When John Mills began writing sci-fi stories a decade ago, he had no idea that, in 2024, his fictional universe would have morphed into a physical card game, novel, and tournament. Northern Soul finds out how a hobby for a Bury-based road transport professional became a vocation. 
Northern Soul: Tell us about Ulandi Wars. What is it about?
John Mills: Ulandi Wars is a tactical sci-fi battle card game that I designed about five years ago. Players collect cards and design decks to battle their opponents. It’s a two-player game but can also be played as a team game or as a multiplayer game.
NS: What inspired you to create Ulandi Wars?
JM: About 10 years ago, I started writing short sci-fi stories set in a fictional universe that I’d created called Ulandi. It was just a hobby that I started to keep myself busy, I didn’t think it would ever lead to anything. At the time I was part of a gaming club that used to meet every Thursday to play board games. One evening we were discussing which games to play but couldn’t decide. We had already played all the games that we owned. It was at this point that I had an idea, why don’t I design my own game that we could all play? Of course, everybody laughed and thought I was mad, but I did it anyway. I had always loved sci-fi so I knew my game was going to be science fiction-based. I set to work making gaming cards and designing the rules. The only part missing was a setting. Then I remembered the sci-fi short stories I had written years before and it seemed natural to combine the two to create Ulandi Wars.
NS: Have you always been interesting in games and gaming?
JM: For as long as I can remember. As a child, I loved reading the Fighting Fantasy books written by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. I had a huge collection of their books that I used to read every night before bed, but what really got me hooked on gaming was playing Warhammer. When I was about 12-years-old, I went into Bolton with a friend and we discovered a toy shop called Forboys. In the basement of the shop they had a selection of Games Workshop miniatures and games. I picked up a selection of models and paints and, along with my friend Ian, we spent the whole summer just painting models and gaming. The rest as they say is history. From that point on, I spent all of my spare time and pocket money on anything related to board games.
NS: What do you think is the appeal of Ulandi Wars?
JM: First and foremost I think it’s the game play. There are a lot of different card games on the market including Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, and Yu-Gi-Oh! There are loads to choose from but what makes Ulandi Wars unique is that our game uses a third deck of cards that players draw from. This adds additional tactics and jeopardy to the game so players really have to think about their strategy. Secondly, I think people love the game because of its sci-fi element. We’ve written lots of background lore and character stories based on the cards in the game. So not only can players collect and trade the cards, they can also read all about their adventures. It’s a complete universe that fans can immerse themselves in.
NS: How hard was it to create a game from scratch? 

JM: Initially, it wasn’t that difficult. I knew exactly what I wanted to create and just went ahead and did it. My head is always full of creative ideas and I never seem to suffer from writer’s block or lack of imagination. The hardest thing is time or lack of time. With a young family and a full-time job, it was difficult finding the time to work on the game. It took over three years from the initial concept to get a working prototype. This was because of the large amount of artwork that we had to produce for the game.

John Mills, Ulandi Wars

NS: In terms of what you’ve achieved in the creation of this game, what are you most proud of?
JM: I’m really proud of how the end product turned out. I think that the artwork and layout look fantastic, and everyone always comments on how good the game looks. I think my proudest moment though was when I sold the first copy of the game. To think that something that started as a silly little idea grew into an actual product that players really like makes me proud.
NS: What have you got planned for Ulandi Wars in the future?
JM: Loads! I’ve been writing a full-length Ulandi Wars novel which I’m hoping to finish this year. On top of that we’re designing new cards and faction decks. We’ve already got some trade shows booked for 2024 and we are also organising our first Ulandi Wars tournament. So it’s going to be a busy year. 
NS: How do people take part in the game? 
JM: We are on all the usual social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, X and TikTok. We’ve also got our own website and shop where people can find out all about the game.