Dom : Hi, Mark. Can
you tell us a bit about yourself ?
Mark : I am a 52 year old engineer, specialty in structural engineering. I spent most of the 80's in academia as a college professor, but went back into private industry in the 90's as a "job shopper." My degrees include a Bachelor of Engineering, a Master of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering, a Master of Science in Civil Engineering, and a PhD in Civil/Structural. I am a licensed PE in NH. I originally learned computer programing on an IBM 1620 (back in 1966) which had 8K (that's K, not meg) of memory. The one thing none of us in the industry really predicted was how fast computer capability would increase!
Most of my time
in (regular) army was spent in an R&D center, afterwards I remained in the
reserves for 7 1/2 years, resigning in 1983. (That's a whole other story.)
As an engineer I have worked on buildings, bridges, bomb shelters, specialized
machines, nuclear submarines, the space shuttle, and aircraft.
What are your hobbies besides wargames?
Mark : I'm a member of the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), but recently had to retire from heavy list fighting due to poor health. I still try to get to Pensic every year though.
All my life I've
been an inveterate reader. In fiction I favor SF, mysteries, and war
fiction. I also love L'amour's (I may have mispelled his name) fiction, both his
westerns and others. Unfortunately too many westerns are written by
authors who got their info on the old west from Hollywood. (My two current
favorate authors are Bujold and Webber.) In non-fiction I used to read a
lot of science stuff, but more recently it is mostly history. I collect
"future war" stories done before WWII. I like well done
"techno-thrillers", but most are done by people who have NO idea what
they are talking about. (I like Larry Bond's stuff, but how I met him is
How did you discover wargames and RPG’s?
first discovered wargames from Avalon Hill's old Tactics II game. (I
recall the real old version, that used squares rather than hexes.) I was
introduced to miniatures gaming in the early 70's, and to the first edition of
D&D when it was new.
Dom : Do
you have still the time to play? What are actually your favorite games?
still have time, but the group that I'm in as trouble getting us all together.
I was until recently runing a superhero campaign (Champions) and am still
playing in a SF/Fantasy GURPS campaign set in the late 21st century. I may
be restarting a 2300 AD campaign next year. For years I played in a C&S
campaign, which I would love to get back into, but the GM (who is currently
running the SF/Fantasy game mentioned above) isn't interested in restarting that.
Can you tell us how you met Scott Bizar and how you came to work for FGU?
Mark: I first met Scott at a Gencon; as I recall it was the one at the Lake Geneva Playboy Club, the event having outgrown the American Legion Hall where it had been held for years. Scott was selling C&S, which was brand new. Some time thereafter, he expressed an interest in publishing SPACE MARINES, and we made a deal that lead to the publication of second edition SPACE MARINES under the FGU logo. I published the original SPACE MARINES as FanTac Games. The other two games I published before FGU became the publisher were GIAC MY and ORBIT WAR.
Coming back to Space Opera, the rules are using “Space Marines” as a
background. What was the origin of this wargame and how did it proceed? Do SM
rules evolved to match SO universe?
MARINES was the SF wargame I wrote (long ago.) I had talked of doing an
RPG game associated with it, Scott suggested that I collaberate with Ed, etc.
I agreed. Unfortunately the collaberation was NOT a happy one. While I
don't want to start an argument with Ed; I did not have any word in the process.
I will never work with Ed again.
have also created the classic “Ground & Air Equipment” with Ed Simbalist.
How did you worked together? Did you have some materials left for Space Opera
that was never published?
and Air Equipment" is almost entirely Ed's. My input was minimal. For
the record, I came very close to asking that my name be removed from "Space
Opera" entirely. Ed did the game without much input from me, I didn't
even get a chance to comment on the game before publication.
back in the 70's, Stan Johansen, sculpted the original 25mm figures for Space
Marines (and he still produces these figures). Also, a license has been granted
to T-Rex of Fort Worth, Texas to manufacture and distribute an approved line of
Space Opera micro-armor, usable with the rules contained in Ground & Air
Equipment. Did you met Stan or T-Rex to design the line up of this figures?
met Stan for the original "Space Marines" figures, which predate FGU
taking over publication of "Space Marines"; I have had nothing to do
Simbalist told us he never gets news from you for years. Did you have heard
anything about the other Space Opera contributors or FGU’s staff?
haven't gotten news from Ed either. If you have an e-mail address for him
please send it to me. I will send Ed a message, I liked him personally.
You seemed to be a discreet person. Are you retired from games design? What are
your professional projects at the moment and for the years to come? Can you
imagine writing a new military background of Space Opera?
have worked on a number of projects over the years, but various things happened.
"Clash of Arms", an ancient/medieval miniatures game, was to be
published by FGU just before FGU moved, and for all practical purposes stopped
publishing. My co-authers on that were the same as for Giac My:
Bruce Lutz and Fitzhugh MacCrae. The game is still in limbo, as is "Sudden
Thunder", a modern (1980's) wargame. I have worked with Fitz (without
credit, I didn't do that much) on some of his 19'th century stuff that has been
published in the last decade. But I really don't have any serious game
writing projects at present. I have worked on a new SF miniatures war game, but
it probably wouldn't be called "Space Marines" for copywrite reasons.
If there is enough interest, I may try to finish it. One game related writing
project that I am working on is a novel, loosely based on the adventures of
several characters (including mine) that were played in the old C&S campaign
Albert (Rusty) Young ran back in the 1980's. It is about 1/3rd done.
I don't spend that much time on it.
Dom : As
a designer, where does your inspiration come from?
the original "Space Marines" it was from existing games, reality, and
disgust. About that time the main SF miniatures rules were "Starguard',
which were not a bad set of rules. But they added an appendix for "obsolete"
20th century weapons, and it was clear that in many cases, by their own rules,
the 20th century weapons were superior to their Hi-Tech ones. Then
Travelor came out at about the same time, and I was disgusted by the crap they
had. My National Guard unit (which had obsolecent gear by US Army
standards) could have taken the non-powered armor troops of the Imperium apart,
with ease! And if their starships had entered Earth orbit back then, they
would have been toast. We still had one ABM site, with 100g acceleration
missiles with ERW (neutron bomb warheads) that should have been unstoppable to
forces that had 6 g acceleration missiles.
After all these years, are you surprised by the continuing popularity of Space
I was not aware of it.
Dom : Do
you get a lot of messages from fans around the world, particularly concerning
Have you seen the web site? What would you like to find there?
haven't seen the web site yet. It is on my list of things to do, but
between work and health problems, I haven't gotten around to it yet. What
is the address again?
Finally, what message would you like to give to all the Space Opera fans?
can thank Ed for the game, it's his, just set in my "Space Marines"
universe, which has been changed by his conception of "Space Opera."
I'm glad that you like his game, but if I had had any serious input, it would be
Thanks again Mark for having taken the time to answer our questions.
New York, USA, 27/08/01