Thursday, January 15, 2015

Rest In Peace John Hill

The world of war gaming has been diminished today.  John Hill passed away yesterday.  In reading the many of the comments regarding Mr Hill I was struck by how similar my experience with him is.  In the summer of 1979 I discovered John Hill on a shelf at Hobbyland.  Hobbyland was my first hobby store.  I was there for model kits to build and blow up on the 4th of July (the one day I wouldn't get in trouble for blowing stuff up)  For some reason that day my eye was caught by an orange and black box that looked a little more like a book than it did anything else.

  This orange and black wonder turned out to be Squad Leader one of John Hill's masterpieces.   Looking at the back of the box I was totally enthralled.  I had played Risk, Monopoly and Stratego but I had never seen anything like this.  I had to have it, but, as a kid it was way out of my budget, It must have cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 bucks.  So off I went to earn or beg enough to get it.

Once I was able to finance the purchase (thanks MaSue!)  I spent the next few days trying to digest what seemed at the time the most complex set of instructions ever written (it was the ikea of the 80s) A week of reading and rereading and 30 plastic baggies full of counters and I was ready to play.  I was fortunate enough to be able to force my cousin Glen to play with me.   After one game of getting my rear end shot off I was hooked.     We spent the rest of the summer playing through all the scenarios.  This introduction led me to other games like Divine Right, Panzer Blitz  and Panzer Leader.

  Eventually D&D replaced board gaming and by my mid teens girls replaced D&D.   Until my sophomore year in college I was pretty much game free.   Then I ran into this weird store in the village at Ball State called the Wizards Keep where most of my best friends today were hiding out. I was reintroduced to John Hill by Steve and Dave.  Two of the most dedicated civil war generals ever known.  Together they had 3/4 of the Confederate army at Gettysburg (and about 150% of the artillery).  Whitworth guns can kiss my ass!  As the neophyte I was thrown to the wolves,  I mean I was given the chance to play the Union.  Fred one of the other Union commanders took me under his wing and explained the basics and got me going.   Needless to say my poor Union boys were blasted to pieces and then driven off the field at bayonet point.   Despite the poor showing I was hooked again. John Hill had done it again with Johnny Reb.   He had done more that than he had introduced me to some my my lifelong friends

Fred convinced me to build the fifth corps to supplement his eleventh corps.   This led to several years of back and forth battles with Steve and Dave that gave us hundreds of hours of fun.   Through three editions of the rules we kept playing.

Fast forward more than a few years,  At Johnny Con III (I think) my oldest son Ethan, got a chance to meet and play Johnny Reb with John Hill. Pretty cool full circle.

Now the new iteration of Johnny Reb takes things to a higher level.  Across a Deadly Field is his newest offering.  Looking forward to giving it a spin.

 Rest In Peace John .  Thank you for your efforts, innovation and years of fun you have given us.   My thoughts and prayers are with your family.  

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