John Hill (game designer)

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John Hill
John Hill with wife, Luella
John Hill with wife, Luella
BornJohn Evans Hill
February 21, 1945
Illinois, United States
DiedJanuary 12, 2015(2015-01-12) (aged 69)
Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States
Occupationgame designer, military analyst
NationalityUnited States
GenreWargames, table-top gaming
SpouseLuella Burton[1]

John Evans Hill (February 21, 1945 – January 12, 2015)[2] was an American designer of military wargames, as well as rules for miniature wargaming such as Johnny Reb 3. He was a member of the Wargaming Hall of Fame. Hill is most well known as the designer of the extremely popular Avalon Hill board game Squad Leader in 1977.

Early life[edit]

Hill, as a child

John Evans Hill was born on February 21, 1945, in Chicago and grew up in Elmhurst, Illinois. His mother was Marian Jean Whitley. His biological father was John T. Hill, who was killed in action during World War II before John Evans Hill was born. When Hill was three years old, Marian remarried Edward F. Whitley who was the man Hill knew to be his father. He also had a half-brother, Richard Whitley, a notable film and television writer. Hill grew up Catholic, attending and graduating from Immaculate Conception High School. After high school, Hill graduated from Purdue University with a four-year degree in Military History.

Early career[edit]

John Hill founded the Conflict Games Company in the late 1960s and owned a hobby shop, the Scale Model Shop, in Lafayette, Indiana, for several years. It has been reported the Scale Model Shop was lost in a flood.[3] Conflict Games was sold in its entirety to Game Designers' Workshop.[3] He later worked as an advertising executive for Boynton & Associates, which published trade magazines for the hobby industry.[3]

Wargame designs[edit]

John Hill's first published wargames were released in 1972 and included Kasserine Pass (Conflict Games), Verdun, The Game of Attrition (Conflict Games), and The Brotherhood (Conflict Games). The next year he published Hue (Conflict Games), based upon the fighting near the City of Hue in the Vietnam War and Overlord (Conflict Games) based on the Normandy campaign. In 1974 and 1975 he published two games on the Arab-Israeli conflicts (Bar-Lev & Jerusalem) and in 1977 a game on the fighting in Korea. It was that same year that he sold Squad Leader to Avalon Hill. He also worked on the first module for Squad Leader, Cross of Iron (Avalon Hill, 1979). His standing in the commercial board wargaming industry was sufficiently high that when Simulations Publications, Inc. published his Battle for Stalingrad in 1980, his name appeared on the box top copy. Few games at the time were marketed on the strength of name recognition of the designer. Once again, when Eastern Front Tank Leader was published by West End Games in 1986 his name featured prominently on the cover.[4]

Hill cited Richard Berg as one of his influences.[3]

Hill developed a well known miniatures rules set for regimental level American Civil War miniature gaming, the Johnny Reb series (published by Game Designers' Workshop). He was noted for his elaborate 10mm miniature wargaming layouts for Civil War battles at Historical Miniatures Gaming Society conventions such as Historicon, Cold Wars and Fall In!. He founded and owned the Johnny Reb Gaming Company, which published the third version of the Johnny Reb rules. He developed Across A Deadly Field: The War in the East and Across A Deadly Field: The War in the West both focusing on the American Civil War tabletop gaming.

Hill was a frequent contributor to the Johnny Reb Gaming Society's popular CHARGE! magazine, offering rules interpretations and strategy advice for Johnny Reb players.

Awards and legacy[edit]

In 1977, Hill received a Charles S. Roberts Award for designing Squad Leader.[4]

In 1978, Hill was named to the Charles Roberts Awards Hall of Fame at the Origins gaming convention in Chester, Pennsylvania, on June 23, 1979.[5]

J P. Hunerwadel commented in 2001 that "John Hill's Squad Leader ... helped fuel the great board-war-game boom of the late seventies."[6]

Game designer Dana Lombardy commented on Johnny Reb in 2007: "John Hill's Civil War miniatures rules remain innovative, challenging, and lots of fun, a claim supported by the game's loyal fan support. Clubs still stage Johnny Reb sessions at conventions around the world, more than 20 years after the rules were introduced."[7]

Personal life[edit]

He is survived by his wife, Luella Burton, of 46 years, daughter, Stephanie Hill and two grandchildren, Danielle and Carl Anthony Nardei.[8]

Later life[edit]

John Hill lived in New Mexico in retirement after spending many years in Northern Virginia. He also served as a military analyst for the U.S. Government. Hill died on January 12, 2015, at Christus St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico.[9]


  1. ^ "In Memoriam John Hill 1945-2015".
  2. ^ "American Heart Association honor page for John Hill". Archived from the original on 2015-01-18. Retrieved 2015-01-17.
  3. ^ a b c d MacGowan, Rodger. "F&M Interview: John Hill All American" (PDF). Fire & Movement. Decision Games.
  4. ^ a b "John Hill (I)".
  5. ^ "5th Annual Origins Awards". The Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA). Archived from the original on 2 July 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  6. ^ Hunerwadel, J P. (Spring 2001). "The Operational Art of War: Century of Warfare", Aerospace Power Journal 15 (1): 118–121.
  7. ^ Lombardy, Dana (2007). "Johnny Reb". In Lowder, James (ed.). Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 157–160. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0.
  8. ^ "In Memoriam – John Hill, 1945-2015, Designer of 'Squad Leader'". Armchair General Magazine - We Put YOU in Command!.
  9. ^ "Obituary".

External links[edit]