Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) was a publisher of role playing, board, miniature battle, and collectible card games.
ICE was incorporated in 1980 shortly after the principal founders graduated from the University of Virginia. ICE began by publishing a series of rules supplements, beginning with "Arms Law", which were intended to serve as modular add-ons to other RPG systems offering greater detail. In time these supplements were tied together to form an RPG system of their own, Rolemaster. The company enjoyed a sudden jump in status when it acquired the license to produce an official fantasy RPG based upon J. R. R. Tolkien's world of Middle-earth, which would come to be known as MERP ("Middle-earth Role Playing"). According to some interpretations, at the time of its publication ICE's Middle-earth Role Playing was the second best selling fantasy RPG after TSR's Dungeons & Dragons. ICE then added the science fiction RPGs Spacemaster and Cyberspace to its line, and, with the rise of collectible card games, the Middle-earth Collectible Card Game. ICE also published a moderately successful space miniatures battle game called Silent Death, based on Spacemaster but with simpler mechanics. Silent Death was released in two major editions, with supplemental books and a fair number of paintable lead miniatures. Iron Crown branched out into the solo gaming books under the Tolkien Quest (later called Middle-earth Quest) and Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries book lines. ICE signed in 1986 a publication contract to take over Hero Games' production and distribution. Later with Hero Games staff leaving for other jobs, ICE took over the creative reins of Hero's products.
The Middle-earth Quest turn out to have violated ICE and Tolkien Enterprises' contract with Tolkien's book publishing licensee George Allen & Unwin forcing ICE to recall and destroy the whole line of books. ICE sued the Narnia licensor as they did not have the necessary right to license out Narnia to ICE. That company went bankrupt from the legal settlement and was unable to pay ICE their damages. ICE reached terms in 1988 for a gamebook license with the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien and George Allen & Unwin for 4 new Middle-earth Quest. The solo game book market was going soft by this time. ICE canceled all solo game book lines with dozens of books under development. Returns were high on the Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries line. All this brought ICE to near bankruptcy in a "voluntary-type of receivership".
Despite ICE's many successes, in 1997 ICE suffered financial difficulties from a rapid decline in its distribution net; nearly 70% of ICE's distributors either went bankrupt or became moribund. The company entered bankruptcy and filed for Chapter 7 in October 2000. This bankruptcy cost ICE the Middle-earth license, ending both the MERP and CCG lines. Many of the illustrators were not paid for substantial amounts of work.
In December 2001, ICE's assets were purchased by Aurigas Aldebaron LLC, an intellectual property ownership company backed by several wealthy individuals. The new owners license the Iron Crown Enterprise name and other assets to Mjolnir LLC.