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Ah, a good night's rest!

Well, a decent night's rest, anyway - and well overdue. Too many late hours, but much of it not spent invested in working on PBM Chaos. But here I sit at 8:00AM sharp (my time, not Richard Lockwood's time) on a lovely Saturday morning, trying to churn out a few words, fresh and new, that we might make a tad bit of progress on this newest issue of PBM Chaos.

The weather forecast for reader participation isn't looking good, right now. It's another dry spell in so many ways (which is truly unfortunate), but several individuals have rode to our rescue. It's good to see our man on the PBM street, the not-as-daft-as-you-think Lockwood, putting his PBM pitchfork to some old PBM chums, and dragging some PBM interviews out of them. They never had a chance!

I have more than one such PBM interview in my possession, already, but this issue only blesses you, our readers, with one such interview. This time around, it's Rob Harper who gets the verbal treatment, and it was really great of him to participate. May he be an inspiration to many, many more!

No need to take our PBM thoughts and dreams and memories and experiences to our graves with us. Let's at least get a few of them committed to actual words now, while we still can. Besides, it gives Richard Lockwood (Is it Lockwood or is it Lackweed? I have such a hard time remembering.) something to do, and it gives the rest of us something interesting to read. Else, we would likely never know who the man with the comfiest garage floor in Cornwall is.

The Hyborian War player community continues to come though for us, as the Hyborian War Question Series marches on in this issue. May your reading pleasure be multiplied through the reading of Issue #38's latest episodes in this ongoing series! I've enjoyed the PBM game, Hyborian War, for decades, and this series is a personal favorite of mine, as the thoughts of other Hyborian War gamers on this PBM game run by Reality Simulations, Inc. are always of interest to me.

The latest installment of The PBM Maze appears somewhere in this issue. Some players of this temporary PBM game are no longer with us in the maze, but there are still those die-hards who continue the slog. In this issue, I also respond to a comment by player Stefan (the infamous Player 1) which contained a lament of his about his motivation is close to zero in a brief article that may or may not be of interest to you, personally. Read it anyway, though, to maximize your mileage that you get out of this PBM publication that rides its way to you via the e-mail digital railway.

There's a lead-in article to what will hopefully turn out to be a series of articles pertaining to John Mulholland's modern PBM game called Alamaze. Alamaze is playable, these days, via an online HTML interface that you use your web browser to issue turn orders and to read your kingdom's turn results with. It was my friend, Rick McDowell, however, who first gave the world the gift that is Alamaze, way back when. This brief Alamaze article of mine included in this issue was written before players in Game 7000 (which is also known as Alamaze Organized Game #1) see their first turn results get processed. This particular game of Alamaze features mostly new players, though experienced PBM gamers. My personal thanks to these Hyborian war players for volunteering to participate in this PBM experiment!

Hyborian War players doing a PBM taste test of Alamaze is an example of cross-pollination, something that I likely first-mentioned way back in an old PBM editorial titled Cross-pollination by the busy bees of PBM back in the PBM year of 2015. PBM gaming could certainly benefit from a marked increase in cross-pollination, by trying their hand at PBM games other than whatever their immediate personal favorite PBM game is.

Historically, some PBM GMs or PBM companies have feared losing parts of their player bases to other PBM companies. But as my friend, Wayne "Smitty" Smith has long demonstrated, just because you love one PBM game doesn't mean that you can't love other PBM games, as well. Wayne is a die-hard PBM gamer with a voracious PBM appetite!

He's a long time Duel2 player, one who started playing Duel2 back when it first was known as Duelmasters, but who currently plays in eleven different slow games of Hyborian War, if memory serves me correctly, three of which are King of Games organized game versions (HW-975, HW-985, and HW-998). Smitty Smith didn't bother to provide me a complete list of his current Hyborian War flings, but I do know that they also include what he mysteriously described as "singles," with him playing Uttara Kuru in HW-983 and Zamora in HW-1005. Wayne is always getting a Zamoran attitude with me, so it strikes me as quite fitting for him to be trying his hand at that kingdom famed for its assassins.

Fred Bey has joined us over on our new PBM Facebook page, following along with our postings over in that neck of our big PBM woods.Not everyone has joined us there, who used to follow along with my routine PBM postings over on the old Play By Mail Facebook page. In fact, most haven't. Not yet, anyway - and it would likely take quite a while for everyone to mosey over from the old page to the new page. But the number of followers on the old page continues to grow, with the follower count listed there as having risen to 451. Yep, just like the book titled Fahrenheit 451. And for those who do not know, that old Play By Mail Facebook page is now overseen by admin David Spencer, one of the modern era's great PBM patriots. I'm sure that David would appreciate your continued PBM patronage over on that well-established PBM site.

Our new PBM Facebook page also includes such luminaries as Vasco Roma, Chris Short, James O'Donovan, Mark Norman, Daniel J. Fisher, Sr., Mike Grant, Raven Zachary, Mike HendersonThomas Nowell, Martin Radford, and Robert Ball. The TribeNet Facebook account also follows us, there on the new page. It's great to have these and other PBM-interested individuals to continue along with PBM Chaos on its ongoing PBM journey. Hopefully, they'll also consider submitting an article or some PBM material of their own to share with PBM Chaos' readers!

Roy Pollard is currently pretty much the entire PBM front line in the video theater of operations. I've included a link in this issue to one of his recent videos for The Isles PBM. Be sure to give it a watch. I watched it. It's a good video.

This issue ended up being a tad thicker than I thought that it was gonna be. I guess that I need to trim these things back a bit. More variety would be nice, though (Hint! Hint!). In an age of smartphone cameras, how come PBM gamers don't send me photographs of their turn results, or of them doing their turn orders? There's all kinds of PBM-related content like that which could be included in issues of PBM Chaos. It takes but a finger to snap such photos with smartphones, but apparently, people won't lift a finger to do just, exactly that. Why not?

Readers will either like this issue or they won't. I hope you do, but whether you do or not, feel free to write in and tell me what you think.

Until next issue, keep your PBM chin up!

Charles Mosteller

Editor of PBM Chaos

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NOTE: If you've stopped receiving PBM Chaos mailings,
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A PBM Interview With Rob Harper

Words of wisdom from Rob Harper, GM of New Earth

and man with the comfiest garage floor in Cornwall.

[Interviewed by our PBM man on the street, Richard Lockwood]

"Where are you at the moment, and what are you up to?"

I'm in Oxfordshire these days, being a computer systems administrator, trying to help scientists have computer resources to enable them to do science stuff. We helped discover the Higgs boson - a bit. :) That's daytimes. When I have time and energy, I design board games.

"How did you first get into PBM, and can you tell me a bit about the first game you played? What was it that hooked you?"

I think I saw adverts in one of the games mags that I was reading when I was at school, and probably read an article or two. Wayne might have been involved. I ended up signing up for Saturnalia and played that for a couple of years, which was cool.

"Did you have "real life" friends who played, or was it a solo start?"

I signed up alongside a friend, but only I kept going with it.

from there, what other games did you play? Mainly commercial games, or did you play any of the "hobby" games that fleetingly showed up in the small ads of various magazines (White Dwarf being the prime example)?"

A played a few hand mod RPGs which, however the refs wanted to paint their games, were all pretty small affairs. Calvana was one that stood out (I was lucky enough to be involved in a development week in Scarborough when that was being set up), and there was another fun one that I played for a bit that was called something beginning with X, I think. Eventually I ended up playing a few computer mod games here and there, probably most notably Crisis, which I played a few times. Later on (which seems the wrong way around) I played a few zine games too, mostly Railway Rivals, but a few others.

"What persuaded you to start you own game, and how did you go about it? Both in the way of game design, and in a business plan?"

After I played Saturnalia for a while, I set up my own little RPG, which had a handful of players taken from friends and contacts who were willing to put up with my bullshit. It wasn't very good, or well thought out, but it was very much a hobby thing. Then I went to university, dropped out, and needed something to do, so I avoided getting a proper job by setting up a business to run a slightly better, but still (in retrospect) not great RPG, based on my just writing a lot of stuff down. I had some sort of business plan, and managed to get a weekly payout from the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, but it was never going to really make me money. Somehow I avoided starving for quite a while. Basically I didn't want to do an actual job and felt like an academic failure, so I did that.

"Looking back, what was more fun? Running games / writing about games, or the actual playing?"

I think that looking back the most fun bit for me might have been more the designing games really, both from a systems point of view and the world building - where appropriate. Of the options you game, it would probably be running them; the times when I put through a complicated multi-player interaction in an RPG were amazing, and having a gods-eye view of a developing war in one of the comp-mods was really good fun.

"Since your PBM days, have you been involved in writing in a similar vein, or have you just given up on the idea, and gone for a day job? (This isn't an accusatory question!) Or, if not entirely, how have you incorporated that in and around your current career?"

I ended up getting a day job which I would have to get into a job-application-bullshit frame of mind to come up with some blurb about how things I learnt in PBM still help me. It's probably true in at least some way, but nothing really comes to mind. That said, though, the game design urge never went away, and it is now focused on board games, and over the last few years I have been learning a lot about that craft. Nothing published yet (I'm not interested in self-publishing) but a couple of games have come close.

"What do you remember about the social side of PBM that was very active in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s? Conventions, pubmeets, that kind of thing. And any amusing / disastrous stories? (I want details here!)"

I went to a load of conventions and a few pubmeets, but to be honest I don't really recall any juicy stories. I did enjoy the crowd though - with a hobby that focused on long-distance contact with people, before online connections were widespread, being able to put a face to a name (and occasionally a voice) was really nice.

"What were your views on the PBM-centric magazines and fanzines that seemed to proliferate in the late 1980s / early 1990s? I'm thinking the likes of Flagship, PBM Scroll, PBM Monthly and Interactive Fiction. And also the PBM coverage in more mainstream magazines. Here we're looking at C&VG, GM, and GMI."

I read a few of the PBM magazines and devoured every page - they were an essential way to keep up with what people were doing, playing, and creating, especially as I didn't have a big stack of time and money to play more games; the mags meant I could vicariously enjoy lots of games that I couldn't play myself.

"Why d'you think the UK PBM scene pretty much died out in the 1990s? How much of a factor was the rise of the internet, and more immediate gratification from online games?"

I think it was almost entirely the wider use of the internet and the rise of deeper, more interactive computer games that scratched a lot of similar itches that PBMs did. I mean, why play an RPG with turns every couple of weeks, when you could play an MMO? Actually, there are a lot of reasons you might go for the slower style of game, and maybe people are ready to get back into some of them...?

"When push comes to shove, what is/was your all-time favourite PBM game, and why? And which other games would you love to see resurrected?"

I really couldn't say. I am never any good at choosing favourites of anything, and I'm going to duck this part of the question. As for resurrections... I'll possibly be controversial and say that I don't think any of them necessarily should. I mean, if people want to play one of the old games again, that is awesome, go for it! But I think there were skills, design sensibilities, and stuff that were relevant back then, and those same attributes could be applied to new designs based on another quarter of a century of learning about how games work and how people interact with them, and understanding of the new developments both in infrastructure technologies and game design in general.

By way of example, there has been astonishing development in roleplaying games over the last 20 years or so, including in solo, journaling games. My wife played a journaling game that involved receiving items through the post that were intended as writing prompts for the game. Could someone mash that sort of creativity with a PBM structure.

Or on another line, in recent years, megagames have been becoming popular, sometimes within conventions, sometimes as their own events. I've not played one, but from reading, they seem to share a lot of DNA with some of the big, political PBMs (Delenda Est Carthago comes to mind), so maybe there is design space to explore there.

"Who (apart from your good self!) embodied the spirit of PBM more than anyone else? (You only get to choose one person!)"

I guess I would have to say Carol Mulholland, who dedicated so much time to helping other people and did so much to promote the hobby as well as to support it from within, always with great humour.

"Do you still play PBM, and if so, what games are you playing?"

I haven't played any PBMs for many, many years.

"What are you doing non-PBM gaming-wise these days? And what form of gaming do you prefer now?"

I'm very much a tabletop gamer, mostly playing board and card games, though since Covid I've still not got back to the regular gaming I was doing beforehand. And, as I mentioned before, I'm designing games. It turns out there is a really good community of board game designers in the UK who support each other in many ways, so there's another sense of belonging there. "Who have you kept in touch with from the PBM "scene"?" Mostly that Richard Lockwood chap. To be honest, I'm not really in regular contact with anyone from "back in the day."

"Whose round is it?"

Probably mine.
What are you having?

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The man with the comfiest garage floor in Cornwall, Rob Harper.

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The Minotaur captured mhender!

Poor mhender! He tried to escape, but he had no real place to run to. Finding himself between the onrush of flood waters and the horror that is the Minotaur of the Maze, mhender freaked out. Fool!

Struggling valiantly, he proved to be no match for the superior strength and speed of the Minotaur. It grabbed him - violently! It snatched him like a rag doll, and began dragging him down the Maze passageway that it had come from, before. But soon, the Minotaur activated a secret door, and an opening appeared in the floor. Down into the darkness mhender went, screaming in morbid fear, his voice echoing in the passageways of the Maze.

And as quickly as that secret door had opened, it snapped shut, again, enveloping mhender in pitch darkness. The Minotaur dragged him for quite some, time, and another secret door opened. It was then that the creature roared at mhender, scaring the hell out of him!

As quickly as it had seized him, the Minotaur let go of the leg that he was pulling mhender by, abandoning him in some strange new room. Mhender was groggy and disoriented, but still alive. He had sustained but relatively minor injuries from his rough treatment at the Minotaur's hands.

What now? Where was he? And could he find his way back? Could this be the Minotaur's secret lair?

Did he even want to go back?
His new surroundings were dry.

And what foul fate has befallen Player 10, the illustrious Richard Lockwood?

Lockwood's lackadaisical maze gazing has cost him big time, this turn, as his preference for sloth over speed has resulted in the flood in the Maze overtaking him - much to his chagrin, no doubt.

Oh, don't you worry. he's not dead - yet!


Better pick up the pace, Richard, lest thy days in The PBM Maze begin to draw to an early close. You know that I'm rooting for you. You can count on me, Richard! Same as always.

The great Stefan continues to flee from the floodwaters, but that water is right on his ass, now, rushing at him and elevating his blood pressue, no doubt.

But what's this? Is that a "thing" in the Maze? Will Stefan go for it? Will the flood overtake him, as it did his fellow maze rat, Richard Lockwood? Or can Stefan pick up his pace, and outrun this flood that now seems bent on ruining Stefan's day - permanently?

The Sea of Nyx may not currently be processing turns, but that doesn't seem to stop Davy Jones' locker from coming for Stefan.

No flood waters in sight, now, for Player 6, the right lucky java.

More "things" in the Maze coming into sight, now, for java, but java is looking for an exit.

But will he take the right turn or the wrong turn?

Be sure to stay tuned for next issue's outcome of whatever java chooses.

Undeadlord opts to try and swim through a flooded section of the Maze.

It is not without risk, though, but with floodwaters threatening to seal him in a watery doom, Undeadlord's options were limited.

But will he be able to swim under water sufficiently fast to reach dry ground, once more? Or is he doomed to always move slower than the water?

After missing some turns, player Jef Tonelli is back, and he heads North in the PBM maze.

With no water from the Maze flood in sight, Jef appears to enjoy smooth sailing, this turn - unlike some of his fellow maze rats.

Player 5's life bar drops!

Player 8's life bar drops!

Player 10's life bar drops!

Who knows what next turn will bring? Life bars are dropping, but none of the players still left in the PBM maze, currently, appear to be in any imminent danger of dying.

Things change quickly in the PBM Maze, though. A giant flood rages. A Minotaur has captured one poor soul. Where he's at now is anybody's guess. What next, I wonder?

Of course, why am I wondering? After all, as the GM and the narrator of the PBM maze, I probably already know. What I don't usually know well ahead of time is who is going to die? Once a life bar drops way down, pretty much anybody can figure out that a player so affected likely won't make it very much longer.

Say, is that another flood generator that I see in Richard Lockwood's turn results for this turn? Or is flood generator the wrong term to describe such a "thing?" The way that Richard swims through all of that pub ale that he goes through, maybe he should just consider drinking the flood. Any word on any new PBM pub meets that might be taking place soon?

Surely to goodness, the PBM maze can't go on too much longer. Of course, who really knows? Even I don't know.

What temporary PBM game will spawn when the PBM Maze runs its course?

Players In The PBM Maze

1 - Stefan

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Last Turn - 1

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This Turn - 1

5 - Undeadlord

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Last Turn - 5

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This Turn - 5

6 - java

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Last Turn -6

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This Turn - 6

7 - Jef Tonelli

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Last Turn - 7

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This Turn - 7

8 - mdhender

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Last Turn - 8

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This Turn - 8

10 - Richard Lockwood

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Last Turn - 10

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This Turn - 10

Do YOU enjoy the PBM Maze?

The Isles, Update 2 - 1st June 2024

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* The Isles PBM is owned and operated by Roy Pollard. Copyright © 2024.

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Hyborian War Question Series - Episode 9

ROKer Kulalo

What are some of the hardest things about playing Hyborian War have been the most difficult for you to master, as a long time player of the game?

- Naval Combat. Naval combat in HW continues to be a bit of a mystery to me. Battle results seem fairly random, for instance, I've lost many battles without losing any troops. It also gets very fluid with sea provinces being gained and lost rapidly and unexpectantly which makes developing a naval strategy difficult.

- Strategic Movement. There seems to be an art in Strategic Movement, both in securing Open Field or Set Piece battles (depending on your preference) and setting yourself up for continued conquest. This gets harder the more invasions you are conducting as your court will quickly get stretched thin. When trying to get Open Field battles you want a higher mix of Heroism and high movement rates as well as selecting the proper terrain (ideally you have spied out the enemy and select the same terrain that your opponent wants to defend). When trying for Set Piece battles you want a mix of Military Command and heavy troop types. In both cases strategic magic helps if you can get it. As defender, it takes more than just selecting Open Field or Set Piece on your province defense orders. Military command seems more important then Heroism for the defender but troop speed/type also seems to have a large impact. Ambush, decline battle, and scouting all contribute to your odds to getting the desired battle type but I have not been able to determine their exact impact. I still struggle both as defender and invader to get the right battle type for my forces.

- Set Piece Battle configuration. When in Set Piece battles there is some nuance to how you deploy your troops and characters. The simple answer is "Heavies to the front, Lights to the rear" but I've noticed that there is more to it than that. Pay attention to your troops scores for Missile ability, Melee ability, and Morale. The missile phase can be decisive if you can bring it to bear. Conversely if your front ranks break morale, your whole offensive/defense can collapse. Mobility also plays a factor, so I try to get faster moving units on the "wings" of my line. Unfortunately, some of the coding for battles doesn't work (Disengage and Advance) which makes it hard to maximize your troops effectiveness.

- Raising troops. Raising the troops you want to get the right mix for your armies is more of an art than a science. Many things affect this including the order you list them in the Declarations, your treasury, rulership, existing troop percentages to name a few. Pay attention to your troop percentages at the end of your turn report, the min/max percentages dramatically affect what and how many troops you will raise each turn. Focus on your needs and realize you may need to "waste" a turn raising weak troops to stash in provincial armies in order to raise "higher quality" troops to put in your invading Imperial armies later. Actively ruling, treasury, and high provincial morale also increase the number of troops you can raise, so don't neglect these aspects.

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Motivation and the PBM maze

Charles Mosteller
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Player 6 have a much more larger view ... so all I can do is follow him, but way slower ... and my "special" I had collected did nothing ... motivation is close to zero.

- Stefan

Understood, Stefan. Not all "things" in the maze are designed as or intended to be "special." Refresh my memory - what did you choose to interact with, what was this "special" thing?

Typically, I would probably count a loss of motivation as a bad thing, in a turn-based game, but for the PBM Maze, boredom is a challenge, despair is a challenge, just growing tired of playing is a challenge. In PBM games, players many times drop out. Lots of different reasons, of course, but from a game design perspective, what if players dropping out isn't a bug?

The PBM Maze isn't supposed to be pleasant, per se. It deliberately limits player choices. It is supposed to be tiring. It is supposed to wear players down - whether through boredom, or sheer fatigue of playing, or whether dangers outweigh and out-populate rewards. Every "thing" in the PBM Maze has a purpose. They all play a "role." Even "seeing" what all players see, each turn and every turn, doesn't mean you that "see" a given "thing's" role or purpose in the game.

I already know, and I knew before launching it, that not everyone would make it. Not all players' characters in the PBM Maze would make it out alive. Even if someone makes it to an exit, they don't know where, if anywhere, that particular exit leads, nor would another player then be able to go through the same exit. Thus, following another player may not lead to an exit for whomever is doing the following. What if a marked exit turns out to be something other than the equivalent of a "fire exit?"

I do understand your perspective about the lack of motivation. Players don't know where they're going. They get little, if anything, in the way of clues. The water that seems to be such a danger wasn't initiated by me, though. A player activated it. Thus far, at least, I haven't seen any player make any effort to "deactivate" it or to turn it off - not that there might even be any way to do so. Players simply don't know, and in games, not knowing something that a player wants to know can be a rather frustrating thing.

If the PBM maze had an actual mantra, it might well be something akin to "Wear you down or kill you!" It's not even about who all can outlast everyone else. If the PBM Maze eventually kills everyone off, in and of itself, that doesn't make it a failure for what it was designed for and as.

Also, the PBM maze isn't just a game, simple in design though it may be. It's a challenge, like a puzzle. It's also an experiment. It's a test bed for concepts, as well. My role, as GM and as narrator of the Maze isn't to comfort other players.

It's not to encourage players to continue on. If you quit, or if your character dies, then either of those things may have a snowball effect, causing other players to quit, even if quitting becomes preferable to dying.

If one wants to design a game where players will not want to quit, it's helpful to know and to understand different things that cause players to want to quit. At least, from my perspective, it is. It wouldn't be hard to give players any number of different reasons to carry on or to help motivate them. I could add all kinds of "good" things in the mall, things that might better imbue players with vigor. Players tend to like "good" things in most any game.

What your character "sees" and "experiences" in this game enables me to see how to do things in other, future games. But when one is going through this simplistic crucible of boredom or morale vampirism, You can't see any of what I see in other temporary PBM games that could be fruit that grows from this game.

The biggest "threat" in any game is the will of players to continue on. One of the foundational ideas that underpin the concept of temporary PBM games is that they do not go on forever. Fairly early on, there was someone else who wanted to join the PBM Maze. But I had already sealed the game off. Why not let another play join the fun? It wouldn't be any harder to process turn results for 11 players as it is to process turn results for 10 players.

Some players have already dropped out. Yet, some players continue on. But why? Why do some continue on? What is it that drives players or motivates them or facilitates that willingness to stick things out, even past the boredom and the simplicity and the frustration that a deliberately stunted methodology of choices inflict upon players?

In the PBM Maze, you're not just a player. You're also a guinea pig.

How do you fight player dropouts in PBM games? I think that it's a researchable problem. That PBM companies may not always, or even usually, research why players drop and try to address that through changes, does not mean that, therefore, such persistent problems in the PBM industry aren't researchable - and hence, solvable to some degree.

Why do some players enjoy the PBM maze? It's nothing fancy, after all? Maybe they're just lying. Maybe the last drop of hope hasn't completely drained from their bodies, yet. Maybe they're just curious about how it all eventually culminates.

If frustration is what leads players to drop out of the PBM maze, then frustration can always be dialed back in game design. If a game is just boring, mind-numbingly boring, then that can be a more challenging problem in game design. Specifically and exactly, what makes any given game boring?

A lack of choices? A lack of motivational boosts mid-game? A bland theme? A lack of meaningful interaction with other players? Incomprehensible instructions? Unrealistic expectations? Player apathy? GM apathy?

More importantly, perhaps, what does it take to make every last player in a game abandon a game? Also, how far can a game's design push a player before that player is done with it?

What if the PBM Maze isn't the game? Instead, what if the players, themselves, are the game?

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computer-moderated PBM science fiction game know as Ad Astra?

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A PBM Demon's Work is Never Done
Charles Mosteller

My return to the realm of Alamaze came about quite unexpectedly. Yet, I am here, nonetheless, and there is work to be done - the work of the Demon Princes!

But these are no regular run of the mill Demon Princes. Nay, I say! These are watered down versions of what were once quite inspirational gaming entities. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

Thoughtlessly stripped of their immortality, the Demon Princes of Alamaze are now little more than immortals in name only. Oh, sure, they still carry the "title" of immortals, but get this - you can now kill them. No amount of word trickery can right this wrong. So, if you're looking to play actual immortal characters in a war game that takes place in a fantasy setting, you'll need to look elsewhere. Alamaze only hawks faux pearls in that regard, anymore.

If I seem bitter about this insanity in game design, I'm not. I'm truly not. I don't count it a crime that someone needs to take up the cause of reminding people that word trickery in game design doesn't tend to be high on many gamers' list of desirable traits in game design. Why not just give them wizards with no magic, or flying creatures that can't actually fly?

Demon Princes of Alamaze, how do I love thee, I can hear Elizabeth Barrett Browning say, in a modern context. Allow me to answer her for you, for all of you PBM Chaos readers out there. Not nearly as much as I used to.

But I didn't return to Alamaze these few months after departing it, just because I was missing playing the kingdom of the Demon Princes. No, I returned in a bid to help get an organized game of Alamaze off the ground.

Historically and traditionally, Lloyd Barron's long-beloved Road of Kings forum site has been associated with the PBM game, Hyborian War. More specifically, organized games of Hyborian war have long since become synonymous with the ROK (a term of affection that the Road of Kings' forum users often refer to this forum site as). Plus, too, ROK is shorter than typing out Road of Kings, and even Hyborian War aficionados are sometimes lazy.

But now comes forth the first organized game of Alamaze spawned in these old Hyborian War stomping grounds. And heresy of heresies, it's Hyborian War players, of all people, who now dare to venture forth to try their hand at something new within the spectrum of PBM gaming.

And what a motley looking crew it is!

Now, the truth be known, none of them have dropped all of their games of Hyborian War, just to sample the nectar of Alamaze that wafts through the PBM air. Rather, they're just giving it a try, in between their current Hyborian War turns. Who would have ever even imagined that such a thing might even be possible?

As these PBM fools (or should I say fools for PBM?) now scramble to try and digest Alamaze's bottomless buffet of game information, struggling to break the chains of their lack of familiarity with this PBM game that, in one for or another, has been around for decades, I've already gotten my turn orders issued. I'm just relaxing, while they stress and second-guess their own instincts. Their struggles, however, will likely prove to be a primary source of entertainment for yours truly.

This particular game for me is more about trying to facilitate one particular way to help to grow the PBM player base. Having more Alamaze players doesn't have to mean that we end up with less Hyborian War players. PBM gaming is a buffet of entertainment choices and varieties. It's not a one course menu.

The Road of Kings forum site also now features some traditional Hyborian War players now sampling another of RSI's PBM games. Namely, Forgotten Realms: War of the Avatars. And none of the organized games of Hyborian War, either current or taking player sign-ups, have collapsed from a sudden lack of interest, either. Apparently, PBM gamers are more than capable of simultaneously liking and enjoying more than one PBM game product at a time. Go figure!

Even though I've only been away from Alamaze for a few months, now, brain rust has already begun to set in. I now am faced with the prospect of having to relearn things previously learned, or of having to dig deeper into the Mithril of my own memory banks. And we all know how hard that can be, at times.
For this game of Alamaze, one that I affectionately dubbed Alamaze Organized Game #1, the Demon Princes in Alamaze Game 7000 find themselves stuck in the region of the Diamond Coast. Ack!

Demon Princes, you see, must always have something to complain about, which may well be one of the primary reasons why I was attracted to this particular kingdom to begin with. I started to pick some other kingdom to play in this organized game of Alamaze (I picked 3rd out of 12, following the brief draft that we held to determine who gets to play what in this game). To all of those other nine players that found themselves picking after me, all that I can really say is, "Suck it!"

These aren't inexperienced PBM gamers that I'm playing against in this game of Alamaze. To the contrary, in fact, these are seasoned veterans of many PBM games. They're just out of their Hyborian War element, is all. They're out of their usual comfort zone. And honestly, several of them seem to me to daunted by the prospect of learning something new.

Fortunately, there are those who are still hawking the same PBM snake oil of all. PBM players, as a group, are well-versed in rulebooks, and beginner guides, and charts, and mentors, and just about everything that one could imagine. Me? I try to sell people on something called acquisition of familiarity with the Alamaze game interface. But you know how people are, sometimes? You may well have one day met a stubborn or set-in-their-ways PBM gamer, yourself, at some point in your own PBM journey. Me? I meet them in droves!

Any of these other fellows taking part in Alamaze Organized Game #1 would derive pleasure from wiping my kingdom off the map. I'm here mostly as an observer, but that won't matter to them. They'll plot. They'll scheme. They'll try to blow my Alamaze house down. And when they do (they've already started, in fact), they'll suffer consequences. And in the process, they'll weaken their own kingdoms, thereby becoming prey for others to decimate and dominate as those very same others see fit. I don't play to win in Alamaze any more than I play to win in Hyborian War. Rather, I much prefer to lead other men to their PBM demise.

But it's not as if they ever learn.

With new players (though some are returning to a PBM game that they've tried before, but have become unfamiliar with, anew), I'll get to have a little fun playing mind games with them. There's a lot about Alamaze that I still don't know, and none of it have I ever mastered, but I feel quite confident that I can make some of these PBM Wormtongues play the iron price for underestimating me.

Alamaze will be new to them, or new again, and they will see many pretty things. They'll quickly succumb to the eye candy and the fascination with all kinds of stuff that they can't do in the beloved Hyborian War. But why do Demon Princes exist, at all, if not to torment people?

This is a Learning Game of Alamaze, and as such, the primary objective is to learn, not to win nor to even do well.

Alamaze Organized Game #1
Alamaze Game 7000

Kingdom: Demon Princes

Player: Charles Mosteller

Orders for Turn #1


1. Demonic Gate

2. Demonic Gate

3. Demonic Gate

4. Enamor Region

5. Change Ruler Name


6. Train Agent to Higher Level

7. Train Agent to Higher Level

8. Search for Pop Centers


9. Transfer Inactive (Pre Move)

10. Sea Movement

11. Sea Movement

12. Land Movement


13. Research Magic

14. Rite of the Magi


Demonic Gate

Demonic Gate

Demonic Gate

15. Kingdom Customization

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The Kingdoms of Alamaze

































































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The Legendary Civilization of the Atlanteans is a powerful feudal society that had remained hidden beneath the waves for centuries. Once thought to be mere myths, their existence is now known far and wide as they compete with the other kingdoms of Alamaze for power and resources. They emerged from their seclusion with a new goal in mind: conquest.

Their capital city is guarded by powerful defenses, making it nearly impregnable, even if discovered. The Atlanteans are masters of naval combat, and their ships are feared throughout the world. They use their knowledge of the sea to their advantage, manipulating the tides and currents to gain an edge in battle. They also possess powerful sea magic, which they use to summon storms and call forth mighty creatures of the deep.

What Is Alamaze

Dive into the captivating realm of Alamaze, a multi-award-winning fantasy war game that promises an unparalleled multiplayer strategy experience. Choose from 32 distinctive kingdoms, each with its own strengths, weaknesses, and engage in a battle of wits against eleven human adversaries. Your arsenal includes magic, military might, economics, politics, and covert tactics, as you issue commands to nobles, wizards, armies, and agents, all in pursuit of territory and alliances.

Character development is key, with spellcasters and military leaders gaining power as the game progresses. With endless strategic possibilities, each Alamaze game is a unique, deeply engaging journey that can span months. Embrace the thrill of the Maelstrom expansion, introducing new abilities, spells, and kingdoms to the mix. Join us in the world of Alamaze today and become a master of fantasy strategy gaming!

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Galactic Newsletter Network

Latest Updates from the Takamo Universe

Empire Activity Highlights

  1. Larem Empire:The Larem Empire, known for its disciplined and strategically-minded leadership, currently reports no active fleets or assigned ships in its Navy. This absence of fleet activity could indicate a strategic reorganization or a temporary shift in military focus.
  2. Qutiik Empire:The Qutiik Empire maintains a solitary fleet stationed within their territory. Their planetary assets include a mixture of terraformed and unterraformed worlds, with a notable presence in multiple sectors. Their economy is projected to grow, with significant mining and production centers across their territories.
  3. ZZ'Okdil Traders:The ZZ'Okdil Traders are experiencing mixed fortunes. They reported the sale of cargo and black market activities, but also faced a skirmish with the Ha At In fleet. This encounter resulted in considerable damage to their fighters before the enemy fleet retreated to deep space.
  4. Simperan Empire:The Simperan Empire faced a guerrilla offensive on one of their planets, losing control to the GRSA Empire. This has impacted their revenue and control over the planet. Additionally, a fleet was detected scanning one of their planets, indicating possible surveillance or preparatory action for future conflicts.

Notable Events Across the Galaxy

  • Smuggling and Black Market Activity:The ZZ'Okdil Traders continue their black market operations, with significant transactions reported on various planets. Their smuggling centers on planets owned by other factions highlight the pervasive nature of underground economic activities.
  • Guerrilla Warfare:The GRSA Empire successfully conducted a guerrilla offensive against the Simperan Empire, demonstrating the effectiveness of unconventional warfare tactics in disrupting established regimes.
  • Military Engagements:Multiple empires report engagements and fleet maneuvers. The ZZ'Okdil Traders repelled an attack by the Ha At In fleet, showcasing the volatile and often hostile nature of interstellar relations in the Takamo Universe.

Economic and Technological Developments

  • Resource Management:Empires are managing their resources diligently, with varying amounts of remaining RUs (Resource Units) and projected incomes. The Qutiik Empire, for instance, expects a substantial income boost next turn, reflecting their economic growth and stability.
  • Shipbuilding Capabilities:Each empire has a list of available ship build codes, indicating their technological capabilities and strategic priorities. For example, the Larem Empire can construct a variety of ships, including explorers, scouts, cutters, and reclamation ships, while the ZZ'Okdil Traders have advanced to include heavy cruisers and military base ships.


GNN Analyst: "The current state of the galaxy reflects a delicate balance of power, with empires engaging in both open conflict and covert operations to expand their influence. The rise in guerrilla activities and smuggling operations suggests a growing undercurrent of unrest and opportunism, which could reshape the political landscape in unpredictable ways."

Stay tuned for more updates from the Galactic Newsletter Network, your premier source for news and insights across the Takamo Universe.

* All Takamo content and images copyright © Kgruppe LLC.

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Hyborian War Question Series - Episode 10

ROKer Kulalo

SCENARIO: You are tasked with playing Aquilonia in a new game of Hyborian War that is starting soon. All that you know for certain is that none of your immediate neighboring kingdoms are friendly to your kingdom, and that all of them are openly hostile to your kingdoms. Tell us what thoughts go through your mind, and how would you then go about seeking to assess things more fully. What possible strategies stand out in your mind to help you to ensure that Aquilonia stays intact and doesn't get devoured by its many enemies, defensively and then explain what you would do to take the war to your enemies, on the offensive end of things. Furthermore, do you see any hope for Aquilonia, in this kind of scenario?

CAVEAT- I have never played Aquillonia.

Knowing that I am surrounded by hostile neighbors, I will need to fight a defensive war with strategic strikes to try and build my power. Going full defensive (turtle) is out, eventually my adversaries will avoid peace treaties and wear me down; I need to try and eliminate enemies while preserving my territory.

Looking at my foes, my threats in descending order are: Nemedia, Cimmeria, Pictland, Ophir, Zingara, Argos, and Border Kingdom. I start with a mutual peace treaty with Ophir, so one foe down. Looking at my foes, I think attacking Zingara, Pictland, or Argos would be easiest; as they have other foes to distract them. Additionally, if I can defeat the kingdoms to my west then I will be better positioned to fight in the east.

Turn one- Send AQUI-2 (Superior Diplomacy) to (N)egotiate (P)eace with (CIMM)eria
Send AQUI-CHA (Good Diplomacy) to (N)egotiate (P)eace with (PICT)land

Send (F)ull (T)ribute to (NEME)dia

Hopefully, that will give me peace with Nemedia and Cimmeria, if I'm lucky I'll also get Pictland. The following turns, use AQUI-2 to Negotiate Peace with my neighbors until all are peaced.

AQUI-10 cast (P)rophecy (W)orld, hoping to find out who has intents to invade my provinces.

AQUI-4 (S)py (K)ingdom (M)ilitary of (ZING)ara- hoping to find out their

movements both for defense and for my possible invasion.

Place Intents to Invade 194 (Eastern March) and 13 (Pallos) move IA1 from 1 (Tarantia) to (3) Pallos.

Leave your other two IAs in defensive status. Once you have some intel from either prophecy or spies, you can change one or both to active to invade to the west.

Finally, player to player diplomacy is key to Hyborian War, but particularly in this situation. There are a number of kingdoms I would reach out to:

- Vanaheim- he has an IG in Pictland and is a natual foe to both Cimmeria and Asgard, try to get on good terms with him. Aquillonia and Vanaheim can make quick progress against Pictland if they work together.

- Zamora- Even if Zamora doesn't want to actively work together, you may be able to get him to provide spy info against your enemies, either way reach out to Zamora and see what he is willing to do.

- Corinthia- Corinthia is your most likely ally. He wants capitals and could/should be willing to help you against either Ophir or Nemedia.

- Brythunia and Hyperborea - You may be able to convince one or both to help against Nemedia and Border Kingdom. If you can get your foes to worry about a two front war, it will take a lot of pressure off of your eastern border.

- Koth (and Khauran/Khoraja)- The Kothics may be willing to ally and work together against Argos or Ophir, which are a common foe.

I believe Aquillonia can survive and even do well even when surrounded by enemies. If you can get early peace treaties through tribute or diplomacy they will have to look elsewhere to expand; many of them have conflicting goals and may end up fighting each other. CIMM and NEME/BORD are natural enemies; so are Zingara and Argos. WIth Ophir locked in peace, he will have to fight one of his neighbors. By the end of the first peace years, you should identify friction points among your neighbors which you can exploit. Do what you have to to keep all but 1 or 2 of your neighbors peaced, and try to pick them off one at a time. As the game progresses, there will be opportunities to make deals / alliances with other kingdoms to help fight your foes - Asgard, Stygia, Shem may be easily coerced into helping you.

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* This game started after 50 turns had been run by RSI, before players issued any turn orders.

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5775 24 Hours 8 4
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Alamaze Organized Game #1

Demon Princes: Turn #1 Results

Charles Mosteller

A game of Alamaze organized and played by Hyborian War players. Can these PBM gamers (ROKers) from the Road of Kings last the long haul through what is for many of them their first game of Alamaze? This organized game is Game #7000.

For me, with a little bit of prior experience playing Alamaze under my belt, Turn #1 went smoothly. No glitches nor errors in the turn orders that I issued for the turn. The only real issue, which is the same as it always is, is whether the actual orders that I decided upon issuing will ultimately prove to be good decision.

Because I have played Alamaze before, and because in Alamaze, gaining control of population centers is critical growing a kingdom's economy, I made exploration of areas a top priority. My efforts were rewarded with the discover of two new population centers, one village and one town. Not exactly the best of starts, but it sure beats not discovering any population centers - and especially at this very early stage of the game.

I could have allocated additional resources to finding population centers on Turn #1, but I decided to make finding population centers a priority without simultaneously making it paramount above and beyond all else. In Alamaze, one's options tend to be many, even if one's available order slots always seem to be too few. How to allocate one's order slots for their kingdom in any given turn lies at the very crux of the player's decision-making process in this fantasy-based war game.

Even though Alamaze's new owner made the decision to gut the Demon Princes kingdom, by watering down the kingdom's signature characters by embracing the foolishness of word trickery to try and persuade Alamaze players that the Demon Prince characters are immortal, even though they no longer are (which is insanity in game design), nonetheless, they still remain some of the Demon Prince kingdom's best and most colorful characters to have at one's disposal to play. So, what I decided to do for Turn #1 was to begin the forward deployment of these key character assets across the map. I have to do it sometime, so rather than wait, I decided to forego other options available to me in my order options, and  begin moving these key pieces to forward deployed status.

Yeah, they're now out and about, but the real question is, "Where?" It is doubtful that any kingdom in the game starts the game with the special artifact necessary to begin slaying the immortal-through-vulnerable-to-being-killed Demon Prince characters. It's a real risk, even if for no other reason than the very early orders that a player issues in any given game of Alamaze helps to set the stage for how their kingdom either gets off on a good foot, for how their kingdom begins slipping behind (which is much to any kingdom's detriment).

But because I have chosen to dispatch one or more of my Demon Prince characters to forward deployed positions, while I could now allocate those very same resources to move to these newly discovered population centers, that would simply mean that I would end up squandering the turn orders that I issued for them on Turn #1. In Alamaze, political emissaries tend, based upon my limited experience playing Alamaze to date, to be of far more importance in the early stages of the game than they seem to be in the later stages of the game. While Demon Prince character types are, first and foremost, core political emissaries, they also possess other powers, which means that they are characters of an uber-flexible type. My biggest problem as an Alamaze player, and as a Demon Princes player particularly, is that I routinely still manage to bungle my decision-making process. Thus, I seem to remain ever-prone to making bad decisions, or the decisions that I make tend to lack a certain degree of timeliness. The truth be told, I am almost always behind the curve, with certain turn orders that I issue. Hopefully, I can begin to dig myself out of that omnipresent hole that I always dig myself into, in this particular game of Alamaze.

My kingdom customization order succeeded, and my kingdom is now enhanced compared to what it was on Turn #0, the game start position. Viewing discretion to be the better part of valor, and having played at least one game of Alamaze in the past where my Demon Princes kingdom fumbled the ball and I never ended up receiving my ESO (Early Strategic Objective), even though I have up until Turn #3 to declare what my ESO will be, I am inclined for this game to go for the Minor ESO (3 points) over the Major ESO (5 points). Why? Because from my perspective and based upon my own prior first-hand experience, obtaining a fourth Demon Prince character mid-game is the paramount ESO consideration for any Alamaze player who chooses to try their hand at playing the Demon Princes kingdom. And by pursuing a Minor ESO, a 3 point ESO award will be sufficient to enable me to claim that 4th Demon Prince, as the game reaches a more critical stage several turns down the line. But because Alamaze players have up until Turn #3, at the latest, to choose their ESO destiny, there was nothing to be gained, from my perspective, by wasting a Turn #1 order slot on something that I have two more turns to take care of. How and when one issues the turn orders that they issue can make all of the difference between having a great game of Alamaze or a poor game of Alamaze. By the time that Turn #3 rolls around, I will have increased my kingdom's influence beyond what it was at game start, which translates into me having increased flexibility. By way of turn order decisions for Turn #1, players can begin digging a hole for themselves as soon as the game starts. Which is why I consider it imperative to not rush one's ESO decision. Plus, by waiting until Turn #3 to issue the ESO order, it gives me some additional time to reconsider whether I want to try and go for a 5 point ESO award instead of a 3 point ESO award. And Alamaze is certainly a thinking man's game, if it is anything, at all.

In Turn #1, I chose to issue some standing orders for my kingdom. Specifically, I opted to issue two standing orders. As cancelling standing orders as the game progresses uses up available order slots, also, players of Alamaze should be - and remain - cognizant of try to maximize the use of their available turn orders each and every turn. Real masters of the game do this as a matter of second nature. For the rest of us, learning to master which orders to issue when will always remain one of the biggest mountains that we climb, in terms of elevating our game skill. me? I tend to pretty much suck at it, and as a result, I tend to make a lot of bad choices over the course of any given game. For some reason, I appear to be doomed to ever learn things the hard way, and likewise, I seem to be doomed to eternally learning and relearning the exact, same mistakes, over and over and over, again. There's a very real possibility that I am cursed, when it comes to playing Alamaze. Even still, one must play the cards that fate deals them.

One of the things that I hate about Alamaze is the part of the turn results which says: We issued the following commands for the turn just completed:

Why do I hate this section of the turn report? Because to the new player and the Alamaze layman alike, this section invariably tends to look like just so much numerical and letter gibberish. Acronyms and abbreviations are always an alien language in any game that they are employed in. Why? Because they're basically designed as quick references for those who already know the game - for game veterans, for example - and not for beginners.

Yeah, I've played numerous games of Alamaze before, but that doesn't mean that I have all of these order codes memorized. Just another way of many to confuse the new guy. Not everyone eats, breathes, and sleeps Alamaze, you know. This section of the Alamaze turn results report is functionally usable, meaning it has a function/purpose that can be useful, but from a user-friendliness perspectives, its akin to presenting players with hieroglyphics. Sure, by looking at it, I see it, but seeing something is not the same thing as knowing what it is that one sees - and especially at a glance.

Even now, after all of the games of Alamaze that I have played, previously, I still just shake my head at this obstacle to learning that was crafted into Alamaze's game design. If I have problems with it, still, how much worse it must be for players who have never even played the game, at all, before? As with most any obstacle that one encounters to learning how to play Alamaze, yes, it is an obstacle that can be overcome - provided newcomers to Alamaze choose to be patient enough and committed enough to bother with investing the time and the effort to overcome this obstacle.

I did choose to rename my kingdom's ruler on Turn #1. Changing one's ruler's name is an option that an Alamaze player only can avail themselves of on Turn #1. If you don't do it then, then you'll simply be out of luck for the entire game. Basically, it's a free turn order, in that it doesn't count against your order limit for orders that you issue on Turn #1, and it's aimed at providing players a way to put a personal touch on their respective kingdoms. I opted for a bit of a "Latin feel" for my ruler's new name in this particular Game #7000 epoch of Alamaze. Feel free to try and guess what I came up with.

Due to a combination of Training To Higher Level (Order #500) and my kingdom customization choices, my Demon Princes kingdom in Game #700 now has no less than three Level 4 agents heading into Turn #2. This helps bolster my kingdom's ability to increase my exploration efforts, in my bid to rapidly track down population centers in what's know as my kingdom's "starting region" (the region that your kingdom's capital starts in, as well as the region where most of a player's game assets start in).

Curiously enough, not a single other player in Game #700 bothered to make any effort, whatsoever, to try and begin working with my kingdom in this game. maybe they just don't trust me, or perhaps they just don't like me, or possibly, they might already all be plotting against me. The again, maybe most of them are brand new to the game, and have their hands full just trying to figure out what to so. Even still, not hearing from other players in war games can often set the Bells of Paranoia to ringing. If they're already plotting and scheming together, then even if they're not immediately aiming to take my kingdom out of existence, my kingdom can still be behind. Yes, even as we head into Turn #2.

I suspect, whether correctly or incorrectly, that a bunch of newcomers to Alamaze (for the most part) in Game #7000 may well fear my kingdom more than I should fear their kingdom. But with war games of this nature, where so many unknowns factor into it all, a player;s mind can quickly find itself adrift upon the Sea of Suspicion. But since I don't tend to play these kinds of games to win, that alone provides my kingdom with an edge, right out of the game. Why? Because I don't worry about losing. And in war games of this nature, psychology plays a role. One doesn't simply play against kingdoms. One also plays against other players - which means that a meta aspect attaches to Alamaze, automatically, whether you like it or not, and whether you're ready for it or not. And because war game players are always seeking to maximize their advantage and to minimize their disadvantage, human psychology becomes a theater of operations all its own in Alamaze. Sticking it to the player, so to speak, has always been a greater fun factor to me in playing PBM war games than sticking it to kingdoms and empires. The kingdoms, themselves, will never seek revenge on their own. Only the human players behind the kingdoms being player seek revenge. And revenge, of course, is ever and always usable as a functional opportunity of distraction in PBM war games.

But as many years of playing Hyborian War taught me, choosing to play a largely reactionary strategy means that I don't really have to tend to worry about picking enemies, because my enemies will almost always be all too willing to pick me as their enemy. And the best way that I have ever found to screw up other players' starting strategies (the ones that they tend to spend a large amount of time carefully crafting) is by dragging them into wars very early on. War, after all, no matter the war game in question, tends to be an efficient squanderer of resources. While they're off butting heads with my kingdom early own, other kinds will tend to choose to conserve a sizeable portion of their own strength, thereby resulting in my early enemies tending to set their own kingdoms up for losing the game. But if one isn't seeking to win, but to help other players lose, then this tends to be a very desirable thing. If you're trying to win the game, however, early draining of your kingdom's resources tends to translate into your kingdom growing progressively weaker, rather than stronger. I bother to explain this, at all, because other players learning this and knowing this tends to increase the conundrum that exists within them, already. In layman's terms, if you avoid my kingdom, then my kingdom grows stronger, but if you engage my country in war, your own kingdom will grow weaker - at least temporarily, if not permanently.

But this, too, is part of the meta-game, which is always the part of PBM war games where I am the most comfortable. There are always other players to be tempted, always other players that can - and will - be all too happy to turn against your kingdom. If you fight a honey badger, then even if your kingdom manages to win, your kingdom will still likely wind up wounded - and thus, vulnerable, and become prey-by-extension to threats posed by other kingdoms in the game.

Increasing the level of my kingdoms wizards was on the agenda for Turn #1 for my Demon Princes kingdom. Trying to raise all of a kingdom's wizards' power level each turn, every turn, tends to not be a realistic course of action. So, players are forced to choose. To play Alamaze successfully and at a very high level, one must improve their ability to make the right choices in a timely manner in many different areas. And because players tend to make mistakes, or to overlook a given opportunity, or to make bad choices and decisions, there's almost always room for improvement to continually hone one's skill as an Alamaze player. Me? I still pretty much suck at playing Alamaze, even after a number of prior games already under my belt. But I like to feel that I know just enough to be dangerous, just enough to toss a monkey wrench into someone else's plans. And to me, that's a sweet spot to be. No matter how difficult I make things for your kingdom, I can still improve my playing skills and knowledge of Alamaze, and become an even greater threat going forward. All that it really takes is a sufficient catalyst to motivate me to do just, exactly that.

Increasing the power levels of my kingdom's wizards opens new magic spells for me to exploit and to utilize against other kingdoms. Of course, they will be doing the same thing, also, so it's not as though it's a one-way street. And where magic is concerned, the Demon Princes kingdom is a long way from the top of the food chain. But the big dogs of magic in Alamaze require time to increase their magical power to sufficient degree to become roving terrors to other kingdoms in the game. That's just my personal, inherently-flawed take on such things, anyway. It is what I believe, currently, whether I'm right or whether I'm way out in left field and wrong. Anyone who could see my turn results for Turn #1 in Game #7000 would know that the Rite of the Magi has been performed in the Demon Princes kingdom.

Movement of groups factored heavily into my kingdom's turn orders for Turn #1. After all, searching for population centers, whether by land or by sea - or both - is a primary way of discovering population centers on the map that you don't already know about. Basically, you're playing a guessing game, as to which unexplored areas that you choose to explore. You might find a population center, or you might not. Discovering a hidden population center (in someone else's starting region) is more difficult than discovering a normal, unhidden one. A word to the wise: If you piddle around and don't make locating other population centers a priority, then you're gonna quickly find your kingdom behind the Alamaze 8-Ball, which is definitely not where you want your kingdom to be.

I could have used my Demon Prince characters to Raise Skeletons (Order #561) on Turn #1. Since some of my Demon Prince character(s) were on the move, by way of using Demonic Gate(s) (Order #351), then those particular Demon Princes could not also be Raising Skeletons in the exact, same turn. Coming to grips with all of the respective strengths and weaknesses of Alamaze's thirty-two different player kingdoms can be quite the challenge. But it is a challenge that you do not have to learn and master and memorize in a single turn or in a single game. To do that, one must continually return to the realm of Alamaze, and try again and again and again. Unless, of course, you're a superbrain.

One piece of advice from Brek that I followed this time, that he had given to all players in this game of Alamaze, was to go with the Enamor Region order (Order #470) for my kingdom's ruler on Turn #1, instead of my usual resort to the Increase Influence order (Order #480). As many times as not in my prior games of Alamaze, my political emissaries, to include my Demon Prince characters, tend to be plagued by failing in their missions to Usurp Control of population centers (Order #330). Usurp Control orders fail more times than a new player of Alamaze might, at first, imagine (and for different reasons).

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Doubt: The Forbidden Fruit of PBM

Charles Mosteller
Doubt is an interesting commodity, both in life and in PBM. It is simultaneously a true bane and one of the greatest fruits known to man. It undermines us, even as to compels us to ponder and to think and to explore all kinds of different things. Doubt is a great fruit, but for many of us, it is akin to a forbidden fruit. More often, we see the bad about it, rather than the good.

Even today, we doubt that PBM gaming will survive as a medium of entertainment. I, myself, doubt that others will submit any articles for various issues of PBM Chaos. You might doubt that issues of PBM Chaos will publish on time (even though there's no actual set publication schedule for it). Some doubt that they will get their turn orders in on time, while others doubt that their turn results will arrive anytime soon.

It used to be the case that I would always look on doubt as a bad thing, as a scourge upon mankind. What a world full of doubting Thomases we are. I ind of doubt that we will ever change, in that regard. But all things have a purpose - even doubt. I doubt that we're capable of figuring out what the full measure of that purpose is anytime soon.

In recent years, I have come to see doubt as a true blessing from God, albeit perhaps an unrecognized blessing, no matter how many times that it crosses our part. Doubt helps to preserve us, as a species, and it also is a boon to PBM gaming (if only we will let it be).

Do you ever doubt that your kids will listen to you, or that your husband will get that honey-do list done, or that your wife will cook supper and have it waiting for you on the table at night? Do you ever doubt that things will ever get any better in PBM gaming? Do you ever doubt that PBM companies will change?

For me, doubt is an indispensable companion. Some doubt that God exists. I have no doubt that He does. One man's doubt is another man's certainty. When Flagship magazine died, some doubted that PBM would ever have another PBM magazine. Some PBM GMs may even doubt that some of their players will ever learn. I doubt that I can ever publish a single issue of anything, without there being some mistakes in it. Typographical errors have no doubt that they can find their way into the nooks and crannies of this issue.

Doubt is a traveling companion. It tends to accompany us wherever we go. If we were certain about everything, can you imagine how arrogant that we would become as a species? It would be far worse than it is, now. Doubt gives us reason to pause. Doubt even has a way of humbling a man.

Doubt causes us to question things. Anything. Everything. You name it, and doubt will start to sprout. Questioning things, though, sharpens our minds. Did you know that doubt can even inspire you? I doubt that you even knew that. I've heard it said that doubt can be overcome.

I doubt that God fears any question that we could ask him, and I doubt that PBM is going away anytime soon. Honestly, doubt is one of the very things that I tend to have the most confidence in. Don't you doubt that, either!

In the context of PBM gaming, specifically, I doubt that anybody, that any PBM company or GM, is gonna catch up with Roy Pollard of The Isles PBM on the video front anytime soon. I doubt that they have the will. I doubt they have the resolve. I have no doubt that some of you out there reading this have real doubts about what I am saying, right here and right now.

PBM GMs doubt their own games. They doubt that they can grow their player bases significantly, anytime soon. Some doubted that PBM could survive the Internet. Some continue to doubt that, even today.

We doubt that the postal medium is a viable medium, any longer, for PBM games to thrive. We doubt that they'll ever quit raising the price of postage stamps and other supplies that make old school PBM gaming possible, at all. We doubt that anyone or anything can fix what ails PBM. I suspect that some even doubt that I'll ever shut up about such things anytime soon.

If doubt makes you think, though, which it does, do you doubt that there's anything good about it? You can doubt, you can pout, you can shout. You can despair, but I doubt that will do any good.

For me, personally, doubt is a friend. It's one of my more reliable of friends, in fact. Doubt brings me certainty. It visits all kinds of blessings upon me, both big and small. Doubt is as reliable as they come.

Life is an exercise in perspective, and doubt is a part of life. If we didn't have doubt, we'd be all the poorer for it. And about that, I have nary a doubt, at all.


"I realise the old PBM's took a beating after the Interweb, but...having been one of those turncoats from PBM to MMO...I smell change in the air. Yes, MMO's with their amazing graphics and systems are good 'n all, especially in these times of people expecting instant gratification..but I think a great many are growing tired of these mostly meaningless games. Even those who were 'server firsts' or 'no.1 pvp champ' grow tired as there is no real gravity, and as there are so many hundreds of thousands, their names get lost in a sea of wannabe's. It is an endless grind.

Also, certain groups of people from the PBM era are now hitting a certain age where things slow down, and they have more money and wisdom (unless you're me). People like me reminisce about the old days and seek older, perhaps slower, forms of entertainment.

If properly marketed and these ageing groups exposed to advertising, I suspect a slight resurgence of PBM/PBeM stuff."

- Barney(aka Dan Mumford)

GM of The Land

pbm-general-chat Channel of the PlayByMail Discord

May 28th, 2024

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