PBM Mailbox


Super Vorcon Wars is, to quote from the precise rulebook, “an enhancement of the long running and popular, computer moderated Vorcon Wars.” I couldn’t have put it better myself: SVW is a genuine enhancement of VW (which I reviewed in July 1986). The games features have been broadened and developed — but unfortunately the price has also gone up! John Nicholson, founder of Vorcon Games, released SVW to complement, and not to replace the original. The new and improved features of SVW reflect all that John has learned about the game during his four years of moderation. So, what is so special about SVW? Is it any better than the original? It is worth the extra 40p per turn? And, most importantly, are its players having fun?


As you may or may not remember, Vorcon Wars is a sixteen-player game of global strategy and diplomacy — with the ultimate aim of gaining power over a fully circumnavigable semi-developed world. The planet of Vorcon is divided into ‘hexes,’ each hex having its own function (agriculture, industrial, forest and so on) and longitude/latitude position. These hexes must be captured, and defended by deploying armies about them — thus expanding the amount of world controlled. Diplomacy is often ignored, and battle soon erupts when players meet — and can be anything from a minor skirmish to an all-out nuclear bash. That, very basically, is Vorcon Wars. Super Vorcon Wars is an attempt at improving this masterpiece of simplicity and playability!


The basic differences and additional features of SVW in comparison to the original are: new land types, revised hex layout, subordinate commanders, spy satellites, running points score (which can grant your commander a Super Commander status — very effectively raising military might), additional options and diseased food supplies. This may not make much sense to non VW players, but the rest of you will know what I mean.


Should you prove super-efficient at stockpiling food supplies for your forces, diseases will become rife — destroying your stockpile very rapidly. To overcome this difficulty, the Laboratory hex has been created: when disease appears, you must set up one of these to discover the antidote. Once the antidote is discovered (at economic expense) and the stockpile has fallen, the problem vanishes and the lab is destroyed. This prevents players from stockpiling so much food that they needn’t worry about feeding their armies during battles.


A problem encountered by many in Vorcon Wars is the limited range of your commander’s effectiveness when moving armies. Your troops can only be moved when within viewing range of your commander (the SVW equivalent of the Chess King — a very important entity). In SVW, subordinate commanders can be created to control a minor campaign on one border while your main commander has an additional print-out sheet. This feature allows a greater use of strategy, yet it could be argued that it de-limits the use of diplomacy (a powerful player with many subordinate commanders has little need to trust in allies).


In the revamped game, satellites can be ‘re-directed’ away from your commander’s location to any co-ordinate you choose to spy on — effectively allowing you to keep an eye on the opposition while you temporarily play semi-blind. This switching of orbits cuts down the satellite’s life, but it is a useful idea.


Additional options and land hexes exist to accommodate the features covered here. There is certainly more scope for strategy with the use of subordinate commanders and spy satellites, but only time will tell how the game goes down.


SVW is not necessarily a better game than the original, although if you are looking for a fast turnaround game that has a lot of scope, then it may well be the better option — it’s up to you. SVW does cost more to play though. Vorcon Wars costs £1.00 per turn, while Super Vorcon Wars comes in at £1.40 (which can be weekly, fortnightly or every three weeks).



Dear Brendon,
Are there any PBM sport games, other than those based on soccer?
Chris Counsell

Yup, there certainly are. I shall be covering an American Football game next issue — I’ve also heard rumours of a cricket game that’s under development. I will fill you in on the details should they be forwarded to me. Does anybody know of any amateur non-football sport PBM games?


Dear Brendon,
After joining Starglobe a few months ago, I have been venturing about the globe discovering stars and sending messages. In December’s CRASH you wrote that ships with a ‘sending messages’ score greater than twelve may send tight beam messages. Hmm, I have forty-four points, but have had no indication on my print-outs of this new ability. How exactly do I send these messages?
M Hillman

I’m sorry to say that I shall not give away the ‘secret’ of tight beam messages. The point to remember when playing Starglobe is that the Mulhollands designed it to be a game of discovery: where’s the fun if you are told how to do everything? The best advice I can give you is to experiment with your sending messages order; it is also worth seeing if PRIOR, Main Computer’s data banks hold any clues... but I have said enough — try it!


Dear Brendon,
Although I find your column both interesting and informative, I would like to complain about your ‘overview’ of Saturnalia in the Christmas Special.

You gave the impression that the game was both boring and mediocre. Your overview hardly touched on the politics of the religions, and on the feuds that go on between them! Not even a mention of the degree of planning and diplomacy that is involved — elements of strategy and war-gaming come in when battles or confrontations are being planned.

Fame is surely what most people aim for; surely calling it multi-player was an understatement. Saturnalia has over 1,000 players, and was voted Best Game at the First British PBM Convention!

That concludes my grumble. Thanks for writing such a good column, soon may it spread to four pages!
J Cottrell

I am sorry that you disagreed with my overview of Sloth Enterprise’s Saturnalia game — each to his own is what I always say. I based the overview on the feelings passed on to me by readers and friends alike who generally seem to rave about this game; this (to me) appears to be a safe way of writing about a game. Still, your letter has put the record straight. By the way, I personally do not use the PBM Convention Awards as a yardstick for my column’s contents as they do not represent a true cross-section of the players’ beliefs. The FLAGSHIP FACTORS (where available) are the most accurate reflection of a game’s quality, and it is these statistics that I try to go by.


Dear Brendon,
Please, please, please, please, please (etc) ask Lloyd to publish a photo of his typewriter!!!
A Collingwood



Dear Brendon,
I am a long time CRASH reader and RPG player. As one of my hobbies being Football, I leapt at the chance of playing Guy Whitty’s PBM football game mentioned in your column. After receiving an info sheet, I sent Mr Whitty £7.00 to start up and play the game. For reference, my team was named ‘Garlic United’ (account number C29) — a member of the C-ARLA league. Since sending these details and the cash to Mr Whitty’s address I have heard nothing.

Four months ago, I posted him a letter in an attempt to discover why I had heard nothing from him. Please could you help me — have I lost my money, or did I do something wrong?
G Williams

I have received a number of letters on this subject, and personally am quite worried about what is happening here. I have written to Guy Whitty but am yet to receive a reply. Is anybody out there actually playing his game? If so, then please write in and tell me. If you are reading, Guy, please either come up with the goods or refund your applicants’ credit by cash, postal order or a guaranteed cheque. This matter cannot continue like this for long.


Dear Brendon.
Has a PBM game GM the right to throw you out of the game, or to stop the game without a refund — even if you are in credit?
C Counsell

Yes, the GM does have the right to throw players out of his game, if he has good cause to do so (if the player has broken house rules for example). He can also stop running a game without notice (although this is not a very good way to make a company popular). The GM should, by law, offer you a credit refund or transfer — perhaps to another game — so don’t worry!


Dear Brendon,
Three months ago I wrote enclosing a large SAE, asking for details of It’s a Crime! as mentioned in the July ’86 issue of CRASH. I am yet to receive a reply. Could you please investigate, and send the details requested if possible.
G Burkill

I long since forwarded all Crime! applications to KJC Games. Not so long ago, they finally sent out all the requested rule books (so I am informed). I suggest that anybody still waiting should write to: IT’S A CRIME! START-UPS, KJC GAMES.

That’s all for this month’s PBM FORUM — keep those letters coming!