PBM Mailbox


BRENDON KAVANAGH presents some more readers’ reviews and reports on the progress of Avalon’s inhabitants...


Flaming June already. How time flies when you’re having fun, eh? The PBM hobby is swelling — I have so many offers, news items and letters coming in that I don’t know what to do with them! Not that I’m complaining; keep those letters rolling in, I’ll find space to fit them in sometime... Anyway, there’s plenty of good stuff here for you this month: the long awaited review of Crisis is here at last, as is a report of the goings on in Avalon. And let’s not forget the generous offer from Spellbinder Games: FREE start-ups to all CRASH readers who write to Spellbinder; an offer unlike any other!

Crisis is a low priced and, shall we say, not over-complicated PBM strategy game. For some time now CRASH reader reviewers Mark England and Graham Rogers have been giving the game a good hard play. Graham has kept in touch with me on a regular basis since his start-up and it would not be true to say that he has encountered no GM problems. At one point he was dropped from a game for ‘running out of credit’ (which he didn’t exactly do) but after a while good old Colin (Colin Filburn of Mystery And Adventure Games — the GM!) came to his rescue and got Graham started up once more. I understand that his second attempt was fairly successful!

Now then, on to the End Of Game report. Sadly I do not have enough space to print both reports this month, but here is Mark England’s view of Crisis for your reading:

A common complaint of postal gaming is that PBM games can often be slow to develop at the start of the game. In Crisis I found no such problem! The player is thrown into battle from the word Go!, and for the rest of the game there is little break from the bedlam of war. I’m sure that players rarely have more than one turn in a game of Crisis without action on at least one of their battle lines. By turn 20 in the game I played, only three players (including myself) out of the initial nine had survived.

Despite the excitement and speed of development, I do feel that Crisis has several shortcomings. Although it makes no pretence of being a complex strategy game, gameplay is still a little shallow and limited. The whole plot of the game could be simplified to the general elements of moving your troops around the map (too small in my game but now improved and enlarged), ‘nuking’ your opponents and building factories to raise more money to recruit more troops, manufacture more missiles and more factories ... Quite simple really.

The turnsheet is nothing spectacular but it conveys the information required with accuracy. It lets you know where the action is, who is firing missiles at whom, who owns what (if you know what I mean), and how your own position stands.

Each turn, all players receives a newsletter containing general news and news specific to their own game. The best section of this small organ is The Rumour Board. This is where player interaction takes place. (Slanging matches are a regular occurrance here I can assure you! But all in good humour, of course.)

To conclude, I have enjoyed playing Crisis (mainly because of the speed of play). However, I do find it a touch simple when creating strategies and I’m not sure if I would play the game again. However, I do believe that the game makes an ideal start into the world of postal gaming, mainly because it’s cheap and not overcomplicated. But I doubt that the serious gamer would enjoy Crisis.


So there you have it, Crisis finally covered! A new developed version of Crisis is on its way with a larger map and revised rules — effectively a new game by all accounts. I eagerly await receipt of further information...


Chris Dempsey of Spellbinder Games has been kind enough to offer MAILBOX readers free startups in a selection of the Spellbinder Games. To be quite honest, Chris offered these niceties many moons ago. Still, here they are now:

Spiral Arm is a low(ish) priced strategic science fiction wargame, very popular in the Flagship ratings. I have never played this game but every now and then somebody says something kind about the mixture of economics, warfare, strategy and diplomacy involved. Spiral Arm is a game involving exploration, the colonisation of other worlds, a bit of scrapping and a fair amount of imperialism on a galactic scale. Players who do not like fiddling with numbers should perhaps avoid this one, otherwise the offer of free start-up, rules and first three turns is a good one.

Keys Of Bled is an old but much-enjoyed fantasy game. The plot? You were the captain of an interstellar colony ship. You have since been forced to crash-land on a dubious world — all that survived the crash was yourself, 200 colonists and some livestock. It comes to your attention that intelligent life exists on the planet, that you will not be rescued (no SOS was made), and that you have the resources to survive on the new world. Here, the game starts. You decide upon your own objectives and play the game with the aim of developing your character as you wish. The game mechanism is very flexible to allow you to do this. Keys Of Bled is a very well established game with a good following. FRP fanatics may enjoy this one. Again, the offer is free start-up, rules and three turns.

Worlds in Conflict was featured in my write-up of this year’s PBM Convention. Anyone who tried to write to the address will have realised that it was incorrect. Oops! Anyway, Worlds In Conflict was described to me at the convention as a Play By Mail form of the TV science fiction soap opera ‘V’. Factionalised alien invaders battle it out against factionalised human defenders of the planet Earth. There are 22 player positions in the game, 14 nations (USSR, USA and so on) and eight alien ships. The game strikes me as being a very complex one — a lot of economics and diplomacy is required just to survive, let alone attempt to win. Combat is split into nine sections (these involve different types of fire and manoeuvres) and so must be carefully thought out. This is not a simple game of the bang-bang-you’re-dead style: it’s one for the thinkers amongst us — whoever they are. Once more, the offer is a free start -up, rulebook and first three turns. Not bad at all.

Right then, there you have it. Games there for all tastes, I reckon, Ah yes — I mustn’t forget to let you know that Spellbinder have a new season of Phil Shulkind’s Kickabout football game starting in June. There you are, I remembered. If you wish to take advantage of any of these offers then you can write to Spellbinder. Don’t forget to send an SSAE if you are wanting further information on any of the above games!


Finally, here it is. An almost up-to-date report on what’s going on in the world of Avalon. All five special CRASH games are going well, although the earlier games are a little more active than the later editions. Approximately 300 players are left in the running for Jade Games’ prize to the winner — that elusive castle soon to be pictured within these very pages. Speculation could be made, but I feel it is too early yet to point out a possible victor. Unconfirmed reports have reached my ears that in April several young Squires were promoted to Knights. Congratulations! Your glory will he shared with the public next issue. As at turn number seven the top four placings were as follows:

  1. COGAN LISTER (Squire — Game One) 897 points
  2. BORAGO THE BIBULOUS (Squire — Game Three) 863 points
  3. FRIKKON FIVE FINGERS (Squire — Game Two) 844 points
  4. KING D’SUSILIS MARAU (Squire — Game Four) 761 points

Well done, keep it upl

I was interested to note that BORAGO THE BIBULOUS in Game Three was 200 points ahead of his nearest rival in the same game (TELTRABB OF ULDARLAN). Keep trying, guys, that castle could be yours yet!

Let us eagerly look forward to next month’s update. Has COGAN LISTER been made a Knight Of Avalon? Arggh!, the suspense is killing me...


MAILBOX pays a visit to the KJC Offices at Cleveleys, centre of the Universe (alternatively, the middle of nowhere...?)