Memoriam from Armchair General


Armchair General is a magazine distributing company that publishes 11 award-winning magazines focusing on military history.  In addition to the print issues, Armchair General has an innovative unique online feature which permits the reader to determine the course of action in thought-provoking and challenging historical scenarios. This online historical scenario gives you the opportunity to step back into history and into the shoes of a famous battlefield commander and in a virtual sense, change the course of history through interactive decision-making opportunities.  Leading historians offer integrity and credibility to this fresh and unique presentation of military history and contemporary events.

Armchair General authored a well thought-out Memoriam on John Hill shortly following my father’s death earlier this year from heart complications. I am not sure how many of his fans were able to see this beautiful write up, so I thought I would share here on this site:

If there is a heaven just for game designers, it has a new archangel. John Hill, best known for designing the groundbreaking board war game Squad Leader, passed away on January 12. He was inducted into The Game Manufacturers Association’s Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design Hall of Fame in 1978; Squad Leader was inducted into the HoF in 2004.

His many board game designs include Jerusalem(1975), Battle for Hue (1973), Battle for Stalingrad(1980) and Tank Leader (1986 and 1987), but John was always a miniatures gamer at heart, and anyone who ever got to play a game on his magnificent game table considered themselves lucky. Squad Leader was originally intended to be a set of miniatures rules, but the publisher, Avalon Hill, asked him to convert it to a cardboard-counters board game design. His Civil War miniatures rules Johnny Reb were considered so significant that even Fire & Movement magazine, which primarily covered board games, published a major article on the JR system. Most recently John designed Across A Deadly Field, a set of big-battle Civil War rules, for Osprey. He completed additional books in the series for Osprey that have not yet been published.

On a personal note, John was my friend of many years. I was introduced to miniatures wargaming through a Johnny Reb game with John and one of the JR developers Dana Lombardy (designer of Streets of Stalingrad and other games). 

He never seemed to take himself too seriously. He had a unique, cockamamie way of interpreting and describing historical events that could force people to re-examine what they believed. With his high-pitched voice, raucous laugh and eyes that often seemed to be looking in different directions at the same time, he was a memorable, one-of-a-kind character. I doubt that anyone who ever gamed with him or heard one of his historical presentations ever forgot him—or ever will.

He leaves behind his beloved wife of forty-six and a half years, Luella (Lu); his daughter Stephanie, and two grandchildren, Danielle and Carl “Anthony”. He also leaves behind a war game hobby that is richer for his contributions and many heartbroken friends who will find it hard to believe we will never crack jokes or roll dice with him again.   ~ Gerald D. Swick

In addition to the above write-up, many wonderful comments were contributed:

God Bless John and his family. Heaven gained an Incredible person and Game Designer. He helped me learn the game years ago and was wonderfully patient and understanding. His family was so Lucky to have had him the years he was with us all; and now he will be continuing his Joy for us all in Heaven. We lost a Giant in the gaming Industry much too early.


Played his games for hours with my brother and friends. Very sad that his genius has been called to serve another diety.


Another hero falls. One must remember it takes guts and persistence to design extraordinary games – and one never receives the deserved benefits.

I had the privilege of meeting John Hill one time just long enough to shake his hand and thank him for being my inspiration. If you’d have asked him, I doubt he’d remember.

But I do.

John Hill was my inspiration for designing games. ‘Design for effect’ was his watchword. Excruciating detail was less important than playing a game and getting feeling you were there.

That’s legacy.

Heartfelt condolences to his family. They have lost a patriarch. We have lost a mentor.


“Hero: a person admired for bravery, great achievements, or good qualities.”

Yep, works for me. I never had the pleasure of meeting John — honestly, I’m not sure I even knew his name — but I know it now, and am saddened to hear of his passing.

I spent many, many, *many* an hour poring over Squad Leader minutiae and battling friends and family across the chipboard battlefield in my formative years. John and designers like him made that possible, for which I always remain grateful.

Condolences to his family and all those who miss him.


Loved his games and he movers from Lafayette,Indiana after I found his shop that went in the flood and he moved, too bad for me.
Have The historical WARGAMEs He made and several he worked on with others like Dana .
There is a wargames get together in West Lafayette,IN. on Feb.14th, Playing his games and discussing them and him. Sage’s Shoppe on 52.

So so long and Hold that Line and keep the boys a fighting who have gone on before you now in them ranks of wargames in the sky.
Robert Caplinger
Lafayette Gamers


Wow, what a great game. A group of us played many wargames in high school and college, but Squad Leader was on a different level than any other game we played at the time. The rules were longer and more difficult initially, but once you work through it, it was a fun and simple system to use.

I still remember firing my first artillery barrage on my opponents troops who were in a wheat field. The barrage didn’t eliminate all of his units, but as a result of the barrage, the wheat caught on fire and many more units were destroyed. To a high schooler at the time, that was phenomenal.

A great game by a great designer!


God bless him. Advanced Squad Leader (purchased for my 10th birthday by my father who bought it on a lark) introduced me to a lifelong hobby. I have played many great wargames since, but none compare with SL/ASL. God rest his soul.



Please feel free to leave comments below and I will reply shortly.


  1. Heather

    Hello Steph,

    What touching and beautiful words written about your father and his games such as Squad Leader and Johnny Reb. It is obvious from reading his fan’s messages the your Dad was truly admired for his work and that these games must have brought much joy to many. What a creative mind he must have had! My sincere condolences on your loss. I’m sure reading the loving and kind comments from his fans must warm your heart.


    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      Hi Heather!

      Thank you for stopping today and reading the tribute to my father. You are right. There were many people who admired him and were huge fans of his wargames. He has been missed by many, but the memories will continue on through his talent and achievements and contributions to the gaming society. Come back soon and enjoy some of the many other articles which have been written and will continue to be written about my father.


  2. Emily

    hi Steph
    I am very sorry for the loss of your father. He seemed to have been a much loved and admired man. Words written here are very sweet and communicate a deep respect others had for your father. I know nothing about the games he created but it seems like his craftmanship was greatly appreciated. it must have been heartwarming to read all those positive and touching comments

    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      Hi Emily:

      Thank you for your condolences. Some days can be more difficult than others for my mother and I. He was for sure much loved and admired by many of his followers, closest friends and family. He certainly was very crafty and had a huge amount of creativity as well.


  3. Samantha

    What a great collection of memories about your father. He sounded like a very dedicated and interesting man! I admire his commitment to creating so many games, and incorporating history into them in such an entertaining way as well.

    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      Hi Samantha:

      They are a great collection of memories for sure. Thank you for taking the time to read through them today. John Hill was indeed very dedicated and committed to perfecting the art of wargaming. Thank you for appreciating his passion.


  4. Eric

    I remember hearing about his games. He was truly a treasure to people who love these games. A one of a kind person. May God Bless him and his family.

    1. Stephanie (Post author)

      Hi Eric:

      Glad to hear you have heard of my father’s games such as Squad Leader, Johnny Reb, and ADF. Thank you for the kind words. Yes, he was a treasure indeed to people who knew and loved his games. Have a wonderful day!



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