July 4, 1976
Bob Bledsaw &
Bill Owen partnered to form
Judges Guild

Cover of 2008 Judges Guild History (8.5x11" 36 pages)

Cover of 2011 Judges Guild History (13x11" 80 pages)

Bill Owen in Belize 2011

Now in Uruguay,

Misc. tour group & game design sites at www.g-design.us

Bill Owen's Tour Group & Game Design are located now in San Ignacio, Belize in Central America where he lives. He is still associated with Tour Group Planners at Atlas Travel in the Decatur Professional Plaza at the NW corner of Decatur & South Main Streets: 363 S Main St Ste 175, Decatur IL 62523. His U.S. phone is 217-619-0202 bill@tourgrouppro.com

Date Last Modified:
February 4, 2014 0:16 AM
(c) Copyright 2014 Bill Owen/Game Design

Updates since my time at Judges Guild by Bill Owen

When I left the Judges Guild partnership in 1978, I stayed at the fringes of JG for awhile while running a more general-interest game company called Game Design. I published a travel-related game called Going Places which sold about 5,000 copies to dozens of travel agents that what used as Christmas gifts to their clients. By 1979, I then went back into the travel business full-time with my family (I had always been minimal part time). I then sold Franklin Travel's 3 offices in Decatur, Springfield & Champaign, Illinois in 2003 to Rio Grande Travel Centers Inc. From 2007 I started a tour company focused on local group tours only and software to help agents, banks, churches etc. build and publish their tours. The software was built in India by 2009 and I have used it to grow my business for over 5 years.

In December 2009, we sold the covered shopping mall that was Judges Guild's first public location from 1976-1978 and our various travel businesses' location from 1968-2009. The building's shell still exists at 304 S Franklin St, Decatur IL but its "City State" decor has been swept away. Continuing as an independent contractor with Rio Grande, as of 2009 I also work through Atlas Travel and is located in the back of their office (see address at lower left) and successor to local tour group planning business, Tour Group Planners. November 12, 2011, my wife and I moved to Belize where I telecommuted and continued to arrange tours and design fliers and web pages for tour leaders for the business Tour Group LLC. This long-distance work continues in the Southern Cone and is made feasible by my TourGroupPro software.

Military history tours I have designed include 1991's MILLENNIUM OF MAYHEM tour with James F Dunnigan and Al Nofi, the 1997 Tanks For The Memories, 2003 WARGAME YOUR WAY ACROSS EUROPE, 2010's European TOUR OF BATTLE hosted by Al Nofi & Francis Garnier plus Mike Mathews' Napoleonic Re-enactor tours to Austerlitz and Jena/Auerstadt. Then my next military history tour, July 15-22, 2011 was the Civil War Train #1 with military historian, Al Nofi, in vintage 1950's train cars to Civil War battlefields out east (sold out with 45 people in 5 cars). A 2nd Civil War trip went in September 2012 via Vicksburg, New Orleans, Atlanta, Chickamauga and Washington DC--a big triangular loop. Now we have a new train itinerary that includes Williamsburg, Gettysburg, Antietam and Washington DC which will be found at Civil War Train. We have 2 private trains planned for 2014 but will not visit battlefields on either one.

Latest tours can be found at www.tourgrouplist.info... the latest being wargamersbattlefield.com for July 18-30, 2014 for the 75th Anniversary year of the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Mostly US gamers will see historic spots, experience tanks in action and meet European wargamers playing games there.

After leaving JG, the only product that I published with Bob was the Treasury of Archaic Names in 1979 which I wrote, typed, cut and paste together all by myself and at least had enough staying power to warrant a reprinting and face lift in 1991. I also promised Bob that he would have right of first refusal on my Battle Brigades of Civil War or Great Battles of Civil War (nom du jour or in this case nom du generation). Unfortunately, I could never quite get it finished enough to suit me... even though it's 98% typeset and ready to upload! This miniatures ruleset was remarkable at the time (1976) because it presumed a figure scale of around 100-125 men each so each 5-figure stand is a regiment. I now prefer Frank Chadwick's new Volley & Bayonet (2nd edition) as each stand is a brigade... even bigger battles, faster.

The ACW ruleset is also relevant to JG because it was the "cover" we used when we called TSR to ask if we could come up and see them in June1976! For some reason, that I cannot remember now, we didn't want to just come out and say "we want to do play aids for D&D". And once we got there Dave Arneson said, "Sure go ahead, no one will buy them any way."(!!)

The Certificate of Authenticity at right was to describe the original City State map that Bob drew in 1976 for our Initial Package. It was originally called No Name City, Middle Earth before he came up with the Invincible Overlord and City State story. This map was found in the rafters of the Franklin Mall where we had our first office/store and was a blueprint test where I was trying to figure out how to copy the the full-color map in the one color (which was impossible since the colors were reproduced in different densities as black, gray or disappeared). The map is currently (as of June 2012) available at www.nobleknight.com full-sized (36x44") with the certificate.

April 19, 2008, my buddy, Bob, died. On November 2, 2008, I released a 16,000-word, full-color history booklet of Judges Guild and my early game days plus my later time with Bob. It has 132 pictures (selling 75 copies by 11/21/08, then 85 copes as of 5/4/09). On Acaeum's JG page, Jeff G. gave this feedback 11/24/08, "Just read mine, great book about the early days. Very easy to read. I really liked it. Thanks for sharing Bill :)" The history is currently in 4 editions with the 4th, expanded large-format edition released in November 2011:

  1. Lulu, Hardcover 8.5x11" Print 36 pages: $35.00 16,000 words, 132 pictures.
  2. Lulu, Softcover 8.5x11" Print 36 pages: $29.95 "
  3. Lulu, Download 8.5x11 PDF 36 pages: $17.50 "
  4. Lulu, NEW 'coffee table' edition that is a expanded 2nd version of the above 36-page edition:Hardcover and BIG 13x11" print 80 premium-quality color pages: $149.95 (with declining discounts over time; check online for latest price and coupons from the home page of Lulu.com) expanded edition now with over 25,000 words and 222 pictures including scans of one-of-a-kind items. Most of the original 132 pictures/scans are enlarged in size.
  5. There was a pdf version of the coffee table book but lulu seemed to have problems with such a giant file (over 100 megabytes) so it's missing now. If interested, you can email me at bill at game.fan.org about it.
    NOTE: Lulu provides occasional discount codes by going to their main site... use'em on check-out. See all items: http://www.lulu.com/gamedesign

In summer 2008, we added some JG items now that Bob Jr. has continued the joint venture that his dad and I went in on: www.cafepress.com/judgesguild ...namely a FULL COLOR classic Tegel Manor map; actually THE original Tegel Manor map that Bob used in our middle-earth based campaign that started in 1974. Plus some memorial items about Bob that is raising some money for the Decatur Area Arts Council.

My biggest game project ever was my (10) 23x35" Normandy maps (the largest version being 60 square feet of detailed colored maps in 4 different hex scales) which I made for our Command Decision "Test of Battle" games. This took 7 years because of the burn-out associated with using primitive software (1997 Illustrator didn't even have "layers" which I had to jury rig by tediously grouping like items) and the fact that this was a typical unreimbursed gamer project. Anyway, I have since seen what people can do with Campaign Cartographer fairly "quickly" (okay, 10 hours per map instead of 30 hours!) Campaign Cartographer may not be good enough to go to offset printing with with (but I would like to hear from someone who has) but amazingly nice for at-home use and perhaps the extra tweaks needed would not take so much longer. I may have to try this product some day. You can see a picture of the whole map series here.

I made play aids for a company-per-stand game called Great Battles of World War II updated with a new D20 high-rolls best approach in August, 2013.

I made a Game Reference Chart at CD:TOB which comes as a part of the robo-chartmaker (unit stats charts) that Matthew in England designed. I designed the symbol art for CD-TOB's order cubes. CD accesories here.

Redrew a giant (33x44") boardgame map in 2008 for the publisher of a Battle for Berlin wargame (at right) in Illustrator when the original artist seems to have made it in Photoshop and then enlarged it (causing it to look fuzzy). Bob seemed shocked that I asked the publisher for 50% down before I drew the map.

Made a General Quarters version 3 turn gauge for their WWI naval edition, Fleet Action Imminent with other naval play aids here.

So I have had fun helping out at the fringes of the wargame hobby and no more investing and risk.

Some of the stuff I have sold brought over $1000.

Like at left, the replica German Schmeisser SMG (I got from Bob via $50 credit towards my royalty payment); went for about $1400.

A copy of Chainmail ruleset (not shown here) originally paid $4 in about 1971, sold for $1900.

At right, not a $1000+ item but sold some JG records to David Witts like the oldest known accounting that re-established timing of when we went to TSR for license permission in July 1976.

Starting around the mid-2006, under the eBay moniker GameDesign4u until November 2011 and then the final dribs and drabs September 2013 (with 536, 100% satisfied customers) sold off my gigantic game collection, the "White Fang Vault" containing hundreds of games and hundreds more magazines and play aid from the late 1960's and early 1970's (Bob used to call it the "greatest game collection known to western man") to fund my travel industry software since I am rather risk averse and prefer not to borrow money. I am still in the travel industry which I returned to full time shortly after Bob and I ended our partnership in the spring of 1978.

You can see some of the unique items that various JG fans worldwide have bought and uploaded at www.tomeoftreasures.com and www.acaeum.com ...the latter has placed a "Bill Owen Q&A "topic if you have questions about olden JG items, go to www.acaeum.com/forum/about7116.html. An abridged version of my JG history I wrote a 1,500 word article) is found in the 11/19/08 edition of Fight On! I was interviewd for a podcast by the Save Or Die folks in January 2011. My next project: after my container arrives, to set up a game table here in Belize. It arrived 12/31/11 but my office was chaos until March 2012 so the game table is finally "up". First games by July 2012, one of Bob's favorite and mine, Hitler's War and General Quarters 3 naval miniatures of the Battle of the River Plate. Games are slow to kindle as work refuses to dwindle. Very happy I have work though!

As of April 2013,I have made up a "Trainer Wheels" version of GQ3 naval ruleset that I will see if the publisher will like to utilize now that I have tested it again with a local chess fan. Oh the ODGW rep thought it wasn't necessary. That's the problem with people who already know the rules: they forget how much work it is to learn it especially without someone to teach you! Sold all my oldest ICD materials for $980 on eBay; the buyer featured one of those items in a You Tube video about 12 Treasures of the History of D&D in January 2014. Looked to see if a few of the ICD original members have anything that they saved, so far 2 said no, 1 maybe and having reached the only other I think might.

Have three more ideas for projects that I will report on at the Acaeum forum if they get anywhere. Stay tuned! In the meantime, help Bob and me out by buying even more vintage JG swag. Some of the items go fully towards the memorial for Bob at the Decatur Area Arts Council. The rest goes to defraying part of the cost of this underwhelming domain. "Published" a free e-book on how to sculpt and paint terrain boards for tiny miniatures' games ...and posted a page featuring pictures of author, Bruce Wiegle's, beautiful terrain boards.

As of August 2013, I played Great Battles of World War II ruleset again (really good game that I had ditched prematurely), finished a free e-book about the after-action report and had hoped to play the game again in September before the Tower of the Elephant relocated via windwalker spell or pegasus (not disclosed always best to keep Sauron guessing).

As of November 2013, we have moved to Uruguay and as of February 2014, living in the campo just 4 miles from the Rio de la Plata, the widest estuary or really a sea where the German pocket battleship, Graf Spee, made its last voyage after fighting 3 British cruisers, 75 years ago this December 2014. I would like to set up a naval game that weekend!

bigguydie   snakeeyes
Did big guy miss his saving throw picking up the big die?  

On hearing that famous English wargamer, Donald Featherstone, died recently (August 2013?) I remember how we were fascinated by their more genteel appraoch to miniature wargames. I think that Don was the inspriation of a fake "gum card" that a friend drew up which was mocking our current game club's disorganization.

The wargame map below was the first game, Cauldron Duel, World War II in North Afrika, where I drew every hexagon and designed start to finish, at age 15!

Below, right is my view from the chacra, Uruguay

CauldronDuelMap ChacraView