͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ 
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It's been a long time, huh?

Well, for me, it has, anyway. Sure seems like it. Chaos plays havoc with our real lives, in addition to our respective attempts at PBM lives. Most already likely know, by now, that one of my sisters has died. My oldest sister.

She was never a fan of me introducing her to others as my oldest sister. At least, not in her in later years, anyway. What more fitting tribute could I pay to her, though, than to still go about my ordinary business of introducing her as my oldest of sisters?

My apologies in the delays encountered in getting this issue out. There's numerous different reasons, no doubt, but I'm just gonna pack it all off on my sister. Hey, what are siblings for, right?

But enough of the morbid, already. Maybe the "B" in PBM stands for buried. Then again, if PBM is truly dead, as some speculate, then perhaps buried is the right word, after all.

For me, writing is kind of like breathing air. In fact, I seem to suffocate, when I don't do it. The more that I cast my eyes about the PBM scene, the less inspired I seem to become. These days, I spend an inordinate amount of time just shaking my head. I'd be lying, if I said that I didn't ever think about just dropping the PBM games that I am, and be done with it all.

Why. Even. Bother?

Alas, the gloom and the glum, the sad and the dumb!
Such counterproductive stupidity. I'm fresh off of one funeral (that I didn't attend), so why don't we just go ahead and embalm PBM gaming? Or would you prefer cremation? Hell, we can just build a pyre and burn it all to the ground and be done with it all, once and for all.

Since death has now entered the inner circle of my siblings and I, from my perspective, there's not a whole heck of a lot of time left to try and bring PBM back from the brink. Yeah, sure, you're entitled to your own perspective on such matters. I don't mind. The more power to ya, my friend!

If you're a PBM company or a PBM GM, and you want to see your PBM games advertised, then by all means, feel free to send something in to me to publish. Otherwise, it's probably not all that important, after all. Right? The sand in my personal hourglass runs short, so I have to kind of learn to prioritize better. If I get a chance or take a notion, I'll toss an ad in for you, now and again, and you won't even have to lift a finger. Fair enough?

You don't have time? I don't either. That's how I can relate. Anyone out there who complains about not having time, feel free to take it up with my sister recently demised. Clearly, you've got more time than she does.

But if burials are to be the order of the day, then perhaps it is time to bury the PBM companies of the past, and to focus, instead, upon the PBM Powers That Be of the future. Assuming, of course, that there are - or will be - any.

I'm not sour. I'm not dour. I'm a tower of PBM power. Plus, I like to rhyme words. It's relaxing, sometimes, to play with rhymes.

But you're not here for the rhymes, are you? Then let's get on with it, so that we can toss this issue onto the dustbin of PBM history.

* * * Two-Month Intermission * * *

Shall we continue this editorial, distinguishing what I wrote previously during this two-month intermission from what now appears, below? Hither came the Ninth of March. . .

Oh, Lord, where does the time get to? I didn't think that I was ever gonna make it back here to finish this issue. Just because there's been a lengthy delay in getting this issue out the Digital Door  of PBM Doom to you does not mean, therefore, that it shall be proofread more than any other issue. Less, in fact!

But at least you now have it in hand, that you might become all agog over it - which is more than you've had in quite some time now. One of the bad things that inhere with delays of this nature (I.e.: the lengthy type) is that I tend to begin forgetting how to do different things. Always something, as all of you well know by now. But if you're reading this issue, Issue #33, then trust me - it's progress.

Ultimately, I made the decision to leave in most of what I had previously written and incorporated. Having dared to pick up the gauntlet again, this morning, I decided to go ahead and strike while the PBM iron was hot. To be or not to be? To publish or not to publish? Looks like Hamlet and his buddy, Shakespeare, managed to pull this issue from the Abyss of the Lost.

No doubt, I probably repeat some of the PBM Quotes, from time to time and from issue to issue, but that's just part of the price that must be paid to the PBM Pied Piper. Next issue will likely be similar, yet different. That's my aim of the moment, anyway.

Anyway, let me go ahead and shut up, that I might all the better be able to get this issue in your hands, this morning. Enjoy!

Charles Mosteller

Editor of PBM Chaos

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PBM Quote

"I began working on Alamaze as a hobby. After the first game among my friends concluded, they encouraged me to market  Alamaze commercially. They had no idea of the work that would be required, and I miserably underestimated the time that I would spend designing, programming, marketing, and running the game."

Rick McDowell
Creator of Alamaze
Paper Mayhem
magazine - Issue #32 - Sept/Oct 1988 Issue

An Interview With Rick McDowell: Creator Of Alamaze

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The PBM Maze has returned!

And just when you least expected it. . .

Join us, now, as we return to those poor lost souls who are struggling against hope to find a way out of the PBM Maze, before it's too late!

In spite of having more than two months to get their turn orders in, some have chosen to tempt Fate, and behold what Fate hath wrought, as their life force begins to slip away from them.

Could it be that some are closer to an exit than they might suspect? Or are any of our PBM Maze rats further away from an exit than they've ever been? Pity these poor fools, as uncertainty remains their constant companion, as they wind and weave there way down passageways that lead to parts unknown.

But what choice do they have, but to press on or to give in to the weakness that dwells within them, and which counsels them to despair and die in a heap of tangled desperation?

Player Undeadlord failed to issue any turn orders. Undeadlord is now a step closer to death, his life bar dropping in tribute to his inaction.

Player Peter H. issued a set of turn orders for which he dad no clear path of movement - and hence, he failed to make any progress in the PBM Maze, this turn. How sad, how utterly pitiful, when players do not pay close attention as they wind their way through the Maze's confusing passageways! There's always. . .wait for it. . .next turn!

Players In The PBM Maze

1 - Stefan

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Starting Position - 1

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Ending Position - 1

2 - Lubos Comor

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Starting Position - 2

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Ending Position - 2

3 - Trachyte

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Starting Position - 3

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Ending Position - 3

4 - Jim Smith

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Starting Position - 4

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Ending Position - 4

5 - Undeadlord

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Starting Position - 5

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Ending Position - 5

6 - java

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Starting Position - 6

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Ending Position - 6

7 - Jef Tonelli

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Starting Position - 7

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Ending Position - 7

8 - mdhender

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Starting Position - 8

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Ending Position - 8

9 - Peter H.

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Starting Position - 9

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Ending Position - 9

10 - Richard Lockwood

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Starting Position - 10

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Ending Position - 10

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* Note: North Africa '40 is not a complete game—ownership of North Africa '41 is required.

PBM Quote

"Often, a clear set of rules can make a game a success. I have seen rulebooks varying from substandard to excellent. Every one of them was incomplete in one way or another."

Steve Jones

Paper Mayhem magazine - Issue #32 - Sept/Oct 1988 Issue

It Looked So easy, Another Perspective article

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Growing the PBM Hobby

Sam Flintlock

Growing the PBM Hobby

How do we increase the number of PBM/PBEM players? It’s the big question, isn’t it. One on which many words have been put to paper in the past and many more are sure to be written in the future.

Thisis merely the result of one man’s brainstorming with himself.Hopefully you will find some things you agree with and find useful. Equally hopefully those bits you disagree with will lead to you deciding why in a useful way.

Anyway, on with it! I start with three propositions to sum up where we are right now.

1. PBM has not seen the growth you might have expected from certain events.

I’m thinking of two main things here.

The first is COVID. It is well documented that COVID led to a rise in online gaming,especially RPGs and to a lesser extent boardgames. This is for obvious reasons; as it became harder to socialise face to face more people looked for online alternatives. Those alternatives have stuck around. But it seems clear that, for whatever reason, PBM did not see the same benefits those related but different hobbies did.

The second is the OSR (the Old School Renaissance or Old School Revival, depending on who you ask). This was and is a movement in RPGs focusing on rediscovering early editions of Dungeons & Dragons and their playstyle. Not only did it lead to an increase in interest in D&D, I think it’s fair to say there was a knock on effect for old school RPGs in general. We haven’t had an old school revival for PBM and the interest in older games the OSR garnered doesn’t seem to have helped us. Again, the answer is why.

2. PBM is not for everyone.

This seems a simple truism. The type of gameplay offered by PBM does not appeal to every gamer and it does seem it may appeal to less than it did previously.

3. However, PBM is not reaching everyone it could be for

This is instinct rather than something I can demonstrate. But it’s my strong belief that there is an untapped pool of players out there who aren’t involved in PBM because they’re unaware of it, don’t know how to start or have misconceptions about it. There seems to bean obvious possibility with players of Crusader Kings or football management games on the PC, fans of tabletop RPGs, players of 4x and heavy economic boardgames. And at the moment it doesn’t feel like we’re reaching them. The rest of this article focuses on possible ways to do so.

A wider diversity of games available

These kind of suggestions are always a bit idealistic because quite obviously they need someone to put in the work in a hobby dominated by people not making money. But I think it’s worth looking at the question of whether a wider variety of settings or even game styles could reach an audience previously untapped.

This isn’t about changing the structure of PBM. (I think the turn based returns system has stood the test of time for a reason). Nor is it about not having the traditional operational wargames etc. It’s about the possibility of adding, not taking away.

It’s worth looking at the megagame hobby as an inspiration. For many years, megagames were in a similar position to PBEM; a shadow of its former self with an aging player base. And yet, now they’re actually doing pretty well for themselves.

Not all of that is repeatable. While it would be lovely if a major YouTube gaming channel did a video on PBMs, that isn’t really something that can be planned for.

But one notable factor is that megagames moved from what was previously almost all operational wargames to a much wider variety of settings and genres. That brought in a younger crowd and it brought in many more women, some of whom are now designing their own megagames.

That didn’t require losing the operational wargames for those that enjoyed them. It was an expansion of megagames, not removing anything.

There is, I suspect, an obvious lesson there.

Was shifting completely to PBEM the wrong move?

I’m genuinely unsure on this one. I think the dominant form being PBEM is necessary and right. They’re cheaper to run, far less work and more efficient.

What I do wonder is if there’s a market for PBM as a unique even ‘retro’ experience. I don’t think it’s even likely to be that big. But I think there’s a possibility that the possibility of receiving enjoyable post could be a pretty big selling point for some adults, sick of bills and bank manager letters.

The thorny question of charging money for rulebooks

I am not in the habit of telling other people how to run their games. But this one is worth considering at least. It almost certainly precludes any interested people who aren’t already active PBEMs alongside some active PBEMers. That might be worth it if you’re looking to recruit a small and select player base, but it likely limits growth.

There does seem to be one obvious exception to this in the shape of EnGarde! (currently one of the more seemingly stable PBEM communities around in terms of both number of games being run and new blood entering the game). I’d suggest there are two important factors there. While the rulebook costs money, Pevans (the publisher) is very charitable when it comes to people using the IP for their own games, house rules etc. Even more importantly, the EnGarde! rulebook allows anyone to run their own game of EnGarde! rather than solely being material for a commercial PBEM.

That model (fully playable PBEM game out of the rulebook) likely has some potential for aspiring creators.

Removing Barriers to Entry

This is the biggie so I’ve left it to last (things like Facebook ads are likely relevant here but I know little of that area). At the moment, PBEM simply is not easy for newcomers to get involved in. It’s reliant on stumbling across the right people on the Internet, finding a game (that isn’t long defunct) and jumping it at the deep end.

This is not ideal.

One big thing that could help is a central list of current PBEM games. I know the editor is working on this and can only encourage people currently running games to utilise this resource.

But mostly this is a question not an answer. How do we deal with this? A central organising network? A “guide to PBEM” we can send people? Some kind of mentor system where an experienced PBEMer adopts a newbie? Or do we just accept this is always going to be an issue, because trying to coordinate PBEM runners is like herding cats?


So, there we have it. One man’s somewhat disjointed thoughts on how to grow the hobby. And I suspect I’ve barely scratched the surface. So how about you, reader? Any thoughts on any of these or ideas of your own. At the end of the day I suspect growing the hobby is something we’d all like to see.

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PBM Quote

"Go big or go home."


Chief Programmer for Alamaze

Alamaze forum

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Alamaze Update for February 9, 2024

Charles Mosteller

Alamaze is a game which has deep and extensive roots in play by mail gaming. Indeed, it traces its origins into PBM antiquity, having been first published as a PBM game of the postal gaming variety back in the PBM year of 1986.

The venerable game designer that first breathed life into what became Alamaze was Rick McDowell. The new and current owner of Alamaze is John Mulholland and his company, Old Man Games, LLC. These days, though, Alamaze is played via an online web interface. Alamaze is no longer available for play via the postal medium, having given up that ghost long, long ago.

The Alamaze website can be found here:


The Alamaze forum can be found here:


An Alamaze player account can be created here:


Alamaze is currently undergoing some changes - some long overdue changes, in my considered opinion. And it is my understanding that more changes will be forthcoming in future programming updates. Hooray for that!

Like many other PBM games of either the postal gaming variety or of various technological lineal descendants thereof (PBeM, Web interface, and client software varieties), Alamaze continues to seek out a larger and more active player base. It has been a challenging reality for many years, to say the least - and it still remains a challenging reality, even today, with no end in sight.

Some of the changes included in this most recent programming update, I, myself, pushed for. And to be certain, there are some very good and worthwhile changes that have been implemented as part of this February 9, 2024 batch. Notable among these are a host of changes that will eliminate gold dependency for a number of character actions. Of course, old habits are hard to break, sometimes, so some of Alamaze's prior gold dependency mechanisms remain in place.

But at least the game is beginning, at long last, to see some serious changes made to some of its dated mechanics. If it weren't for my old friend, Rick McDowell, Alamaze would never have existed, at all, much less catered to the gaming tastes of the PBM hordes from way back when right up to the current day. These days, though, the PBM hordes are less numerous in number and less frequent in appearance. But as I have attempted to explain over past months and years in different PBM publications and venues, there are a variety of different reasons for this falling off of the PBM populace.

To read and to learn about all of the different programming changes to Alamaze in its February 9, 2024 update, go here:

In addition to changes made to the programming of the game, itself, this programming update also includes changes to the online game interface, which is called the Alamaze Online Order System. These interface updates are a plus in their own right. Kudos to the Alamaze programmer, who goes by the online moniker of unclemike, for the Alamaze game interface updates.

I encourage PBM Chaos readers to browse and read and digest all of the new programming updates that were implemented in this last batch. There's certainly real progress to be found amongst them. That said, I can't honestly say that I think that they all hold hold equal merit. Some, in fact, seem to be a step backwards. That said, I'm confident that Alamaze's current owner, John Mulholland, has invested considerable thought of his own into this large batch of programming updates. One can't fault the owner of a game too much, I suppose, for having ideas of his own about what strikes the "right balance" of competing issues, where rules and mechanics for a PBM game are concerned.

Some of the most glaring imbalances or overpowered mechanics in Alamaze are not addressed by any of the programming changes in this batch. That said, it is also my understanding that one or more additional batches of programming changes will be forthcoming for the future. With this large of a batch of programming changes included in the February 9, 2024 update, it will likely require some time before additional programming changes in any number or breadth can be programmed and implemented. Such things simply take time.

In several recent games of Alamaze, I acquired an affinity for the Demon Princes kingdom. Now, immortality within Alamaze has been watered down, and immortals really only exist in name only, as they can be killed - which is wholly at odds with what it means to be immortal in the first place!

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

immortal - exempt from death

Cambridge Dictionary

immortal - living or lasting forever

Collins Dictionary

immortal - Someone or something that is immortal will live or last forever and never die or be destroyed.


immortal - not mortal; not liable or subject to death; undying:


immortal - Not susceptible to death; living forever; never dying.


immortal - Not subject to death.


immortal - Not subject to death. Not mortal; everlasting.


immortal - Not subject to death

In the Alamaze forum, Alamaze player Windstar3 recently said, "Since Immortals are no longer Immortal, maybe we should call them something else?"

And in retort, Alamaze's owner replied, "I believe they are effectively immortal, as their avatar reconstitutes itself, albeit with a century-long interval between each occurrence."

It reminds me of an old saying about being pregnant. "Effectively immortal" is an attempt at qualifying language. Qualifying language, however, is not the same thing as persuasive language. One is either pregnant, or they are not. Similarly, one is either immortal, or they are not. Now, something like a vampire of legend may come to mind - immortal, but. Immortal, until you drive a stake through their heart. Sort of like an immortal-lite, I guess that you could say. Almost immortal. Somewhat immortal. Quasi-immortal. If something is actually immortal, then why characterize it as "effectively" immortal? Because the two are not one and the exact, same thing. That's why.

If it requires a qualifier, then it's something other than an actual immortal. Just like those supposedly rare warlords in Alamaze that are actually as common as daisies in the field. Nothing, whatsoever, rare about them. Rare in name only. Someone at Alamaze might be well-served to invest a little more time in reviewing the meaning of certain words in a dictionary, before attempting to sell the public on them. A demi-god is NOT a god, and a demi-immortal is NOT an immortal. Such clumsy word trickery falls flat on its face.

A mere exercise in word play does not automatically cure the defect that inheres in an attempt to reframe what an immortal is, and especially when its flawed from its point of inception. Since immortal characters in Alamaze have already been slayed (by a programming change), players being left with sub-par mortal clones that can be killed is a far cry from what immortals were in Alamaze not so very long ago. Certainly, players can simply imagine that their immortals-who-are-not can reappear a century later, but they could also likely just as easily imagine playing a different game, instead - one where immortal characters are actually immortal and can't be killed, rather than one with imposter dopplegangers with newly-inflicted mortal DNA.

Since none of my Demon Prince characters in Alamaze Game #5728 are actually immortal, anymore, as this new batch of programming changes have now gone into effect, perhaps a new player can simply be imagined to take my place, as I prepare to bring my play in that game to an end. Maybe I can reconstitute myself as an Alamaze player, a century from now, if off-the-cuff reconstituting theory is to now be the order of the day. It won't be a rage quit, since I'm not mad.

Rather, it will be a diminished interest quit - and the phony immortals will only play, at best, a partial role in my decision to abdicate ruling what previously was my personal favorite of the Alamaze kingdoms that I had tried my hand at playing. Watering down the imagination in an imagination-based wargame taking place in a fantasy setting, whether done in one fell blow or done piecemeal, will likely only make it harder to do two things:

1. To sell people on the game to begin with.

. . .and. . .

2. To retain people who already have some degree of familiarity with the game.

Perhaps others will find the emasculation of immortals to be a more interesting concept to play in a fantasy-setting game than I do. Blah. Bland. Meh. Just as a half-orc isn't the same thing as a full-blooded orc, and just as a half-elf is distinct from a full-blooded elf, a repackaged partial-immortal is definitely not to be confused with a full blown immortal. Yeah, it's only a game, when all is said and done, but whenever games make less sense, rather than more sense, it automatically becomes an inherently harder sell. I have really strong doubts that this kind of approach will prove to be a better way to sell Alamaze to the gaming public at large.

But hey, by all means, go for it. Give it a try.

Maybe all of the this-is-that and that-is-this, and up-is-down and down-is-up, nonsense has somehow overflowed from the hobbled Woke Era of the current real world into the fantasy setting of Alamaze. But more likely, it's probably just a good-intentioned attempt to change and improve the game - somehow, someway. But what's that road that's paved with good intentions called, again? 

I suspect that what will likely happen in the coming weeks and months is that the more experienced Alamaze players will begin to easily slay these new half-breeds pretending to be immortal characters with overpowered artifact weapons which will remain in play. At the end of the day, what's actually been gained? A counter-productive nothing burger, where this new take on immortality for characters in Alamaze is concerned. Pardon me for not swallowing hook, line, and sinker the premise that a "limited time only" immortality offer is an adequate substitute for the genuine, real deal. It's not. It never has been. It never will be.

Even if a kingdom with pretend immortals still has plenty of benefits in other areas and in other ways, none of that transmogrifies these "pretend immortals" into actual immortals. Even suspension of disbelief strains to the breaking point, sometimes. This is one of those times.

Transforming immortal Demon Princes into immortals-in-name-only eunuchs doesn't exactly tempt me into signing up to play them, anymore. But as with many changes to many different PBM games over the years and over the decades, individual changes come and go, with some being retained over the long term, whilst others soon end up in the trash bin of history. Opinions can - and will - vary, as they rightly should, but time will ultimately bear out which particular programming changes prove themselves to be steps in the right direction. Who knows? Some may even actually end up preferring immortals-in-name-only as characters in Alamaze. Plus, too, players always retain the option of dropping out of games, once their so called "immortal" characters start dying (dying is antithetical to the very concept of immortality), and they can just join a new game to play with this new breed of lesser "immortals."

If reconstituting is how immortals is "explained away," then players can "explain away" their dropping and starting anew as reconstituting, also. What's good for the goose can be good for the gander, as the old saying goes. However, this would only increase the player dropout rate from beyond what it already is. Player dropouts are a problem across many turn-based games, PBM and otherwise. Players dropping is not a problem unique to Alamaze, by any stretch of the imagination. That said and conceded, Alamaze must find its own path to reducing and minimizing player dropouts. If actual 100% immortals are no longer desired within Alamaze's framework of game design, then from my perspective, it would be better to delete them, entirely, rather than to try and pass off something else as immortals, when they so clearly are not. If Alamaze cuts corners on immortals and immortality, then what all else in its design will get scheduled for this watered down treatment, as well?

Of course, all of the good changes that are included in programming updates to Alamaze and its online game interface with a big four-word name should not get lost nor overshadowed by whatever changes that don't seem particularly inspired or especially well thought out. But by the same token, just as one bad apple can spoil the barrel, deficient changes can sometimes actually result in a reduced level of enthusiasm for changes as a bunch. Maybe I can include my thoughts at length on some of the others new programming changes for Alamaze in a future article, including some that I actually agree with - which extends beyond just the new changes that reduce or eliminate gold dependency in some/many instances.

Now, my opinion is always, at best, still an opinion of just a single, solitary individual. That's all that it will ever be. No PBM game needs to rise or fall based upon what I, alone, think. Simultaneously, though, it isn't my place to give PBM games a free pass on scrutiny, where I think that they fall short. All things considered and taken together as a whole, there's probably more good to be gleaned from this latest batch of programming changes than bad. That conceded, in order to begin to make real and substantial change towards transitioning Alamaze to more of military game, as some have previously suggested, a significantly bigger lift than even this substantial batch of new programming changes will be required.

The real measure of success or failure will, I suppose, encompass more than any singular programming change, and more likely, more than all programming changes, combined. For Alamaze is going to need and require an investment in sustained advertising - and all of the programming changes, both now and in the future, are really more about refining and strengthening the foundation upon which an effective advertising campaign can be erected atop of.

For whatever collective praise and/or criticism that can be heaped upon Alamaze, Alamaze actually sits in a rather enviable position, right now. It started out with a sharp-minded game designer, originally, and a multitude of different changes and improvements were implemented over the years. And currently, the game benefits from a capable programmer, combined with the fresh blood of a new owner who bought Alamaze because he loves the game. That love and passion combined with a willingness to purchase Alamaze at considerable expense, as well as an additional willingness to invest in even more programming and in a forthcoming advertising campaign, translates into Alamaze having a better-than-average chance of achieving some degree of future success, I think.

In light of the long and inglorious fact that some PBM games never really seem to make any changes or improvements, at all, these days, the Alamaze crew should definitely be commended, at the very least, for their willingness to try. I am persuaded that they are serious about being committed to making some serious efforts to improving Alamaze, to both transform it into an even better game than it currently is (and even before this most recent large batch of programming changes, Alamaze actually already had a lot of solid things going for it), and to grow the player base in a noticeable manner.

To really capture the imagination of a large swath of the gaming public, though, I do think that Alamaze still has a lengthy road ahead of it, yet. Visually, it needs multiple additional updates. For instance, Alamaze and Alamaze players, both current and future, need a new map - to better capture their imagination and to more ably motivate them to redouble their commitment to the game. The current Alamaze map is better than several that have come before it, but even it now appears dated, at best. Or said another way, the current Alamaze map doesn't cut the visual mustard that modern era gamers have become accustomed to and spoiled on.

Also, player drops from individual games of Alamaze still happen with a frequency that gives reason to pause. I, myself, will soon be dropping the last game of Alamaze that I am still in. Will I be returning to Alamaze at some point in the future? Honestly, I just don't know. My gut at the moment tells me, "No."

And why all kingdoms' armies still field the visual equivalent of Roman legions, instead of each fantasy kingdom fielding better visual renditions for their respective military forces, by way of sharing one common, generic set of military group icons, is beyond me. I don't think that Alamaze is a bad game. I do, however, think that Alamaze tends to have suffered quite some time, now, from the proverbial death of a thousand cuts. Not a thousand cuts/problems, literally, but rather, a multitude of what are, individually, problems of a relatively small scale.

More small problems than big problems, for sure, but all PBM games these days seem to face some big problems - of which continuing to grow their respective player bases is a primary one. Programming changes can boost the odds of success in other areas, but programming changes, alone, are only part of a larger, more comprehensive approach to a solution.

At least Alamaze is now on the road to that journey. That's not something that can be said for all - nor even most - PBM games that exist, currently.

Again, just my opinion. All of you out there reading this are free to form and to hold and to voice and to share opinions of your own on this and other PBM-related topics. Feel free to write in and discuss and debate any or all of these newest programming changes to Alamaze.

Image description

Far Horizons

PlayByMail — 02/17/2024

Is this game still going?

GMsShadow — 02/20/2024

Sadly not no. Going to alter the website this week to reflect it. Won't pull the site yet though as things may change.

Posted in the Far Horizons Discord Channel

KJC Games

We have identified the turn form issue. It is actually 2 issues caused by the recent world-wide email security update (gmail/yahoo).

First it was corrupting incoming emails generated by forms.Second it was preventing emails being generated at the server side from various domains.

We are in the process of rewriting the forms to account for the issues.

Mica Goldstone

Posted in the Quest PBeM Facebook Group

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PBM Quote

"Go big or go home."


Chief Programmer for Alamaze

Alamaze forum

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Takamo Status Report

Begin Transmission

Diplomats fromThule Free Traders, Pherkad Republik, and Soelien-Twa have been seen on Nicaean worlds in recent days.

Zerk colonial authorities are unable to explain why transit ships have stopped coming to one of their colonies. Colonists are fearful that something catastrophic has happened to the homeworld.

Intelligence operatives of one of the three Great Trade Houses, Western Rim TradeCorporation, have reported the presence of Gorkhan VII spies on a world said to contain remnants of an ancient civilization of Borthanorigin. Western Rim agents believe that the cybernetic Gorkhan VIIspies were after Borthan uplift technology.

The Partak government has lodged an official protest with the Kvizier Empire over espionage agents recently apprehended on a Partak colony somewhere in the M plane of the galaxy. Shortly after the spy incident, a Kvizier destroyer was shot down by a Partak SSM-4 planetary torpedo. Wreckage recovered from the Kvizier warship indicated that the starship was rift jump capable. Additionally, a Phantatwain Empire fleet entered orbit and scanned another Partak planet.

A K’utal planet was invaded by armies of the Ha At In. The metal cybernetic insects overran the the elephantine K’utal defenders in the first hours of the assault. The invaders suffered only a handful of casualties and part of the K’utal garrison managed to flee and reorganize into partisan groups.

Briddarri operatives were arrested at the Omsuran Starport in the Attel Empirefor attempting to smuggle the notorious Wulf fugitive, Riskin Gulla,onto an Interstel Services cargo vessel, disguised as a rescue dog.

End Transmission

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PBM Chaos Salutes Indie Spin

In another life, Wayne Bootleg plied the PBM waters and instilled both awe and fear into PBM landlubbers near and far. His PBM presence was everywhere across the entire PBM spectrum, manifesting itself simultaneously in all kinds of different PBM publications and unsuspecting PBM conventions.

Plus, he wielded the visual power of a golden mane, imbuing him with great PBM strength and reach, unmatched PBM prowess, infinite PBM connections, and unchecked PBM virility. The Richard Lockwoods of the PBM world would have to step aside, anytime this PBM equivalent of a Nemean lion burst forth to promote the PBM hobby and industry.

These days, PBMer Richard Lockwood remains as envious as ever of his clearly superior PBM friend, and if Wayne Bootleg ever had any PBM shortcoming, at all, then it was likely due to Mister Bootleg's PBM association with that Lockwood chap. I have no reason to believe otherwise.

These days, this great PBM Phoenix still blazes a trail across the PBM sky under the moniker of Indie Spin. The PBM realm's fastest known like-button-clicker, while his PBM presence may not rise to the unsurpassed level that it once was at, nonetheless remains a highly visible, albeit significantly less vocal, presence on the PlayByMail Facebook page - lifting my spirits when they flag, and serving as a visual reminder that enduring PBM greatness is not far away.

Thus do I raise this PBM toast in honor of of the esteemed Indie Spin. I suggest that you do the same.

18 India image ad for GMT Games
18 India image ad for GMT Games

* Click on the map image above to download the rulebook for 18 India.

Galac-Tac: Galaxy #113 - Turn #3

Image description

Charles Mosteller

The Chronicles of Galaxy #113, from the perspective of the Sentinels of Time, heads at warp speed into Turn #3.

Will this empire of machine intelligence make the right decisions, as the next set of turn orders looms?

It kind of sucks, when a game runs slower than issues of PBM Chaos publish. [EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was written before the publishing schedule lagged, after my sister died.] This is the reality that I face, though, where Galaxy #113 of Galac-Tac is concerned. I wait until the last day to issue my turn orders, anyway (the night of the last day, no less), so having two weeks between turn deadlines doesn't really net me anything. All of that extra time is there, if the players need it, but it doesn't actually translate into me making any real use of it, at all. That's not Talisman Games' fault, though.

In fact, already, with as few turns that have been processed in this particular game of Galac-Tac, thus far, my attention wanes. I dwell very little on this game. Indeed, I count myself fortunate to remember it, at all.

I did receive an in-game message, recently, from the empire that is Galan in Galaxy #113. As it turns out, this player is new to Galac-Tac, and is not Jon Capps, after all. Drats! It's nothing against the new player. Rather, if this game's Galan was Jon Capps, then that would have added an extra layer of excitement for this game. Now, as things have turned out, my empire has destroyed a ship belonging to some new player, and the chances are that they don't even have a grip on the game's basics, yet. Perhaps they will surprise me in the coming turns.

New or not, war has ensued. Conflict has been ignited during the span of time before the new player responded to an in-game message from me, and the hands on the clock are not turned back to before the moment that Galan's ship was destroyed. Prosecution of the war effort will continue pace, uninterrupted. Assets of Galan will be hunted down and annihilated. Or should I have said terminated?

It doesn't appear that there is any real "breathing space" of consequence between our respective space empires. Accordingly, the hunt is on! Degrading of enemy forces will proceed. War holds no fear for my empire, for this empire is incapable of feeling fear.

Since the empire that is Galan is not being played by Jon Capps (unless that player lied), then the threat value assigned to Galan in Galaxy #113 now diminishes sharply.

Contact and communication with the Wyvern Supremacy has been established. All things considered, though, Galaxy #113 has proven to be a quiet game, so far, as far as player-to-player communication goes. Maybe somebody should just wake me up when its over. ZZZ...zzz...ZZZ...

If communication remains at such an appalling level, then my empire will likely fall silent, as well - which, in turn, will probably negatively impact the length of these articles of this game in progress. That's just reality knocking. I'll play the communication hand that I am dealt, but I don't have to like it.

With star locations already being colonized and with exploration throughout the galaxy continuing, the unknown will gradually become known, and other potential threats will begin to manifest themselves. I am hopeful that my empire can maintain a high empire valuation, but the truth is that all players are somewhat limited in how much control that they have over their fellow players' growth and development, at this point.

One thing that I do, when using GTac (the player assistant program for Galac-Tac) is that I download the Suggested Actions, and then I modify or replace them, altogether. I use them as a starting point, and as reminders of a sort of certain actions that may well be worthy of consideration and expanding upon. Already in this game, I have rejected numerous suggested actions, which may well help to account for why my empire is at war, so early in the game. Hey, I've got to blame it on something, right?

Unlike other players in the game, I'm writing this article before I ever even begin to figure out what actual orders that I want to issue in the coming turn. What dark and sinister secrets will I reveal about my upcoming turn orders, if any? Should I risk spoiling the surprises that may or may not manifest themselves with the arrival of players' next set of turn results?

They'll all have their turn results back well before this issue of PBM Chaos publishes. But some of them might bask in the light of my words in this article, just to humor themselves, as it is a long wait between turns.

I still lack sufficient mastery of GTac to utilize it to any great effect. Back to the onsite display of my turn results from the last turn for me. There's no such thing as quick and easy turn orders for me in this game. Not yet, anyway - and more likely, probably never. As things stand right now, there is no great feeling of excitement. Maybe that will arrive later on down the road, as future turn results arrive and get factored into the overall game play experience. At the moment, I'd rather just go to bed.

But there is to be no rest for the PBM weary. That much is certain, even if very little else is.

Terminator ships constructed last turn are being dispatched.

COLONY SYSTEMS: When any Charted System is colonized, it shows up on your reports as part of your Empire! The presence of an alien fleet in the same location as your Colony System will be reported to you, providing the Colony is still able to report...

SOURCE: Galac-Tac Rulebook - Page #4

Currently, my empire controls no actual colony systems. Ten different star systems are currently in the process of being colonized, so barring hostile actions preventing that, my empire should soon have multiple different colony systems under its control. Then the real work begins, with the moving of PVs from the colony worlds to my homeworld, for conversion into PIs. Just as a reminder to PBM Chaos readers:

PV = Production Value

PI = Production Inventory

Galac-Tac wins no awards from me for some of its nomenclature utilized in the game's rulebook. I understand these two terms, but that doesn't mean that I like these two terms. They're unnecessarily confusing, and not particularly intuitive. They are fit for experienced players, not newcomers. Little choices like what one calls various things in a given game's design either smooth the initial learning process, or they do not. In space, no one can hear the new would-be Galac-Tac player scream in frustration at poor choices made in the design process of a game programmed decades ago.

Why does any of this matter? Well, for one, because growing the player base of PBM games matter - if there is to be a future of consequence for PBM games. And two, because whatever was conceived and designed and implemented decades ago, the current generations of gamers active in playing games are influenced by games developed in the long span of time since Galac-Tac was first conceived and designed and implemented, with all of its accompanying strengths and weaknesses. Or said another way, it's a whole new ballgame, now, compared to what gamers were used to or got used to back then. The bait that used to attract gamers before the Internet existed may not work all that well fishing in the gaming waters of the current era. It doesn't exactly require a whole lot of thought, in order to contemplate such an obvious consideration.

The gaming scene has a changed a lot, as well as many different times, between the golden heyday of PBM gaming and now. It's really about continual refinement as a process. When gamers, today, spend to buy things (such as new ships), how many of them are familiar with to spending something called inventory? Not money, not space currency, not galactic credits, but inventory. See what I mean? What other games do you, the reader, currently play in any genre or medium of gaming where you spend inventory?

And what other games do you mine value from, instead of, say, minerals? But nothing requires that PBM games be redesigned, revamped, or even refined, just to try and better or more easily attract and retain new waves of players that reside in the modern gaming era. Sentimentality and nostalgia both have value, for sure. But PBM games from days of olde really might be well-served to pull their heads from the sands of yesteryear, and take a fresh look anew at different ways, both small and big, that they could possibly make games designed decades ago more relevant and familiar to what today's gamers have grown accustomed to.

Just as fracking (a new approach unknown in days of oil drilling of olde) has yielded positive results, where the extraction of oil from the ground is concerned, likewise, PBM companies and GMs could do a lot worse than to rethink various aspect of their design and implementation processes (many of which have ground to a halt and rusted in place) for PBM games. It isn't as though this is applicable to just a single PBM company or to a single PBM game.

As things turned out, I was working on my turn orders for this next turn, when I received a phone call from a fellow PBM gamer late at night. It was my old friend, JD, calling from the Buckeye state at 12:43AM. We got to talking, and the next thing that I knew, it was after 3:00AM. During that call, I even had a late night meal of leftover chicken wing pieces washed down by a couple of glasses of whole milk. I ended up going to bed, having forgotten about finishing my turn orders.


Fortunately, when I awakened a few hours later, the turn still had not processed, a stroke of good fortune in my favor. Was my friend, JD, in league with one of my fellow players in this game? Or was he merely an innocent bystander, and this close brush with missing the turn only an act of sheer coincidence? Utter doom has been avoided, but let this be a lesson unto me and my empire, where future turns in Galaxy #113 are concerned.

My turn orders now sent in, I can finally afford to feel a sense of relief. Clearly, I am going to have to do better, if my empire is to have any real chance at all in this game of Galac-Tac. But all that mattera for now, is that my empire's turn orders (which mostly ended up being a collection of suggested actions, anyway) were in, and like everyone else in this game, it is now merely a matter of waiting for our turn orders to be processed, so that we can each learn what fate holds in store for our respective space empires.

Hopefully, when I next write an article for this game, I will have something interesting to share. Until then, keep your eyes to the stars, so that you can see my empire coming.

Actions: This game is played by issuing commands, called actions. You are allowed 50 actions per fortnight. Actions are divided into three categories: Empire, System, and Ship. Empire Actions will affect your entire Empire, System Actions only affect one System and (you guessed it!) Ship Actions will only affect one or more ships.

SOURCE: Galac-Tac Rulebook - Page #29

Galac-Tac image ad for Talisman Games

Talisman Games presents Galac-Tac

  • Explore! Expand! Exploit! Exterminate!
  • Galac-Tac is a single unit level, science fiction war game.
  • Each galaxy is computer-moderated and close-ended, with the end goal of taking over the galaxy.
  • 10 to 15 players start equally in random, separated positions on a 100×100 galactic grid.
  • Turns are processed on any schedule the players agree to and all players move simultaneously.
  • Each game is computer generated, no two games are alike.
  • You can design your own ships and build as many as you can afford.
  • Only your economic and military decisions (and those of your opponents) will decide your fate in the game.
Heroic Fantasy image ad for RickLoomis PBM

Heroic Fantasy - a Rick Loomis PBM Game

Jonathan Jason Livingston III. (A pseudonym)

As a prisoner, I have to really watch my spending. And I feel I get a good bang for my buck by playing Rick Loomis PBM's "Heroic Fantasy" game which costs three dollars a turn. When it comes to articles, I know that a prisoner's perspective is sometimes considered a mere curiosity, but I will provide it nonetheless, in case some readers are among the 25% or so of Americans who have a friend or family member involved with the criminal justice system.

Play-by-mail games are good for prisoners because they use the U.S. Postal Service, something almost every prisoner has access to. Most prisoners have no access to the interwebs, and many long-term convicts lack knowledge of how to use the 'net, even if they could. But everyone knows how to use the mail, and some prisons give free postage to their poorer residents.

Rick Loomis PBM accepts deposits and holds them in an account for each player. The money stays safe, and can only be used to purchase game turns and set-ups. If you deposit a hundred dollars, Rick Loomis PBM adds a bonus five dollars to the account. Which is why I put two one-hundred dollar deposits into my account, rather than one two-hundred dollar deposit. Some prisoners only make five dollars per month at their prison jobs, so an extra five bucks is an extra five bucks!

Now that we have started an account for your prisoner let us consider the best-value game from RLPBM: Heroic Fantasy. It is a dungeon-crawl game, and you get to choose your party yourself. There are two character classes: Fighters and Magic-users. There are a variety of races to choose from, eleven in total, and you are given 100 points to spend on characters. Each race/class costs a different amount of points, and you get to choose one of two genders for your characters, meaning you have well-over 40,000,000 combos to choose from.

Your party may be mixed in terms of race, gender, and character class. I am in two games and running a party of ten humans (five mages, five fighters) in my first game, and running a party of one Ogre Wizard, one Ogre fighter, one Dwarven fighter, and one Fairy wizard. I suspect the second party may be more versatile than the first, but lack the playing experience to decide, yet.

Once you have your party created, you will arrive into the game, entering next to the store. I'd advise going into the store and getting some weapons and healing potions with your 1000 gold pieces of starting money. You will need them! This is a dungeon full of monsters, after all, not Disneyland! Also, damage won't heal naturally. It only heals by potion or magic item. Once equipped, go out into the dungeon and engage in some good old-fashioned hack and slash!

Is that all there is to it? No. And here is the feature that makes it of use to prisoners, more than to free-world people. I hesitate to add this part, because it might get the game restricted from some prisons, until enough time passes that the prison mailrooms forget. Each character you have is allowed to make a 73-character speech each turn. I have a friend in the Nevada prison system that I am not allowed to write to, since my prison bans inmate to inmate communication over state lines. However, should he be in a game of Heroic Fantasy with me, what is to prevent my "shouts," as the in-game speeches we get to make are called, from being heard and understood by him? Even responded to, in the next turn? If you know a prisoner who would like to talk to another prisoner at a slow pace, this game might just be the answer they were looking for. And at $3.00 per monthly turn, it is a bargain!

Whether free-worlder or guest of the state Heroic Fantasy does entertain. The shouts are always interesting, and some are outright funny, like the one this month where one anonymous rogue shouted, "My wife is horrible at Karate, but you should see her box!" Had me laughing all day, well worth the price of admission.

PlayByMail.Net Discord Chatter

What PBM games are hot currently? I like ones with detailed turn reports written like an epic story or has cool flavor text if computer moderated.


I'm looking for a tool to help me build a map for a game. The map is essentially star systems with lines joining the systems that ships can warp between. I like the interactivity of D3, but it covers up systems (ex https://wraith.dev/warps/index.html) and lines cross. Graphviz spreads things out (https://wraith.dev/warps/warplines.png), but lines do cross. With D3, you can find system 98 easily (just use the browser's search in page), but it's really hard to tell that system 98 has only one warp line. Any recommendations for tools to help? The input data is just a set of nodes with edges.


Received just 2 turns.

Seems like SoN is dying ...


Ah, the sweet smell of promotion!


Not me, I was nowhere near whatever might have blown up. And I can vouch for that.

Rich/Ælthric/Murderous Jane

Sea of Nyx image ad

Ho, ho, hum and a bottle of rum!

Charles Mosteller

It's a pirate's life for me. Why do I say that, though? Because writing this article while my good ship, Makin' Bacon, sails the Sea of Nyx probably won't win me any friends. Maybe there's a reason why pirates are usually the bad guys, huh?

Usually, I just send any feedback that I have on the Sea of Nyx directly to the game's GM, Stefan Graf. This time around, though, I decided to write an article, instead, and if there's any feedback of value to be gleaned from these words that collectively comprise this article, then Stefan can simply extract what he likes, and toss the rest overboard, like chum for the sharks.

Sending feedback directly to Stefan provides no articles for PBM Chaos, and the Makin' Bacon is not the only ship that I captain. Aye. Fer upon the Sea 'O PBM, PBM Chaos must sail headlong into the literary dangers that await. And a board crew of PBM Chaos readers might well find mutiny preferable to boredom that comes from not having enough articles to read. So, keep that in mind, as I now proceed to board Stefan Graf's piratical masterpiece, the Sea of Nyx, for coverage purposes.

The Map

I have mixed feelings about the map. On the one hand, it suffices to get the job done. On the other hand, even though it has been improved some over time, it still comes across to me as a bit bland and boring. It is worth nothing and highlighting that the map is the single biggest piece of visual information and eye candy to be found in the entire game. Yet as a visual treasure chest for players to encounter each and every turn, it's largely visually empty - insofar as getting the blood of excitement flowing, whenever new turn results arrive.

Perhaps other pirates in the game feel differently. And if so, such is their nautical right. But I be charting my own course in these literary waters, beholden to no other man, where my thoughts and my opinions are concerned. My gut instinct tells me that the single biggest piece of visual real estate in the game could be better leveraged to the benefit of all.

While the various islands depicted on the map are not all the same size, they all nonetheless share the same visual character. Sure, it takes work to improve the looks of any map, but pirates by their very nature tend to be colorful visual objects, if nothing else. After each turn of Sea of Nyx, I issue my turn orders promptly (I'm much more prompt on getting my turn orders issued for Sea of Nyx, than i am on getting my turn orders issued for either Alamaze or Galac-Tac).

Yet, I then tend to not dwell on my turns and what all might be happening, until the follow turn report arrives in my e-mail in-box. This is known as one gauge of interest in a game. Shouldn't I be obsessing between turns over what that dastardly Richard Lockwood is up to? Shouldn't my mind be racing, as I ponder what that no-good Thurston "Camel Toe" Thorpe is plotting and scheming? Yet, instead, my turns for Sea of Nyx tend to be all neat and tidy - too neat and tidy!

In four of the map's four corners, there are graphics which intrude upon the hexes that form the map's movement spaces. If retained, these need to be either moved off of the hexes and onto the map's border, or the hexes that they overlapped need to be converted into new additions to the map's border.

Of course, it could be argued that they don't really seem to be bothering anything, at present, and I would readily concede on that particular point. However, it could just as easily be argued that no real incentive exists, in-game, for players to sail their pirate ships that close to the edge of the world (as we know it).

Which brings us to another issue - namely, what is the temptation to sail far afield? or is there any? In truth, the game is still in a state of relative infancy, for players have only receive six turn reports, total, for those pirates that have been in it since the game started. So, there's likely much, yet, to be experienced in the way of pretty much everything. Even still, my eye constantly scans the horizon of possibilities and likelihoods (albeit mostly on the days when new turn results arrive).

I'm unlikely to ever get excited about the map's cork border. Not that cork isn't the height of excitement in some parts of the world, but a map doesn't have to visually display just and only the bare minimum in piratical imagery. The map's border is much a part of the game's visual canvas as are the hexes which collectively comprise the game's field of movement. Why not, then, utilize the map's border to launch a visual broadside of piratical imagery or words at the eyes of both players and prospective players, alike? Imagery, after all, is one of the primary mechanisms of the human species to help facilitate the suspension of disbelief, for sight is one of the foremost of the human senses. To me, it's a missed opportunity, and arguably, the map for Sea of Nyx is one of the game's biggest missed opportunities.

That said, the game's map has benefited from various visual enhancements, as it has progressed, thus far. The faded ship movement depictions have really add a nice visual boost to the game. I also like the addition of wind movement arrows for both the current turn's wind direction, as well as the wind direction for the next turn. And the little ships with numbers on them that distinguish the different players' pirate ships from one another is a good example of visual efficiency, where the visual tracking of specific information is concerned.

The addition of merchant ships, a pirate hunter ship, and a ghost ship all make for good visual eye candy for the players. Yet, if one compares the amount of visual space that those individual items take up to the map, itself, then that can aid one in better grasping and understanding how the map in Sea of Nyx visually under-performs, relative to the amount of visual space that it occupies compared to these other visual counterparts in the game.

Sea of Nyx is free to play, but the question should still be asked, what are you getting for your visual money? Visual money is not currency that you spend, either in-game or in real life. Rather, it's part of what is used to purchase a player's continued interest in playing.


In my two most recent turns in Sea of Nyx, one of my two actions in each of the last two turns has been spent on exploring an island. In both of those instances, what my ship's crew discovered were chickens. Yes, chickens.

Now, I've nothing against chickens, and I've no doubt that there are likely a variety of other things that can be discovered by players, while exploring the numerous islands scattered across the game's map. Even still, I am souring on exploring, already. Which is why I have decided to stop exploring the island that my ship sits offshore at, and weigh anchor, that I and my crew might take to the sea, once more.

My starting ship has a cargo hold that can carry two units. Not exactly anything to get excited about, nor to make grand plans over. But all starting players find themselves in the same boat, insofar as we all currently sport the exact same ship type to fly our colors from. Meh.

Not exactly the height of excitement. But that's just it, a pirate-themed game should ooze excitement, shouldn't it? Of course, it could easily be said that in this day and age, gamers can't realistically expect lots of excitement from every aspect of a given game, right? Plus, too, Sea of Nyx is a game that players play for free. So, beggars can't be choosy, right?

Then again, in this day and age, they don't have to beg. After all, there's tons of different gaming options available to gamers. If time is money, as the old saying goes, and if gamers value their time, and if it's as quick and as easy to depart a game as it is to join a game, then perhaps there's some food for thought to be found in there for all PBM companies and GMs of the current era.

GMs of games are always free to design their games as they each see fit. They are equally free to accept or reject suggestions for "improvement" for any or all of their games. And Stephan Graf has already demonstrated a willingness to ponder (and even accept) suggestions for Sea of Nyx. One of the funny things about playing a given game, though, is how the mind begins to wonder to itself about other possibilities. A similar thing also happens when one writes about a game.

For instance, after Turn #6 (but not before), my mind began populating hexes on the Sea of Nyx map with question marks. Thus far, I've only explored two hexes on the entire map. Moving one's ship across the map doesn't seem to yield any exploration opportunities, because the entire map is already visible to all players each and every turn. I find myself asking myself, is this another missed opportunity?

On the one hand, if you don't know where on the map other players' ships are sailing, how do you know which direction to chart a course for, in order to engage with and to interact with other players in the game (rather than just spend an inordinate amount of time exploring and finding chickens)?

Perhaps the single greatest challenge for all game designers and GMs is keeping players mentally engaged with a game between turns. Life and the world are chock full of distractions of every size and shape imaginable. I can't help but to ask myself, what about this game (insert your game of choice here) keeps me engaged in thought about it? What about Sea of Nyx succeeds or fails to keep its players engaged?


Movement in Sea of Nyx is not unduly over-complicated. To the contrary, it's a fairly straightforward affair.  And that part of it, I have no problem with.

But as I sat and I studied the game map after receiving my Turn #6 results, I couldn't help but to notice how movement limits help to ensure that player-to-player interaction ends up being substantially less than it otherwise could be.

Now, I don't favor unlimited movement distances for ships in Sea of Nyx. But to guard against boredom that inevitably comes from players not interacting with one another in a game, I can't help but to question whether the movement allowance for ships in Sea of Nyx is currently sufficient to preserve and to facilitate player-to-player interaction? Or said another way, if I were to set my mind to it, how many turns would it take for me to intercept ships on the other end of the map from where my own ship currently resides?

Granted, one of the grand challenges of game design is finding a functionally workable balance between a given concept based in reality (aka ship movement) and how implementation and execution of that very same concept play out in-game.

Thus far, at least, movement comes up short for me in Sea of Nyx. Not as much as actions, though.


I comprehend that there's typically a necessity that inheres in game design to impose some kind of limit or limits upon player choices in any given turn. That said and conceded upfront, the current limit of just two actions per turn (ship movement is a distinct and separate thing from actions in Sea of Nyx) leaves me wondering whether that current limit lends itself well to building and growing my enthusiasm as a player for the game, or whether the game ends up feeling diminished because of it?

Currently, my gut feeling leans towards the latter - and this I find troublesome.

Why? Because the pirate spirit that lives within me cries out to do more. More, more, more, dammit! Full speed ahead! I like Sea of Nyx, but I want to LOVE Sea of Nyx. And two meager actions per turn don't seem to give my mind much time to flirt with this game, each turn.

My mind now finds itself wondering why Actions and Movement couldn't be merged together, somehow. If I'm on an island, I want to explore more of it, and if I'm at sea, I want to sail further and faster. In both PBMville and The PBM maze, I am no stranger to incrementalism - for I intentionally crafted it into both of those game experiments.

In other words, I know it (incrementalism) when I see it. If players were allotted points in a turn, and they were more free to allocate them to their preferred priorities, then such an approach would, I think (whether correctly or incorrectly), help to facilitate player-to-player interaction within Sea of Nyx.

Barring such a merging of the two concepts, an increase in movement and actions would, I think, stand to benefit both the players and the game greatly.

Game Design

While there may occasionally be exceptions, generally speaking, game design tends to be an inherently difficult thing to get right. Most of us that occupy space on this planet aren't genius game designers. I'm certainly not. A lot of it is trial and error, and Sea of Nyx is currently both a game and a playtest, simultaneously. The game's rulebook reinforces this, wherein it states: These rules are still in the process of being developed. Therefore, changes or extensions can occur at any time. As a player, you will of course be informed should that happen.

In and of itself, that's not a bad thing. There will never be too many pirate games in this world, and no one pirate game aspires to be everything piratical to all people. Even though Sea of Nyx is still in a form of playtest, nonetheless, I feel that it warrants articles to be written about it. For one thing, articles can help to "get the word out" about the game, and for another thing, articles can help to provide "food for thought" to the game's designer. As the old saying goes, two heads are better than one, and more heads are likely better than two.

If you're out there and you're reading this, then I encourage you to give Sea of Nyx a try. Other than a little time, it's not gonna cost you anything, and who knows? You just might enjoy it.

Besides, how many times in your life have you ever had a chance to send Richard Lockwood's sorry excuse for a ship to Davy Jones' locker?

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Where We're Heading. . .

Me? I'm heading elsewhere, even as the bulk of the PBM industry and the PBM hobby remains right where they presently are. In order to carry on and to proceed forth into the great PBM unknown of what lies ahead, a parting of the ways is in order.

A revamping of my internal PBM engine that drives me forward past obstacles and challenges of every sort, both imaginable and unimaginable. When all is said and done, it may end up looking exactly the same.

Who knows?!

But as long as I believe its new or that its matter or that its relevant in a PBM sense, that's all that really matters (to me). If the PBM Powers That Be want ads for their PBM gaming products and services to appear in future issues of PBM Chaos, then they can send them in to me. Otherwise, advertisements for such PBM fare will only appear at my whim. What this will likely translate into will be a significant reduction in PBM ads for quite a few different PBM games. If silence is truly golden, then they can rest confident in knowing that their chosen path for promoting or not-promoting their PBM games can glow as brightly as their conscious choice allows.

Me? I don't like anchors about my neck.

By getting this issue out the door and into the hands of whatever of our readership remains, following this couple of months lapse in publication, I can begin working in earnest towards reestablishing with a greater degree of regularity something PBM-related. Less reliance upon others and a renewed vigor to drag the PBM Kraken from the PBM depths will hopefully happen, but in a more narrowly-tailored way.

At worst, I fail. Nothing new there. But better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all, I say. In pursuit of this grand objective, I shall likely have to unleash the Great PBM Badger upon an unsuspecting and utterly unprepared PBM world. So, get ready to get badgered, you PBM slack offs!

And yes, Old Man Weatherhead, I am talking specifically about you - but not just about you. Don't you dare think, even for a moment, that I've forgotten that you are out there somewhere in the Great PBM Beyond, just lurking for the next PBM apple that falls from the PBM tree.

Part of this verbal barrage is an attempt to motivate myself, to rouse myself from the Catacombs of Do-Nothing. The fire that burns deep in the iron belly of PBM heart cannot be allowed to evaporate entirely, or to get clogged by the dust of the real world and all of its many planned and unplanned distractions.

But what of more PBM navel-gazing? You're damned right! Navel-gazing is the fuel that the PBMer in me runs on. You don't like navel-gazing? Then don't drink the water. Go find you something else to read. May I suggest any of a number of the other current era PBM publications that currently await you to take up your page-flipping routine?

How about less ads, but bigger ads? What about less ads, but better ads? What about if I make it rain a whole storm of new PBM ads that washes you away in a deluge of PBM madness?

At the end of the day, all that I really have in my arsenal are the PBM tricks that I teach myself. After all, it's not like I can work PBM magic with that undersized "wand" of yours, you know. Please pardon the innuendo, but a new day dawns on the PBM horizon, and my sky chariot awaits.

Rise, you cantankerous old coots! Rise ye sons and daughters who have survived the terrible PBM Plague! Either make some noise, or drown in your silence. I shall strive to derive inspiration from the great actor, Geoffrey Rush, and his portrayal of Ra in the massively entertaining movie production called Gods of Egypt.

And if you don't like that movie, then to hell wit you, as well!

I'm back.

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Coming Next Issue

Sentinels of Time: Fast Forward To The Present

PBM In Crisis: A Shift In Thinking

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