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Board Game Artists #4: Peter Dennis

I’m Peter Dennis, a British freelance illustrator working for over 40 years on almost every type of illustration from comic strip to the Bible.

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I had been working since the mid 70’s as an illustrator of children’s books, mostly non-fiction and history, when I could get it, before Martin Wallace asked me to do some work for one of his board games. I knew Martin already as we were both members of the circle of friends of the military historian Paddy Griffith.

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Martin was beginning to establish himself as a game designer and it was enjoyable to develop the visual side of his games. He had a pretty clear idea of what he wanted of course, and it was mostly a matter of working up the computer art he had used for the development of the game into something more ‘hand drawn’. I don’t use computers in my work, so it was good that Martin was so keen on the hand-made look.

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There was the box art for each game, which was like my normal illustration work, but perhaps more interesting was the creation of the little worlds of counters and maps that carried forward the narrative of the games themselves.

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It was through Martin’s insistence that I journeyed from Nottinghamshire all the way down to Wincanton in the west of England to meet the Discworld Emporium crew when he was working on his Ankh Morpork game. I hate meetings, which always seem to be a waste of time, so I took some persuading, but I was soon drawn into their crazy world by their lively spirits and I went on to do much work, both game and non-game set on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

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I think that at about the same time I started working for Martin’s Treefrog Games I began illustrating books for Osprey publishing, perhaps the most prolific producer of illustrated military history. The subject had long been a passion of mine and I feel very much at home in that world.

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As a matter of fact I don’t play board games myself. My gaming is with miniatures. I’m fortunate to live near Nottingham, which is a creative hub for miniatures gaming thanks to Games Workshop which is based in the city. Although I played with miniature figures since childhood, in the last couple of years I have been developing the paper soldier, really a 19th Century idea, as a viable alternative to expensive metal and plastic miniatures. With the UK publisher Helion I am making a series of source books, that is books of artwork that you can photocopy, containing all the artwork you would need to create paper wargame armies of various campaigns of British, and American history.

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I have been fascinated by paper soldiers since I encountered an exhibition of them in the army museum in Paris as a teenager. Early experiments towards making my own had failed, and it wasn’t until recently, when I idly folded up some scrap paper and tossed it on my drawing board, where it sat like ranks of soldiers that I saw how it might be done and within 10 minutes had made the first simple model.

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So I am currently continuing my work for Osprey, working sometimes for the Discworld gang and making box art for various miniatures companies in the UK. Alongside this I’m having a great time exploring history through the paper miniature. I’m currently finishing the American Civil War book and thinking about a new paper soldier book about Edward the first, castles and sieges for spring 2018.

Photo credits: Peter Dennis. Used with permission.



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