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:


Cachets Commemorate World War One

Shown above are veterans USMC MajGen Mike Myatt (left), San Francisco Postmaster General Abraham Cooper, and SF Fleet Week board director Ed Flowers ©️ San Francisco Chronicle


By Dana Lombardy. Help the ongoing educational efforts of the San Francisco War Memorial Veterans Building by purchasing the 100th anniversary collectible cachets (envelopes) with the new World War One “Turning the Tide” Forever postage stamp.

Each affordably priced cachet is printed on acid-free paper and has a unique 1918 theme and story about the role each group played in helping to win this catastrophic war. Eight different cachets feature:

  • U.S. Army
  • U.S. Marine Corps
  • U.S. Navy and Coast Guard
  • U.S. Air Service
  • U.S. Women
  • African Americans
  • U.S. Animals
  • San Francisco War Memorial Veterans Building dedicated to all who served in World War One.

Buy an individual cachet or all 8

Prices include shipping to a U.S. address. Contact us for shipping outside the U.S.A.

For collectors, history enthusiasts, and supporters of our military.

Thank you for helping us preserve this history and remember the service of these brave Americans.


Cachet Set Cachet Set of 8 + Stamp + Cancellation $25.00 Click the picture to view close ups of each cachet and BUY one or more sets with stamps and cancellations. Price includes heavy duty shipping carton and postage to a USA address.
display Acrylic Display Stand $12.00 Display your cachets with a 7-inch by 5-inch acrylic stand that shows one cachet but will hold all 8 cachets—simply rotate the cachet that is face out to keep the display fresh. Click the picture to BUY one or more display stands. Price includes heavy duty shipping carton and postage to a USA address.

Deluxe 38-inch long by 23-inch tall framed set shows all 8 cachets, plus (centered) the text on the back of all 8 cachets. $380 includes: custom mat framing, extra packing, insurance, and shipping via UPS ground to a USA address.

Click the picture to BUY a custom framed display.

To Buy the Cachet Envelopes Individually, Click Here.

These cachets are a project of the World War I Armistice Centennial Commemoration Committee to observe the 100th anniversary of the signing of the WWI Armistice, November 11, 1918 ending The Great War. The Committee is chaired by Maj. Gen. J. Michael Myatt, USMC (Ret.), and Judge Quentin L. Kopp (Ret.), president of the Korean War Memorial Foundation. The Committee was formed by community members with support from the War Memorial Board of Trustees to organize exhibits and activities to commemorate the Armistice Centennial. San Francisco’s projects and exhibits were selected by the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission as one of its official 100 American Cities 100 Memorials.

World War One minigames

These quick-playing minigames can be enjoyed solitaire or 2-player

Just $10 each in our Shop—or get all four for $30!

Zeppelin Raider
Terror from the Skies
Fly against—or as—one of the MONSTERS OF THE AIR. Diceless.
(First published in World War One Illustrated magazine No. 1)

Assassination in Sarajevo
Can the Austrian Royal Couple Survive?
Was war inevitable in 1914? Requires 1 six-sided die.
(First published in World War One Illustrated magazine No. 2)

On to Paris!
Can the Germans Win the Great War in 1914? Requires 13 six-sided dice.
(First published in World War One Illustrated magazine No. 3)

Russia’s Great War: 1914*
Can the Tsar’s armies win in East Prussia? Requires 3 six-sided dice.
(First published in World War One Illustrated magazine No. 4)
Download a free Russia’s Great War 1914 mini-game tutorial here.
*2019 Serious Play Conference award-winner in Educational Board Game category.

World War One Illustrated is a publication of World War One Historical Association. Click the magazine’s title for information on issues 1–9, available through Lombardy Studios Shop. Click here to read the backstory on the creation of World War One Illustrated magazine.

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World War One Illustrated magazine

Dana Lombardy published WORLD WAR ONE ILLUSTRATED for the nonprofit World War One Historical Association from 2013 to 2018. (Click here to read the backstory.) WWOI presents:

  • The most recent research
  • Comparative diagrams and analysis
  • Illustrations and photographs throughout
  • Operational, strategic and tactical maps created specially in color for the magazine – in issue #9 the first day of Verdun is a unique composite of separate French and German maps
  • “Amazing War Stories” in every issue, inspired by the Ripley’s Believe It or Not newspaper comic

And more about the Great War.

Issues 1–9 were designed and edited by Dana and are available through our Shop page. Issues 1–4 came with a board game and can be ordered with or without the game. (To learn more about the games, go to World War One MiniGames.)

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The Great War Revealed in San Francisco

By Dana Lombardy. In February I was asked by the World War One Centennial Commemorative Committee to help create 100th anniversary exhibits that explain America’s role in World War One.

In late May 2018, they installed eight 8-foot square banners in the lobby outside the Herbst Theatre and American Legion Veterans Hall. This is in the War Memorial Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue. It’s across the street from San Francisco City Hall. The display is free to the public. You can view it at In 2019 the banners were moved to the second floor.

The Banners Have a Story to Tell

The banners tell the story of America’s initial desire to stay out of a foreign war in 1914. Then the growing sympathy for victims and refugees, horror at the unprecedented numbers of casualties. Then finally the United States joining as a co-belligerent in that war.

It was the first war that saw the widespread use of mechanization. Submarines, airships and airplanes, artillery cannon, machine-guns, tanks, and poison gas were all used. The lethality of these weapons drove armies underground. Soldiers lived for years in dugouts and trenches, separated by a devastated “No Man’s Land” of shell holes and barbed wire.

Millions of American women volunteered to work on farms, in factories, and in many other traditional male jobs. These women replaced nearly five million American men who entered  into the U.S. Army and Navy. Women’s service in the war provided key political leverage to get the right to vote. Congress passed the 19th Amendment in 1919, with states’ ratification in 1920.

The initial banner display in 2018 was supported by videos and additional exhibits of artifacts and photographs set up in the Veterans Gallery on the lobby level. There was also a series of seminars. The banner exhibit ran through the end of 2019 to commemorate the centennial of the Versailles Treaty (June) and founding of the American Legion.

Who Did This?

The United States World War I Centennial Commission chose San Francisco’s War Memorial Veterans Building as one of its 100 Cities / 100 Memorials matching grant. This award helps preserve monuments with the designation as a World War I Centennial Memorial.

The Performing Arts Center Foundation authorized the World War One Armistice Centennial Committee that created The Great War display. The Foundation administers the War Memorial Veterans Building complex that houses the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, Herbst Theatre, Opera House, and San Francisco Ballet. The Committee chairman is Major General J. Michael Myatt, USMC (Ret.), with co-chair Judge Quentin L. Kopp (Ret.), President of the Korean War Memorial Foundation.

On 11 November 2018, the 100th anniversary of the Armistice (now called Veterans Day in the USA), the second part of The Great War exhibit opened in the Veterans Gallery of the War Memorial Veterans Building. It also is free to the public. Dana is available for tours and is working on preserving the exhibit as an interactive video.