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Issue 12

It's time, once again, to head down the rabbit hole of PBM gaming, and snatch a few glimpses of things PBM-related. Also, while here, please be sure to enjoy the soothing sound and downright tranquility of my voice in text form - which is always worth the price of admission.

It is well-established by now in human history that the best laid plans of mice and men go astray. But for once, something did go right, and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulation the eternally-youthful Richard Lockwood on his divorce being finalized. Granted, divorce is not always something to be celebrated, but as Lockwood is PBM's secret agent, he ceaselessly strives to find the best in any bad situation. No word back from him, yet, on why Wayne's hair survived the loss of so many hundreds of PBM games over the years better than Richard's, but hopefully, I'll be able to provide you with details on that in some future issue.

PBM gaming actually has many voices, and with any luck, I can begin to showcase more of those voices, albeit just a few at a time. ACK! A notification just popped up on my computer, heralding the arrival of Turn #20's results for Alamaze Game 5703. For those PBM loyalists of you whose brain cells continue to hold together, you might remember that as a game of Alamaze where I am playing the Demon Princes kingdom.

But for now, those turn results must...(GASP! dare I say it?)...wait. Oh, goodness! What is this world coming to, when a man must now wait, before immediately browsing his turn results for a PBM game? What a strange and foul turn of events, indeed!

But speaking of Alamaze, I find myself not quite sure of what to think. For recent turn results have sent my mind wandering off in different directions, but whether my thoughts will coalesce in time for an article in this issue of PBM Chaos, that yet remains to be seen.

The notoriously quiet Davin Church of Talisman Games fame has awakened something within me, recently. Not content to allow sleeping PBM dogs to lie undisturbed, Davin has poked the bear of my slumber, and now I find myself sniffing around things of a Galac-Tac nature. But does this bode ill?

Davin and I engaged in a little bit of discussion about Galac-Tac online, recently. It's over in the PlayByMail Discord, if you care to dig deep enough to find it. Specifically, it took place in the Introductions channel, there, if I'm not mistaken.

Where once wars raged across the stars in the Galac-Tac dimension of PBM gaming, now there is mostly just dead empty space. This is a PBM tragedy in its own right, but was it an entirely unexpected unfolding of events? Is it reversible? Or is Galac-Tac destined to be relegated to a perpetual state of mere afterthought amongst the PBM living?

There may be a shortage of PBM games on the market, these days, but whether thriving or in stasis, PBM gaming is never short on irony. With some PBM games of a space warfare nature being saddled with a reputation for being overly-complex, Galac-Tac actually offers a space warfare gaming experience that doesn't require a PhD in astrophysics to grasp.

Alas! If only more people would play it.

If you want more players for your PBM game, then you have to work for them. While teeming masses of them could suddenly descend upon your particular PBM game from out of the blue, one day, you really might want to have an actual plan to increase your chances of attracting new players. Not that you aren't free to just stand out in the PBM cornfields and hope that they will see you standing in the endless Dark of Do-Nothing.

Remember, in space, no one can hear you scream. And if your name is Davin Church and you want your historically quiet PBM voice to be heard, then a change of tactics might very well be in order. Consider this to be a personal engraved invitation in digital form, Davin, if you're out there and you read this.

Write in. Submit something. Give the PBM gamers who form the body of our readership something to ponder and to consider. Write in each issue, every issue. And rouse Genny Carter White from her PBM slumber, that she might aid you in this cause.

For the time being, though, let us give Davin Church of Talisman Games some space. Let's not gather in such large numbers, that he even lacks space to breathe. Instead, let us all just observe things from afar, and see what efforts that Davin is willing to make, to get Galac-Tac before the eyes of PBMdom.

And while we're all waiting for Davin to rise to the occasion, and firmly grasp Galac-Tac's destiny in the iron grip of his hands, let me take a moment out to mention that Galac-Tac's rulebook is a grand total of fifty-five (that's 55) pages long. Whatever else might be truthfully said about Galac-Tac, it's in no danger of winning a PBM award for being PBM's lengthiest rulebook. In fact, it's nowhere in the running for that kind of an award.

While browsing this wanna-be beast of a PBM rulebook, I took notice, anew, of the copyright notice troll that guards the bridge of the pages of the Galac-Tac rulebook. GASP!! Oh, no, PBM friends and foes, alike. In a nod to fear-run-amok, PBM companies sometimes allow their fear that somebody might be "out there" (wherever there is), just waiting to "steal" (::ahem::) their great PBM creation.

Never mind the fact that a lot of PBM stuff, you couldn't give away, even if you spent the rest of your life trying, while PBM companies and PBM GMs alike continue to keep their heads buried in the sands of time, the rest of humanity has transitioned into the modern era of the 21st Century. Now, we live upon the multitude of digital seas of the Age of Social Media. And yeah, it's not all that it's cracked up to be.

On the one hand, PBM companies and PBM GMs want people to play their game, but with their other hand, they want to threaten anyone who might stumble upon their PBM wares against sharing the very PBM stuff that they find. In a day and an age when sharing is the PRIMARY mechanism for raising awareness on social media of every sort, the textual trolls of copyright worship continue to prowl the PBM landscape. This inane (and hopefully, unintentional) worship of copyright idiocy taken to the Nth degree really could do with a bit of reining in.

Oh, to be sure, there's always the concept of fair use that plays a very prominent role in copyright considerations, but I can't help but to just roll my eyes at the things that PBM companies and GMs put into writing, in the from of their copyright notices. If everyone in all of PBMdom literally followed the exact wording of PBM copyright notices, then such needless overreach would effectively chop PBM gaming off at the knees.

No part...blah blah blah...may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

The true and actual reality is that PBM gaming, PBM companies, and PBM GMs actually NEED people sharing all kinds of stuff about PBM gaming - including excerpts from PBM rulebooks, and including the sharing of ENTIRE PBM rulebooks. Indeed, many PBM rulebooks (the vast majority of them, in fact) are available as free downloads on the Internet. Such copyright notices that overreach by proverbial miles are a sterling example of how PBM companies and GMs ted to remain a step behind themselves, in their unintentional bids to preserve PBM gaming is the past.

Agema is a good example of a PBM company that routinely charges for a variety of its PBM documentation. Now, one can openly question whether, in this day and age, that is a wise approach or an approach that is wholly counter-productive to getting their gaming materials into the hands of the gaming masses and/or PBM-interested, but it is unquestionably an option that is well within their rights.

Me, personally, I am highly unlikely to ever try a PBM game offered by Agema. Charging for PBM rulebooks is one of the surest ways to ensure that I avoid giving a given PBM game a try. Heck, I don't even try the vast majority of PBM games that offering their rulebooks and other game documentation a try, so in this day and age, why would I want to pay for a copy of a PBM rulebook, and especially since the most common practice that has evolved across the PBM realm is to provide PBM documentation for free.

Make no mistake about it, though, I think that Agema has some very tempting PBM games on offer. Fee structures aside, Agema has long been a fairly innovative PBM company - more innovative than most PBM companies, for sure, for certain. And I like advertising their PBM games, and I enjoy trying to raise awareness about their PBM games. And the fellow who runs Agema, Richard Watts-White, I have no issues with.

Richard Watts-White has been doing what he has been doing in PBM gaming far longer than I have been doing what I am currently doing in PBM gaming. He knows more than a thing or two about PBM gaming and PBM gamers and the PBM market, and his decisions are based upon his first-hand extensive knowledge and experience.

Myself, I come at PBM gaming from a different perspective, a different vantage point, a different set of first-hand PBM experience and PBM philosophies. I seek to raise awareness about all kinds of PBM games, even ones offered by a variety of competing competitors. My role isn't to choose the winners and losers from amongst the PBM industry and hobby. Rather, my guiding light, if you want to call it that, is to promote and advocate for PBM gaming as a whole, and to try and grow the overall and individual PBM player bases that exist, now, or which could exist in the future.

If Agema can sell its PBM documentation, instead of giving it away for free, all the more power to them. Maybe they offer something so unique in PBM circles, that they can get away with that and players remain attracted to their PBM products in spite of whatever prices that they seek to charge. Indeed, I do believe that there is room on the PBM spectrum for certain fees to be charged, and if they were, certain segments of PBM gaming might even notice an immediate uptick in the number of PBM games that players sign up for. As an example, I think that Hyborian War is a game where RSI could charge a set-up fee independent of its existing turn fees to launch a wide variety of Special Variant Games that allow for an old favorite PBM game to yield a host of new experiences.

Hyborian War players frequently exhibit strong brand loyalty to that PBM game. And with Special Variant Games (games which feature some manual changes made to certain things in the game, and which require no changes to the game's underlying programming), there are a veritable sea of possibilities that could open Hyborian War up to a new dawn of gaming experiences. And because such changes would have to be done manually by RSI staff, I think that imposing a set nominal fee makes sense, even as I generally think that PBM companies screw the pooch and screw themselves, with their sometimes poorly chosen, hobbled approaches to free structures.

As each game of Hyborian War has 36 player positions, a one time charge of $5 per player would yield $180 of additional revenue, per game of Hyborian War started with the Special Variant Game model. Special Variant Game set-up fees could also be increased or decreased, based upon the amount or complexity or time-consuming nature of the particular manual changes requested by players for any given Special Variant Game of Hyborian War.

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Voices From the Middle-earth PBM Discord

JulianTheApostate — 09/12/2023

If you hadn't attacked me for no reason - or for the only apparent reason based on your emails that I've been shown that you seemed to think that doing so would cause all your attackers to stop attacking you and join in with you to attack me - you'd have one less on your death to list.

Black Bart — 09/07/2023

Over in the far far East, analysis of map data revealed that NG and the LR were poised for a hefty one turn knock out blow against the meagre NM nation. This was two turns ago.

Smart manoeuvring intercepted the bulk of this force, but the seals are straining and it will be a hard fought defence to repel the invaders and I am not without casualties. Brave Eoder, perhaps overconfident of his abilities now lies with the daisies..... We fight on nevertheless and call upon every man, women and child to defend the capital against the might of Gondor!

Greybeard — 08/22/2023

What we really need to sort the wheat from the chaff is an all v all neutral No diplomacy. (Would allow the man of many hats to play) The "weaker" nations get the rewards. (In this format, to add some super spice, the rewards could be changed. Perhaps adding X number of downgrades for example any 6 1 level any 3 2 levels. (critical to this format) At game start this puts you at the front of the grid. (Makes up for lack of downgradable capable commanders at game start) Throw randomised artys into the fray, for a new dimension on additional mage requirements. The cherry on top would be deciding who stands in the winner's circle. In 52 turns I a few stubborn resourceful early risers, will have whittled it down to perhaps 10 nations at most. Perhaps a points system could be employed (which rewards aggressive play) so x points for each pop captured, perhaps x points if still held at game end. A big factor or big points could be offered up in the mage department. (Would perhaps make multis with 10 mage skill a necessity) Bidding for nations, and remove the big real estate so SG, NG and FK (we need a big safari park), light the blue touch paper and stand well back! I suspect only a few would venture into this.

Arfanbrad — 10/03/2023

But after meeting Sauron, Lord Marshall Gothmog is a c100. I want to 430... C'mon, this game goes on long enough he can be a c200....

Movan — 09/29/2023

I don’t think most players in a FAS game think the Weakness SNA is attractive. The +10 health SNA would be a solution without a problem. Besides, 110 health damage per turn is easy enough to overcome if you have the Weakness SNA.

Movan — 09/23/2023

I don’t think it’s possible to get the upper tier artifacts with the initial nation set up and artifact option. It’s obvious that +15 agent (or other classes), +15 stealth, etc are all possible. But I think the +2000, +2250 combat artifacts, Ring of Wind, Tinculin, etc. artifacts are “off the list” the 4th age artifact purchase option.

Artarkis — 09/23/2023

I think there is a problem with setting up 4th age Games. For the last few games I have been in all Pop Centres I have starting in mountains all produce the same 3 items. Last game it was Bronze, Mithril (I was making nearly 500 a turn and Gold. This game is Bronze, Steel and Gold. Its not a major issue but it is a bit odd.

HabaneroHolt — 10/10/2023

There's a difference in KS between GB games and Grudge games. In Grudge, with excellent teamwork, the DS should pretty much always win (as stands). In GB, there's a different challenge - balancing the nations such that every nation pair is fairly represented. The DS advantage is somewhat mitigated as they can't coordinate the scooping up of agent artifacts and abuse of NPC encounters, and rapid curse squad development nearly as well. Tim and Tony Huiatt are working on a comprehensive list of suggestions to fix the grudge game. It may be that the setup sheets have some big differences if it's grudge vs. GB.

My Lord Jim — 10/11/2023

I think its a bit like what has happened in 1650, where the current tactic is to stick a load of command arties on large fp armies and send them into mordor moving evasively. Makes it very difficult to block or work out where they will land, agents have to scout army rather than side on the hex with a blocking army. That's now requiring a rebalancing. For sure there maybe other tactics, but at the moment this strategy "everything on char development and artefacts" seems to favour DS ability to rapidly train up chars (there are so many DS mage boosts for example). Would be interesting to see if sending Elrond, Gandalf and Saruman to bump off DS NPCscould negate some of that, though that still leaves the artefact race, which they would then be sidelined from.

Whit — 09/27/2023

I’m really enjoying 2950. It’s much harder. Played first game as fP. Currently playing the hardest position I’ve ever tried in new game as the DS.

JanBeek — 09/16/2023

I played QA/LR/CO and it really was a brutal start. loosing close to all ships gave some time in the south to restructure, guessing SG would need time to build new ships. But must say knowing I playe ddirectly against Clint, I am more than happy I survived that long. Help from my fellow mordorian nations was much apprechiatet. North Harad was toast by know, island town 525ed by corsair, but the north focus costed CO a lot! gladly could get 175 RoC in my hands, and with turn 5/6 had 2 killer ready, I was just too slow using them as relation changes prohibited forming a save company for another few turns. Well, it has realy been fun and would have loved to have a few more turns to kill some SG comms ;O) Would love to see a complete JOoverseer of the last turn.

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An Excerpt from the Middle-earth PBM Rulebook

Personal Challenges

Characters of any kind (not just commanders) may issue a formal challenge to other characters in the same hex. This is called a personal challenge. The following restrictions apply to this:

❖ It is not possible to challenge a character who has issued the Refuse Personal Challenge order. Or rather, as you do not know in advance whether an enemy character has refused personal challenges, it is perhaps more accurate to say that you may challenge that character, but the challenge will not be accepted, and no personal challenge fight will take place.

❖ It is not possible to challenge an army commander unless the challenger is in an army, or the challenger is an army commander himself.

❖ A character can only fight one personal challenge each turn. If there are multiple challenges in the same hex, the highest ranking character (based on natural skill ranks) will challenge first, so that if your character is the next highest ranking character and is trying to challenge the same character as the highest ranking character, your character’s challenge will not take place.

❖ A character cannot issue a challenge and also issue the refuse personal challenge order on the same turn.

❖ A character cannot challenge characters belonging to their nation. If challenge is offered and not refused, then a battle to the death will commence between the two characters, who duel with blades or magic, depending on their skills. This fight’s result will be based on their challenge ranks, with their health representing how many blows they can endure. Bear in mind that there is a random element to the outcome of challenges – possessing the highest challenge rank does not guarantee victory.

Success in the challenge will increase the abilities of the winning character. If the character is an army commander, then success will also increase their army's morale rank, while the morale rank of the loser's army will diminish. If an army loses its commander because of challenge, and there is no other character with command rank in the army to assume command, then the army will rout and be disbanded. If a proffered challenge is rejected by an army commander, then the morale rank of the challenger’s army will still increase, and the challenged army’s morale decrease.

SOURCE: Page #43 of the Rulebook for Middle-earth PBM

DOWNLOADS: The Rulebook and other materials for Middle-earth PBM

PBM Chaos Note: The Personal Challenge concept is one of the best concepts that Middle-earth PBM incorporates into its overall design. Personally, I would rate it as one of the best concepts active in all of PBM gaming, today. It imbues the game with an edge of additional excitement, and can make players become extra cautious or over-zealous in their pursuit of victory, for much can hinge on the outcome of personal challenges issued by - or refused by - characters to other characters in the game. Truly, personal challenges in Middle-earth PBM can be high stakes gambles of the first magnitude!

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Be sure to join handsome devil, Alex Bardy, and his gang of literary Illuminati over at Tabletop Spirit magazine, where they work their verbal magic on an unsuspecting boardgaming world. Tabletop Spirit magazine is free, so go to their website and rummage through the place, making off with as many copies as your computer or smartphone can carry.

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PBM Bountyhunter - Website Broken Links

PBM broken links bountyhunter is one job where you never have to worry about being unemployed. Not all broken links on PBM websites is intentional, of course, but some seem to be particularly resistant to being subjected to a fix by PBM companies and PBM GMs.

If they're not going to fix them, then let's celebrate them! If you find them, report them. Go on, be a snitch - a broken links snitch! Your PBM alter ego is safe, if you want it to be, or dare to claim credit for finding and reporting broken PBM links.

Now, for your viewing pleasure, here are some PBM links that remained broken, as of press time.

Website Page: http://www.talisman-games.com/...

Broken Link(s)




Website Page: http://www.madcentral.co.uk/du...

Broken Link(s)


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Special Offer from Madhouse UK

Steve Tierney of Madhouse UK recently posted a special offer to readers of the Play By Mail Facebook page for playing in his company's PBM game, DungeonWorld.

You can play DungeonWorld with a single character for free, or if you want to go big, Big, BIG - bigger than just a single character, Steve will give you a free £50 Voucher worth of game credit to try it out what it's like to play in the main game area of DungeonWorld with a group of characters, provided that you are not a current player.

So, what do YOU have to lose?

Help save PBM gaming by taking Steve Tierney's money
- and have a little fun in the process. At worst, you end up getting addicted to having some fun that you otherwise would end up missing out on.

Don't let it go down in recorded PBM history
that YOU were the one that missed out on a chance to spend a portion of Steve Tierney's money!

Contact Steve Tierney directly at his super-secret e-mail address, to take advantage of his special recent offer.

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Sign-Up now to play!

Just a little idea I've been toying with as a way for PBM Chaos' readers to have a little extra fun on the side. The first 30 readers or less to sign up to play will get the chance to be Wild West guinea pigs.

The rules are real simple. On any given turn (each new issue of PBM Chaos is a turn), your character can either MOVE or SHOOT. In the following issue, your character will either move to a new location, or they will have hit or missed their target. All characters must be assigned a Wild West name prior to them being placed in the game. New characters may or may not be added, as the game progresses. You will also need to provide your real name, in order to play. This is so that the PBM undertaker will know what name to carve into your tombstone, should your character die at any point along the way.

Whether this little experiment works or not, only time will tell. Your character will be placed on the town map into the game at my discretion, on one of the white number that you see, above. Your character's name must have a first name, a last name, and if desired, a colorful descriptor. Here are a few of colorful examples to whet your Wild West appetite:

Black Bart Bilkins

Dandy Phil Jenkins

Brave Running Water

Chief Talkum Alot

All character names are subject to my approval, in order to be able to play. I never underestimate PBMers colorfulness, but would like to allow for some degree of player-crafted cleverness. Character names can be modified at my discretion.

With each new turn/issue, an update shall be provided from the previous turn.This game will be quick and easy to play, and the turn results shall be posted in each issue, for one and all to see and to follow along.

As the game progresses, you may or may not gain or lose additional characters. New players may or may not be added, at my complete and utter discretion.

Line of sight matters, when shooting at other characters. Some location numbers have a clear line of sight to other locations, some lines of sight are partially obscured, and some locations have no line of sight between them. All lines of sight are determined by myself, each turn, every turn. If there's a building between your character's location and your targeted character's location, that's a pretty good sign that no line of sight exists.

Some characters will die quickly in this game. Some may die as soon as the game's first turn gets processed. Characters can flee potential confrontations, if desired, but they could still end up getting shot in the back. Characters only get either one shot or one move, per turn. Which direction your character is facing isn't an actual issue. It's factored into your turn choice.

In-game events may or may not happen. So, always keep your guard up! If at any point in time this game becomes too unwieldy to continue, then a bullet will be put into it, and it will be buried in a pauper's grave.

Movement is limited to just one number space from where your character presently is. You don't have to worry about running out of ammo nor reloading in this game. Reloading is automatically taken into account. All characters in the game should be assumed to be armed and dangerous!

If you wish to sign up for Wild West Shootout at PBMville, just send your real name and your starting character's name to: [email protected].

NOTE: There is no charge or cost to play in this game. It's completely free to sign up and to play.

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Write to Us or Send Submissions to
[email protected]

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Past PBM Editorials

Panning for gold in the PBM graveyardPBM Post-Mortem: Autopsy of the Postal Gaming Genre
The PBM Wagon TrainThe Gauntlet of the Damned

Let us know what you think about Issue #12
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