Way before Clash of Arms Games, in the early ‘80’s, Ed Wimble ran the Compleat Strategist in King of Prussia, PA. This little store was a conduit for several influential designers and artists, all of them gamers. Wargaming had sunk into a depth of boring sameness after SPI succumbed in early ‘82. Two years later Wimble joined Clash of Arms resolved to break through the graphically-stale, no longer evolving SPI style, and try something fresh. He worked with dozens of collaborators, none of them more creative and original than Rick Barber.
Ed Wimble: Rick was living in Perkasie where his wife, Barbara, was a bank officer. He walked into the Strategist in King of Prussia soon after we'd published "The Great Invasion." When we needed to move from COA’s original factory building, Rick was available to help so we knocked it off in a week, moving a few blocks to The Byrne Building.
Like half the professionals in this hobby, Rick suffered from ADD. This spate of activity improved his outlook. I offered him a part time job—two or three days a week. Aside from giving him focus and structure, we'd see each other frequently.
Larry Flournoy was our Art Director then and he was shopping around for artists when we were still publishing the TOME modules. We tried to transition this stable from fantasy modules to historical boardgames but it was a completely different kettle of fish. Thus the artwork in our first couple boardgames was inconsistent. The map art was coming along and Rick was brought in to help ... the only one of our three artists who knew what a wargame was. (Sadly, our gorgeous female artist up and quit; she had the Russians. Paste-up for our counters was too tedious—she was into drawing). Rick took over like a duck on the pond. Rick had a hand in two of those counter sheets. After that, he became COA’s principal map artist. The result was several good years of productivity in spite of the fact that I was as busy as one-armed paper hanger (just as my kids were being born, and when Nikki was born as well). Barbara got promoted to a branch bank in Gettysburg and this period ended with Rick moving to McSherrystown, PA, about 2.5 hours away.
Rick designed the maps and counter art for dozens of Clash of Arms products. He had a unique style based upon hand-etched terrain that he never abandoned for computer graphics. But he shared Ed’s vision of a more impactful visual design, units with more color, more historical swag, and more fun to send into the breach than the plain-Jane Simonsen style. Barber often added a little signature piece of terrain, labelled, "Le Chat Noir," or some variation. Depending on the language of the area, it might be Black Cat Nob, Schwarze Katz, or Gatto de Negro.
EW: The ‘90s turned out pretty good based on the solid relationship we had. One of my fondest memories of him is sitting in the shade of a huge oak next to my house, going over the counter mechanicals for Ligny. I think Rick's breakout map was the one he did for The Campaigns of R.E. Lee.
In the spate of a decade, Rick, Clash of Arms and Zucker collaborated on The Emperor Returns (1986—Rick’s first map, two editions); Napoleon at Leipzig (1988, two editions); and The Six Days of Glory (1996).
Kevin: The three of us, Rick, Ed and I, drove out to Columbus in the late ‘90’s. Those trips were a lot of work, but that drive was fun, partly because of Rick’s enthusiastic monologue. The next year we travelled as far as Illinois for Dean Essig’s Homer-con. (Burrito run into Champagne; lunch in Homer’s only diner.)
Rick knew the Gettysburg Battlefield as well as any Park Ranger. He loved that piece of ground, and rendered it many times in different games (Summer Storm, below). Obsession can help you achieve excellence. Unfortunately, this obsession didn’t always pay the bills, and he was spending all his time on it. His life went downhill after the divorce. He found solace wandering the historical paths of Gettysburg.
Recently his health had been in decline. His last post on Consimworld (April 23, below) said he had just gotten the 1st shot and was having trouble with the side effects. Then not a peep out of him and he was dead in two weeks (May 6). The cause of death was reported as a heart attack.
“Damn, two days of feeling like I was walking through pudding. Just realized that I've had one bowl of oatmeal since my Bro and I had lunch on Tuesday, and feel right now (7 pm) like going right back to bed.
"They say that the effects of the second jab can be a little worse, so I'd better schedule some 'down time' around May 11."
Detail from Rick's hand-drawn Summer Storm map. He drew it from life.