The backstory on The War of the Worlds expansion for M&L’s The Great War

Click image to visit Kickstarter page.

H.G. Wells penned the science fiction classic War of the Worlds in 1898. Forty years later Orson Wells adapted it for a radio drama script that convinced some Americans Earth had been invaded by Mars. Now Dana Lombardy and Craig Richardson have created a War of the Worlds expansion for MacGowan and Lombardy’s The Great War card game. Click the link to download a pdf that tells the backstory of why a science fiction classic was chosen to be the first expansion to a history-based card game.

MacGowan and Lombardy’s The Great War card game has been fully funded on Kickstarter, opening The War of the Worlds expansion as a stretch goal. Click here to go to Kickstarter and help bring the Martians into World War One.

The backstory on MacGowan and Lombardy’s The Great War card game

A Game Concept With Dramatic Graphics

In 2017 I started working on a game idea to commemorate the 100th anniversary of The Great War (1914–1918). I decided on an abstract card game design about World War One that hopefully could be a fun, “filler” game—a game used to fill time between longer games at conventions or while waiting for the rest of your gaming group to arrive. Filler games usually have simple rules and short playing time. I think they are a great way to introduce someone to historical games.

TGW card featuring Rodger B. MacGowan’s art.

Illustrations and graphics would be the key factor for this card game. If it looked good, it might entice gamers to try it. Even if my design was clever, it wouldn’t really matter if no one wanted to play it. That’s where my friend and colleague Rodger B. MacGowan entered the project.

Since the 1970s, Rodger and I have worked together on a variety of projects. A few of the more notable included his illustrations that appeared in my Conflict magazine back then and the cover he created for the third edition of my Streets of Stalingrad game (2002). In 2015 we produced several items for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. MacGowan and Lombardy’s The Great War™ (TGW) card game is our most recent collaborative effort. The game uses almost all of Rodger’s stunning World War One artwork—appearing on about 25% of the 200 playing cards. Rodger also created the play mat and box art for TGW.

My first card game was more challenging than I expected

My assumption that a card game would take less work to create compared to a board game proved . . . completely wrong.

I used cards in some of my previous board game designs, but TGW was my first full card game. I accomplished my objective of simple rules—just two sides of one 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. The basic game of ten Turns (20 Rounds) usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes because card play is fast. By comparison, GMT’s Wing Leader card game is listed as taking 90 to 120 minutes to play—and the WL tables are constantly busy at Consimworld Expo where large, multi-day games are the norm (WL is a fantastic game system, by the way).

Card back

Click to download latest rules

Although my game used a simple play mechanic, game development took months. I did not count on the hundreds of permutations possible when the cards interacted with other cards in so many ways. This complexity required months of concentrated playtesting, with continual adjustments to card play, the numbers and types of cards, and the text on the cards. The initial TGW rules version 1.0 in late 2017 evolved to 6.0 by the time the game was assembled and shipped in late 2021 / early 2022–and I am very happy with the end result.

Unexpected interruptions ironically led to improvements

A professional opportunity and several personal tragedies (family deaths) dragged out the development of the game well past 2018 and beyond the end of the World War One commemoration. (You can read about The Great War 100th anniversary exhibit that consumed most of my time in 2018.)

Card Sample 1

My “deep dive” research into 1914-1918 to create the anniversary exhibit meant that by the time of Consimworld Expo in 2019 the card game was substantially changed from the initial two 54-card decks—one British-German and one French-German, including jokers. The game now contained a small deck of random-event cards such as bad weather, friendly fire, and bad luck that could affect either or both players. There was also new a deck of “bonus” cards that could be played with other cards or separately during a Round. These bonus cards included types of historical artillery fire such as “Rolling Barrage,” plus snipers, tunneling, and the continual introduction of improvements in weapons/tactics/doctrine, etc.

With so much historical information on the cards, how was I able to keep game play simple? Icons and text on each card provide the special or unique rules on how to use that specific card. These symbols and text also explain how that card interacts with other cards. There’s no need for the players to look up card effects in the rulebook—just do what it says on the card.

Three big mistakes on Kickstarter delayed the game by months

I made three major errors running the Kickstarter campaign for TGW and these delayed the game by months.

These three mistakes were:

1) It took a lot longer to finish developing the game when I decided to add solitaire play. Originally it was just going to be a 2-player card game. Incorporating solitaire rules was like designing another complete game.

2) Adding new cards in the seven Kickstarter stretch goals required additional playtesting for some of these cards such as sea mines and coastal artillery.

3) Adding a War of the Worlds expansion and special cards to the basic historical game—a science fiction “twist” that had a connection to both author and journalist H. G. Wells and the historical Great War armies and weapons that Wells covered in his columns. Definitely more fun but should have been held for a future expansion release. It did not have to be part of the Kickstarter campaign.

Stuka Joe interviewed me at Consimworld Expo 2021 where I explained these mistakes in detail (starting at 43:48 of the video). The beginning of the interview discusses my next game—a regimental-scale version of Streets of Stalingrad.

Ok, So How Does This Game Actually Work?

During their Turn, players choose cards from their hands and play them face-up in front of them. As an example:

The Defender for a Turn places cards representing the terrain and/or reinforced trenches and/or units that will face the attack.

The game mechanic used in MacGowan and Lombardy’s The Great War™ is basically “trick-taking” in card game terminology—the highest points win that Turn. But it’s possible to lose several Turns and still win the game as you draw more cards each Turn and play them shrewdly.

The Attacker then chooses a heavy artillery card and places it face up. If the artillery card is not cancelled by a Defender’s action, the Attacker may then in this same round add a reconnaissance aeroplane and a “Rolling Barrage” bonus card since both of these cards may be added to the artillery (artillery spotters in planes provided a significant force multiplier to artillery fire, and rolling or creeping barrages had more effect than simply firing all over the battlefield). Again, the icons and text on the cards explain these capabilities and which cards can be added to another card.

After another round of play, both sides count the number of battle points on all their face-up cards. The player with the most points wins that turn and takes (captures) the enemy cards (Defender wins ties). Players then switch Attacker and Defender roles for the next turn.

The game mechanic used in The Great War is basically “trick-taking” in card game terminology—the highest points win that turn. But it’s possible to lose several turns and still win the game as you draw more cards each turn and play them shrewdly.

A Team of 25 Developed The Great War card game

In addition to Rodger and me, a host of other people helped make TGW an attractive and fun card game.

Mark Schumann designed the card layouts and icons, and Daniel Zillion colorized the historical photos and updated the cards from playtesting feedback. These two graphic artists worked with me on some of my previous games and on World War One Illustrated magazine.

Mark Kaczmarek, who has more than 50 years of experience with design and development in the wargame field and is the assistant editor of Rodger’s C3i magazine, was overall developer of TGW.

Chris Janiec, a friend since high school and designer of GMT’s PQ-17 board game, was a TGW playtester who came up with the rules for how the naval cards should impact play.

Craig Robertson, who worked with me at 1A Games developing the Next Wave version of the Tide of Iron board game, was editor/proofreader and created the War of the Worlds expansion for TGW. (Yes, there is an expansion in which the Martians have landed, a tip of the hat to H.G. Wells who, in addition to writing classic science fiction, wrote Little Wars, the first commercially published set of wargame rules, published on the eve of the Great War.)

Gerald D. Swick, a longtime friend, provided additional edits and several useful suggestions that we incorporated into the final design. Gerald also wrote and edited the advertising that made the Kickstarter campaign a success. When everything was going pear shaped, Gerald helped me maintain my sense of humor.

Nearly 20 additional people playtested TGW. Four of them stand out: Ray Hosler and his son Eric, who gave me great feedback on the first iteration of the game, and Charles Schwartz and his wife, Tina, who were among the group that playtested the final version. (Tina is not a wargamer—if she enjoyed it I must have done something right!)

I cannot express my gratitude enough to Rodger for his continued friendship and encouragement. And a huge thanks to all of the people who helped make MacGowan & Lombardy’s The Great War™ card game something special.

Learn more about
MacGowan and Lombardy’s The Great War™ card game
and support the Kickstarter.

Dana Lombardy tells more about the background of M&L’s The Great War™ in a wide-ranging podcast on No Dice No Glory

World War One Illustrated magazine backstory

By Dana Lombardy.

In late 2013, I proposed World War One Illustrated (WWOI) magazine as a proof of concept to the nonprofit World War One Historical As a permanent member of the board of directors of WW1HA, I was aware of the organization’s need for a new publication as it entered the 100th anniversary years commemorating WW1 – known in 1914-1918 as the Great War.

I wanted WWOI to appeal to a broader audience than just people who already had an interest in WW1. This included wargamers, like me, and an attractive look with color maps and color illustrations.

I also felt that WWOI provided an opportunity to present the most recent scholarship, with comparative charts and diagrams called “sidebars” in the page layouts. I’m a data and statistics “geek” and trust numbers more than the opinions of historians who may have agendas for promoting or disparaging leaders or weapons or strategies. As publisher and senior editor of WWOI, I collected and assembled articles, images, and information for each issue to make the magazine something that I wanted to read.

I published issues 1 through 9 from 2013-2018. Number 7 was a special WW1 book issue with reviews of more than 100 books released between 2017-2018.

I am currently working on a new WW1 book review publication called the Tomlinson Prize Review of World War One Books. It will include books published from 2018 to date. I sit on the judging committee for the Norman B. Tomlinson Prize, awarded annually by the World War One Historical Association to the best English-language book(s) on World War One. This award was first presented in 1999. You can see the Tomlinson Prize winners here:

I am very pleased with the critical acclaim received by the magazine, and with the positive feedback on the four mini-games games I designed that were published with the first four issues of World War One Illustrated.

As a wargame designer, I firmly believe that games enable us to explore history, especially alternative history. Games can also be valuable tools for teaching. I was incredibly gratified that my Russia’s Great War: 1914 received a 2019 bronze level prize from the International Serious Play Awards in the Educational Board Game category.

All of these minigames were designed for solitaire and 2-players. The large 1-inch square markers were perforated so they could be easily separated. The game board, markers, and rules were printed in a 4-page stiff cardstock folder. Additional rules for #3 and a historical guide and game tutorial for #4 were also provided. You supply the six-sided dice needed.

It was not possible to continue producing a game for every issue of WWOI. However, I am developing more minigames for WW1 and other historical eras using the unique magazine insert format created for WWOI. Sign up here for updates:


A tribute to game designer John Hill

John Hill running a Gettysburg game at Nashcon 2014.

This originally appeared in the new issue of C3i Magazine, Nr28 (RBM Publication).

Tribute to John Hill 1945-2015

On January 12 our hobby lost one of its most creative designers.

John Hill earned his well-deserved fame for his Squad Leader board game (initially released in 1977), one of Avalon Hill’s best-selling wargames as well as one of the first games specifically devised as a continuing series. Squad Leader endures today through its many spin-offs, add-ons, and legacy as the Advanced Squad Leader series published by Multi-Man Publishing.

In 1978 John was inducted into The Game Manufacturers Association’s Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design Hall of Fame, and Squad Leader was inducted into the HoF in 2004.

What is less well known is that Squad Leader was initially designed as miniatures rules and converted to a board game at the request of Avalon Hill. John’s passion for miniatures and the American Civil War produced his Johnny Reb rules initially released by Dungeons & Dragons co-designer Dave Arneson’s Adventure Games company in 1983. The third edition of JR was released in 1996 and is still played today.

In 2014, John’s new set of miniatures rules called Across A Deadly Field was published by Osprey Publishing. John completed more books in this series for Osprey just before he died.

Board gamers may also recall John’s ground-breaking Jerusalem! (1975) about the Jewish convoys attempting to get through to the city during the 1948 War, or his Battle for Hue (1973) published with my Conflict magazine issue #6. John’s many credits include Battle for Stalingrad (SPI, 1980) and Tank Leader (West End Games, 1986 and 1987).

But John Hill was much more than this impressive list of accomplishments.

John had a warped sense of humor (like me) and a unique laugh—when I first saw the movie Amadeus I could have sworn that John was Mozart reincarnated. He truly enjoyed the absurdities and ironies that so often were a part of history and life in general.

John was a consummate model builder who was equally creative with his tabletop terrain and model railroad dioramas—one of the latter was featured on the cover of Model Railroader magazine. Playing Johnny Reb on one of John’s striking miniature battlefields was one of my greatest treats.

Where some creative types can have prickly egos, John could laugh at himself. He was quick to recognize the help of others in his published work, at the many exciting game demos he ran at conventions, and in his stimulating seminar presentations.

John was a caring husband—he and Luella (Lu) were married for 46-and-a-half years—and a loving father (daughter Stephanie) and beloved grandfather (Danielle and Carl Anthony). I cannot imagine how devastated they must all be. There is now a huge hole in my life without being able to make my periodic phone calls to John and share in his funny insights into history and life.

Dana Lombardy

The backstory on ‘The First Battle of Bull Run’ battlefield guide book

In 1991 The First Battle of Bull Run booklet was published and over the next several years sold successfully at the Manassas National Battlefield Park visitor center. Despite selling 5,000 copies no further guides were produced. Why?

The creation of Bull Run was a “proof of concept” project designed by Dana Lombardy in conjunction with the Chief Historians and Park Rangers at the Park and written by John Hill. It was enthusiastically endorsed by them, and we hoped it would be the first in the “American Civil War Notebook Series” of graphic booklets for other Parks—useful guides for visitors, reference material for wargamers, and user-friendly introductions to Civil War battles.

Unfortunately, the project was brought to a standstill higher up in the National Park Service. NPS decides what will be sold at the parks and later released its own “guides.” These did not contain detailed color maps, color orders-of-battle, or as many historical illustrations as our Bull Run.

The lesson learned: don’t try to sell something to the U.S. government unless you have “inside” support.

Dana went on to design and publish (in 2014) the first full-size book in the Map Study Series: Grant Rising, Mapping the Career of a Great Commander Through 1862.

The First Battle of Bull Run remains a unique and unmatched battlefield guide booklet and is available for purchase as a print edition or pdf from our Shop.

The backstory on Napoleon magazine – Napoleon Journal

By Dana Lombardy. Why did Napoleon magazine become Napoleon Journal, and what’s the difference? The story about its evolution as a publication involves a little-known predecessor called Empires, Eagles & Lions.

empires-eagles-and-lions-1993In 1976, Jean Lochet started publishing a small format publication dedicated to Napoleonic history and wargaming called Empires, Eagles & Lions—nicknamed “EEL.” It was a club-like ’zine or newsletter printed in black ink only with mostly text. Despite its modest format it became a respected if not controversial periodical, attracting writers such as British historians Paddy Griffith and Philip Haythornthwaite, and American historians Scott Bowden and George Nafziger, among others.

Todd Fisher, owner of The Emperor’s Headquarters in Chicago, offered to develop Jean’s EEL into a slick magazine with a color cover and interior illustrations. The enhanced EEL, subtitled “The Napoleonic Source Magazine,” appeared in the summer of 1993 as issue #1.

Despite the improvements and contributions from a wide range of notable writers, EEL was not attracting a bigger readership. This is when Todd contacted me for help.

By 1994 my publishing background included founding Conflict magazine (1972-1975) that incorporated a paper map and die-cut counter wargame with most of the issues—similar to Strategy & Tactics, but Conflict included color interior pages and maps, unlike S&T at that time. From 1978 I worked on Model Retailer, a trade magazine that went to owners and managers of hobby stores and chains in the USA. My job included writing a column about how hobby shops could stock games to broaden and increase a store’s number of customers. This led to my promotion as Associate Publisher for Model Retailer, and then as AP for the new trade publication Game Merchandising in 1983. Todd Fisher knew of me professionally since we both worked in the game business.

Other than a few books I read, I knew very little about Napoleonic history. That would change dramatically—and quickly.

As Publisher of EEL from issue #7 in 1994, I increased the number of interior illustrations, added color, and worked with the art director to improve the magazine’s overall appearance. By issue #14 in 1995 circulation had grown only modestly. A major boost was needed.

Although Jean and Todd thought the acronym EEL was memorable, I pointed out that most people simply wondered what the magazine was about. Which empire? What era?

Renaming EEL to Napoleon in 1996 solved this uncertainty, but more than a name change was needed. A complete layout overhaul was introduced that included battle studies, details on tactics and organization, personalities, interviews with prominent historians and authors, and more. Napoleon was subtitled “His Life, His Wars, His World” to emphasize the format change. Napoleon was a totally new magazine design, but it utilized the same consortium of experts that earned EEL admiration.

I learned a lot about Napoleonic history in two years of editing and often researching information to fact check maps and augment the articles submitted to the magazine.

Napoleon’s next 12 issues were well received. But like the mathematical paradox of the frog that hops halfway to the wall with each jump—and never reaches the wall—the magazine’s continual improvements helped but never achieved the breakthrough we hoped for. Another boost was needed.

That final lift consisted of another format change: increased page count per issue, a perfect binding (like a book spine instead of staples), a revised subtitle “International Journal of the French Revolution and Age of Napoleon,” and a quarterly release schedule instead of bi-monthly. Unfortunately, after four issues of the journal, The Emperor’s Headquarters was unable to continue publishing.

Printed back issues of EEL and Napoleon (magazine and journal) are no longer available, but Lombardy Studios sells a PDF searchable collection of Napoleon issues 1-17 plus an index to the first 12 issues on a DVD.