PBM Mailbox

Aloha, and welcome once more to the wondrous hobby of play-by-mail gaming with BRENDON KAVANAGH. ‘So,’ you ask, ‘what has happened in the PBM world this month?’ (Well, it’s one way of making conversation.) The answer: there’s a special feature on KJC Games’s...


EARTHWOOD may be vaguely known to CRASH readers; it’s the fantasy game upon which Jade Games is accused of basing its defunct Arcadia. But KJC Games’s Earthwood is well-established.

It caters for 25 players. The player takes a role (King or Wizard, perhaps) — and, as in most games, what you are affects what you can and cannot do.

Besides your main character, you have control over three independent groups of creatures; your character must always be with one of these groups, and you’re kept aware of what’s happening to the other two.

The game is set on a large map with 35 cities. The object is to use your groups and your powers (magical and diplomatic) to gain control over the majority of the cities. This is done by a mixture of exploring, spying, trading, fighting and avoiding monsters!

Earthwood is computer-moderated and seems quite popular. Each game should last 18 months (according to KJC Games) — provided you’re not knocked out earlier!

Startup costs £5, for which you receive the rulebook, setup and the first three turns. Each turn thereafter costs £1.50.


MATTHEW AYRES has sent some basic tips for new Earthwood players. Matthew was a joint winner at the end of Earthwood 20 and comments that though he enjoyed the game there is definitely room for improvement.

According to Matthew, the game’s biggest letdowns are its map and the lack of extra features in the endgame.

Anyway, on with the tips...

  1. Never forget that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ — also bear in mind that one cannot function properly without the other!
  2. Of Earthwood’s 35 cities, only 17 are inhabited at the start of the game.
  3. Player characters should try to ally themselves with a nearby race to share cities in the area.
  4. The best cities are those near the edge of the map with high food production. If possible, secure a group or ‘cornerfull’ of cities; cities not on the front line can support those that are.
  5. Most city tactics are unfavourable to the defender, so concentrate your forces in tight, strong groups wherever possible.
  6. With a bit of forethought you can predict where you might encounter Non-Player Characters (NPCs) — for example, tree fairies in woodlands...
  7. The secrets of success are good diplomacy and control of cities. As most recruiting is done from cities (and they are the only suppliers of food and gold), they are vital if you don’t have any good alliance ties.
  8. Take an active part in the game. Players who ignore diplomacy or are totally impassive invariably drop out (or are knocked out) because there’s no excitement for them.

Thanks a lot, Matthew. Has anyone else got tips for games not yet covered in PBM Mailbox? Send them in!



STEVE NEWTON of Newty Games is seeking a new GM for his game Faction Magician, covered in CRASH Issue 41. He writes: ‘We are in dire need of another GM (the response from your article was quite incredible, which has helped lead to our current overstretched situation, so I hold YOU responsible(!)). The pay ain’t great, but it’ll buy a beer or six on a Saturday night down the pub and it’s great fun. I’d be grateful if you’d send out this plea to the populace and ask those interested to drop me a line with a few details about themselves.

‘Our turnaround time has doubled — some of our players are having to wait up to ten days for their reply, so any help would be appreciated...’

If you have the time, inclination and commitment to GM a game of Faction Magician then drop a line to Steve.

But PLEASE bear in mind that there’s a lot of responsibility involved in GMing a game!


Conquest’s new-style computer-generated turnsheets are a great improvement on the old handwritten ones. The map’s impressive, too!

I’VE RECEIVED lots of letters wondering what’s happened to Conquest — it seems turn reports suddenly stopped arriving, without explanation. Well, DON’T PANIC!!!

In this month’s mailbag was a letter from a new company called Nova Productions. Nova has taken over the management of Conquest from Conquest Games, and has been operating a supposedly improved version since June!

According to Nova’s Laurence Norman, the original version of Conquest was too complex and time-consuming. Steve Brunt wisely redesigned it, but failed to playtest the new version. Result? Numerous rule changes and an unreliable turnaround.

So Nova has redesigned some areas of the game to make it more playable, and improved turnaround to one or two weeks in the process. Future developments could well include computer moderation...

A Conquest startup now costs £4, and the turn charge is £1.50 with no extras. I’m curious to see how the game has changed, so I’m starting up very soon; while waiting for a PBM Mailbox report, you can contact Nova Productions.


NAB SOFTWARE, GMs of Aegyptus (an involved US game based upon ancient life — review coming soon(er or later)), has imported another game from the Yanks. Family Wars is set in American cities during the Twenties and Thirties. Players become ‘kingpins’ in a crime family, and you have to control your own turf while expanding your territory and influence in the political arena.

Alliances are possible, though different victory conditions then apply.

Family Wars sounds a bit like It’s A Crime! with knobs on; I’ll give it an overview in CRASH in a few months’ time, when I’ve seen the rulebook.

NAB’s Nick Barnett points out that the game is entirely computer-moderated and should last for between 40 and 50 turns. He hopes to offer three turnaround schedules (weekly, fortnightly and three-weekly) at different rates. Thus a game could continue for between one and three years. For further details, write to NAB Software.



Dear Brendan
After a bit of indecision, I finally joined this band of half-crazed psychopathic megalomaniacs you call PBMers. I am now enjoying Vorcon Wars 84. Thank you.

But I have a grumble. If our turns are late, do we have any comeback to the Post Office? For example, my turnsheets sent from Bracknell have thrice been repostmarked: once Dundee, once Perth (what? Australia? — BK) and once York. Dundee and Perth can understand, but since when was York in Scotland (Oh — BK)?

I could understand these troubles if there was no postcode, but since PA38 4BY is unique to Kentallen (where I live), and is printed on all of my turnsheets, I am a little confused.

I don’t know if it happens in the other direction, but I bet it does.

Is there anything I can do? It don’t ’arf slow things down. I actually missed the first turn of Game 100 because I was cheapskate and used second class...
Angus Garfield Rae

A sad tale — but are we really only HALF-crazed?

If were you I’d send my mall by recorded delivery. It’ll cost you an extra 20p for each letter, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind. There is no insurance offered for cash enclosed in your letter, but at least the Post Office guarantees delivery. Your only other option is to deliver it personally — a touch impractical, I suppose.


Dear Brendon
After receiving my It’s A Crime! results sheet I noticed that Game 14 is the official C&VG game! Apparently, because of good publicity 400 or so C&VG readers are taking part in It’s A Crime! 14. So. fellow Game 14 CRASH readers, lets ally and CRASH Smash them...
Stephen Grant

Not a bad idea — though remember, Stephen, we have a few hundred players scattered about in an earlier game...


Dear Brendon
I thought I’d write in to tell everyone about the game Further Into Fantasy.

After applying for startup I received the rulebook and games magazine within one week. When I opened the package I was astounded by the quality of the rulebook, which has a coloured glossy cover and detailed information about the game printed neatly upon its glossy interior — very pro.

Further Into Fantasy is a fantasy Dungeons And Dragons-style game where the player role-plays as a warrior, sage or priest in the land of Dorm. Quite mystical.

I sent away for my first turn immediately and four days later I received another booklet (filled with player messages and news of the game’s progress), along with a completed character sheet, a fact sheet, my turnsheet and a welcoming letter.

After playing for only a few turns I am convinced that this is THE best game available. Please print this letter to let other readers know about this game!
Justin Taylor

Thank you, Justin. Laboratory Games’s Further Into Fantasy is indeed very well-produced; for further details send an SAE to Laboratory Games.


TWO low-priced zines have come to light in this month’s mailbag. The first is a selection of three games run from Anthony Brown’s address.

Anthony and a few of his friends run a boxing game, a wargame, and a fantasy game. They charge 40p per turn (to cover costs). If you’re interested, send Anthony an SAE and he’ll write back to you as soon as possible.

And Paul Hartrnann, who lives in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, wrote to say:

‘Dear Brendon
I have been following your column ever since it started and I think it’s high time I wrote you a letter.

Unfortunately, PBM is not very known in the Low Countries, though I’m trying to reverse that course with all my might. One of the things I have done has been the founding of a company to produce 100% Dutch games. To date I have been running my company (Fantasia Arena) for just over a year and slowly people are opening their eyes to this wonderful hobby, though interest is minimal compared with that of Britain or the USA as yet.

Recently, John Nicholson let us run his game Super Vorcon Wars in a Dutch version. We also run two other fully computer-moderated games, both tactical space warfare, so we are making some progress.

If any of your readers are interested in playing a Dutch game then they should feel free to write to Fantasia Arena.’

Paul writes a PBM section for the fanzine Conflict Gazet (double Dutch to me); he also plays ten(!) PBM games, so he’ll be in next month’s Diplomatic Directory.


IF you’re in the PBM trade and you’ve got some news to pass on, or you want to share your PBM hints and tips with hundreds of thousands of rapt CRASH readers, drop me a line!

If you’re sending an entry or an update to Diplomatic Directory, even if it’s enclosed with another letter PLEASE write ‘Diplomatic Directory’ on the envelope so it can be processed quickly!