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PBM Chaos image ad.

So, what do you think? Are these PBM Chaos PBM mailings too long? Should I shorten them? Should I eliminate them, altogether? Or do they serve a worthwhile purpose?

Davin Church has gotten me to wondering whether I should perhaps eliminate all image ads from PBM Chaos. The basic purpose of including image ads is to provide readers a quick and easy way to have a visual cue that links to something pertaining to the PBM game(s) in question.

After all, if not a lot of people click on a given image ad, does it still have merit, value, or worth? Then again, how many times did I view those old Hyborian War ads on the back of Savage Sword of Conan (and I think Conan saga, also) magazines, back in the mid-1980s, before I ever actually got off my ass and sent off for information about the game?

Davin was nice enough to send me a big e-mail, and that's included in this issue, along with my response to it. But this article is focused upon the broader picture, and isn't just about Galac-Tac and Talisman Games. Is there any real point in continuing to include image ads for any PBM games or PBM companies?

As far as that's concerned, is there really any point in continuing to talk about PBM gaming? Again, we're considering and looking at the big picture, here. My own perspective on things is that, if you are a PBM company or PBM GM, and you want to start growing your PBM player base a year from now, then you really should give STRONG consideration to starting your advertising, NOW< in order to accomplish that.

Huh? say what, Charles?! A year's lead time? Yep! That's EXACTLY what I'm saying. If you want to see new players tomorrow, then you're probably already a year behind. Unless, of course, you want to spend some big money, in order to advertise where LOTS of eyeballs can see your PBM ads. Since it just popped into my mind, though, what about radio? Have any PBM companies ever did any radio advertising? Radio advertising in small markets might just be one hellaciously overlooked opportunity for PBM.

But then again, what do I know? I'm just some yahoo amateur with an undying fascination for play by mail gaming, including both pure postal and digital PBM varieties. I put out a PBM mailing, now (instead of a PBM magazine and a PBM newsletter in PDF format, as was the case previously). I don't deal in high number readership. And is there anyone who reads PBM Chaos with any degree of regularity who hasn't already seen most PBM ads that I run a zillion times, already?

Is just "getting the name out" of a PBM game or a PBM company or a PBM GM devoid of value? Beyond that, if I'm going to write about a given PBM game, is writing about it just once more than enough? I suspect that I write as many articles about PBM gaming as I do, so that I can actually have something to include in each issue. Or would it be better, perhaps, to just sit silently and patiently, and only publish issues of PBM Chaos, whenever others take the initiative and send me something to publish? Maybe the latter approach would be better. It would certainly and unquestionably be the easier approach of the two.

But if I'm hell-bent on doing this whole PBM thing, maybe I should roll back the frequency. Once a week, once a month, once a year, once a decade. I can just hear Richard Weatherhead, now, mumbling under his breath at me from a great distance.

I suppose that I could focus more upon growing the readership of PBM Chaos. Heck, I could even advertise. But from the looks of it, advertising fell out of favor with the PBM industry a long time ago. Why waste money on advertising? Right?!

Why, indeed!

Or better, yet, I could just go back to writing letters. That would probably take me longer, though, since letters can easily surpass the length of anything that I write and include in PBM Chaos. I'm sure that Smitty Smith misses hearing from me, by now.

To gain new players for PBM games can be a battle - a never-ending battle. It can be a struggle at times - and for some, a struggle at all times. There's real work involved in it. It isn't quick. It isn't easy. Which leads me to question aloud whether it's even worthwhile?

At the height of Paper Mayhem's and Flagship's reach, new PBM players came into the fold quite frequently. Of course, it was truly a different world, back then. Same planet, different world. PBM companies had more life in them, back then.

There are several PBM companies, right now, who will likely not die off, even if they never did another ounce of advertising, at all (at least, as long as their current ownership remains among the living). Off the top of my head, RSI, KJC Games, Madhouse UK, and Middle-earth Games all have a large enough player base of loyalists that closing up shop probably never even crosses their mind. And why should it? I can't think of a single reason.

Letting your core player base die off or leave is never wise. After all, having an intact core of players who love your game product(s) is not a particularly bad thing to have around and to keep around. But life pulls us all kinds of ways, in all kinds of different directions, and we invariably end up making a bunch of different decisions that it isn't unduly difficult to perceive how core player bases for different games kind of just end up falling by the wayside.

Let's shift gears, though. Why don't I play in more PBM games?

Well, there's issues of cost, time availability (or lack thereof), real world considerations, and the horror that lurks in wait for me that takes the form of having to contend with reading (and grasping) a multitude of different rulebooks. From what Ii have seen over the last several decades, PBM companies and GMs seem to be better at designing PBM games than they are at writing rulebooks.

Just my opinion. You don't have to share it.

Oddly enough, I want to have fun, when I play a PBM game. not every PBM game that I have ever tried turned out to be fun for me.

GASP! Did I just say that? Me? Whyever would the guy who publishes PBM Chaos say something like that about PBM games?

Well, because it's true. There are PBM games that I, personally, don't care for, having tied them previously. Duel2 (it was Duelmasters, back then) is one of them, but it is also worth pointing out and highlighting that Duel2 is probably RSI's most popular PBM game that they offer - likely even more popular than Hyborian War and Forgotten Realms: War of the Avatars. That dastardly old Wayne Smith sure loves the hell out of Duel2, as do a number of other individuals that I am familiar with. I'm pretty sure that the fellow who won Hyborian War game number HW-982, the game that I was in that ended a few weeks back, is also a Duel2 player (as well as a bodacious golfer, too).

Hyborian War, though? Oh, I love, love, love that PBM game! I am unabashedly a die-hard Hyborian War fan. It's a great game. It's a fabulous game. And yes, it is also an imperfect game. But there's many imperfect people in this world that I love and have a great deal of affection for, so the fact that Hyborian War isn't a perfect PBM game doesn't mean that I love it any the less.

Why do I include many of the same old PBM ads in issue after issue after issue of PBM Chaos? Well, I believe in trying to drive the message home. I am a firm believer in pounding the PBM message. I view PBM gaming to be in an entertainment fight to the death, and whenever I run ad after ad after ad, it's akin to calling in an artillery strike. Visual artillery, if that's even a thing.

Sitting on our asses in the trenches ain't gonna get the job done. Say what you want about me, but I don't think that there's any doubt as to which side I'm on (Pssttt! I'm on PBM's side, if you haven't figured it out by now.) in this ongoing struggle to try and ensure that PBM gaming has a brighter future.

At worst, I fail, but even then, I'll walk off the field with my head held high.

I want to advance the cause - yes, even if it's just one new PBM gamer at a time. Personally, I think that's a worthwhile goal. But maybe I'm wrong about that. Feel free to write in and tell me that I'm wrong about it. Or write in and tell me that you agree with me. Just write in.

Until next time, if there is a next time, happy reading and happy PBM gaming!

Charles Mosteller

PBM Wisdom

"The common mistake is to recruit the wrong kind of people: close friends, hometown folks, relatives — polite, gentle people who never open their mouths and make complaints. I’m sorry, but you won’t learn anything from people like that. You need pompous, egotistical gamers - highly-opinionated, tough-minded — who make barbed remarks. You want people from out of town who have to talk with other players by letter or long distance telephone. You especially want people who will play the game because they like games, rather than somebody who will try out your game just to be polite or as a personal favor."

- W.G. Armintrout

Playtesting Your PBM

The Space Gamer magazine - Issue #55 - September 1982

Star Fleet Battles Online image ad for Franz Games
Feedback On Last Issue (Issue #22)

Really good issue, as always. Some disjointed thoughts on promoting PBM.

To give my background, I've been En Gardeing for years on and off, but have only just starting dipping my toes into other PBM possibilities. (I read the PBM page in GM Magazine religiously as a teenager, but my mother reasonably felt that when all of my allowance was going on RPGs and Spectrum games she wasn't willing to subsidise a third gaming hobby).

There were two events that I think should have led to a growth in PBM - the OSR and COVID. They obviously didn't. I'm not sure why, but looking at that may hold some clues to how to grow.

En Garde! is probably worth examining. I think we're probably the most insular of the PBM communities in terms of people only playing multiple En Garde! games and nothing else. But equally, we're pretty healthy in terms of number of games running and we've recently seen some modest increase in new players. There's possibly stuff there that could be replicated elsewhere. (I do have some views on why that might be but this comment is already long enough!)

There's another hobby worth looking at. Megagames were in a very similar position to PBM - an old school hobby kept largely around by a small number of stalwarts. And then it exploded. A large part of that was a SU&SD video, which is sadly not something easy to replicate. But it's what that video led to that I think is important. Megagames suddenly saw an influx of new players, from a much wider demographic. Many more young people and women. And those groups attracted more people from that demographic. The other important thing was the branching out of megagames themes. It's not that people stopped running operational warfare megagames which still exist. But as well as those you suddenly saw a much wider variety of different ideas, including some by new designers who had come to megagames via the SU&SD video. That had a large impact in getting new players in. Obviously, there's a lot of differences with PBM, but I think the similarities can lead to some interesting ideas on how to promote.

- Sam Flintlock

Great to hear from you, Sam! I decided to bring your comment over on the Play By Mail Facebook page into PBM Chaos, so that I could share it with more people. One of the greatest of all challenges facing PBM, I believe, is simply getting people to actually communicate their thoughts about PBM. So, it was really nice to encounter your multi-paragraph comment on the subject matter on your mind.

If I had to venture a guess as to why neither OSR (Old School Renaissance or Old School Revival) nor COVID brought about a sizable amount of growth in PBM is likely because an adequate foundation for PBM's growth still hasn't been laid. Given enough time (as in years or decades more, rather than mere weeks or months), PBM gaming might eventually be able to dig its way out of the hole that it has fallen in, all by itself.

Covid, interestingly enough, turned out to be far more than just a disease. Truly, it was as big of a clusterfuck as any that I have seen come into existence over the course of my entire lifetime. Society/societies seemed to all go crazy, and abandon wholesale any semblance of common sense. A societal and cultural black hole into which human beings dove head first, and normalcy got stood on its head. Insanity reigned! And anytime insanity takes hold on a mass scale, it's probably significantly harder to implement changes that might be beneficial to PBM gaming. After all, Covid skewered priorities on an absolutely massive scale.

Plus, too, what PBM company even tried to capitalize on it? Generally speaking, PBM gaming suffers from a severe case of lethargy. Even many who otherwise find PBM gaming very interesting, and who have a ton of positive memories about their days/weeks/months/years playing PBM games with energy and fervor, can't seem to be bothered, these days (and during the Covid blob) with doing much of anything of significance, PBM-related. If I'm wrong about this, hopefully a slew of others will take offense at what I have said, and write in and take me to task for it. I'd sure love to hear from them!

I'm far more familiar with En Garde! than I am with megagames. En Garde! games tend to be sizable exercises in creativity, and in case you hadn't noticed, the commercial PBM sector has, for the most part, long since lost its creative edge and its creative will.

Right about now, I can imagine that John Davis of Middle-earth Games might prefer that I mention Middle-earth Games' next project is going to be set in the East. And that strikes me as an interesting thing. But tell me this, Sam Flintlock, how many different new PBM games, whether fresh from scratch new PBM games or new modules or variants for existing PBM games, are in the works that you know about or have heard a rumor to that effect? Then, if you will, tell me what the projected time frames are for completion of each of those respective PBM projects?

To be certain, it isn't just the commercial PBM sector that warrants a trip to the PBM woodshed. The hobby sector of PBM gaming is just as bad, if not worse, than the commercial PBM sector. Can I have an amen, anybody?

For absolute certain, creativity in gaming is anything but dead. There is an ocean - perhaps even multiple oceans - of creativity across gaming as a whole. There's more games of all sorts than you could count, and new gaming materials are flooding the market on a biblical scale.

And then there's PBM.

PBM isn't dead, not by a long shot. Hell, even PBM gaming in paper format sent through the postal service continues to endure, though vastly scaled down from what it once was. Not only is a wholesale lack of creativity plaguing the PBM gaming scene, these days, innovation has become scarce to the point where I consider it to be an endangered species.

If a given segment of the overall gaming industry, in this game the PBM segment, abandons both creativity and innovation, those aren't insignificant things. To the contrary, they are vital, they are critical, they are imperative to the future of this segment of gaming. Without them, how is anyone or anything going to grow PBM gaming to any significant degree beyond where it finds itself, right here and right now?

Elsewhere in this issue, yourself and other PBM Chaos readers can learn a little bit about a new PBM game that is being programmed from scratch, and which has been being programmed for a year or so, already. This is exactly the kind of raw creativity and bold innovation that PBM gaming used to be awash in, and which is so extremely rare, today. Honestly, there's no real substitutes for them, that I know of.

Rather than bring new PBM games into existence, PBM companies seem content, for the most part, to either piddle around with tinkering at the edges of PBM games that are ancient, by now, or they simply aren't even bothering to do that. Hey, if it ain't broken, don't fix it, right?

Well, the overall size of the PBM player base is broken. It is from my vantage point, anyway. perhaps others out there have a much better view of things than I do. If so, I sure do hope that they write in, and share with one and all what they are seeing that I am missing or oblivious to.

Back when I was young, there were a lot of textile mills here in the Upstate of South Carolina. These days, many of those old, closed down textile mills have been converted into all kinds of other uses. PBM gaming, in a way, reminds me of that old, no-longer-used textile mill real estate. PBM needs redeveloped.

Not into something else, but into a new version of itself. I don't really have any interest in trying to take us all back into time, back to where PBM used to be. Rather, what I envision is a new PBM era. Not a pure-postal PBM era, but a diverse PBM era which includes new PBM games of the postal variety. The absolute vast majority of the old PBM games are likely long lost by now, and it's exceedingly doubtful that anyone knows where most of them are, anymore. So, to a large degree, there's no going back to that era, no matter how much any of us, nor all of us, might prefer to do so.

Here we are, having transitioned from the golden heyday of PBM gaming, from the height of postal gaming, to the Information Age - but we can't do what was already possible decades ago? I don't buy it. I think that our individual and collective capabilities, these days, vastly exceed what was possible twenty, thirty, forty, and fifty years ago. How many people have desktop computers now, compared to back then? How many homes have printers in them, now, compared to back then?

Paper Mayhem died, but nobody could simply launch a new PBM magazine? Why not? Flagship magazine eventually faded from the PBM scene, but there wasn't anyone in all of PBM who could come up with something in PBM magazine form? Hogwash!

Suspense & Decision magazine, PBM Unearthed, and now PBM Chaos. All three of them turned out to be very imperfect forms of PBM media. A magazine. A newsletter. A mailing. I created them because I could. I created them as demonstrations of what's possible. But there are, minimum, hundreds of other people who are involved with PBM gaming, today, that could come up with something just as good, and probably a whole heck of a lot better. There are dozens (plural) of names that come to mind, whom I think could give PBM gaming a very noticeable boost, if only they would enter the fray to advance the cause of play by mail gaming.

But you can't just think about it, you've got to do it. You've got to actually do it. The golden era of PBM gaming that existed previously was built by individuals who were action-oriented. They designed and created PBM games by the hundreds. They erected new PBM companies, and populated the PBM landscape with them. Many endured for years and years. Some have even endured to this very day. And they did all of this in what was, then, a very competitive PBM market. It's not as though human beings have less ingenuity, these days, than they had back then. What's lacking, primarily, are the will and the resolve - and there are no substitutes for those things.

Some PBM gamers, these days, have thousands - thousands - of Facebook friends. Currently, I've got nine. Just nine, two of which are dead. Yet, even a social media hermit such as myself can create different forms of digital media, of a sort. Others an easily do newsletters, or simple mailings. They don't have to be big, thick, lengthy things. None of them have to be perfect, nor works of art.

There's as much talent in and around PBM gaming, today, as there's ever been. That's a fact, an absolute fact! But where's the drive? Where's the initiative? Where's the derring-do?

In the old days, PBM gaming was like a gold rush of gaming. New people poured into it, because there was something to pour into it to see and to experience and to interact with. Now, most PBM games and PBM companies and PBM GMs have shut down and closed up shop. PBM of today doesn't have to be a veritable ghost town. How is it that PBM companies that used to know how to innovate no longer seem to know how to do so?

For those for whom PBM gaming was little more than a passing opportunity to make a fast buck, at least those I can grasp why they're no longer involved. And for those who've grown older, and who now have grand kids to play with and to spend time with, I get it. I understand that, and I appreciate that, and I respect that.

And for those who are simply tired, these days, and can't seem to find the energy to do a lot of things, much less get more involved with PBM gaming, I grasp that, also. But just as PBM gaming used to not exist, but then came into existence, and then eventually exploded and experienced massive growth, there's nothing in the Laws of Gaming Physics nor in the Cosmos of Endless Possibilities that precludes a new golden era in PBM gaming from happening.

What PBM gaming needs to do is to get back to the basics. Creativity. Innovation. Energy. Enthusiasm. Boldness. Foresight. Derring-do. And if you ain't got those, then it's no surprise why PBM finds itself where it currently is.

Those things, you see, are like magnets - and they have natural ways of attracting other people to them.

Thank you for commenting, Sam Flintlock! I hope that you'll stay with us for the long haul.

Charles Mosteller

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Halfway to the next Diplomacy World deadline of January 1. With all the holidays and events between now and then, it is easy to lose track and miss out. PLEASE remember to send me all your articles, ideas, submissions, letters, complaints, convention reports, flyers, responses, and everything else at [email protected] - the zine is ONLY as good as the material you all send in!

- Douglas Kent

Editor of Diplomacy World magazine

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A Glimpse at the MEPBM Discord


My Lord Jim


Thanks to my fellow Loyalist in KS 613, we turned around a tough situation. Well played to the Usurpers, you certainly had us on the ropes and had made a lot of progress militarily. Wondering what finally tipped the decision to concede as its seems like no nation was eliminated?



Took over 4/5/6 turn 17 first time played Kinstrife. Thought I was on the ropes with KOA as no armies, agents camped on Capital, Quendi 50k deficit and Horse 35k and all short of characters. Got curse squad together and gradually fought way back with agents and emmy Company. Lots of military pressure from the south and armies, agents etc in KOA homeland. Had to increase taxes on 4 & 5 two turns ago so guess economics is what done the opposition for in the end given the market. Last couple of turns you freed up my Horse hostages which were desperately needed. Glad to help you get the win against tough opponents.

My Lord Jim


I was tracking their agents, they seemed to be going after army commanders so I shadowed some of my bigger armies with the curse squad, paid off. I'd also taken out around 11 Hithlum chars over 4 turns and had 2 curse squads and the agent squad on their capital so they might have been heading out this turn.



11/03/2023 1:54 PM

Any ideas for this one?




Even Moria to their pity

For, you see, it was their Dwarven City

Could it be Dwarrowdelf?


11/03/2023 2:02 PM

Sounds right

Fourth Age, 1000



@JasonV Very much looking forward to this format. Map is well balanced imho, and keeping the "Piggy in the Middle" nation in play adds a whole new dimension. of cut throat possibilities. The Hedgehog hopefully will be in play on Team Highlander! After All there can only be One. The only thing i think I would like to see implemented would be, "The 3 Piggy nations" get to select capitals first, and cant be bumped by other nations outside the Piggys. (With Lorien and Duns highly likely they could be bumping each other for initiative. Rohan not so problematic. limiting factor is to Navy or not to Navy. All the same, promises to be be a cracker,, given the players known to be interested. Hope the workload eases soon my man!


Clint GM

11/03/2023 12:17 PM

1650 2wk Normal (Game 973) 6/24 positions available, upto 2 nations.

1) Dunland and Rhudaur Dark Servant, Harad and Easterlings FP, Corsairs unplayed

2) Dunland adjustments: 1817 has a Fort, 2017 is a Major Town/Tower

3) QA adjustment: 3533 is a Major Town/Tower & 2438 Mtown/Tower/Harbor.

4) Randomized artifact numbers

5) Set-up fee of one turn.

Clint GM

11/03/2023 1:39 PM

@JanBeek I recommend getting in fast, 6 nations left to go and I've emailed a few players so it's likely to fill. I'm ideally looking for more FP choices if players are flexible.

Just to check Corsairs are removed from play right? Rules aren't specific. I'll default to removing them from play.

Clint GM

11/09/2023 at 9:47 PM

Yeah it's full with about 10 players wanting the same nations so I've sent some emails out. Soon as I hear back from them I can get the game sent out as it's all done....

Middle-earth PBM image ad for Middle-earth Games

Charles, When comes to PBM games and community, the question I have where do players that like PBM games hang out on the Internet? I think that is the first place to go to find new players. The idea is to become part of that community/hang out, and recommend your game and others to all that are there. Not to hard sell your game, but if somebody is looking for a game that your game(s) might fit what they are looking for, recommend it.

If there is not a place on the Internet where people gather together, is there a way to create one?

Note: The important thing is, as a GM of a game, is to put your face out there. So the people know that you are there

Paul Franz

Owner of Franz Games

Proprietor of Star Fleet Warlord

"May the Lord Grant You Extra Innings"

Hello Paul, and good to hear from you, again!

I think that your advice is sound advice. It's always a challenge to try and find the right balance between "advertising" one's game and spamming wherever it is that you're hanging out in and posting. Hell, I've been accused of "spamming" a forum before, even where I was trying to help an individual who was anxious to sign up and return to playing a PBM game that they used to play with the company that runs the game.

Of course, it wasn't the company that complained about the supposed "spamming," and I tend to take with a grain of salt what forum users post, as they don't usually represent the PBM companies that they play the games of.

Along the way of trying to get the word out about one's game, you're likely to make a few mistakes along the way. It's all a part of the learning process, from my perspective, but if you make zero effort to get the word out about your game, and if you make zero effort to either start your own online community or to become a part of one or more existing online communities, then that can be akin to wearing an anchor around your neck.

In order for others to play your game and to want to play your game, whatever that game might be, they have to first become aware that it exists. And there are far worse things in life with connecting with others through online communities.

Charles Mosteller

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Image ad for Dutchman

"There is something in a treasure that fastens upon a man's mind. He will pray and blaspheme and still persevere, and will curse the day he heard of it, and will let his last hour come upon him unawares, still believing that he missed it only a foot. He will see it every time he closes his eyes. He will never forget it until he is dead…and even then he will pass it along to his survivors, that they may follow in his footsteps. There is no way of getting away from a treasure…once it fastens itself upon your mind."

Joseph Conrad



Bryan Ciesielski

After buying a map showing the way to the infamous Lost Dutchman gold mine in a curio shop, players find themselves stepping off the Southern Pacific railroad into the harsh desert world of 1890s Arizona. With nothing but a few belongings, a few dollars, and a dream of hitting it big, things quickly take a dark turn as they realize there's more to the Dutchman's story than they were told…

Dutchman will offer a true postal multiplayer gaming experience, inviting players to take part in an epic story of treacherous treasure hunting and role playing.

Gameplay takes place across a sprawling map of the Superstition mountains, a twisted place once dubbed "Satan's private art gallery" and a renowned killer of men and women alike. Each turn in the game represents one real-world day, with players studying their surroundings and deciding when to wake up, what type of camp to make at night, and what to do in between.

Dutchman is 100% computer moderated, but very much the opposite of a "spreadsheet crunching" game. The RPG-inspired orders system is designed to be intuitive and focused on individual actions and consequences that give players a sense of freedom to explore and interact with their environment (and other players). They may find themselves digging under a peculiar looking tree, honing their quick-draw skills by the night's campfire, or engaging in a high-stakes gunfight with a rival prospector on a nearby bluff.

Current coding work is focused on building "outposts", which are dots of civilization in an otherwise inhospitable landscape. These gathering places let players relax, resupply, and socialize (and will inevitably be a source of drama and intrigue!).

With the map structures and terrain types now in place, I'm looking forward to getting some initial artwork completed to really convey the look and feel of this old-west adventure.

Dutchman is envisioned as a large-scale game offering players a unique experience they can only find in the world of play-by-mail. As such, there is still much work to be done! I am about one year into its development and continue to make daily progress. For you see, it has fastened itself upon my mind...

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Mail Wars
A PBM Article by Matthew J. Costello

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Perils & Postage
A PBM Article by Mark R. Kehl

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What's happening in my Alamaze games?

Charles Mosteller

Game 5684


Thus far, this game has lasted 35 turns, with only five more turns to go, if I am not mistaken. My kingdom is in no danger of winning, but neither is it in danger of getting wiped out, either (knock on wood).

All things considered, I feel as if I have learned a lot about Alamaze, over the course of this game. Alamaze's new owner, John Mulholland (aka Brekk), proved to be a very big help, when this game was still young. He aided me greatly (far more than I ever aided him) in bringing about the demise of the Elementalist kingdom, played by the famed player known as DuPont.

For the most part, my current and recent efforts have been directed at harassing the Halflings, somewhat, with agent activities (stealing food and gold, and conducting some moderate sabotaging of food production in villages). Additionally, I have also focused upon being a bit of a lingering torment to the Free Traders, mostly by utilizing Meteor Strike spells as the in-game equivalent of tactical nuclear weapons. Vaporizing enemy villages is overpowered, but there's still much fun and laughter to be derived from such an unsavory practice.

Of course, whether you vaporize a village (or a lightly defended town), or just damage them, really depends upon the power level of your wizard casting the Meteor Strike spell, and upon the Defense rating of the population center that you are targeting. I have never bothered to increase my wizard levels higher than power level 7 in this game, my most powerful wizards only inflict ten thousand points of damage to population centers, when I call down a meteor upon their inhabitants' asses.

Eliminating population centers, entirely, is a scorched Earth approach, but if one persists in it, it can eliminate the production of a sizeable amount of both food and gold. Also, it's handy for eliminating political emissaries (certain characters), provided your meteor strike is strong enough to wipe out the population center's entire defense rating. I also use the Meteor Strike spell to remind my enemies that I'm still in the game, and that they have failed to vanquish my kingdom and to break my resolve.

This particular game has been a good showcase for me of how kingdoms that just sit and build up, all game long, can actually contribute significantly to imbuing games of Alamaze with more of a boring feel. Building and building and building, apparently as a mechanism to increase your kingdom's score, is all fine and dandy, I suppose, but what has the Lizard kingdom actually done in this game? I just kind of sit and shake my head at it. Has the Lizard kingdom in game 5684 even went to war with another kingdom, all game long? If so, then I have been oblivious to it for no less than 35 turns.

This was one of my designated Learning Games of Alamaze, and after 35 turns, I'm ready for this one to end. My attention is only moderately engaged, and I will shed no tears for it, when this one ends.

Game 5703
Demon Princes

Such a really fun game of Alamaze, this one has turned out to be! In my comments about Game 5712, I talk a little bit about the death spiral that exists in Alamaze's game design. In this game, however, my kingdom isn't in a death spiral, and has enjoyed a healthy economy and more than enough gold and food to enable me to issue full slates of turn orders for my kingdom.

When you can't issue orders that will have any chance of being carried out, because your kingdom is broke, broke, broke, the game simply loses a LOT of its base appeal. Gold dependency in game design can quickly become real deal breakers for players who suffer under them.

That said, in game 5703, my Demon Princes kingdom lost no population centers to my enemies on Turn #29, but instead, my kingdom gained control of 2 more towns and 4 more villages. My Demon Princes are cooking with Crisco, people!

But it all ain't gravy, because a huge Giant army group has now encamped at my capital in the region of Mythgar, and they're loaded for bear. In all likelihood, the accursed Giants will seize control of my capital in the coming turn. I can hear the ho, ho, ho-ing scoundrels, already, just laughing their oversized asses off.

But as the old saying goes, he who laughs last, laughs loudest. Because somebody dispatched three Demon Prince characters to a Giants major city in the region of Nyvaria, on my turn orders for Turn #29, and now the bill comes due for these jolly-less green-less Giants of Alamaze.

If the Giants player takes my capital, but in the same turn, he ends up losing control of that particular major city, the end result will be that the Giants player will suffer a net loss, economically. Fool!

It would serve him right. This has been a game of many back-and-forth changes of controls of many different population centers across more than one region. But that has proven to be a staggering amount of fun. I have a feeling that when this game of Alamaze ends, I'm gonna miss it, and miss it quite a bit. ::sigh::

Elsewhere on the map, at one point, I thought that the Dwarves were about to wipe out the Druid. Then the Druid player came back, and was trouncing the Dwarves, by seizing control of lots and lots of population centers that the Dwarves had previously wrested control of. And now, it appears as if we shouldn't count the Dwarves out, just yet, as another comeback seems to be in the works. It's a nice feeling, when the other areas of the map don't seem dead, because players are doing nothing but trying to turtle and build up.

Game 5705

Everything was going along in a bland sort of way, and then one turn, I wake up and find that I'm at war with the Demon Princes, of all kingdoms. Surely, the Alchemist player must have slipped a strange potion into my drink, for I didn't even feign resistance to his silver-tongued words.

Whatever we did, we must have done it well, for the Demon Princes quickly got the hell out of the game (pardon the pun). But before we could even consolidate our gains, lo and behold, the confounded Underworld kingdom, ruled over by the player DuPont, proceeded to kidnap one, two, three of my political emissaries at the Prince level. Egads!

Having spent his time building up and taking over no less than three different regions, the Underworld in this game is on steroids, and well-equipped and prepared to gut my poor little kingdom like a stuck pig.

Why, then, did the Underworld then dispatch major portions of his forces to other regions to the East? Could it be that the Giants player, who was doing quite well, himself, with three regions under his kingdom's control, also, had dropped out of the game? Say it ain't so!

Alas, such as proved to be the case, and now, two powerful Underworld army groups now cause the region of Mythgar to tremble. With Morgan Kane now out as the Giants player, DuPont and his Underworld kingdom will run wild. Could it be that DuPont is making a bold gambit to gain control of the regions of Nyvaria and Mythgar, simultaneously, thereby securing his win in this game?

Or will Wookie Panz's Alchemist and my Warlock kingdoms manage to rise to the occasion, and quit making sloppy errors (like I did, this most recent turn, Turn #26)?

My first time ever in Alamaze, my kingdom managed to build a Legendary Castle, this turn, in my kingdom's capital in the region of Darkover. Your kingdom's economy can't be bone dry, if you plan to undertake construction of fortifications of that size and degree. Even still, I'm not a complete and utter fool, for compared to the Underworld kingdom, my own kingdom is relatively weak, by comparison.

One of my kingdom's military groups managed to conquer an Underworld town, this turn, in the region of The Untamed Lands. Take that, DuPont!

My minions also managed to kidnap an Underworld prince, this turn, after a wizard cast a sleep spell on him. From Hell's heart, I stab at thee, DuPont!

I need to channel more Khan Noonien Singh than that, if my kingdom is to have any kind of a chance, at all, against DuPont and his Underworld kingdom in this game of Alamaze, in the time that remains for this game to run and unfold.

In the span of the last several turns, this particular game of Alamaze has gotten a LOT more interesting for me. My Alchemist ally, Dan Warncke (aka Wookie Panz) deserves the lion's share of the credit for that. Dan's really great at answering questions about Alamaze.

Game 5712

If this particular game of Alamaze has showcased anything, at all, to me, it's just exactly how horrible Alamaze's designed-in gold dependency can make Alamaze a wretched experience for a player.

Can't do this, can't do that, can hardly ever do a damned thing, because of no gold and/or no food, or shortages thereof. If I were to judge Alamaze on just one game, and one game alone, and that game were this particular one, then honestly, I wouldn't give you a wooden nickel for the "Alamaze experience" that this game has saddled me with. Game 5712 of Alamaze has doe nothing, whatsoever, to inspire me to play another game of Alamaze, ever again. Yes, it's been that much of a let down for me.

Fortunately, having played in multiple other games of Alamaze, and having played several different kingdoms, now, I know and realize that Alamaze has more going for it, than just the Cimmerians kingdom - a lot more!

Over the course of the last 29 turns, I've missed getting turn orders in on time for several turns, scattered at different points in the game. But honestly, at no point in time have I ended up feeling as if I've missed something, even when I've missed turns. Ho, hum. Boring. I really don't even know if I am going to continue to waste my breath sticking around in this one. Truly, this game has proven itself to be one monumental waste of my time.

And not simply because my kingdom hasn't done well in this game. In Hyborian War, I have had great fun over the years and decades, even when I've been on the losing end of things, or when my kingdoms have taken a pounding at the hand of enemy forces.

This turn, Turn #29, heralded that one of my enemies, the Lizard kingdom, has surrendered. I don't even derive any sense of joy or pleasure from that. Game 5712 has left me with a taste of digital cardboard in my mouth. Allow me to share a few of the messages that I received in Turn #29 as the Cimmerians in Game 5712.

4th Cimmerians There was insufficient food available to provide for this group. A portion of this force has left the field as they did not receive their food.

4th Cimmerians There was insufficient gold available to provide for this group. Feeling abandoned by their Leige due to the lack of gold due them for their services, a segment of the group has departed.

4th Cimmerians As this brigade's attrition had reached or exceeded 100% (Cimmerians Elite, Qty 1), the decimated troops were removed from the group.

4th Cimmerians As the group's attrition had reached or exceeded 70% (Cimmerians Regular, Qty 1) were removed to reduce the group's overall attrition.

And after these troops were removed to reduce the 4th Cimmerians group's overall attrition, what was the attrition rate of the two brigades that were left in this military group? 41.7% with a morale score of 2% out of 100. The death spiral in Alamaze is real - very, very real!

This kingdom hasn't been a viable position in a very long time. Sure, in a war game, some win and others lose. That's not the problem. Rather, the problem is that there's no real way to climb out of the death spiral - and that kind of game design, whether intentional or unintentional, nudges me continuously to just find some other game to play, instead.

Losing is losing, but it doesn't have to be a manifest exercise in boredom writ large. As a gamer, I want to have fun, whether I'm winning, losing, or am somewhere in between. What about not having enough gold and/or food for your characters to carry out your orders is supposed to be fun, in the first place? And not being able to use all of your kingdom's available order slots only magnifies just how boring a game's design can be. I have made the decision to drop this game. Hooray!

Game 5728
Demon Princes

Yeah, I am enjoying playing the Demon Princes kingdom so much in Game 5703 that I decided to sign up as the Demon Princes for another game of Alamaze, in Game 5728.

This particular game has only ran four turns, thus far, so it's still very early, yet, and everyone is likely trying to gain control of their starting regions. From the looks of it, one kingdom has already surrendered (or been dropped from the game, perhaps for missing three turns in a row).

But PBM games, as with other kinds of turn-based games, do experience player drops, at time. It's just a part of the actual reality that turn-based games face, have always faced, and will likely always face in the future, going forward. You can't really make anyone play the game, and life throws enough things at us all for us to understand that there's no perfect solution to this particular kind of problem. Perhaps another player will take this kingdom over, while the game is still in a state of relative infancy.

So far, even though only fur turns have passed in this game, four different kingdoms have gained control of their respective regions - the Red Dragon, the Giants, the Free Traders, and the Pirates. Drats! I'm falling behind already, it would seem.

I am hopeful that I will gain control of a minor city and a town, in the coming turn. Whether that will be sufficient to push me past the point of determining control of the region or not, I don't know. I don't like being a bean counter and focusing upon the numbers too much. rather, I greatly prefer to just play the game to have fun. I'll try to remember to let you know if I succeed or fail.

Game 5736
Demon Princes

Honestly, I had no plans, whatsoever, to join another game of Alamaze anytime soon. You see how long that lasted, though.

They say that the third time's the charm, so I opted to choose the Demon Princes, once more, to harry and harass my future enemies in this new game of Alamaze with.

We've only completed two turns in this game, so far, and already, the Lycans under player Morgan Kane have already jumped out and seized control of a major city in the region of Darkover. Looks like Morgan Kane plans on kicking some serious ass, this game. Fortunately, there's a good bit of distance between his kingdom and mine, in this game of Alamaze, but I had hoped to usurp control of the major city in my starting region, this turn, also - but no cigar!

I managed to succeed at rebelling the population centers, turning it from Human control to Neutral, but game after game after game, I never seem to learn certain basic lessons. Three Demon Princes did NOT get the job done on Turn #2. Now, I have to clean up this mess of my own making - and lose precious time doing so in the process.

What I did manage to succeed at was finding a number of population centers in my starting region. Of course, gold is tight, so will I be able to afford to send political emissaries to them, and then usurp control of them, that they may join the growing strength of my kingdom?

In another turn, I should be able to scour the remaining areas of my starting region, to roll back the fog of war, and determine if there are any other population centers lurking behind that game-start fog. Should I use agents to scour those remaining areas? Or should I turn to my military, and dispatch military groups to handle the task at hand?

I'll have to think on it, as thus far, I've only issued 9 orders for the next turn, with a number of order slots still available for me to do a few additional tasks. But in the early stage of the game, gold can be tight, and sometimes, sacrifices must be made, since my kingdom currently lacks the wealth that a solid economy generates.

How this game of Alamaze will play out is anybody's guess, at this point. Here's the list of players who signed up for Alamaze Game 5736:

Lord Luty the Loyal
Morgan Kane
Vball Michael
Pine Needle

Alamaze Website

Alamaze Forum

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Phoenix: Beyond the Stellar Empire image ad for KJC Games

I’ve played on and off for approximately 10 years, over a 20 year spell. After some interesting debate on the in-game forum, I did wonder what, exactly, has kept drawing me back to the game, when for so many others I’ve generally lost interest after a few months.

Ultimately, I think it is a combination of automation (that allows the game to handle thousands of positions to interact on a daily basis) coupled with Special Actions (that allow the story arc to develop in away that could not be catered for by a set of predefined list of available orders).

-Zigic for Phoenix: Beyond the Stellar Empire

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Thank you, Charles, for all your suggestions and comments and for your extra attention to Galac-Tac and Talisman Games!

You're welcome, Davin, and I'm glad that you took time out to respond at length to my comments contained in the previous issue of PBM Chaos, Issue #22.

What you must understand about my situation is that I'm not a dedicated gaming company that's just neglecting my one product instead of trying to make a living at it. I'm just one guy (with a little help now and then) trying to keep an old game alive in the modern era, and I have many other day-to-day responsibilities. I simply don't have enough time to do serious work on Talisman Games, and I don't have any money to buy time from other people, either. So almost everything that I might do to improve the situation requires time and resources that I just don't have available. I did want to take a little time away from my other important tasks to reply to your comments, though.

Well, I can - and do - understand that situations can be difficult, and that situations vary widely from person to person and from company to company, and that everyone, yourself included, have demands upon their time, energy, and resources. That said, I don't ever recall thinking to myself that I considered you to be a "dedicated gaming company." Talisman Games, for several years now, anyway, has always struck me as a very small, casual operation.

That said, I am glad that you are trying to keep an old PBM game alive in the modern era. I can relate to that, because in my own way, I am trying to keep numerous old PBM games alive in the modern era - by spending a number of years trying to help raise awareness that they exist, still, and that they can still be as much fun as they were way back when they first became available for play.

As far as you not having time to do serious work on Talisman Games, I can understand and relate to that, also. The good LORD, who is no respecter of persons, blesses us each in our own way with our respective allotments of time on this Earth, to do all of the various things that we need to do and want to do, until our time here is done (whether we're ready to depart or not). Know that I do appreciate you taking a little time away from your other important tasks, as you called them, to reply to my comments. I'm sure that there will be numerous others who will enjoy reading what you have to say, Davin.

The fact that you did respond, and that you responded at length, demonstrates that we all do tend to have a choice in how we allocate at least a portion of our time. Certainly, I allocate far more time to PBM Chaos and to various other PBM-related things than I probably should. Perhaps both PBM gaming and myself might be better off, if I just didn't bother with PBM stuff, at all. But it matters to me, whether it matters to anyone else or not. Plus, PBM is a hobby interest of mine, and has been for several decades, now.

Of course, no one forces me to bother with any of this. I do it because I want to do it. Which, come to think of it, is probably the best reason to do it - because I want to. Occasionally, now and again, some lament when I bring my PBM activities to a stop. It's not a big crowd, but there are a few out there scattered about. And if other things are more important or more critical for you, Davin, than Galac-Tac, it's quite all right. That said, as I sit here on a Sunday afternoon responding to what you've said, I really can't think of a reason why others, namely PBM gamers, should invest time in playing a game that warrants and receives so little of your own time. I'm certainly not aware that any PBM company's time, nor any PBM GM's time, is more important in the grand scheme of things than PBM gamers' time is to them. The last time that I checked, everyone who is still alive has 24 hours in each of their days, the same as you do.

The images that you've been coming up with for Galac-Tac are very nice, and they attract the eye well. But since they don't tell anything specific about the game itself, all they're effectively doing is mentioning the game's name. That's certainly a good thing because name exposure is always helpful, but does that really get anyone interested in trying the game when the images don't tell them anything about playing it? Granted, I've had perhaps a handful of click-throughs, but as far as I can tell nobody has ever actually signed up because of these. Descriptive ads would probably work a little better, but again I don't have time to put into coming up with them.

Thank you, Davin, for the compliment about the images for Galac-Tac that I've been coming up with. Sometimes, I add some comments to a raw image, but to a very large degree, the text that I've add to numerous different Galac-Tac image ads, as I call them, has come directly from your website.

It's good to know, though, that there have been some click through from various Galac-Tac image ads that I've ran, over time. Some is better than none, certainly, but if they are choose to not play Galac-Tac after they arrive at the Talisman Games website, then there really isn't anything that I can do about that. Of course, since you don't really have time available to revamp your website nor to do other things that might benefit your conversion rate of visitors into players, I suspect that you likely won't notice any substantial change to Galac-Tac's current status quo.

I'm sure that it sucks not having more players, but if you can't convert the site visitors that you do receive into players, even an influx of new site visitors might not actually translate into more players, either. If you have no resources and no time to allocate to Galac-Tac, then that leaves me still wondering what your actual plan is?

You might be right. Descriptive ads might work better than any of the ads that I've run for Galac-Tac over time, including both the image ads that I've created on my own time, as well as the images that you, yourself, have provided me in the past to run. But if you don't have time to make whatever kind of "descriptive ads" that you envision, and I can't simply guess whatever descriptive ads that you imagine in that mind of yours, then that ends up leaving you in between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

You've mentioned all our other games listed on the website many times, and I agree that they are just sitting there. But I built that list mostly out of ancient (40-50 yr old) game programs that I already have - they just need to be converted to web play. But (again) I have very little time available and I'm trying to focus on one project at a time with what little I can scrape together. At the moment I'm still working on getting Midgard going again, so I don't have time to work on any of the other games at all, and none of those side games are proprietary games like Galac-Tac and Midgard. Galac-Tac is already running, even though not heavily played, so if I'm going to concentrate my attentions I'd prefer to do it bringing up another major game. I'm not splitting my attention on any of the other side games at all, as you implied.

I mentioned those other 22 games ( specifically, Midgard, 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe, Backgammon, Checkers, Chess, Deductive Logic, Empire, Flip-Em, Franchise, Greedy, Kalah, Nim, Poker, Star Trader, Vid-Trek, Gateway, Briefcase, Starfall, Manifest Destiny, Wastelands, and Fireteam) because they have been mentioned on the Talisman Games website for at least 8 years or more (according to the Wayback Machine), and since you don't have time to allocate to even just one game, Galac-Tac, to any major degree, it just strikes me as odd that your website continues to advertise that Talisman Games "will be hosting a number of other games that are commonly known or in the public domain." How is that even going to be possible, since you have neither time nor resources to allocate for just one game?

Thus, I mentioned those all of other games merely to underscore that you've had them listed on the Talisman Games website for years on end, while simultaneously failing to bring them to fruition. Thus, their presence on your website serves no real purpose of substance, for they are little more than a textual distraction away from the only game that you actually have on offer - Galac-Tac. If I, myself, haven't seen any sign or trace of progress on them after years on end of visiting your website, I don't simply assume that they even have your attention, at all. From my perspective, I really question what, if anything, that having them listed on the website actually accomplishes for Talisman Games.

Plus, too, if your time is so utterly constrained, as you indicate it to be, then how in the world do you even hope to ever get around to more than twenty other games in your remaining lifetime? I have nothing against dreaming, nor against dreaming big, but that many games strikes me as a goal that is utterly unrealistic. I just think that in order to maximize your potential to grow the size of Galac-Tac's player base, from where it stands right now, you would be better served to eliminate such possible distractions from your website. Granted, those who do not visit the Talisman games' website will not be distracted by them, but how many times have I seen all of those games mentioned on that very same website over the years, to see none of them actually realized here in the year 2023?

I do appreciate you clarifying, though, that you're not splitting your attention on any of the other side games. While you might have mistakenly thought that I implied that you're splitting your attention on these "side games," as you call them, the truth is that I haven't seen any progress, at all, on any of those other "side games" - and I have visited the Talisman Games website many, many times over the years.

So, since you mentioned Midgard, how is it coming along? You don't have time to allocate to Galac-Tac, yet you're allocating time to Midgard? That is the very essence of choosing where to allocate time. But how can one allocate time that they don't have? Do you have an estimated time frame for when work on Midgard might be complete? Over the years, I have encountered a variety of different individuals who have played some form of Midgard in the past, if memory serves me correctly. Additionally, how long has this version of Midgard that you're working on been in the works, Davin?

As for improving Galac-Tac's presence, I don't find many of your suggestions to be practical from my point of view. I cannot publish a newsletter, for instance. Aside from a lack of time there just isn't anything I can say about anything going on in the Galac-Tac world. Every position is secret and I can't divulge any game details to the public at large. All I can do is announce available games (which I do on the web site) and announce game winners every few years. I could publish player-written articles, but I can't seem to convince anyone to write articles -- for the web site, forums, Discord, Suspense & Decision, or PBM Unearthed, and I've tried to encourage them all. I did write a few technical articles of my own for publication, but again ran out of time (and magazines) to do much of that. So I can't find any way to make this suggestion feasible.

In light of how long this reply of yours to me turned out to be, and in light of the fact that a newsletter can be as short as a single paragraph, or just a few sentences, I don't agree with your assertion that you can't publish a newsletter. Newsletters do not have to be long and time-consuming affairs to "publish." Publish is just another word for produce.

Beyond that, if you chose in the past to keep every position in Galac-Tac secret, and if you previously chose to not divulge any game details to the public at large, then you could just as easily choose to go a different route with at least some of your games of Galac-Tac, even if not all.

You do discuss Galac-Tac, whether here or in the Discord, so you can certainly discuss stuff about Galac-Tac that isn't game-specific. Never being able to share anything about specific games of Galac-Tac sure does constrain your efforts to promote Galac-Tac to others, no doubt about it. Does that chosen approach help you to attract more players faster? A lot of things have changed about PBM games, over the years. Is that chosen approach working for Galac-Tac, now, compared to however it worked decades ago, back when Galac-Tac was a postal game, rather than an online game?

The funny thing about choices is that one is always free to change their mind, and to try a different approach, if whatever approach that they chose at some point in the past proves with time and experience to not be panning out, anymore. Generally speaking, Davin, shackling one's self to choices that bind your hands too much can be a self-defeating proposition. Do you not ever consider just trying a different approach, to see if a change might yield better results than whatever results you've been experiencing, or that you're experiencing, currently?

As for persuading others to write articles for you, I certainly sympathize. That's a difficult path to tread. Every PBM magazine that I am aware of knew what that was like. So, you're not alone in experiencing difficult in getting others to write articles about Galac-Tac. These days, when I write about a specific PBM game, I tend to write about Alamaze, and before that, about Hyborian War. But I wrote those articles because I wanted to write them, not because some PBM company or GM asked me to write them.

Part of the problem with persuading people to write articles is traceable to what they "perceive" an "article" to be. Me? I just write. You can call it whatever you want to, but "articles" about games don't have to be exhaustively long affairs. They can be just a few paragraphs, less than an actual page, as in a sheet of paper kind of page.

Your e-mail to me that we are discussing here, it's article-length. More than article length by some measures. Yet, you did it. You clearly found or made the time to write it. You put thought into it. And it shows!

As for "all you can do" is to announce available games of Galac-Tac that are forming on your website, and then announce game winners every few years, while you may choose to believe that, I don't believe it, and I seriously doubt that anyone else that reads it believes it. No one is chaining you to an approach that you freely made, and which you could freely change to a different way of doing things. The power clearly lies within you to make certain changes that might (there's never any guarantees) prove beneficial to Galac-Tac going forward. Talisman games used to run Galac-Tac as a postal game. To begin running it online required a choice to offer a different option. Being able to better promote Galac-Tac is in Talisman Games' interest. PBM companies have a long history of making changes in the running of the games that they make available for the gaming public to play.

Sometimes, to be able to "see" how to make various suggestions feasible requires just a willingness to embrace trying to do things a different way.

As for an email list, what would I email them? I can email to all my existing players, but what do I have to say (see above)? I've asked many people to help with my web site, and gotten a few contributions here and there, but they suffer from the same problem as I do - a lack of time. AI art is great, but it won't seem to generate the kinds of things that I specifically have in mind, and I don't have time to mess with it for hours coming up with something, and I don't have money to pay for services that I can't use, and it won't create the kinds of informative ads that I need. I may be stuck in a rut, but there are reasons why climbing out of it is difficult. I've asked before, mostly on-line, for people to make specific, workable suggestions, but all I seem to get back is complaints about my current situation and generic advice that doesn't lead anywhere.

You know, Davin, every time - every single time - that I intend to send an e-mail out to people, I commonly encounter the exact, same problem. What do I say? What do I write? And you know what, I always manage to figure out something to say. Granted, an awful lot of what I say is of the off-the-cuff variety. Why? Well, to me, writing is just a different form of talking.

You don't have to have a list of talking point to go by, though that's certainly one way of approaching the challenge of solving the "what do I say" dilemma. Do I ever repeat myself? Oh, sure I do. Absolutely. Positively. Heck, some of PBM Chaos' readers would probably think that there's something wrong with me, if I never repeated myself. But the truth be told, I repeat my self for a variety of different reasons. I like to emphasize certain things. I like to get the message across to some who weren't paying attention the first time, or even several times, thereafter. I sometimes forget that I've already said a given thing. And sometimes, I'm dealing with people who aren't inclined to change their way of thinking. Additionally, some subjects I could just talk about forever.

How is it that you could write such a lengthy e-mail to me, yet what would you write about your own game, Galac-Tac? Clearly, you still care about the game, or someone with such precious little available time as you likely wouldn't waste two seconds on it, if you didn't care about it. You're still capable of rational thought. Your mind clearly still works, just fine. And someone who has been around PBM gaming and Galac-Tac as long as you have is surely more than capable of finding some things to say. Heck, I am a witness to the fact that you still post about Galac-Tac, whether in the PBM Discord, or whether in e-mails to me for Suspense & Decision magazine, PBM Unearthed, or PBM Chaos. It isn't as though your recent e-mail to me is the first exchange of dialogue that you and I have ever had with one another.

How is it that you managed to craft such a lengthy e-mail to me for this issue of PBM Chaos about Galac-Tac, of all things, yet what other PBM GMs wrote as much to me for this issue, as you? What is it that my Mama used to say? "Can't never could do nothing!"

Anyone who can write an e-mail as long as the one that I am responding to, right now, is more than capable of writing a newsletter for a single PBM game. It's less about what, specifically, that you write, or about how much that you write, and more about the fact that it helps you to engage with (and to stay engaged with) your gaming audience - and to GROW the player base for YOUR game!

If ten thousand new players showed up, tomorrow, to play Galac-Tac, you would be beside yourself with excitement. Hell, If I have just one reader for the PBM stuff that I churn out, I'm ecstatic! Over the years, I have read all kinds of different stuff that you have written. As many times as not, it's a sentence here, a few sentences there. Part of your problem, I think, is not so much that you couldn't find or make any time for Galac-Tac, as it is that you strike me as a discouraged fellow, and that perhaps you question why you should bother to make Galac-Tac a higher priority or a higher choice, if numerous things that you have tried in the past didn't pan out as you may have hoped they would.

Look at how much stuff that I have posted or written, before you ever sent me this nice, big, thick, juicy e-mail that I'm now responding to, bit by bit by bit. Bringing a PBM game back can't be the easiest thing to do in life, to begin with, Davin. Maybe that's one of the reasons why I tend to gravitate towards just talking about and writing about PBM gaming, in general. To me, talking about PBM isn't drudgery. It's not a chore. It's one of my favorite subjects to discuss - even if I end up, many times, feeling as though I'm mostly just talking to myself.

As to your lament of "all you seem to get back is complaints about your current situation and generic advice that doesn't lead anywhere," it isn't as though you come across as being all gung-ho and receptive to doing things a different way. You don't have resources, you don't have time, you can't do this, you can 't do that. To me, that is a defeatist mentality.

No one here has magic beans to plant, so that you can climb a beanstalk to find the exact answers and solutions that Galac-Tac needs. No one has a magic wand that they can wave, and suddenly, tons of new players just magically show up at Galac-Tac's doorstep. If I had all of the answers, do you not think that, by now, I wouldn't just give them to you?

You want to know something that makes absolutely no sense to me, whatsoever, Davin? How is it that PBM Chaos has more readers than Galac-Tac has players? Or maybe it doesn't, but since everything is sealed off by a super-secret shroud that you, yourself, created, who knows?

You have a real, live PBM game, one from the old days of PBM gaming. If you don't have time, and if you don't have resources, and if you can't (or won't, more likely) do this, and you can't (or won't, again, more likely) do that, have you not considered either selling the game, giving it away, or letting someone else take charge of it and run it for you?

The core essence of change is, find a way, or make a way. There are ways to make things happen. I was recently sent a list of interview questions about PBM gaming. Do you think that I have any clue what to say, or where to even begin? Yet, do you think, even for a second, that I won't find something to say, that I won't just make it happen?

For players, what's your goal? You won't tell people how many players that you have, and nobody has a clue how many players that you want. Give me some hard numbers, Davin. Else, how would any of us know when you reach your goal, assuming that you ever do? You lament about receiving "generic advice," so don't speak generically. Rather, speak with hard numbers.

The most number of players that Galac-Tac ever had, back at the very height of its previous success, was what? About a hundred players, wasn't it? Feel free to correct me, if I'm wrong. So, what, to you, would qualify as a success, as far as growing the player base for Galac-Tac is concerned? Ten players? Twenty players? Fifty players? A hundred players?

I assure you, and I assure every last one of PBM Chaos' readers, I am exceedingly comfortable dispensing with "generic" advice. I am not stranger to specificity. I am more than willing to have frank, heart-to-heart discussions about PBM stuff, including about Galac-Tac. If you don't have time for your own game, though, how am I - or anyone else - suppose to sell others on that? Because the GM and the PBM company are integral to the success of any PBM game.

My gaming headquarters is in my home, and I can't make it an open house (like an office would be) for anyone to just drop by from 5-10 hours away, few that there are of those, but I wouldn't object to meeting folks nearby for coffee. However, I've made offers for special play opportunities on-line, including group play for friends to get together. I believe I've even mentioned that I'd be happy to host (on-line) another "lightning game" of Galac-Tac, where turns are due every hour or something like that. I've avoided playing in the production games myself to avoid any assumed taint of learning game details that I shouldn't know, but I don't see why a special game can't be set up for those that wish to play against the long-term "expert" players, even though most of those have long since retired from playing. Being able to name special games of Galac-Tac sounds like an interesting idea, though - I can come up with something like that if we actually get someone to want to play in such a game.

And my PBM headquarters and gaming headquarters is a desk. I'm not asking you to open your house up to intruders from the outside. What I'm after is learning just how committed that you are to transforming Galac-Tac from where it is, now, into something that you would genuinely consider to be a success. Heretofore, when I have asked myself, how committed is Davin Church to turning Galac-Tac around?

I may be a lot of things in this world, but I definitely don't hate Davin Church. To the contrary, in fact, I rather enjoy it quite a lot, when you choose to increase your level of participation, vis-à-vis Galac-Tac and PBM gaming.

OK, so you've made "offers for special play opportunities" online. Where all, specifically, did you make those online offers at? How many different websites or pages did these offers for special play opportunities appear? How often did you repeat these offers? How much time transpired between these offers? In what ways, specifically, did you adjust these offers, in order to gain an increases in response? Did you track what worked? Did you track what didn't work?

If you have an actual list of everything that you have ever tried, down through the years, to increase the size of the Galac-Tac player base, then send it to me, Davin, because I would certainly love to read it. Did you try one thing? Five things? Eight thousand different things? If you have no time and no resources to allocate to Galac-Tac, then that makes me wonder aloud to myself just how extensive whatever past efforts and attempts that you made may have really been.

I'm using more time than I should, and taking it away from Galac-Tac and Midgard possibilities, just to keep up with the Discord chats. There's no way I can afford the time to spend on Facebook or Twitter (X?) or any other kind of social media at all. Given my severe restrictions on time and money, I can't figure out a way to grow the Talisman Games player base without spending resources that I don't have. Getting help with Talisman Games' advertising or web site is possible, if I can find some people that have time and would be willing to help. Any volunteers? But helping with programming is unlikely because all my games are written in a language that nobody else seems interested in learning. I wish I could take action on many things, but my resource restrictions seem to be stopping me at every turn.

Well, no one makes you keep up with the Discord chats. If you literally have no time to allocate to Galac-Tac, how is it that you have time to visit the Discord? How is it that you have time to read the Discord? How is it that you have time to post in the Discord? How is it that you have time to reply to others in the Discord?

And the indisputable fact is, you do all these things. How many PBM Gms do you think do those sorts of things about their own games? How many PBM companies do you think don't even bother to do those sorts of things?

You can do all of those things, and you have done all of those things for months on end, but you could never - literally never - find or make time to post once a week or once a month on a Galac-Tac Facebook page? More people use Facebook than will ever use the PBM Discord, Davin. Currently, the Play By Mail Facebook page has 420 "followers."

When you go on Facebook, you can still practice self-discipline You can choose to limit the amount of time that you spend there. Five minutes a day isn't an insurmountable obstacle to overcome, Mister Church. Indeed, it could very well end up being the single best investment of time that you have ever made for Galac-Tac.

Or it might not.

Again, there are no guarantees. You just never know. What you are offering people is the Galac-Tac of yesteryear. Me? I'm interested in the Galac-Tac of today. It's not my place to beg anybody to do anything. However, I submit to you - and to all of PBM Chaos' readers - that your current approach can be improved upon, and without spending a bunch of money, and without having to become a time sink for you.

If I wanted Galac-Tac to fail, then the easiest way to achieve that, from my perspective, would be to do nothing. Never run an ad about it. Never, ever even mention it in anything that I say or write about it.

One piece of advice that I have given to numerous different people over the years, individuals who have found themselves in some rather dire circumstances, some of them, is that if everything is wrong and everything is going bad, and you don't even know where to start, then just pick something. Something. Anything. Because something is better than nothing, as far as starting points go. Don't worry about fixing everything. Don't even worry about fixing most things. But pick something, and work on that.

The funny thing about volunteers is that, many times (thought certainly not always), they won't be inclined to do things your way, especially if your way is broken, and has a history of being broken.

To fix/change/improve the talisman games website, someone is going to need FTP access to it. Are you comfortable with that? I couldn't even begin to count the number of times that others have helped me with a variety of different tasks. There's tons of stuff that I don't know, that I don't know how to do, that I don't even have any real clue where to begin. Sometimes I help others, and other times, others help me. It's not a perfect approach, but its gets things done. It gets at least some problems fixed (though not instantly, usually). It helps progress to occur.

By "resource restrictions," do you mean money (or a lack thereof)? There's no shame in not having extra money to spend on everything that you'd like to be able top spend money on. As many times as not, tossing money at problems fails at least as often, if not more so, than it succeeds. Do you have a donation link on your website?

Having one doesn't mean that anybody will donate, of course. Long ago, I was told by numerous different people to add one. I didn't. There's a donate link on the new Alamaze website:


Does anybody use it? No idea. But it's there. It's what's known as "an option." It's also known as "a possibility." Of course, why anybody would ever donate to a site where the owner of that site has no time to devote to what they're asking people to donate for, is beyond me. I do know that, sometimes, some individuals will choose to use some donate links. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I don't. Not everyone will. Most probably won't. And sometimes of year might yield a better chance for donations than others.

Instead of charging a fee to play the game, have you considered charging a fee to set up special games of Galac-Tac, instead? Lee at Reality Simulations, Inc. set up a Special Variant Game of Hyborian War, before, and without making any changes to the game's programming, as I understand it. Are you not able to manually add or delete any units to a game of Galac-Tac, if you wanted to? Are you not able to manually change the name of an empire or a ship that exists in the game? Can you change ownership of a planet, manually, if you wanted to? Or did you design the game such that even you, yourself, and your company are locked out from doing anything manually? Being able to make at least some manual changes to a stock game of Galac-Tac is a form of creativity engine. That's why I'm asking. If you can't do anything along the lines of manual changes, at all, then that kind of a design shortcoming can really hamstring your viable options. And if you have no options, as in zero options, then it will make things all the harder for you.

All that being said, I've invested a great deal of time making Galac-Tac accessible on the web (for turn entry, report pdfs, rule book viewing, account access, etc.), while still maintaining genuine paper mail processing for special populations who need or enjoy that mode of play. I've developed the GTac Assistant program which provides many utilities for the online player, such as customizable color maps, ship design tools, empire analysis, detailed order checking, etc. I've created the "robot empires" and solo game concept for practice and concept exploration. I have provided and will continue to provide immediate bug response if anything turns up, and I am always willing to answer questions and make suggestions when players consult me as GM. We have distributed flyers in prisons and at a local gaming convention and game stores. I'm just out of personal time for any further promotion, and my business partners Genny and Doug have less time than I do, these days. Real Life has to take priority over the world we'd like to create, sometimes. Thank you again for your input and publicity. Hopefully somebody will find their way to our site and sign up with some friends for a new game, and word-of-mouth will do what word-of-site has not apparently been able to do!

Davin Church

Talisman Games

Things that you've done in the past, as far as making Galac-Tac accessible on the Web, are fine and dandy, but that doesn't mean that they suffice to get the ball moved down the field in perpetuity.

Your approach to having stuff online and it being quickly and easily accessible is far from the worst approach that I've encountered on the part of PBM companies and GMs. It's not like you charge for PDF copies of the rulebook, for instance.

These days, games of all sorts routinely exploit visual impact afforded by imagery to grab the eye in the first place. PBM doesn't compete with just other PBM games, these days. Rather, they compete with entertainment options that are vast, beyond what existed for people back during the heyday of postal gaming.

Your chosen turn cost structure for those who might prefer to play with paper format turns, or who have no other option (such as inmates), strike me as making Galac-Tac among the more expensive postal version PBM games currently on the market. That doesn't mean that nobody would ever choose to play it, but that approach imposes three separate fees on the would-be Galac-Tac postal player instead of just one. Quite literally, they play a turn fee of ten bucks, and then they pay for postage, and then they also literally pay for every single sheet of paper that forms their turn. These days, how many different fees and costs are postal gamers willing to play? Each additional fee that a PBM game imposes is yet another reason for gamers to choose not to play. I understand that you're trying to cover your costs, but your chosen approach to messaging on fees is one of the worst that I've ever encountered.

That said, the very fact that Galac-Tac can still be played as a postal game is a big feather in its cap. Even if you haven't enjoyed a lot of succeed growing a player base of inmates for the game, that doesn't mean that you couldn't. Inmates, however, tend to have very limited monetary resources at their disposal, for the most part. Inmates, it should be noted, tend to have relatively few gaming options at their disposal, as far as postal games go. A good many might, by now, have access to computer tablets with a variety of games on them (most likely, digital games of the single player variety).

The focus, of course, should be on your strengths and not your weaknesses. Me? I look at both. Just looking at one, rather than both, doesn't really tend to make sense, from a discussion and analysis perspective. I certainly agree that real life has to take priority, sometimes. More times than not, I'd say. But even still, there are real world considerations that bear on whether a given approach to growing a game's user base is likely to succeed or not. Some approaches, I believe, invariably tend to be more realistic approaches than others.

Regardless, I appreciate your meaty e-mail, Davin, and I do wish you the best of success with Galac-Tac, no matter what you ultimately decide. I certainly think that things can be improved, from where they currently are - and I don't believe that you have to spend a bunch of money to make it happen.

The time issue, though, is the more difficult challenge. If you have zero time, or nearly so, then I'm not sure that there's a path through that maze to be found. Partnering with one or more individuals who do have time available to tackle some of the obstacles to growing Galac-Tac's player base might be your overall best bet. Time is always of the essence, and thee older we all get, the less time that we have left for all things, including PBM-related stuff, regardless of which side of the PBM fence we're on.

Charles Mosteller

Galac-Tac image ad for Talisman Games
Image description
Hyborian War image ad for Reality Simulations, Inc. (RSI)
Image ad for the PBMville Town Map

PBMville Characters & Locations
The Living

Doc Dudley Feelpain

Player: NPC

Health: GOOD

Last Location = 24

Assignment Last Turn: MOVE to 7.

Current Location: 17

NOTE: Doc Dudley Feelpain gets one order slot per turn.

NOTE: Doctors can occupy any location that the wounded are at. Wounds are treated at the END of a turn. Doctors will always give PRIORITY to treating wounded law enforcement officers over treating outlaws and those disturbing the peace.

Hurrying past dead bodies lying in the street, Doc Feelpain hastily made his way to Brandan "The Dirge" Weir, who had been bleeding for quite some time. The wound actually looked worse than it turned out to be, but with all of his wailing and carrying on, the Dirge had managed to fake his way past a lot of the violence that had been going on all around him.

He was so damned glad to see the Doc, that he couldn't help but to smile. And Doc Dudley Feelpain returned his smile, their eyes locking, as the Doc told him that he'd be all right. Such sweet music to his ears were those words, and in no time at all, Brendan "The Dirge" Weir was all patched up, almost as good as new.


"Wicked" Wilbur Whitley

Player: Stefan Graf



Health: DEAD

Last Location = 25

Assignment Last Turn: SHOOT at Mississippi Jane Deadshot in 24

Current Location: 25

People Killed: 1

The pain from the wound hurt like hell, but Wicked Wilbur had to get the job done. Mumbling, cussing, he steadied his aim. Carefully, Wilbur squeezed the trigger, sending a round down range. BAM! Straight and true the bullet flew, impacting Mississippi Jane Deadshot right square in the forehead. That bitch was dead before she hit the ground, and it was long overdue.


Frank "Nine Fingers" Chambers

Player: Barry Robertson


$500 REWARD for killing Sheriff "Wild Bill" Hickok


Last Location = 29

Assignment Last Turn: MOVE to 20.

Current Location: 20

People Killed: 1

Sharpshooter Archibald Tyrrell

Player: Darrell Lias

Health: GOOD

Last Location = 1

Assignment Last Turn: MOVE to

Current Location: 8

Deputy Farkus Gurdeen

Player: NPC

Health: GOOD

Last Location = 23

Assignment Last Turn: MOVE to 22.

Current Location: 22

NOTE: Deputy Farkus Gurdeen gets one order slot per turn.

Big Bad Black Bob

Player: NPC

Health: GOOD

Last Location = 7

Assignment Last Turn: MOVE to 20.

Current Location: 20

Deputy Winslow Kinkaid

Player: NPC

Health: GOOD

Last Location = 14

Assignment Last Turn: MOVE to 13.

Current Location: 13

NOTE: Deputy Winslow Kinkaid gets one order slot per turn.


Mississippi Jane Deadshot

Player: Richard Lockwood



Health: DEAD

Location = 24

Assignment Last Turn: SHOOT at "Wicked" Wilbur Whitley in 25.

Current Location: 24

People Killed: 2

If it was the last thing that she ever did, Mississippi Jane Deadshot was determined to send Wicked Wilbur Whitley to his grave. Just who did this son of a bitch think that he was? He sure struck her as the uppity type, and that hit a nerve with Mississippi Jane.

She took aim on his ass, aiming to gun him down. BANG! The bullet impacted him right square in his chest, a gaping would appearing. The bullet went clean through him, and tore a big chunk of his back out, as it exited his body. Mississippi Jane Deadshot had barely had time to squeeze the trigger, before Wicked Whitley nailed her in the head. And just like that, they both lay dead in the street, while the Undertaker smiled from a nearby sidewalk, where he had watched the darned fools gun one another down in cold blood. Some folks, it seemed, just never learned the most basic lessons in life.


Rowdy Slim McGraw

Player: Casey Link




Last Location = 9

Assignment Last Turn: MOVE to 8.

Current Location: 8

People Killed: 2


Brendan "The Dirge" Weir



Player: Brendan Weir

Health: GOOD

Last Location = 16

Assignment Last Turn: MOVE to 16.

Current Location: 17

People Killed: 2

Possession: Ace of Spades [1 Use Only] [Averts Death]

The Narrator

From where I sit watching all of the action, gunfights sure are a fearsome way of life. They're downright dangerous, if you ask me. Of course, what does it matter what I think?

Since I double as both the Narrator and the GM for PBMville, we had 3 of the 6 active players in the game to require reminders to send their turn orders in for this issue's turn. And all three of them did. I can't help but to wonder, though, whether interest is waning. Not that I blame anybody, if it is. But just having a single order to issue for a turn doesn't strike me as a particularly weighty burden.

But life is life, and in life, we get distracted. I sure do, anyway. So, I definitely know what that's like.

Even still, the thought crosses my mind, as it has previously done, that perhaps I should give more thought to remembering that PBMville: Wild West Shootout, on the game side of things, was intended all along to be a temporary game, a game of relatively brief duration.

On the other side of things, which is the experiment side, PBMville has, thus far at least, been interesting to observe. Players do the damnedest things, at times. Peril is simply ignored, and danger is swiftly embraced. For a chance to kill the other guy (or gal), players take chances that they would never, ever take in real life.

Did I mention that I recently purchased some software that I thought might help me with running PBMville? Well, I did, and like all software, there's a learning curve to it, and my learner ain't learning it near as quickly as I would prefer. Gosh, darn! Why can't they make software more intuitive? Maybe down deep inside of them, all software designers also harbor a secret desire to become PBM game designers. If you're quick on the take, you might even grasp what I am getting at.

Should I bring PBMville to an end? Should I put a pause on it for a bit? Should I continue carrying on with it? These three questions compete with one another in my mind.

But no decision has to be reached on those questions, today.

For Outlaw Gangs, what I had in mind was that it would be individual characters moving as groups, rather than as individuals. Nothing even remotely resembling rocket science about it. But characters moving as a gang would be a tad more constraining than if a player controlled multiple characters, with each one moving individually. Of course, being in an Outlaw Gang probably ought to come with some bonuses of some sort, shouldn't it? I can just hear those dice rattling, now!

But quit counting your Wild West chickens before they hatch. Whoa! Whoa!

Anyway, this issue if PBM Chaos is a bit late crawling out the door, so I need to ride off into the sunset, once more, that our readers may commence to receiving and reading what this issue holds in store.

If you want to learn more about the disaster that befell me, just before I was gonna send this issue out earlier, today, then just go here.

Contact PBM Chaos at
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