I know that to some of you, these different issues of PBM Chaos probably all just run together. Indeed, the chaotic approach to them goes hand-in-hand with the chaos portion of the name, and that's far from unintentional. Why? Because I view chaos to be a useful tool, at times, even though many would no doubt be inclined to view chaos as only a negative or bad thing.
This issue, though, I'm making a concerted effort to try and begin teaching PBM Chaos' readers a little bit more about several different PBM games. All three of these games are space warfare games. Takamo, Far Horizons, and Galac-Tac - three different, yet similar, offerings from PBM companies and PBM GMs of old.
Affordability likely won't be a primary concern for those who find any of these three PBM games to be tempting to give a try to. Two of the three are completely free to play, and like Meatloaf used to sing, two out of three ain't bad. Galac-Tac is the odd man out, on the pricing of these three, not being free, but weighing in at a cost of only five dollars American per month to play as much Galac-Tac as you want.
The real issues, I suspect, will be learning curves from the rules and acquisition of game interface familiarity. I won't give any of them a blue ribbon for their respective game interfaces. All of them will require a concerted effort to become familiar enough with them to play them effectively. By comparison, Alamaze's game interface is a walk in the park compared to Takamo, Far Horizons, and Galac-Tac, and Alamaze's game interface is more difficult for new players to get up to speed with quickly than it should be.
But that doesn't mean that these three space warfare PBM games aren't worth playing. back in the day, lots of PBM gamers mastered these very same games, and they didn't even enjoy the benefit of online interfaces, at all, way back then.
If PBM companies and PBM GMs want lots of new players to flock to their PBM offerings, then they really need to think long and hard about how to lower entry barriers and eliminate entry obstacles for newcomers. I'm no newcomer to PBM games, but as a general rule of thumb, where PBM rulebooks and PBM game interfaces are concerned, PBM gaming is definitely plagued by confusing rules, crudely designed game interfaces better fit for a different era, and a wholesale lack of much-needed revision.
But if you can do what hundreds and thousands of old school PBM gamers did, then I suspect that what you will find will be a ton of fun waiting on you. PBM games don't become less fun, simply because technology keeps on advancing. And these three PBM games are far from the least technologically changed, compared to many others. That they are playable online, at all, is a feather in their respective caps.
I figured that by sharing a little bit of information about these three different PBM games, I might be able to tempt more people into giving them a try, while at the same time help those out there who aren't familiar with any of them to know a little bit more about each one of them, by reading various extracts from their respective rulebooks and websites. I've even included links to their websites and their rulebooks, for those of you who read what I've included about them in this issue of PBM Chaos, and who get the cravings to learn even more. Nothing like a few handy, dandy hyperlinks placed at our readers' digital fingertips to make it quick and easy to learn more, if the desire is there.
If you're out there and you're reading this, and you've played (or are currently playing) any or all of these three space warfare PBM games, then do consider writing in and sharing with one and all your perspective on how to best get up and started playing in any or all of them. A helping hand is all that some newcomers to PBM gaming need. Not everyone out there who might be interested in PBM is as slow of a learner as I am, you know.
Takamo * Far Horizons * Galac-Tac - I dare you to give them a try!
"When one has no competition, one tends to get complacent." - Clements and Associates, Inc.
Paper Mayhem magazine
Issue #12 - May/June 1985 Issue
Learning A Little About Takamo
TAKAMO is a strategic level game of interstellar exploration, expansion and conquest. The game is set in an evolving three-dimensional galaxy, the scope of which you are not likely to encounter in any other game. Each player takes control of an emerging star-going civilization with immense potential and even greater dangers. The number of possible opponents and allies is virtually limitless.
The galaxy in TAKAMO has a diameter of 15,600 parsecs.
A universal mapping system, developed by the Radnian Empire, divides the galaxy into a series of cubes called sectors. Each sector is 600 parsecs wide. Sectors are divided into subsectors.
There are 27 subsectors in a sector. Each subsector is 200 parsecs across and may contain as many as five or as few as zero stars.
In all, 17,576 sectors comprise the galaxy, which may be divided into 474,522 subsectors.
Planetary populations have several purposes. They serve as the MU recruiting base and are essential for Tec Level raises. To retool, there must be one POP unit for every MC (raise planetary Tec Level) 1 level, 2 POP per MC to retool 2 levels, and 3 or more POP per MC to retool 3 or more levels. If there are no MCs, there must be at least 4 POP on the planet to retool.
Population units are able to survive on any world, regardless of habitat. However, POP units will suffer attrition whenever they are moved to a planet with a habitat range different from the planet they most recently left. The greater the difference, the greater the attrition. Once the units have suffered the initial losses, they will become acclimated and will assume the new habitat.
POP units cost 100 RUs each. They may only be built on terraformed planets and, with certain exceptions, only one unit may be built per action. The maximum number of POP units allowed on a planet is equal to the planetary size, multiplied by 13.
For example, a size nine planet may have up to 117 POP units.
If an Agricultural Center (AC) is established on a planet, the planetary population growth rate is doubled. Thus, for each 100 RUs spent, two POP units are automatically built, even if only one is ordered to be built.
Conquest is a simple, although violent, way of obtaining new worlds, but it is costly in military terms. There are three methods of conquering worlds, marine invasion, guerrilla action, and coup.
RU (RESOURCE UNIT) This is the standard term for money or credit.
CB (COLONY BASE) These centers are small production factories that are only used on colonies. If the planet is ever terraformed or platformed the colony bases will be destroyed.
MC (MINING CENTER) These centers earn RUs by recovering new material, such as ores and timber, from the crust of the planet.
PC (PRODUCTION CENTER) These city-sized factories provide a portion of your income. You may increase your RU income by building more PCs.
TC (TRADE CENTER) Traders possess a natural trade monopoly. They earn their profits by placing TCs on terraformed planets that have production centers.
SC (SMUGGLING CENTER) SCs may be constructed on any Terraformed planet or Nomad Platform. These centers are hidden on the surface of the planet.
AC (AGRICULTURAL CENTER) These are vast automated farms, producing a variety of foodstuffs for many species. Regardless of species, an AC will double the number of population units that can be built in one action.
Combat may occur under a variety of circumstances. It can be between fleets, between planets, between a planet and a fleet, or it can occur between combat units on a planet.
FAR HORIZONS is a strategic role-playing game of galactic exploration, trade, diplomacy, and conquest.
In FAR HORIZONS, the galaxy is a small open star cluster. It is approximately spherical, but is projected onto an easy-to-use two-dimensional map. The size of the galaxy and the actual number of stars in it will depend on the number of players. As an example, for a game with about 15 players, the galaxy would have a radius of approximately 18 parsecs and contain about 80 usable star systems.
The basic unit of interstellar distance is the PARSEC, which is equal to 3.26 light-years. Thus, every star system in the galaxy will have an X, Y, and Z coordinate in parsecs, relative to the reference point at 0,0,0. Furthermore, all coordinate values are zero or greater.
The Home Planet
Each player starts the game with a home planet. This is where his species evolved, acquired intelligence, and eventually learned how to travel among the stars.
At the start of the game, the only material resources available to a species are those of its home planet. These resources can be used to build units such as mines, factories, spaceships, planetary defenses, etc. As the game proceeds, a species can colonize other planets and tap them for resources as well.
Sequence of Events
Each turn is processed in six steps, and the order form that you send to the gamemaster has six corresponding sections. These sections are:
1. Combat orders
2. Pre-departure orders
3. Jump orders
4. Production orders
5. Post-arrival orders
6. Strike orders
Stars and Planets
The galaxy of FAR HORIZONS is a small open star cluster, similar to the Pleiades Cluster.
In a real cluster, many of the stars would be components of binary or trinary star systems. In fact, such multiple star systems make up about 85% of all star systems in the Milky Way galaxy. In systems such as these, planets, if any, are likely to have very odd orbits, and if they have atmospheres, their climates are likely to be extremely erratic. As a result, multiple star systems have been totally eliminated from the game. You can assume that they exist, but they will not be shown on star maps or be made available for use by players.
The location of a star is indicated by its X, Y, and Z coordinates, which are always positive integers greater than or equal to zero.
The number of sectors in the galaxy is simply the number of possible combinations of X, Y, and Z. Most sectors are effectively empty. Only a relatively small number of sectors contain usable stars and planets.
Planets are real estate, and are the ultimate source of all wealth and power in the game. As a result, planets are also the most common cause of interstellar conflict.
Tech Level Point Allocation
A starting player has a total of 15 points that can be allocated to Military, Gravitics, Life Support, and Biology tech levels. Any combination is allowable as long as they add up to 15.
A tech level can even be zero if you decide that your species has no knowledge in that area. If Gravitics tech level is zero, then you may only build sub- light ships. If your Life Support tech level is zero, then none of your ships will have defensive shields. If a tech level is zero, then it can only be raised if another species transfers the knowledge to you.
All species start the game with Mining and Manufacturing equal to 10.
Star System Data
The star system data sent to you for the first turn provides a detailed description of the home star system.
Star system data can be provided to you for every star system that your species visits. However, you will not receive this information automatically, but must specifically request a "scan". This can be done in the pre-departure or post- arrival section of the orders you send to the gamemaster.
GALAC-TAC is a 4X-style game of space conquest; explore the galaxy and take it over! Design your own types of spaceships, send them out on exploration, economic, and military missions, and reap the rewards that enable you to conquer your opponents.
The Game System
The game is played in turns. There are 50 possible actions in a turn. Since your opponents are human, you have a time limit. A move must be submitted by the turn deadline. The deadline date will always be shown on your reports. If we do not receive your actions, your turn will process without the benefit of your direction. Try not to miss a turn! As in most war games, you may move all, some, or none of your units in a single game turn. All turns are executed simultaneously.
The primary objective in GALAC-TAC is to neutralize (i.e. destroy) all the other Home Systems in the galaxy. There are a few minor problems to contend with, such as where they are located and how well defended they are. You control one Production System (your Home System), and the rest of the galaxy is uncharted. The only protection any system has is the fleet that is present in that system. You will need to explore and chart new territory, collect resources from your growing empire, and build up your economy to enable you to construct fleets for defense and domination! In the event the Masters return and there is more than one empire still trying to take control of the galaxy, the winner will be chosen according to the highest empire valuation percentile.
Empire Valuation is determined by breaking down your empire and everything in it to its basic value, including ships, systems, and other resources. The empire with the highest value is considered the leader, and every other empire’s valuation is expressed as a percentage based on the leader’s value. Hence, if you're at 85%, your Empire is worth 15% less than the current leader. You still do not know if you're in second place, or last. More than one player may be at any particular valuation percentile, including 100%.
Combat in GALAC-TAC is technically strategic, rather than tactical, in nature. You order your ships/fleets into battle, and you can give them some rough guidance.
A combat or "battle" in GALAC-TAC is divided into 10 segments called "combat rounds." In each round every available weapon on every available ship selects an appropriate target and fires once, doing appropriate damage if the shot hits. However, not every weapon can fire every round. A weapon that is destroyed obviously can no longer fire. Ships that expend or lose the last of their T-Type missiles can no longer fire T-types. Conversely, if all of a ship's T-Type launchers are destroyed, it cannot use any missiles that may remain in its racks.
Furthermore, a ship's last order and that of the enemy can also affect when a ship can begin firing and which ship can be targeted. These orders interact with one another in complicated ways.
Rate of Fire
All active ships may fire each weapon once per combat round. Drones fire when the ship launching them is able to fire. If the ship that launched the Drones is destroyed, all Drones that it launched self-destruct due to losing their Drone bay controllers. T-Type weapons fire until they are out of missiles. Note that missiles carried as cargo cannot be used during combat.
This game is played by issuing commands, called actions. You are allowed 50 actions per fortnight. Actions are divided into three categories: Empire, System, and Ship.
Empire Actions will affect your entire Empire, System Actions only affect one System and (you guessed it!) Ship Actions will only affect one or more ships.
While 50 actions may not seem like a lot, many actions have long term effects.
Production Inventory (PI)
PI is the basic "monetary" unit in the game and all costs are shown in PI. In order to benefit from a Charted or Colony System, you must transport the PV to a Production System so that it can be converted to PI.
A Production System automatically converts all of its PV into PI at the rate of 1 PV to 1 PI (i.e. your Home System has a base PV of 10, produces 100 PV and generates 100 PI per fortnight).
All PV brought in by cargo ship is also converted to PI at the rate of 1 PI for 1 PV. It takes one fortnight to convert PV to PI. Unlike PV, PI can be accumulated at Production Systems (but not Colonies), and anything that is left over after expenditures is automatically stored and available on the next turn.
Note that PI can be moved by cargo ship from one of your Production Centers to another by combining the LOAD, TO, and UNLOAD commands.
If you retire, the whole PBM-Thing is dying even more. : (
I’ve not experienced a truncated version of PBM Chaos, but I was reading the emails in Mac mail and not a fully GMail client. I have just started to change that, and am now using the GMail app on my iPad. In reviewing a recent Chaos issue, I did find that at some point, Gmail required me to click a link to view the rest of the email, but that appeared in a really long edition. I also generally used the ‘view in browser’ link for emails that don’t appear as intended, and had no noticeable truncation.
Do I find the Chaos and the preceding PBM collection useful - very much so. If you decide to return to a PDF format, I’m cool with that. If you decide to just post on the web, please send out a reminder that a new issue is available. If this becomes less frequent, I’m cool - I’d be saddened if it stopped altogether, now that you’ve fired up my juices to try out many of the PBM options your writing has brought to my attention.
Well, in the past couple of weeks, I’ve decided to actually step into some PBM games, rather than just reading about them. PBMville intrigued me from the writeups, and so I entered. It is a basic game which intrigued me. If it is winding down and ends soon, that’s cool.
Do I even need to state my preference?
I love reading your emails/musings/all of it.
I get your email in full.
My mails don’t get cut off, and I like reading them!
Niels De Groot
Charles, as you know, I do receive Chaos. I even try to read most of it. Frankly, I feel you are publishing too often. It sometimes seems like there is a new version at least every week. I don’t keep track, as you can tell. I would read it more completely, if you publish less often. I see how it impacts your game play as well. When you are about to publish another issue, you lack the time to give your game turns the best effort. I’m just being candid, so please don’t be offended.
Are you publishing more than monthly?
I do appreciate your effort and know how much you enjoy writing.
I just don't have time to read a bi-weekly p.b.m. publication. Heck, I would have to give up playing games or play a lot less, so it actually gets counterproductive to have so much to read.
Frankly, I would rather read a monthly publication.
Fools! To those saying it's too long -- you don't have to read the whole thing! I'll admit, I skim a lot!!
To those saying Gmail cuts it off -- For all over-long emails, not just this newsletter, Gmail puts a "view entire message" link at the bottom. That will show you the full email in a new window. Also, the Sender of PBM Chaos includes a handy link to view the email in a web browser. So, you're doubly covered and insured against missing out on the best PBM blog on the internet!!
I like your reviews and descriptions of game play for games I haven't tried, like the Alamaze saga. As I said, I skim through a lot, and read the "juicy" bits. Just like I used to read an old-time paper magazine.
I've been playing Takamo for a couple of months now. The game is fun... the order entry interface is a lot like doing your taxes -- lots of boxes to fill in, and one mistake can screw up lots of things! They have made a web interface that does a basic error check, but it's easy to put orders in that work, but make no sense. Like the time I wanted to build troop transports and support ships and ended up with a dozen scouts named "TROOPS" and "SUPPORT" instead (from copy/pasting orders and forgetting to change the numerical build code).
I am reading it, and would like it to continue…
No problem here. My vote is to continue on.......
Yes! Please continue if you're able. Some messages are truncated, but there is always a "view entire message" button or link at the bottom that loads the entire thing. It's no problem to read, and we look forward to them. Thanks for all you do!
Definitely continue with it, my friend!
There is a very small link in Gmail (on my phone at least) that says "Click here to see full email". You might just want to tell people that. It's caught me out a couple of times.
Keep the flag flying!
Cheers, Richard Lockwood
All emails have arrived at my end, so far.
I have a gmail account and receive all the emails. It doesn't show the whole email, sometimes, due to the length, but I just have to click a button at the bottom of the email, and it opens the whole thing in a new window.
I, myself, would love to still see PBM Chaos put out. So far, none of mine have been missing anything from them, as well.
First, I wanted to say, please keep PBM Chaos running. I, for one, really have been enjoying it. It provides a great light into the world of PBM, today, even if that world sometimes take a bit of poking and prodding to get to the surface.
Speaking of that, I think I still owe you some text for PBM Chaos? Ack! I forgot with all the rush for the holidays. I will get that over to you soon, maybe not for this issue, but next?
Also, just a note, as a gmail user, Chaos does get cut off in the main view, but there are links at the top of the email you send, and then a Gmail generated link at the very bottom, to open the email in a new browser window and that shows the whole issue. So, its one extra click, but at least for Gmail, you can still easily see the whole issue.
I am a user of gmail...
And yes, sometimes the mail has been cut off. BUT! There´s always the possibility to watch it in your browser. And that works perfectly fine.
So, no big issue on my side...
Cheers, Alex Sahm
I am getting everything you sent, and I use a gmail. It must have something to do with the settings for some users, your emails could be sent to spam, promotions or somewhere else (not inbox).
Experience the turn-based horror of the Martian invasion. Welcome to the PBM game that doesn't exist - yet!
Assume the role of the Martians, wreaking untold havoc and mass carnage upon the unprepared and unsuspecting Earthlings. Or dare to muster the courage to repel these fierce off-worlders as Earthlings scrambling against daunting odds.
Only those with an imagination are allowed to participate, because it will require the full measure of human ingenuity to have even the faintest hope of surviving in the face of the coming Martian onslaught.
Many are they who have thought all along that PBM gaming was dead - dead and long since buried. But that was before the Martians came.
Coexistence is impossible. Absolute and unrelenting war is a certainty! Only a temporary PBM game can capture the urgency of the situation.
Hopefully coming in 2024 - unless the Martians decide to strike earlier than that!
War of the Worlds
The Temporary PBM Game
Forget about everything else. Now, tell me what your first impression was, when you saw the A.I.-created image above? And the title? Did that cause your imagination to stir? Not even a little?
War of the Worlds (the original book, not the movies, and not numerous other things) is in the public domain. It is in the United States, anyway, as far as I know. If it were up to you, how would you go about trying to wake the gaming public up to the fact that PBM gaming is still around?
So, is this all just a visual tease? Or will Martians be invading the PBM world? The "real" War of the Worlds is the ongoing, never-ending battle between all different forms of gaming. And what are games, if they are not taproots into the human imagination?
As a general rule of thumb, trying to force-feed gamers the "same old shit" isn't a particularly wise approach to offering games to play. Yeah, sure, some games are true classics. So is turkey for Thanksgiving, but do you want to eat nothing but turkey every single day of the year? Classics - whether in gaming or in food - only get you just so far.
The human appetite and the human imagination were both designed with much bigger things in mind. Yet, these days, PBM companies and PBM GMs seem to have great difficulty moving beyond the PBM games of yesteryear.
Just go ahead and toss your excuses and your reasons and your justifications into the trash can, as you prepare to make your case for PBM gaming to remain stagnant. Why? Because today's gaming public doesn't really care about why PBM gaming can't get its act together. Gamers of the modern era aren't interested in your excuses. They want something new, because they always want something new. When was the last time that you checked the interest expiration date on whatever old relic of a PBM game that you're hawking to the gaming public?
Your game is dated. It's archaic. It pales in comparison to a lot of new games that have entered the public's awareness with the passage of time, since it was first born all those many years ago. Wait! Did I say years? I meant decades.
Are you beginning to see the problem?
Maybe I'm the problem. Perhaps I shouldn't try to tempt PBM gamers with the prospect of new PBM possibilities. Feel free to write in and elaborate at length on why I shouldn't beat the PBM war drums on this subject. Know with certainty that I am more than willing to respond at equal - if not greater - length on the very same subject.
In the old days, back when there were multiple different PBM magazines covering the play by mail scene, PBM companies and PBM GMs did not have the luxury of not bringing new PBM games to market. They had to compete, because if they didn't, other and newer PBM companies and PBM GMs would be all too happy to absorb all of their players. The competition was pretty cutthroat back then. Nice people, perhaps, but definitely cutthroat competitors.
Where's that same hearty, robust spirit of competition, now? What became of the bodacious and vibrant bragging? PBM bragging rights - who has them, now? Or do they even exist, anymore?
As long as PBM gaming suffers from the same old problems, the same old rot, I suspect that I'll just keep on hammering away with a lot of the same old criticisms. What do you think the function of PBM publications, be they print or digital in nature, really is? You don't really think that PBM magazines and PBM newsletters and PBM mailings ever come into existence, at all, just to give a free pass to PBM companies and PBM GMs, do you?
I live in a country known for an old saying. The British are coming! Myth? Lore? Mere verbal embellishment? The American Revolution aside, after Rick Loomis and Flying Buffalo, Inc. first fired the commercial PBM shot heard 'round the world, it was the British as much as anyone else who sallied forth to take up the PBM cause. But not just the British.
Many countries - numerous nationalities - raised the PBM banner and flew the PBM flag. And they proudly did so in a brazenly unapologetic manner. Germans, Italians, the French, the Dutch - hell, even the Aussies got in on it. Back then, PBM was booming.
And now, the big guns of PBM have fallen silent. Only a few are still in the fray. Hope is frequently nowhere in sight. PBM's casualties have been enormous, but many are the PBM companies and PBM games that gave their all. It just doesn't strike me as right to allow their sacrifices to be in vain.
The newer generations, those of our PBM posterity who have come along since I first dipped my toes in the PBM waters, are some really brilliant people. Some of them may even legitimately be counted as the rightful heirs of PBM's future. But are they prepared to seize the PBM bull by the horns? Can they rise to the challenge that lies clearly before them, clearly before all of us?
A temporary PBM game doesn't have to require years of work and endless investment of time and energy and resources. A new generation of PBM designers doesn't have to do things exactly as their PBM forefathers chose to do them. The late, great David Webber still commands my PBM respect to this very day, yet you don't see me holding the proverbial PBM petticoat of him or anyone else, and doing things exactly as he or they did them. You have to be a David Webber to be a David Webber. There are no clones of Carol Mulholland waiting in the wings. And thank God there's not another Bob McLain, huh? I think that Bob would "get" the humor in that one, even if no one else does.
Ultimately, I may succeed, or I may fail, but let it not be said that I was never in the fight - the fight to advance the PBM cause! Fear of failure is not a very good reason to avoid trying. It never has been. It never will be.
All of these old PBM games that some are still tinkering under their hoods of, it's good to see them still around, but are they running as smoothly as they once did? Are they still attracting players like they used to? Is whatever PBM game that you're working on, right now, to be your final act upon the PBM stage? Has the well of your imagination run dry?
If I were to design a new PBM game from scratch in a week, and run it for only a month or two (temporary PBM game), would PBM gaming be any the worse off? And you, if you designed a new PBM game from scratch, and you were to run it for only a year or two, would PBM gaming end up any the worse for wear?
For me, PBM gaming has turned into a lifelong interest, but I don't worship at the altar of just one PBM undertaking. Heck, I don't restrict myself to publishing just one PBM publication. One dies, another takes its place. Sure, there tends to be some amount of time that passes in between, but if PBM Chaos were to run off a cliff, and never darken your e-mail in-boxes ever again, would any of you actually be surprised - genuinely surprised - if I came along with something else a little further down the PBM road?
Herbert George Wells, aka H.G. Wells, was a writer. He was an author, but more than that, he was a prolific author. He's even been called the Father of Science Fiction in some circles. Yet, no one honors him and his memory with a PBM game erected atop his greatest literary achievements? Tell me, how is this justice? How is this fitting for a man of his stature, for a man with an imagination as expansive as his?
The War of the Worlds. The War of Words. PBM gaming is big enough for both.
If you can't bring a new PBM game into existence all by yourself, then join with others of a like PBM mind to get the job done. Grab hold of a piece of the PBM action!
Dare to make your mark on PBM - a realm of infinite imagination!
Just A Reminder
While I don't always remember everything, one of the best ways to increase your chances of your PBM game or company or GM to gain an increase in advertising is by interacting with the editor of PBM Chaos.
Some days, I'm inundated by an avalanche of e-mails from lots of different sources, both those of the PBM variety and otherwise, and on other days, the well runs completely dry.
I do try to mix things up a bit, and run PBM advertisements from a wide variety of different PBM companies and PBM GMs. Invariably, some are more talkative than others, and some display far more energy and interest in their PBM games being advertised than others do.
Even if you're just a PBM player, and not a PBM company or PBM GMs, you can still write in and give your favorite PBM game(s) a plug. If I am playing in a particular PBM game, then the chances of me writing one or more articles about it increase dramatically.
If you genuinely (or even superficially) feel that your PBM game is being ignored, then feel free to whack me up side the head with a big verbal stick. Ask me, "Hey, Charles, just what in the hell is going on, here? Why aren't you saying anything about so and so PBM game?"
You can also feel free to ask me about any of the PBM personalities that populate the PBM realm, whether on the PBM GM side or over on the PBM player side. Of course, just because you ask doesn't mean that I'm going to know anything new, beyond whatever you already know. After all, it's not as though most of them ever bother to write in and let me know what they're currently doing, PBM-wise (Hint! Hint!).
And, yes, I'm talking specifically about YOU, the whole lot of YOU!
"Thanks for running the game so far. I'm enjoying it."
"Looks great. Thanks for being open to feedback. "
Undeadlord — 11/28/2023 at 12:13 PM Question about new planets. If I find a planet with low Mining Diff and a low LSN, thats perfect right? I am not seeing anything about a rating for how "good" a planet is in terms of mining, beyond how difficult it is to mine?
Am I right that all the the info, the Pressure, the Atmosphere, the gravity is all summed up in the LSN? If the LSN is under my LSN level, I am good to try and colonize it without issue?
2311.29 – A gravity wave passes through the western end of the Tanhauser Galaxy, originating somewhere in the 1600 Cluster. It is assumed that this is the result of a star going supernova, or an event involving a black hole.
The GTac front-end has a ton of stuff hidden in it - every time you go exploring you find other fun stuff hiding in there. Once you get in a few turns, try running the Empire Status report and look to see what it can tell you about Charted stars, Colony values, and especially Shuttle routes (including whether they're complete or overfilled, etc.) once you start Shuttling. Then you can also look at the mapping features -- not only are there nearly unlimited ways to customize it but it's interactive, too. Double-click on a star to bring up all the information you know about it, including history, distances, lists of ships there or nearby, and then right-click on a ship to give it orders directly from the map. It's not completely finished yet, but it does an awful lot of stuff for you.
"Charles asked me for a quote about the play-by-mail of yesterday. Since I'm not very quotable, here's an anecdote instead."
- Bob McLain
Around 1981, I joined my first game of Starweb. I even remember the number: SW-586. These days, I sometimes struggle to remember my phone number when asked for it, and I don't know my license plate number at all, but my first Starweb game? No problem. 586.
I was an Empire Builder. I didn't win, but I didn't do badly, either. I've kept in touch over the decades - albeit sporadically - with one of the first players I met, Formax the Apostle, whose alter-ego, Jeff DeSantis, lived in Revere, Massachusetts, and I believe still does today. He had one of the thickest Boston accents I've ever heard. Between us, in outer space, was another Empire Builder called Iron. His real name was Lawrence Truebloode (or, as he's known in the official Flying Buffalo game results, "Name Deleted"), and boy, did he role-play to the max.
Larry (if I may) annoyed us to no end, so we decided to unbuild his empire. Once he saw our armadas, his indignant correspondence - still in character - became ridiculous as well as annoying. I decided to fool with him a bit and sent my own in-character correspondence, offering to let him polish my planets if he would surrender immediately. His reply: a concise "NO SOAP"! I knew that meant "no chance in hell," but I chose to take it literally and so on the next diplomatic message (sent through the moderator on index cards in those days) I pasted a coupon for Dial Soap. He dropped the game.
In hindsight, I realize that Larry probably was a kid, playing his first game by mail. For all I know, it was his last time playing a game by mail. At least he left clean.
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Victory! The Battle for Europe
"Hello, not sure what you can do with this, but I got carried away and started typing about my favorite game. Sorry if it's unwanted. I know it could use some editing. If you have a place for it, it's yours."
- Doug Steinberg
Back in the 90's, I was very into PBM games. Adventurer's Guild was my favorite. I also played Duelmasters, and tried out a few FBI (Flying Buffalo) games. There was this one game that was just starting up. Victory! by Rolling Thunder Games. I wanted to play it so bad. I like wargames. It seemed to be right up my alley. I bought the rules and probably the map set. It looked good, but complicated. Then life got in the way. A lack of money, but especially a lack of time, happened. I continued playing Duelmasters and Adventurer's Guild. AG stopped running and Duelmasters, well, I just wasn't very good at Duelmasters. So, I dropped.
Fast forward 28 years or so. I'm about to retire in a year or two. Time is better. Money is slightly better. I started googling PBM things. Adventurer's Guild, still dead. Duelmasters is still going, but I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be any better at it. Then I remembered Victory! and Rolling Thunder. I googled it, and lo and behold, it was still running! You can download the maps and rules easy enough, but you'll need to print them out yourself, or use them from the screen. From there, I downloaded the VOEP software to make sending turns back easier. Easier than by mail, anyway. Just know that the software doesn't do much, it's for entering turns to send back to RTG. That's about it. It has options to look at the rules, but I never got it to work for me. There is another turn entry program, but I never tried it. VICENTRY turn entry software. I was told VOEP was better, so that's what I use. You'll need the rules. They are free to download. There are a lot of them divided up into sections. Intro, Army, Air Force, Navy, Politics and Economics, Logistics and Training, Intelligence, Tactics, Mission orders, Secondary orders and Primary orders. You will also need the tech packages. German, American, British or Russian. These are for Army, Air Force or Navy within each nationality. These are the unit types available for your chosen nationality. They are listed in the order of their availability as the war progresses. That's all you need to play. I know it sounds like a lot. Everything is still very much 90's tech. If you want paper rules, maps and etc., then you will need a good printer with lots of ink and paper. You can use the files from the screen, but I doubt a phone screen will work for you. It didn't for me.
Once you look everything over, it's time to pick a country. Now, so you know, games are only starting about every 6 months or so. When you have 40 countries to fill, it is just going to take awhile. They have a system where you send in a list, in the order you choose, for each country. Each country you list must have a tech nationality alongside it. American, German, Russian or British. If you choose the 3 Russian (Russia is divided into 3), America, Great Britain or Germany, then you must use that countries tech. Any other country can use any nationalities' tech. Greece can use German, American, any. Once you send that in, then you wait for Pete Dorman or Russ Norris to get back with the country you will play. You will need to start an account. They take PayPal , checks, money orders and credit cards. You can set up automatic payments, also.
I sent in for a country back in late 2021. I got a note back saying that I was going to play Yugoslavia using German tech. I then got on the RTG Forum and asked if there was anyone close to Yugoslavia needing an ally? The forums of RTG aren't the busiest, and it took awhile to hear from anyone. I got a note from Italy, and another from Rumania. Yes, that's how they spell Romania. I chatted with them a little, and made pretty good friends with Italy (Tino). He already had a total alliance deal with 4 other countries, but thought we could stay peaceful and perhaps help one another down the road. Out of the blue, I hear from Poland. He'd like to join forces with me and Czechoslovakia. Well, I said yes to Don and Mike. Everyone knew that I was new, but they were very helpful. I'm still in that game. We're nearing turn 44, now. 2 weeks turnaround means I've been playing for 88 weeks! I would never have made it this far without help from Italy (Tino), Poland (Don), Czechoslovakia (Mike), Central Russia (Chris), and many others.
I did start another couple of games,since. In 108, I was Canada. I "was", as I was stomped immediately by the USA. Thanks Tim. Game 109 just started. I'm in a 5 country (Player) total alliance. Things were looking good, but now we're getting a bit worried. It's only turn 5.
This game has it's problems. The clunky turn entry program. The rules are many, and not easy to understand, sometimes. I'd like to have a hard copy of the rules, tech packages, Maps and etc.. Easily, 90+% of the players are veterans of the game. Many since the game started, with perhaps a break now and then! They know every trick in the book. There isn't any kind of mentor program, unless you get lucky, as I did. The RTG forum is seldom used. You really need someone to help, sometimes. Pete Dorman with RTG is great for this, but he's busy, too. The game is not cheap. $6.75 per 30 orders. If you make it through 40 turns or so, you'll be sending 90 orders and eventually 120 orders. There is a very steep learning curve for this game. You will make mistakes with orders. A lot of them. I've been playing nearly 2 years, and I still make a lot of stupid errors. Guys playing 20 years still make mistakes. You know it's not an easy game to master, if that is happening.
Victory! is not for everyone. Not easy to learn. Not easy to send turns back (clunky turn entry program). Just not easy. The good, well, you make some good friends. The joy of conquering a neighboring country, or getting conquered. Once you do get a turn back without any mistakes, you feel great. Well, at least until the next turn comes back and you're back doing dumb things. I've only played a little while (2 years). I've seen all kinds of players. Some are so detail oriented it makes me cringe. Others just play the game to have fun. Looking at the Victory! Hall of Fame, both types have done well in this game. If you think you'd like to try the game out, I would be happy to help as much as I can. I'm not sure how much my "help" will help you, but surely, I can give advice on the basics.
* Editor's Note: Any resemblance of Hashtur the Unspeakable to Richard Lockwood is purely coincidental.
Takamo Status Report
11.24.2023 Terran Standard Calendar (TSC)
BAORG FLEET STRIKE
Like many empires in the Estra galaxy, the BAORG government has been investing heavily in capital ship construction. The loss of two of their biggest vessels occurred during an assault on an enemy planet after the air commander of the strike force failed to notify the invading fleet of the presence of surface fortifications briming with planetary torpedoes. To the fleet commander’s credit, all surface defenses were subdued, although there has been no evidence of an invasion. No word on any disciplinary action against the air commander that may have followed.
CHOAM FLEETS ACTIVE
Fleets of Choam and Kvizier were active in the upper reaches of the galaxy. Reports also surfaced of Choam trading fleets docking at Vorton Empire ports.
NAVAL OPEN HOUSE
Recently, Lingane Autarky held a Stellar Naval Force open house at the homeworld capital city. The fleet boasts a total of 399 starships with most operating in squadrons of fourteen to twenty-two vessels, depending on mission requirements.
DIE SCHWARZE SCHAR TRADE REPORT
MRI Confederation planetary populations are increasing at a furious pace, which has garnered the attention of Die Schwarze Schar traders, filling their coffers with resource units.
RAGNAROK IMPAERIUM ACTIVITIES
The Ninth Fleet of Ragnarok Imperium sighted a Kvizier fleet in system space of a local star system. No action was taken.
ASTRACORP BIONETICS LOSSES
Astracorp Bionetics reported the loss of two trade centers to the Gorkhan VII cybers. An Astracorp diplomatic envoy sent to remonstrate with Gorkhan officials about the incidents has gone missing.
Clearly, I made terrible mistakes at race creation, and now have to try and find work-arounds to correct them.
Welcome to PBMville!
Hondo ‘Lefty’ Rogers Player: Ian Holden Health: WOUNDED People Killed: None Previous Location: 12 Current Location: Bullet #1 - Shoots at Corbin “Crooked” Calloway in location 38. (Hits!) (Wounds!) Bullet #2 - Shoots at Corbin “Crooked” Calloway in location 38. (Misses!) Bullet #3 - Shoots at Corbin “Crooked” Calloway in location 38. (Misses!) Bullet #4 - Shoots at Rowdy Slim McGraw in location 3. (Misses!) Bullet #5 - Shoots at Rowdy Slim McGraw in location 3. (Hits!) (Wounds!) Bullet #6 - Shoots at Rowdy Slim McGraw in location 3. (Misses!)
Mississippi Dave Bastard
Player: Richard Lockwood
DEAD OR ALIVE
People Killed: 1
Previous Location: 36
Bullet #1 - Shoots at Hondo ‘Lefty’ Rogers in location 12. (Misses!)
Bullet #2 - Shoots at Hondo ‘Lefty’ Rogers in location 12. (Hits!) (Wounds!)
Bullet #3 - Shoots at Hondo ‘Lefty’ Rogers in location 12. (Hits!) (Wounds!)
Bullet #4 - Shoots at Hondo ‘Lefty’ Rogers in location 12. (Misses!)
Bullet #5 - Shoots at Hondo ‘Lefty’ Rogers in location 12. (Misses!)
Bullet #6 - Shoots at Hondo ‘Lefty’ Rogers in location 12. (Misses!)
Corbin "Crooked" Calloway
Player: Stefan Graf
People Killed: None
Previous Location: 38
Bullet #1 - Shoots at Mississippi Dave Bastard in location 36. (Hits!) (Wounds!)
Bullet #2 - Shoots at Mississippi Dave Bastard in location 36. (Misses!)
Bullet #3 - Shoots at Mississippi Dave Bastard in location 36. (Misses!)
Bullet #4 - Shoots at Mississippi Dave Bastard in location 36. (Misses!)
Bullet #5 - Shoots at Mississippi Dave Bastard in location 36. (Misses!)
Bullet #6 - Shoots at Mississippi Dave Bastard in location 36. (Misses!)
Sharpshooter Archibald Tyrrell
Player: Darrell Lias
People Killed: None
Previous Location: 15
Kept his gun holstered, as the piss ran down his leg from being scared. (Missed turn!)
Rowdy Slim McGraw
Player: Casey Link
DEAD OR ALIVE
People Killed: 2
Previous Location: 3
Bullet #1 - Shoots at Sharpshooter Archibald Tyrrell in location 15. (Misses!) Bullet #2 - Shoots at the corpse of Frank "Nine Fingers" Chambers in location 27. (Duh!) Bullet #3 - Shoots at Corbin “Crooked” Calloway in location 38. (Misses!) Bullet #4 - Shoots at Mississippi Dave Bastard in location 36. (Hits!) (Wounds!) Bullet #5 - Shoots at Hondo ‘Lefty’ Rogers in location 12. (Misses!) Bullet #6 - Shoots straight up into the air with a devlish grin. (Clever!)
Some photos of Bob McLain's dog, Bella, who recently passed away.
"I'm happy to do it. And before it's too late, I've attached a few Bella pictures: one of her as a pup, one of her as an adult, and the last of her in the final week of her life (you can see me in the background). In the latter photo, you can also see where they shaved part of her legs for the catheters they inserted during her spleenectomy a few weeks prior. The fur never had a chance to grow back."