka my husband). We both came to the conclusion that this would probably be my only opportunity to get this game. So I went all the way back to the store and got it.
When I came home and finally levered the very large, very heavy box out of my tote bag, things started going downhill. I noticed that the box did not have a copyright year or publisher’s name on it anywhere. To quote another franchise “I have a bad feeling about this”. So I took off the plastic wrap to see what kind of fertilizer I had purchased. I looked inside and discovered that the cards were of surprisingly good quality, and the box was stuffed with them. There were over a thousand cards! There was also a single oversized card with a very simple set of rules. Since in all the times I have ever played Cards Against Humanity, I have never actually read the rules, I don’t know how accurate they are.
Faced with a mystery, I did what every citizen of the 21st century would do. I did research online. The first thing I noticed was a box very similar to mine being sold on Amazon, which meant that I wasn’t the only one who had been fooled. After a little more searching, I found a website claiming to be the one and only Cards Against Muggles. It even warned against “all the other fakes out there”. I looked, and what they were offering was only a little bit different than what I had. My “no name” version had eighty fewer black cards, and five extra white ones. I assumed that was because it costs more to print white on a black background. So I had something that was good quality, and reasonably the same as the original. And I had avoided having to pay shipping costs on a package that weighs 2.5 kilos. The Ravenclaw in me felt like I hadn’t gotten too bad of a deal out of this.
Except that I was wrong. I peeled back another layer of this puzzle and found out that the “official website” was also a fake. As I predicted, the original creators of the game had been given a cease and desist order for, of all things, the misuse of the word Muggle. They were smart enough to obey that order, take down all reference to the idea of selling the game, and contacted their own lawyer, who advised them to negotiate with Warner Brothers directly. Despite plenty of proof that the game was well liked, WB refused to have an Adult game associated with their franchise. Not even when they offered to scale the humour down to a PG level. Unfortunately, during all this time, the fakers had been selling their “in print” versions, presumably taken from the original pdf files the Creators had given out. Having lost all hope of regaining control of Cards Against Muggles, they rebranded themselves as “The Game That Cannot Be Named” and built a website that gives away a pdf version for free. Which leaves me with only one remaining mystery. TGTCBN has only 500 cards, down from the 1300+ in the first downloadable Cards Against Muggles. So why did they decide to scale back? Maybe it has something to do with the meetings and the lawyers. Or maybe they just wanted to new file to be less attractive to thieves.
So, after all this, we come back to the original question. How bad was my decision, and what should I do about it? Will I ever buy anything from that store again? Definitely not. Will I recommend that store? Again, no. Will I still play my version of the game with my friends? Yes. Will I report the store for selling a fake product? I don’t know yet.
Wait, wait, don’t leave yet. Did you really think I would make you read all that without an actual game review? As I mentioned before, the card quality is very good. With the exception of speckles on a few of the black cards, they look identical to a Cards Against Humanity deck. The level of humor is about the same as CaH too, raunchy, sometimes explicit. So if you still hold the Harry Potter world to a high esteem, you need to be ready for ideas that would burn out a pensieve. Also, every card refers to the Potterverse in one way or another; the books, the movies, or the actors. So unless your brain holds a lot of trivia, you may need to look up some names and terms from time to time.
[Editor’s Note: The Rat Hole does not support bootlegs, nor do we support Copyright and/or Trademark infringement. We are, however, staunch supporters of the right to fans creating derivative works that are not otherwise harmful to the original creations. Be it a fan film or fiction, Secret Voldemort, The Game That Cannot Be Named, or the entire sport of Quidditch, let your fan flag fly. But keep it legal.]