RBM Cover Art Gallery
Favorite Rodger MacG artwork, hmmm...
Almost any of his B&W work: Jihad!, Fight No More..., Inchon, Op Crusader, Citadel.
Those last two, along with Britain Stands Alone, and ALL his Squad Leader pieces I think are masterpieces of chiro-somthing (an Italian shadow art term which I can neither spell nor pronounce! ) I think the SL pieces would look great combined into a movie poster-like montage (with game artist/designer credits done movie-style at the bottom! )
Speaking of movie posters – RBM’s Sword of Rome cover screams "60's sword & sandal epic, filmed on location with a cast of 1000s!" At the same time, Paths of Glory could have been a poster for Kubrick's film with little or no changes. Civilization is either an ad for a historical TV miniseries or a historical romance novel! (the colors are that lush ) Another novel cover is Cataphract, with the great Belisarius center shot (I have an early print of this, sent to me graciously by Rodger for ad purposes at a time when I worked in game distribution.)
Master of Photomontage: Stalingrad/Russian Campaign/Streets of Stalingrad. Nuff said.
Rodger can drive the point home with simple, direct color graphics: World in Flames (with a touch of 40s poster), Great Battles of Alexander (original), Twilight Struggle.
But he can also produce complex themes as well: C&C Ancients Expansion, Barbarossa to Berlin.
Calendar, new posters, t-shirts -- I'd buy any of them! Never quit, Rodger, never quit!
Well, that's interesting Rodger. I knew you did a lot of the Wargames Graphic Art Designs but I didn’t realise that "Red Star/White Eagle" was one of your covers as well.
Rodger and Redmond A. Simonsen seem to have been THE major players in the kingdom of Art in Wargames.....I cannot think of any other people who I have such a large collection of material. I have all of Hunter S. Thompson's books and all of Pink Floyd albums, but put those two together and they do not even come close to matching how many Rodger B. MacGowan works I have. Nor RAS's works.
For me, it is difficult to fix on a definitive MacGowan favourite. Too much great art spread over three decades, but I, too, have a fondness for the "black" work. Then again, Operation Shoestring is a big favourite...
Rodger, I find it interesting that many of your creations with a good amount of black on the cover are my favorites - Downtown and Silver Bayonet as an example. Perhaps it is because they seem to be very crisp and have a high amount of contrast - I'm not sure.
However, your Flat Top artwork is indeed my favorite. It is very difficult to pick out just 12 covers, however!
And how many cover art designers have imitated Rodger's composition and style over the years? I know that my own covers for the AF series are certainly in the same vein (if not nearly as well executed...I don't have either the same raw talent, nor the experience and training).
One of Rodger’s AH General covers I really liked is for an issue that supported Flat Top. It didn't have the classic game box art, but a different one, with a Dauntless flying over a Japanese carrier, and hex pattern on the sea below. It really brought together the notion of the battle and the game.
Since I consider Up Front and Swashbuckler to be two of the best games ever, I now wonder if there is not a connection between how good a game is and the story behind Rodger’s cover art.
Having reviewed the artwork posted here on CSW recently, I think the cover art for Up Front is my favorite RBM work. I think its the most eye-catching cover art that I've seen from him. There's something about the deep, rich colors in the background scene that appeals to me, regardless of (or perhaps in spite of) the uniform markings of the featured soldier.
I'd think I'd declare the cover art from Zero! a close second.
Upon seeing the RBM’s box art and the map graphics for GMT's Kasserine at a friend's house, I went out and bought the game. I still find it to be one of the best games I own visually and the best part? It is one of my Top 10 all time wargames as I found it great fun to play. So with so-so art, I would have missed out on this little gem.
I must admit that I wasn't too excited initially at the thought of viewing RBM game artwork from the past, but this really has been fascinating, and has brought back a lot of old memories. I've particularly enjoyed the background commentary Rodger has been sprinkling in occasionally with the artwork.
Rodger, for me you have become synonymous for the gaming industry. I have always enjoyed your coverart for the games. Your Fire & Movement Magazine for me was truly an eye opening experience and led me to try many games I would have otherwise passed by. When I got back into gaming five years ago after a 12 year absence, I was really glad to see that you were still a part of it with GMT Games and C3i.
The quality of GMT Games (and others as well), is really amazing compared to games 30+ years ago. As a C3immortal, I am always impressed by the quality of the mag and eagerly wait for each issue. I just wanted to let you know how much I've appreciated your efforts over the years and hope too for many years to come!
"...Rodger, Since you're posting 1st versions ... would it be too much to ask if you had a copy of the original 'Up Front'? I know you said a new game is similar in concept ... but I don't own that game ..."
Hi Doc (Brian),
The first version cover design I designed for AH’s "Up Front" was never published.
As I noted, the artwork was from the U.S. Army point of view, not the German. It was a combat action scene. So, what I submitted to Avalon Hill way back then was a hand drawn sketch, a pencil rough, not a finished complete work in color.
That was standard procedure back in those days. I would design a cover as a pencil sketch, submit the sketch to the client, and if I received the 'greenlight" I would begin work on the final painting for the boxcover -- that didn't happen with "Up Front" with the first sketch. I had to start again, and create the cover you see today with the German theme instead of the U.S. theme.
A couple years ago I was asked to be a "Special Guest" at the San Francisco "ConQuest" convention. When I was there, I also manned (alone) our game company booth to meet with our fans, and sell our games and magazines. During the con, I was told by a number of our fans to check out this game this guy was playtesting and displaying downstairs. Since I was chained to the booth, I couldn't get away to see it. I asked one of the guys to ask the designer to come to meet with me at the booth. That's when Chad Jensen and I first met. From that meeting I invited Chad up to "GMT West Weekend" in Santa Barbara where we playtested his game "Combat Commander" almost 24/7 for four days and nights.
From this came our new game release "Combat Commander". From the beginning Chad's game design reminded me of those days back in the 1970's when I was working with John Hill and Don Greenwood on the first "Squad Leader" game. My hope was that "Combat Commander" would be well received by the players -- I think it has been based on the feedback and reviews I've read.
So, when I was working on the "Combat Commander" package design I reflected on my work on the "Squad Leader" series. I wanted to capture some of that "feel" but I didn't want the packaging to look too much like my "Squad Leader" work.
Here it is. Hope you like it
"...Rodger, I have to ask, having done 'Great Battles of Alexander' a total of three times, which one is your favorite? I'm a little partial to the first 'Deluxe Alexander' myself, with the portrait of the king as a rock star (young Roger Daltrey?) and the mountains in the background. To me, the first indicates the glamour of the character, as the world's first action hero, and the second the scope of his conquest, reaching to the Hindu Kush..."
Hi Jim Werbaneth,
That's an excellent question. Because of our "GBoH Series" and other games we've done on the Classical Ancient period I have had a number of opportunities to try to visualize Alexander the Great through my artwork. I have done a great deal of reading about Alexander, and of course, I have done visual research as well.
About five years ago I took the family on a wonderful vacation trip to Italy. I wanted my son Steven to see Rome and all the historical sites possible. Part of my plan was for us to stay in Naples for some time, and visit the Classical Art Museum there and then also go on to the ruins of Pompeii (ca.100 B.C.). When visiting Pompeii and walking down the sunny streets of this ancient city from thousands of years ago we came upon the House of the Faun. The ruins of the Corinthian columns and pilasters are still there, they were so amazing to see. On the floor of the House of the Faun, thousands of years ago, was the "Alexander Mosaic" -- the famous mosaic of Alexander the Great and his army against Darius and his Persian warriors. Today, this preserved (but damaged) Alexander mosaic is housed in the Naples Museo Nazionale Archeologico. When standing before this work of art, in the museum, I wanted to try to capture the feel and look of the mosaic, but also try to update it. Below is my version of that great work of art, a detail from my cover design for "Commands & Colors Ancients Expansion".
By the way, the Pompeii "Alexander Mosaic" is believed to have been based on a long lost masterpiece, a Greek painting of the fourth century B.C.
Enjoy the Art,
"...Of all the 'Squad Leader' products, I think 'Cross of Iron' is my favorite cover. It has the most action, and I always liked the photograph of the Soviet officer from which the figure on the right is taken (it was also used on the cover of SPI's 'Kharkov')..."
Yes, AH's "Cross of Iron" came out before SPI's "Kharkov". Of course, my version of the Russian squad leader was not a high contrast photo (like SPIs), but a hand illustration incorporating other images like supporting Soviet infantry, armor etc. to achieve the "combined arms" look. The photo is now famous, but I think I was the first to use it on a wargame package.
BTW, I was the first to depict Soviet forces on a wargame package with my cover design for AH's "The Russian Campaign" in 1976. Strange as it may seem now, but before my "Russian Campaign" boxcover Russian troops had not been seen on a wargame cover. In fact, I did stir up a little flak because of this at the time. I had a "balance" of both German and Russian images on "Russian Campaign" so it was eventually accepted.
All the Best,
"...Could you tell the story to all of us again? Please! (I sound like my 3 yr old asking to read Dr. Suess). I just love it ... how they didn't like the original 'UP Front' cover..."
Hi Doc (Brian Sielski),
OK, to set the stage, I had been working for The Avalon Hill Game Company (Baltimore, MD) for quite a few years. My AH artwork for "The Russian Campaign", "Guns of August", "Fury in the West", "Flat Top", "Civilization", "PanzerGruppe Guderian", “PanzerArmee Afrika”, “PanzerKrieg”, the "Squad Leader" series, and more had proven to be very popular. So, Don Greenwood (then VP of AH) who was my main contact at AH approached me with the then "secret" game project -- "Up Front!", a "Squad Leader" based card game. Don wanted me to do ALL the artwork and the graphics for the game, and I was more than interested in doing so. We discussed it in detail.
The first thing I did was design the title logo for the game using a bayonet design incorporated into the lettering/title of the game. Of course, I based the bayonet and the rifle on the U.S. Army’s M1. My title design was retained and used on all the cards and everywhere else on the game components where appropriate.
Since the game was entitled "Up Front" my first thoughts were of the U.S. Army in WWII and the Bill Maudlin (Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist ) WWII cartoon series about ‘Willie and Joe’ in the “Stars and Stripes” newspaper.
I then started work on the cover design and illustration for the “Up Front” game package. I designed a battle scene of U.S. Army soldiers, in combat, fighting through mixed terrain with a small French village in the background. There were explosions and smoke in the air. The perspective of the cover art was from that of a typical soldier as you see troops to the the right and left of you advancing and in front is your squad leader waving the unit forward – I thought this design captured the drama of the subject just right. I then quickly sent my art proof to Don Greenwood.
There was a long silence. This was before email, faxes and the like – our communication was all done by post or over the telephone. I waited to hear from Don. Then I finally received a call from him. Don said that the reaction to my “Up Front” cover design proof was very positive around the AH offices, they liked it, but it wasn’t exactly what they wanted. I then asked him what was wrong, what do they want? He said, that “they said”, “…Germans sell, we want Germans on the cover…”
It took me some time to calm down from this experience. I thought about it. I slept on it. I was not a happy camper. I knew my original “Up Front” cover depicting U.S. Army soldiers in combat would work and I felt it would be well received by the players. But they wanted Germans. I said to myself, “OK you want Germans, I’ll give you Germans.” From this came the “Up Front” that we all know today.
By the way, when I sent in the final cover for “Up Front” with the central German “SS” soldier the guys at AH loved it. There were zero negative comments or reactions to the coverart from AH. They couldn’t praise it enough, they said it was “great” and they were happy with the final results. They said it would sell. Later, when there were some people who complained about the “SS guy” on the cover, AH blamed everything on “the artist” and said they were innocent, they accepted none of the blame or criticism.
In conclusion, for your information, the central figure, the “SS guy” was based on a Third Reich painting I saw in a German book I bought in Europe in the 1970’s. The book was full of Third Reich artwork that had survived the war in some vault. The author was given access to the art and printed examples from this collection – that is where the “SS guy” came from, from the secret vaults of the Third Reich.
Hope you found this story of interest,
"I'm convinced that the infantry is the group in the army which gives more and gets less than anybody else." Bill Mauldin
"...Burt & Gary (or is it Terence?) Rodger: Two of my favorites are the "Movie" covers; 'Apache' (with a Burt Lanacaster like central figure and 'French Foreign Legion' with a Gary Cooper...Yaquinto seemed to bring out the homage' in you!..."
Hi Rick Wagoner,
The "Album" cover packaging for those Yaquinto Games was one of the main reasons for the "look". Back then, as you know, there were real "record albums" (pre-CD jewel boxes). The format looked like a record album, a movie soundtrack cover, etc.
In addition, Steve Peek of Yaquinto Games was a very good friend -- we went back to the 1970's when Steve and Craig Taylor were in charge of Battleline Games. When Steve started Yaquinto he asked me to come out to Dallas and be the Art Director -- I was tempted, but decided not to.
So, when the "Album" cover format was introduced for these new games, and Steve told me some of the titles, I suggested the "movie image" look for the covers. With titles like "Beachhead", "Apache", "Swashbuckler",and "French Foreign Legion" (among others) I felt it would be fun to do and add to the popularity.
The games did well. In fact, "Swashbuckler" turned out to be Yaquinto's "bestseller" -- it sold more units than any other history oriented game in their line.
Yes, the main figure on "FFL" is Gary Cooper (left) from "Beau Geste" and the central figure on "Apache" is Burt Lancaster from the movie "Apache". I did these covers as a tribute to these movies and movie stars -- the movies I grew up watching on TV as a kid. I had a great deal of fun working on those covers.
“…Rodger, do you have a gallery online anywhere? The only pieces of yours I'm aware of are cover art from GMT Games. The picture above is one I've never seen before…”
I don't have a "gallery online" per se, but much of what you will find listed (below) can be found by using the Google search engine – many of these games are now Collector’s items and sell on eBay etc.
Listed below are around 150 games I worked on before we started GMT Games back in 1990. Of course, as Art Director of GMT Games. I have done almost all our game packaging and a great deal of our game component artwork and “C3i Magazine”.
Background: I started doing wargame art professionally in 1976 for The Avalon Hill Game Company -- my first game projects were "The Russian Campaign", "Squad Leader" and "Cross of Iron". I would go on to do over 20 game projects for AH over a 10 year period. I also worked for Game Designer’s Workshop, Yaquinto Games Inc., Simulations Canada, Australian Design Group, 3W Games, Strategy & Tactics, Operational Study Group, Peoples Wargames, Quarterdeck Games and more. Around the mid-1970’s I also started my first professional wargame magazine "Fire & Movement" (which is still in print, BTW). Much of my art and graphics won hobby/industry awards including “Squad Leader”, “Cross of Iron”, “The Russian Campaign”, “World in Flames”, “Royal Navy”, “Modern Naval Battles”, etc.
In the early 1980’s I was asked to become the Graphics Coordinator for Hobby Japan Ltd in Tokyo. I worked on dozens of game projects for Hobby Japan designing packaging, logos, component art, and I also worked on their wargame magazine “Tactics” (now out of print). I frequently made business trips to Japan in the 1980’s working on these many projects.
Hope this helps,
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