Was the term “GEV” just a mistake?

Sunday, February 17th, 2019

Back in 1977, Steve Jackson Games came out with a sci-fi wargame named after the giant cybernetic tank central to its futuristic setting, the Ogre. Other units included infantry, artillery, and highly mobile hovercraft — known in the game as GEVs, or Ground Effect Vehicles.

Years later I learned that a ground effect vehicle is not a hovercraft, or air cushion vehicle, but a winged airplane, designed to use the wing-in-ground-effect — the reduction in drag experienced by an aircraft as it approaches a height approximately twice a wingspan’s length off the ground (or other level surface such as the sea).

Winchell Chung, who runs the Atomic Rockets website and goes by the handle of Nyrath, did the original art for the game, and I recently asked him, was the term “GEV” just a mistake? Or were they not meant to be air-cushion vehicles (ACVs) originally?

He wasn’t sure, but he made three points:

  1. The draft rules described units as armored hovercraft. Not aircraft. Fast moving ground units. They were called GEVs.
  2. I vaguely remember reading that GEM [for Ground Effect Machine] was a synonym for hovercraft, and I assumed GEV was a variant.
  3. I used a Popular Mechanics cover as inspiration.

Popular Mechanics Tiger Sharks of the Vietnam Swamps

He swapped out the propeller in the back with twin jet turbine engines and made the skirt look armor plated:

Winchell Chungs GEV 1 Winchell Chungs GEV 2 Winchell Chungs GEV 3

Then he sent a trial drawing to Steve Jackson, who added his comments in red:

Winchell Chungs GEV with Steve Jackson's Comments


  1. Kirk says:

    Terminology mis-match, all the way around. The guys who were talking about this stuff picked it all up from popular media, where they used to term the principles that hovercraft work off of as being “ground-effect cushions”, or some such bullshit. Steve Jackson was not an aerodynamics major, and that’s why he picked that stuff up from popular media. I can remember hearing and reading about “ground effect cushion” stuff in the magazines and newspapers of the time, talking about things that clearly did not use “ground effect”. High school teacher of mine was a private pilot, former Air Force veteran, and he went into detail about why the media was wrong about that terminology–Bit of a rant, really.

    You see this all the time in firearms, and elsewhere in science fiction–Cool concept, wrong descriptions of how it all works.

    That said, OGRE was a fun little game. I remember playing it in high school, but it was not easy finding other geeky bastards who were into that stuff. Third Reich? Squad Leader? No problem; sci-fi stuff? Problem.

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