PBM Mailbox

Summer is here at last: tanned legs and weight training are back in vogue and here’s cool, sophisticated me driving about in a Marina van following the incident with the cow I mentioned last month. But would you believe it? I’d had the van for two weeks when BLAM somebody crashed into it. Sob. Still, I was greatly relieved to return home to a pile of PBM MAILBOX mail; that bucked me up a bit. What would I do without you all?

Anyway, oh-la-di oh-lada, life goes on (ya), so without further ado let’s pull something out of that reassuring mailbag...


Dear Brendan
This morning I received information from Jade Games about Shattered World, and I just happened to buy CRASH as well: I was most pleased to find a piece about this new game.

I used to be a ‘gamer’ a few years ago, participating in STARLORD (run by Mike Singleton). I do not know if STARLORD is still running but my memories of that game are fond, which is more than I can say for the memories I have of my late ‘allies’ who persistently got me from behind. Rule One in war-gaming; NEVER completely trust your allies.

I began PBMing again through your MAILBOX and elected to join the football management game Soccer Star, which I am finding rather boring, to say the least. That said, what struck me immediately upon opening the startup package from Jade for Shattered World was the length of the printout — three A4 sheets!

Presumably, as the game proceeds and more information about the planet FINDAR is discovered this print out will become larger: I feel the art of diplomacy will be well rewarded in Shattered World and intend to pursue it with vigour.
T Burnett

Starlord died a mysterious death some years ago — Mike Singleton left the project to develop the infamous Lords Of Midnight brainwarper, and Starlord suffered a number of systems crashes and staggered restarts (it was a computer-moderated game) before vanishing in a puff of smoke.

Those who really enjoyed it can still be found playing in the American version (run by Flying Buffalo) and even the 3-D Micronet Play By Modem game.

As well as comments from the CRASH reviewers who have already started up in the game, I have heard a mixture of reports about Shattered World: some rave over it, others hate it. What do you think?

Many thanks for your views: please let me know how you get on in your game, Thomas.


Dear Brendan
I am developing an amateur PBM game, which in theory will be quite different to games currently available — the GM, instead of being passive, will take an active part in the diplomacy, double-dealing and general goings-on.

While the player’s aim will be galactic conquest, the GM can go any lengths to maintain order. As all interplayer communication will pass through his hands, he’ll be aware of what players are planning. With this in mind, the GM can (if he wishes) warn players of impending attack or even turn alliances inside out through feeding false information to each party involved.

This will add a whole new element to the game.
Malcolm Harden

In my view, such a system would spoil the whole game for the players. It’s up to the enemy to feed false information to his tormentors, not up to the GM — that’s the whole idea of PBMing. Nobody wants to keep an invasion plan secret from all the other players, only to have the whole plan spoiled by an over-zealous GM who considers his personal pleasure more than that of his players.

I was interested by your point of getting the players to communicate through the GM alone. Sadly, this is impossible (take Starglobe, for instance) — all it takes is for two of your players to meet at a convention and exchange addresses and ba-bing, GM-controlled dippy is thrown out of the window.

Personally, I don’t find the idea appealing. I’m sorry, but you did ask! Active GMs work well in D & D but not in PBM. What do other readers think?


Many people ask why I rarely offer any ratings for a game mentioned in the PBM MAILBOX. Answer? Simple. Different people have different impressions of games and companies, so my views are not always shared (remember a certain article about Saturnalia?).

If I rated every game, it could be unfair to the player or the company.

But my brain has had an idea: YOU can rate the games in which you play, and I’ll collate the data into a monthly table. Brilliant! That’s the easy bit done. Now you have to sit down and mark the games in which you play for each of the following categories (scores out of 100, please):

how good is the game’s GM?
how important is good diplomacy in the game?
how comprehensive and clear is the rulebook?
how complicated Is the game?
does the game hold its appeal after a few turns?
do you get good value for money playing this game? (Consider quality of print-out, GMing and so on.)

Send your ratings to the usual MAILBOX address, marked RATINGS, and we’ll soon see what you think of the current PBM market.


Two amateur zines have been brought to my attention this month.

The second issue of First Post is out; in it you’ll find articles on Vorcon Wars, Where Lies The Power, Kings Of Steel, AEs and It’s A Crime!.

The other zine is PBM Scroll, previewed in CRASH a while ago. PBM Scroll covers amateur games, PBM clubs and general chat. If you’re looking for a cheap game, you may find it listed here.

Are YOU launching/editing an amateur zine offering cheap games? Tell me about it!


Just a quick note to let you know that the applications I’ve received so far have been dumped in a lucky dip — and as offers come in from companies who want us to review their PBM games, I simply dip my hand in the bag to see whose name comes out...

If you fancy playing a game for free (or at special reviewer rates) then send me a note stating your name, address, any PBM experience you have (don’t worry if you don’t have any!) and your age. If you’re hand-picked you’ll hear from me in the post sooner or later.


Dear Brendon
First, I’d like to thank CRASH for introducing the PBM MAILBOX; it got me interested in the hobby.

Now a suggestion: why not set aside some room to allow CRASH readers to display their amateur PBM games, magazines etc? I’m sure many people would find this feature useful — at the moment, amateur games are given far less coverage than they deserve.

Finally, what is the address for Vorcon Wars? And are you planning to do an article on AEs in the near future?
Emmett Gill

Believe it or not, just such a section for readers’ games is in the pipeline. Any reader who runs a nonprofit-making amateur PBM game can drop me a line and get a mention in CRASH.

But remember, only games run for fun will be mentioned here: if you want to charge fees for your games you’ll have to EARN coverage!

John Nicholson is no longer taking on startups for Vorcon Wars; he’s concentrating instead on the game’s successor Super Vorcon Wars.

Mind you, John tells me he may well run the odd normal game of Vorcon Wars (though the wait for startup may be long) — the next one will be a special edition to celebrate the hundredth Vorcon game.

And YES!! An article on Legend’s well-received fantasy game AEs (pronounced ‘ayus’) is planned. The game is hand-moderated to a high standard, I gather there’s a new kingdom being opened up, and I’ve heard favourable grunting noises: so expect a review soon.


Megalomania is a strategic/diplomatic wargame launched by John Woodall at the Second PBM Convention in February. It’s set on Earth; most of the world has been divided into hexagonal countries and circular, overlapping waters (ie oceans).

15 players start the game with a home country each and as many other countries as they can afford to buy, along with a fair sprinkling of armies, navies and industrial might.

The object of the game is to expand your empire, overpowering other players and eventually dominating the whole world. This is done through careful use of your economy, very careful planning, using other players, and guarding your Tyrant (your most powerful unit, similar to a King in Chess) while capturing others — thus envassaling (pause to look in dictionary — Ed) them to you.


I have been (sort of) playing this game for a while and, to put it bluntly, I’m not doing well. At all. At first, this is a VERY complicated game governed by a VERY fuzzy rulebook (only basic descriptions of what an action is, followed by various cross-references to other parts of the rulebook — no examples here!), and it only begins to make sense after a few turns.

So if you’re landed in Megalomania with old-time players and you don’t have a few days to familiarise yourself with the rules, then you’re likely to be in BIG trouble. Like I am.

Still, if the GM puts players of the same standard for the game in the same game then Megalomania may have a bright future. Diplomacy plays a very major part in successful play, and the game develops very quickly.

I’ll do a more in-depth review later; but for now, if you have a lot of spare time and fancy a challenge then have a go at Megalomania — there are even pnzes and rewards for successful players! Start up, including the first three turns and other bumph, costs £5. Each turn after startup costs £1.50, but that figure may rise or fall, depending on how you play.

The GM quality is excellent, even if John does tend to take the Micky out of you on the phone... not an easy game.


Nuclear Domination is a human-moderated, budget-price PBM game moderated by GAMESMASTER of Southend-On-Sea. It’s simple and highly diplomatic, and should see you sending a lot of letters every week.


Set on the planet of The’Atatax, Nuclear Domination places you in the role of a commander of the Official Marauding Hordes (of which there are seven — ie yourself and six other players complete with hordes).

The old Lord Supreme Chief Dictator has had his candle blown out, and each of the seven commanders proclaims himself the dead leader’s replacement. This splits the planet up into seven empires, each trying to control the others.

The idea is to use a mixture of diplomacy and nukes to gain power of the whole planet; who cares what state it’s in at the end of play?


The rules come on photocopied sheets, and they’re not very helpful — I still can’t find out how the game ends! (Perhaps Unclear Domination would be a better name.)

But they do give examples of what’s going on and the system of play is, in essence, quite simple: you battle it out with the other commanders using armies, fleets of ships and missiles. No messing about with food supplies here — this is a pure battle/diplomacy game (or at least it appears so on reading the book).

A couple of CRASH reviewers have just signed up and a progress report will be published shortly.

Startup costs £1.50 and each turn after startup costs a staggering 75p. Send your cheques or postal orders payable to S Wyatt at GAMESMASTER. Have fun, and rule the world.

Well, that’s the lot for this month’s PBM FORUM. If you have any points to make or news to announce, then please drop me a line. Remember NOT to send CRASH competition entries, subscription enquiries, whingeings to Lloyd etc in the same envelope as PBM material! We do have a bureaucracy to maintain, you know...