͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ 
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Halloween draws ever closer! So, here's a friendly reminder for you to try and make sure that you don't forget to purchase candy for the upcoming occasion. And don't buy that cheap shit (as if any candy is cheap, anymore), either. Richard Lockwood, I'm talking to you, buddy!

Since last issue, I managed to make a mess of things, by deleting some images (quite a few images, actually - SSShhh! Don't tell anybody.) from my Sender account, in a bid to clear up some space, and to make it a tad easier to find some of the images that I reuse the most. Yeah, as it turns out, that was a really bad idea. EEK!

What ended up happening is that some of the old issues of PBM Chaos now look as if chaos, itself, descended upon them, with various images that I included in them now being gone. POOF! Live and learn, I reckon. I don't recall encountering a problem like this, when I used MailChimp to send the PBM mailings with. Go figure!

Come to find out, after making an inquiring after the fact with Sender, that there's apparently no space limits - so, trying to "save space" turns out to have been wholly unnecessary. I just don't know, though. Which doesn't fix anything, of course, but by this point, it's all water under the bridge.

If your name is Dan Warncke, take note that Comcast apparently mistakenly thought that an e-mail that I sent to you about one of our games was spam, and now I don't know if my e-mail to you will keep on finding its way into your in-box. Then again, you may not end up receiving this e-mail, but we live in an imperfect world, I'm afraid.

I have begun pondering more what works and what doesn't, what's problematic and what's not, that sort of thing. Are these PBM Chaos mailings too big, too long, too anything? Did I just hear somebody's thought bubble out there just say "too boring?" Was that you, Weatherhead?

Maybe I'm just always looking for a better way to do things, a better way to get the word out about PBM, a better way to get more people interested in this favorite hobby of mine. Certainly, I could change over to just sending out really short e-mails. I could significantly reduce my use of image ads to promote PBM games, and just include perhaps a couple of image ads in each issue of PBM Chaos. You all should really write in and tell me what you think, tell me what you want, tell me what you like or dislike, tell me what you prefer or don't prefer. Otherwise, I tend to make such decisions alone, by myself, and at late hours of the night - many times past the witching hour, itself!

Or perhaps I am simply trying to cram too much stuff into each issue of PBM Chaos. Granted, I previously published the original Suspense & Decision magazine, and then a good while after that, I published PBM Unearthed. For the most part, I can't really tell much difference in publishing a PBM magazine, a PBM newsletter, or PBM mailings. It's all basically the same stuff, and awareness of all three was/is primarily accomplished via communications by e-mail. What to do, what to do, what to do?

And on top of the "normal" PBM stuff, adding PBMville: Wild West Shootout into the mix just makes issues of PBM Chaos all that much longer. Some of this stuff needs to either be consolidated, I think, or perhaps offloaded into separate mailings. If PBM is dead, then why do these PBM mailings continue to suffer from the Blob effect? And if you don't know what The Blob is, then you really ought to look up that old science fiction/horror flick from the year 1958. Hey, it stars Steve McQueen!

There's some new image ads in this issue. Several of them, in fact. I'm not the best at this sort of thing, but personally speaking, I think that PBM gaming is worthy of and deserving of not having to continuously run the same imagery before the interested gaming public non-stop for countless years on end. So, my aim is to try and inject some fresh visual energy into PBM gaming as a whole. Whether I'm succeeding or not, I leave that to each of you to decide for yourself.

I didn't include an image ad for that favorite PBM game of mine, Hyborian War, in this issue. Thus, why I am including this little text link for it, in the middle of this spiel.

And on that note, I am gonna go ahead and prepare this issue of PBM Chaos for publishing. I'm also gonna go ahead and make the command decision to shift the PBMville turn results into a separate mailing. For those playing in that game, be sure to enjoy the additional suspense and anticipation that this will bring to you, because you all thought that it was going to be included with this issue of PBM Chaos. And it will - only not in the way that you might have been expecting.

Whether I keep things this way or not, we'll all just have to wait and see, myself included. Until next time, happy reading, happy gaming, and happy PBMing!

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Galac-Tac: Simple Rules For Complex Play
Davin Church

Although Galac-Tac has a shorter rule book than many PBM games out there, and the rules themselves are pretty simple, don't let that fool you in regards to the complexity of actual play. There's an awful lot of strategy involved at multiple levels that isn't apparent from just the rules, alone. You start to see some of that complexity when you begin actually playing in a game.

In the beginning, your expansion and economic strategy is key. Most players only think of one way to go about it, but there are actually many options to choose from. Just for starters, are you going to expand slowly and carefully or quickly and recklessly or some combination thereof? Are you going to protect your assets during this time, either with mobile or stationary defenses, or are you going to save a lot of time and money by risking exposure to anyone else who happens along? Are you going to build exploration and colonization ships as cheaply as possible so you can have more of them, or should they be robust enough to stand up to skirmishes that may happen at unpredictable times? Will they have a single function (duty) to perform, or will they have built-in offensive, defensive, or economic purposes as well? For instance, one common tactic is to have your colonizing ships also be used for gathering the resulting resources, but to do that you need bigger ships or many more of them. Then will you skip over low-value stars in the beginning so you can claim the higher-value stars earlier? If you leave holes in your empire, remember that enemies might come by to claim them while you're elsewhere, leaving an enemy foothold near your Homeworld that you will have to fight to reclaim.

Your choice of strategy in the opening moves is very important to the rest of the game as it tends to define how much territory, and therefore resources, you have to play with for the rest of the game. Certainly you can defeat your enemies in battle to claim some of their stars, but it's much more difficult (and costly, and diplomatically risky) than grabbing the stars at the beginning when they're unowned. The more territory you can start with, the faster you'll be able to build up your military in order to mount those offensive and defensive maneuvers. But if you expand too quickly and spread yourself too thin, you'll be leaving yourself open to your neighbors coming in and taking it away from you or severely disrupting your economy. And if you bump into neighbors during this expansion time, will you leave quietly so they can have it or fight them for it or try to negotiate a treaty?

Another aspect when beginning the game is gathering intelligence. Ideally, intelligence should be gathered constantly throughout the game, but the very first turns can give you some information that you can't find later. If you send out a lot of scout ships looking for people all over the map, then if you find a Production Center during the first several turns of the game you may be assured that it is the enemy's Homeworld. This early knowledge can then be critical later in the game when you're trying to kill them. But if you wait more than those handful of turns before finding this information, then you can't be sure whether such locations are Homeworlds or not. Of course, heavy early scouting will cost you in your economic development plans, so you have to pick and choose your preferred balance of how to deal with that.

Also in the beginning, are you going to set up early defenses for any or all of the claimed worlds in your empire? At least your Homeworld starts out pretty well protected against a small attack, but it's not invisible. You need to consider stopping other players from detecting your Homeworld with scouts just as you're trying to do with them. That means a lot of patrolling ships, both there as well as at other locations (to provide a distraction for their scouts). Of course, this also figures into your early-game balance when trying to spend a limited number of actions with a limited amount of starting capital.

Yes, there can be a lot of decisions to be made even right from the first turn, so it's not as simple as it sounds, is it? I can comment sometime later on strategy options for later in the game. But don't think that you have to read the whole rule book just to figure out how to get started.

There are two short articles on the web site that you can read instead, an Introduction to Galac-Tac and a Quick-Start. These will let you play well for a number of opening turns without having to read the rule book at all in the beginning. Also, there's a button on the web site called "Suggest Actions." If you'd like some ideas about what to do with your turn, even throughout the game, just push that button and it will give you some ideas of how to play your turn, so you don't even have to read anything at all to get started if you don't want to.

So don't be fooled into thinking it's simplistic -- it can be a very fun and rich 4X game.

     Sign Up to Play

  Visit the Galac-Tac Website

A Glimpse at the Play By Mail Discord



Turn 3 of my solo game and I've found some one to shoot... erm I mean, I have encountered alien life and shall initiate first contact procedures.


If you use torpedoes, that's some physical contact!

But this early in the game there's not much combat-capable stuff out there, so it shouldn't be much of a problem shooting first and asking questions later.

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It's A Crime image ad for KJC Games

Artwork by D. Mallinder

New York in the 21st century is a city on the edge of collapse. The mobs are about to take control. To survive you have to become the leader of the meanest, toughest, gang ever.

Away from the main streets and boulevards, in the narrow alleys and derelict tenements the street gangs have taken control. Illegal weapons and incendiary bombs are the tools of their trade as they fight each other and the woefully undermanned New York Police Department.

The Gangs are winning!
Protection rackets, drug pushing, muggings and robbery are common place, even the mob are taking an interest in Gang activities.

Do you have what it takes to survive? As a player you are the leader of a small street gang. Your gang consists of approximately 20 members. A few will be street wise pro's, the backbone of your gang. The other members are punks or 'cruits, the kids recently initiated. Your gang's turf consists of a single city block. Your task is to become the meanest, biggest, toughest gang in the city. Eventually you may even join organised crime and compete to become Godfather of the city - before someone else does.

With over 100 other gangs competing, this will not be easy.

It's a Crime is ideal for newcomers to Play-by-Mail (PBM). It's a Crime can also be played by email.

The Isles PBeM

Roy/The Isles the-isles.co.uk


Right. I'm back - Will be resuming processing what turns I have in the next few days - I've got a few extra pressures on me for a bit including sorting my job out etc but I've been resting up for too long and am eager to get the game moving forwards again. I realise that a number of players won't be that bothered about continuing to play after this long hiatus and SOME players will be sent their old / last turn as a checkpoint as to where they are - This is because the-isles.co.uk domain and email address lapsed while I was offline, so a lot of stuff sent to that address is not retrievable and so lost. My Google accounts also seem to have gone tits-up so I will be setting a couple of new ones up if I get no joy with the existing one.

Roy/The Isles the-isles.co.uk


OK. Finally. I'm going to be sending out short turns as I do them - Short to get them all done quickly. I finally managed to get hold of of the NAS box from my folks' home and all the old turn / map / spreadsheet / database data is intact so I can just transfer it across and carry on. Pete / Matt / John B / Rich / Ushgarak / Mark J are all sat near the top of the pile so will try and get them all done in the next few days. The core of players who have stuck with this is larger than I was expecting!

Roy/The Isles the-isles.co.uk


The PDFs for turnsheets are printing off really badly due to not having the right high q driver - last time this happened it took me a good couple of weeks to sort, so I'll send them out in this low quality but legible state to avoid any further delay and once the drivers sorted I'll re-do and send them on.

An Outcast of great renown died today. No-one was there to witness his death. No-one will tell his stories. None carry his blood nor called him father. His 9 lives are spent.

Roy/The Isles the-isles.co.uk


Use [email protected] I managed to get it sorted yesterday

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What are they saying about PBM Chaos?

Issue #17
Loved your Alamaze write up about your DE (Demon Princes) game, Charles.

Dan Warncke


Thanks! I appreciate that. That article had several typos in it (which I always hate), but I actually liked the article, too. I had fun writing it. Of all of the games of Alamaze that I've played in, thus far, that Demon Princes game (5703) has given me probably more fun than all of the rest of my Alamaze games, combined.

Charles Mosteller


Issue #17
Love the new PBM roasted or not :)

John Mulholland

Alamaze's New Owner


I didn't want to let the opportunity to roast you for dropping a game of Alamaze go to waste. Plus, too, that you responded to it via e-mail signals to me that you're following along with PBM Chaos, which may just be one of your better qualities. Know that I do appreciate you reading our little PBM mailings.

If it makes you feel any better (which it probably won't), I actually decided to drop one of my Learning Games of Alamaze, after you dropped that Lizards game of yours. While you did set a precedent that I could have hid behind, your drop actually had nothing, whatsoever, to do with my drop. It was my Dwarves game (5663) that I dropped, and if I get a chance, I'll try to write a piece that decision, whether elsewhere in this issue, or perhaps in the next issue (provided that I don't forget about it between now and then).

Charles Mosteller


Issue #14
Hi Charles

Thanks the the reply and I did read your article earlier.

One think I noted was you indicated there was no risk in wizard advancement. That's not really the case. You don't die if you fail but you can fail going from Adept to level 1 and you lose the gold plus the turn.

Much worse is the chance of failure at any level past 7. The gold cost is huge, I don't recall exactly but something like 120k for my Death Knights and I failed two turns in a row trying to get to level 8. Then winter hit so not enough gold to try again until spring. That's a 3 turns setback and there's still no certainty that the next time will work either.

Dan Warncke


I messed around, and simply forgot to add your previous response to an article that I wrote about Alamaze, one in which I took wizards in Alamaze to task.

I realize what you're saying about wizards, and while you're right about the cost in terms of gold that the player is out of, if their high level wizard fails to advance. But wizards doing magical research carries with it no inherent risk. Let's take a look at one of the spells in Alamaze that underscores this lack of risk to wizards.

Spell #985 – Revelation
This powerful divination spell provides complete information regarding another kingdom. All relevant facts are displayed: emissaries, agents, priestesses, prisoners, regional reactions, groups, pop centers, seapower, artifacts, and treasury amounts. Hidden, invisible, and concealed entities will be revealed. No form of protection will prevent this revelation. This spell may be cast only once against another kingdom, so choose wisely. It is rumored that a high priestess of noble birth and residing within a Great Temple may cast this spell, but due to the exertion, will perish from the effort (no danger for the wizard).

Thus, even a spell that will kill a High Priestess, should she cast it, poses no risk, no danger, whatsoever, to any wizard that casts it. Wizards in Alamaze strike me as being a very pampered class of character. No chance of the wizard dying, no chance of the wizard going mad/insane for delving in the dark arts of magic.

That said, I do appreciate you writing and highlighting costs in terms of gold and lost time, but that doesn't persuade me away from any of my prior criticism of wizards in Alamaze.

Charles Mosteller

Issue #17
You asked...

"Why is Champions of Middle-earth only for two or four players, not 25?"

The design requirements for a game with only a few nations tend to be different to those for a game with 25 players. So while we could in theory 'scale up' Champions to work for 25 players, or scale down a 1650 module to work with just two, that is not how they were designed, so the resulting game would not necessarily be as good. Instead, we have tried to develop a range of modules to suit as many different playing preferences as possible. Enjoy playing on large teams? 1650 and 2950 modules have teams of 12-15 players. Prefer smaller teams, but enjoy designing your own nation? Kin-strife allows this, while pitting six against six. Or, if you would prefer to play solo or with just a friend, then Champions of Middle-earth might be for you.That said, we are designing our next module with greater scalability in mind. So watch this space, as they say!

"Isn't the rulebook 342 pages long?"

Yes, give or take a few pages of copyrights, contents and dislaimers. But

it is important to bear in mind that you don't have to read the entire rulebook before playing! A large part of it is really more of a reference guide, to refer to when needed. It is not necessary, for example, to wade through the parameters of every order and spell before starting, just to know roughly what kind of orders are available to you, and how to cast a spell.

A better place to start getting to grips with MEPBM is through the various help articles on our website, including one called 'Getting Started', which walks a new player through what resources are available, and when to make use of them. And of course, we have experienced player mentors on hand to offer help and guidance if required.

Thanks for your interest, and for continuing to mention us in your newsletter - it is always appreciated.

John Davis

Middle-earth Games


Good to hear from you, again. I appreciate this continuing dialogue, and hopefully, some of PBM Chaos' readers just might learn a bit more about Middle-earth PBM, as a result.

If you're not careful, you're gonna sell me on giving it a try. I'd definitely have to do some additional reading on it, first. At the moment, the Champions of Middle-earth module is the one that tugs at me the most, even though the greater number of players in other modules has a natural appeal to me. Plus, too, I already know from long ago experience that talking shit in a game of Middle-earth under the guise of a Nazgûl (or better yet, as Er-Mûrazôr, the Lord of the Nazgûl). Truly, while I definitely sucked at the game, and didn't really play long enough to get any good at it, assuming the role of Er-Mûrazôr proved to be one of the most memorable and fun experiences that I've ever had, in all my years of playing PBM games.

If I tried to play in one of the team games in one of the other modules with more players, I just have this feeling deep down that I probably wouldn't be an ideal team member, and my independent streak could well bring about the demise of my entire team.

So, as time and opportunity allow, I'll try to look the Champions of Middle-earth module over in more depth. Fair enough?

Charles Mosteller

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PBM Interview

Randall Ritnour

PBM Question #1

What are some of your fondest memories of PBM gaming, back when you first became involved with it?

My best memories of Takamo have to be the early years when we were building the game. Whenever I think of the four original partners it makes me smile. The friendships gained working though the maelstrom of a year-long playtest are like a pocketful of gold coins. The first iteration of the game was a hand moderated thing where a baker’s dozen players were dropped into a single overbuilt sector of space. We would meet at the local taco joint once a week where I would hand out the turn results and everyone would fill up on tex-mex to trade goods and insults and give feedback about game play.

PBM Question #2

I believe that you posted in the PlayByMail Discord, recently, that at one time, Takamo had just under 3,300 players. What was that like, knowing that many different people played and enjoyed a PBM game that you created?

I was proud of our growth. It gave me an opportunity to do the two things I really loved, creating games and science fiction stories. I got to design games and I was able to engage in storytelling through our newsletters and Gaming Universal magazine. I’m still doing both, although my main focus is the forty years of Takamo lore that has been built up and is now being published in novels of the Takamo Universe.

I’ll have to admit to being frustrated as well. We could not seem to gather momentum. We, like many other PBM companies, just did not have the funds to properly market the game to grow the customer base and the hobby in general. There was no internet, and it took a lot more effort and cash to get the word out. Mailing lists were great but the cost for snail mail advertisement was significant. Any other marketing efforts, like ads in trade magazines, were limited to PBM magazines because readers of other zines didn’t know what a PBM was, and a single add in a national syndicated zine would wipe out our yearly ad budget. We were just too small to get big.

PBM Question #3

On the History section of the Takamo website, it says: Takamo ran as a play-by-mail game for about fifteen years with nearly 10,000 players from across the world, which is quite a following. Was running and overseeing Takamo an exhausting experience, by the time

that ten thousand players had tried the game, and after fifteen years of running it?

It was nice running my own shop but did become tedious doing the same tasks day in and day out. I ran the company for about seven years, added a second office in Connecticut, and then sold my interest in the company in 1987/88. I went to law school in another state but returned in the mid-nineties. During that time, I wrote Takamo stories and curated the accumulated writings of others. I got the bug to make an internet based game and started on a new design in 1995. Then my friend Thom Walla suggested I buy back the old game and redesign it. It had recently closed down, so I bought it, and Thom graciously helped me turn it into a PBeM that is still running today. We also started designing Takamo Universe as a Massive Multi-player Online Game. We spent years working on it, but the project was ultimately too big for our tiny team to complete, leaving us with 250 digital spaceship models and a huge cache of content that is languishing in my files.

The ten thousand players is a cumulative estimate, so yes, over the lifetime of the game, but the game website is way out of date, like more than a decade. In fact, we are putting the finishing touches on a new website that is focused on Takamo Sci-fi lore written by the original partners and many players over the forty years since Takamo first came to life. Not including short stories, our publishing company has fifteen novels, novellas, and anthologies in e-book and paperback, with some in audiobook format. And we have ten new novels in various stages of production. There are eight published authors writing for us and another half dozen newbies.

PBM Question #4

If you played any PBM games run by other companies over the course of your lifetime, which ones do you retain the fondest memories for, and what made them so memorable?

Actually, although I love to design games and I have tried a number of PBM games, I suck at it. I am even a lousy Takamo player.

PBM Question #5

Is there any chance that you will make another go of bringing Takamo Universe, a modern version of Takamo, to life?

We might get an enhanced PBeM going, but unless I run into the right investor, it’s not likely. So, the lion’s share of my efforts is focused on the publishing firm.


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