A Dwarven Story in the Realm of Alamaze

A Dwarven Story in the Realm of Alamaze

We Dwarves are a proud and robust race. 

We make our homes beneath the mountains of Nyvaria, which is in the realm of Alamaze.

The back-breaking labor of harvesting stones and precious metals have made our shoulders broad and our backs strong, even if our stature is short.The giant stones we harvest are famous for their hardness and are used in the building of the most legendary of castles.

Similarly, the iron ore we harvest from the mountains is the finest in all the lands.  When in the hands of a master Dwarven blacksmith, it can be crafted into an armor of renowned strength, that is coveted by warriors throughout all the lands.

However, getting our precious stones and metal to market is no easy task. Giant rocks do not travel well by wagon and must be delivered to the market by ship. Being great builders, but poor sailors, we built deep-water ports so large ships from all nations may come and trade for our wares.

Our ports are our lifeblood. They bring great prosperity to the people. As King, it is my job to protect the people and that prosperity.

During the early spring, as I was doing a personal inspection of the port town of Hunter Stream, a messenger arrived from the village of Red Hook. The messenger approached and said. “My Lord, A band of armed warriors traveling on horseback, have been seen riding through the land. They skirt the edge of towns and villages without going in. When anyone approaches, they ride off. The governor felt it was important to report what was happening and awaits your orders.”

“How many riders?” I asked.

The messenger replied, “No more than a dozen or so, my Lord, although, it is hard to be sure. They seem to be able to blend into the grass of the plains as easily as we can blend into the stones of the mountains.”

I asked, ” In which direction are they heading?”

He told me, “South along the base of the mountains, always keeping to the plains.”

“Tell the governor to do nothing. I will take my guards, and we shall intercept them to determine what their business is!”

Turning to the Captain of my guards, I said, “We shall set a course to intercept these warriors. Send out scouts and eagle familiars to locate these trespassers. We shall put ourselves in a position to block them, should they continue south.”

Solemnly and with a somber look in his eyes he replied, “Aye Aye my lord.”  A veteran of many hard campaigns he set himself to the task of planning the details.

It did not take long to find them. The eagle familiar of the mage Danmaker spotted them just outside the very town in which we stood.

I ordered my personal guard to form up, and we marched out to meet them.

Sitting on their horses with a casual ease, as if they had been born on horseback, I recognized them immediately as Amazon warriors from the lands of Darkover.

It was no surprise to me that the villagers did not know them. These warriors are famous for their secrecy and were a long way from home.

These wild-looking women who refused to be ruled by any man are great warriors. They are known for their skills with the bow and arrow. I know these women. These Amazons, to be masters of the plains and the hunt.

Seeing the banner of my house, the leader of the patrol approached while maintaining a respectful speed and making the universal sign of parlay.

“You are far from home, are you not mistress?” I inquired.

In a very matter of fact way, she said, “Yes, your grace, we mean no threat to you and your people. We are simply on a quest to recover an ancient artifact that has been stolen from our holy temple. The thieves had been seen going south, and we have set out to apprehend them.”

Also, she added, “We will take nothing from your people. We will only hunt enough game as needed to fill our bellies. Once our mission is complete, we will head back to Darkover, where the thieves will stand trial before the Queen.”

Having no reason to disbelieve her word.  I let the Amazons continue in peace. This was a mistake I would come to regret.

Early that summer, a messenger came before me. The messenger informed me that emissaries from the Amazon Kingdom are quietly going into the towns and villages, making grandiose promises and telling vicious lies about us and inciting the people to rebellion.

Many villages have taken down our banners and are now flying the flag of the Amazon Queen.

Additionally, at Hunter Stream, where I had encountered the Amazon patrol just a short time ago, an Amazon army had arrived and placed the town under siege.

I immediately recognized the Amazon Queen’s strategy of wanting to cut off our food and gold supplies and destroy the army’s morale.

At the time of the siege, we were vulnerable. Our army was in the west, securing the region of Stormgate, the gem of all the realm.

I believe the timing of their attack wasn’t accidental. The attack was well planned and executed with precision. The Amazons had mapped the layout of our land. Probably by the patrol my men and I encountered during the spring.

War had been forced upon the house of Hornblower and if I fail my people will be ruined.

“Unfurl the battle flag!” I ordered, “Summon the bannermen!”

All the Dwarven houses answered the call as well as our allies the Hill Giants. Large in size but small in numbers. They mounted their giant woolly mammoths whose every step shook the earth.

I split the army, leaving a small force behind to guard Stormgate.

Next, I ordered our emissaries to assure the people that their King has their best interest at heart, and that the words of the Amazons were lies.

Slowly the people started coming around.

As the political war continued, our emissaries started to go missing. It was reported that enemy agents were kidnapping them.

So, we gave our top agent the mission to protect our emissaries. One night a magical sleep came over one of our Dukes. A dark-clad figure came out of the shadows and was attempting to abduct the sleeping noble. Our agent who was ever so alert, was able to eliminate the threat of the enemy’s agent forever.

It took two seasons for our main army to arrive in the area. I knew challenging the Amazon army on the plains would needlessly cost the lives of many a good warrior.

So, we tried luring the Amazons into the mountains, since there we are the masters. The Amazons did not take the bait.

For now, the war was mainly political with our two armies playing cat and mouse.

After we moved our army to the south to reclaim the town of Dominia Cray. A small port town on the southern shores of The Waves of Azure. It was then that the Amazons struck my capital.

Like screaming banshees, the Amazons breached the walls. My family and many of our people were able to escape through the hidden passages beneath the castle.

My court was moved to Stormgate and the main army moved to take my family’s ancestral home back.

It was not difficult taking back the capital.

As master builders of fortifications, we are also masters of breaking into them. Few castles can stand before a Dwarven army.

But the Amazon Queen was only trying to get us to react, their real target was to become apparent. They had moved their army to the gem of the realm, Stormgate.

Ideally situated on a land bridge. The city of Stormgate sits on two seas at once. The Tempest, and The Waves of Azure.

This quirk of geography gives the kingdom that possesses it two ports, one on each sea. The fields around the city are lush and fertile and are renowned for their bountiful harvest.

Kingdoms that wished to conduct trade between The Tempest Sea and The Waves of Azure had to travel through Stormgate. Guarded by the high thick walls of ancient Dwarven stone.

But it was two armies that arrived at the gates of Stormgate, the Amazons, and an army of the dead.

The Necromancer believed he could take advantage of our war with the Amazons.

Our small army that was left behind to defend Stormgate was severely outnumbered. But with stalwart determination, they put on their legendary armor, picked up their finely crafted Dwarven weapons, dug in and prepared to defeat all challengers or die.

Not wanting to share their prize with the Necromancer, the Amazons attacked the army of the dead.

The Necromancer, with his mastery of death magic, waved his hand and said an incantation summoning death itself. Instantly killing a score of the Amazon’s army.

Hurt but not defeated, the Amazons pushed the Necromancer’s army aside and marched on the defenders at the walls of Stormgate.

Failing miserably.

Since our craftsmen are the best in all Alamaze and had been busy strengthening the fortress. The Amazons broke like waves against the walls.

Having lost more than half of their remaining troops, the Amazons finally left our realm and returned to Darkover in defeat.

Growing stronger from the souls of the Amazonian dead, a new enemy has emerged outside of our walls. An army of the dead.

As we were sailing hard to get to Stormgate. We watched from the decks of our ships, as the Necromancer summoned a great meteor to break down our walls. We stood aghast at the sight. After the dust settled, we saw the walls still standing and our flag still flying over the ramparts.

With a great cheer! We stormed the shore, attacking the Necromancer’s army from the rear.

Raising his hand, the Necromancer summoned death once again.  But, we Dwarves, having disdained magic our entire existence have developed a resistance to death magic, and the Necromancer’s spell failed to affect us.

The decaying flesh of the Necromancer’s troops were no match for the hardened steel of finely crafted Dwarven arms and axes. We destroyed the Necromancer army down to the last cursed creature. Including the wizards that attempted to destroy our city and our lives.

Now it is our turn to take the fight to our enemies.

The game of Alamaze is seriously fun.

The story above is a narrative of the first 20 turns of one game and the game is only halfway done.

Alamaze is not a video game, nor is it a game you can play on your phone. Alamaze is a turn-based thinking player game of deep strategy.

Played using maps and turn result sheets, players receive up to 72 hours to determine and input their turn information. As the turn results come in, your imagination will run wild as an engrossing narrative unfolds before your eyes.

Do you have what it takes to dominate in Alamaze?

Kingdom Design

Kingdom Design

By: Rick McDowell

Issue #19

If you are thinking about playing a “PBM game” you are not familiar with and that your friends haven’t played, well, why should you play? You exhale, thinking, this is going to be some work.

PBM games are complicated! There may be 60 pages or more of rules, but there are some with only 4 pages though I don’t quite understand those, as paradoxical as that might sound.

Let us assume you are thinking you might want to take on a new PBM style game: you are back in the saddle again. You know what you like, which I will assume means a fairly deep game of strategy, at intervals processed simultaneously, where the attraction is to both hope for both your tactical choices and the purveyor’s program producing perfect execution, your strategic outlook considering many possible scenarios that may unfold and your superior utilization of resources, and as reward for serious play, in turn receiving results that both make sense and enthrall. Most importantly, joining a strategy game that draws you in more deeply with each turn, where each turn new knowledge is gained, and more possibilities unfold. In a great game there are no “meh” turns and you must be focused, carefully choosing from among dozens of potentially viable orders to produce that perfect set of commands. Intimidated? No? Good, you are our kind.

In my game of that type (Alamaze), you choose both a kingdom from among 24 available including some staples like Dwarves, Elves, Dark Elves…well, that’s about all the expected ones, or Tyrant of Gor, Warlock, Sorcerer, Necromancer, Atlantians, Underworld, Pirates, Gnomes, Sacred Order, Black Dragons and at least a dozen others.

You choose your kingdom carefully, considering its strength not just as a number but across its characters and kingdom traits, along military, economic, covert, magical, divine and esoteric characteristics. Of course, who doesn’t?

Now you pick your region in Maelstrom, the continent in play. There are 12 to choose from, each with different characteristics. There are Capital Regions, Free Trade Regions, City States, Savage Regions. Which terrain mix is preferred? Major city like in the large capital regions, or more secluded island regions? Lots of coast and sea, or perhaps more mountains or forest?

In Alamaze, kingdoms are defined primarily by more than 24 Cultural Traits, as well as terrain adeptness, magical proficiency, and special abilities. Each kingdom is very much distinct. As The Underworld, you feature intrigue and have special orders unavailable to other kingdoms. You will steal, assassinate, kidnap, and reveal skeletons in the closet on your enemies. As the Atlantians, you can control the seas and have powerful nobles to usurp control of PC’s. As Red Dragon, all fear you will bring your wrath to their kingdom as even cities with high walls hardly concern you.

Alamaze perhaps has gained most distinction by differentiating its kingdoms and letting wildly different strategies succeed in the right hands. Despite so many gigantic differences between kingdoms across all aspects of play, and so many thousands of possibilities with any kingdom in any region, no kingdom has become dominant or shunned, and the same can be said of the regions.

Alamaze is famous for not just staying power for 30 years and the design and interface enhancements through four generations that sustains that appeal, but for the quality of its elements – including its magic system, where each kingdom has unique spell lists over nine levels of power. That’s just a hint on one aspect of Alamaze. Your brigades will gain experience and become veteran and with further success rise to be elite. Your leaders will rise from captain to general to marshal in increments and may eventually become game-changing Warlords. Your agents at the highest level can enter the castle of your enemy and slit the throat of their king. Your wizards will rise in power to cast incredible magic.

But all this will not overwhelm you, you instead will be drawn in. Alamaze will flow over you, and you may join those with us that have played on for decades, always discovering something new. Its been around now after winning Game of the Year at Origins and GAMA, for 30 years, now in its fourth generation with all web-based interaction (no snail mail)

Find us at Alamaze Signup there. You are never asked for credit card info and won’t be invoiced until after you do the tutorial, and at least one Duel (against likely a mentor), and only when you get it your first game that begins are you then invoiced for $9.95 for a month. Yes, ten turns in a month for $9.95. You owe it to yourself to give Alamaze a look. There is nothing to risk.

See you soon!

Rick

Alamaze Designer

Something Else Entirely!

Something Else Entirely!

By: Vince L. Falcone

Issue #19

     The Arch Necromancer speaks on PBM Games

I have waged wars across all kinds of platforms; I have played solo missions against endless hordes of villains and monsters only to end up fighting their super-inflated ‘Level Boss’. I have played MMOs and fought everything from intergalactic wars to first-person shooters in a dozen cities across a dozen countries even on a dozen worlds. I have lead armies across maps and rolled the dice that would determine my fate and the fate of the world on more occasions than can be remembered.

And that is my point. I cannot remember in great detail a single one of those ‘glorious battles’. Oh sure, I may recall a particular shot I made, or a kill I landed, but it ends there. Forgotten, along with the rest of the things that just don’t warrant memory. My guess is because the image was overlayed onto my brain, and no real thought or energy was expended on my part. It was simply a manufactured memory; and like all things manufactured –they aren’t built to last. Because it’s a computer-driven game, with brilliant lights, and fancy sounds backed up with a slick soundtrack. None of it is mine. Not the look, not the feel, not even the playing of it. Its all generated to stimulate. No real effort required on my part.

But then, like the kings of old, or an anxious general waiting for news from his scouts, my PBM turn arrives in the mail! This is something else entirely! This is what I have been waiting for all these weeks – news from the front! Word of deeds back home at court or in faraway kingdoms.

I eagerly open my turn, and it reads as if my own vizier were before me, transporting me to where I need to be. And, just like the kings and queens of a forgotten time, I have numerous decisions to make – dozens of decrees that will either seal the pacts of alliance, or send thousands to their death in glorious battle. Mine is the power to command spies to inform me of my neighbor’s activities, send assassins to silence forever a troublesome diplomat, or order my generals and heroes to war for the greater good of the realm. Wizards are summoned to work their arcane magics and summon powers in the service of their king that go beyond the scope of mere mortals.

Armies are hurled at my enemy’s frontiers, and garrisons are reinforced to defend against hostile raiding parties. Treaties are made and broken, tributes demanded, and gifts of jewels, spices and gold are sent to entice prospective allies, or hire the talents of distant nations to do those deeds that cannot be associated with the crown.

And while all of this is enough to stir the imagination, and keeps the piston’s of my mind firing endlessly; turning various options in my head over and over and over again, this is still not the end… the greatest aspect of the game has yet to unfold itself…

Your turns are submitted and received via the mail, but so too is the greatest feature of the PBM system… the interaction with players from all over the world. Why should your kingdom wage war alone, when you can write to another and strike up an alliance, or forge a peace treaty? The power to communicate with players from all walks of life, from every corner of the map who are all here with a singular purpose – the same purpose as yours– the conquest of a realm!

It is interesting to note, that many of the players will interact ‘in character,’ adding to the flavor of the already sumptuous game. Knowing that there are other kings and queens contacting, and waiting to be contacted only adds to the fun. In time, real-life friendships will arise, and where once a floundering alliance may have existed, talks of a second game with even greater cooperation may begin, and so the wheel continues to spin… and it is a war without end… the kingdoms you play may change, as will the allies and enemies you may have, but the adventure will always be there, and the memories from each war will last a lifetime. The victories will burn brightly in your recollection, and your defeats will gnaw at you for a chance at revenge – but the two greatest things you will take away from your PBM games will always be: the friends in unexpected places you have made, and the memories of the adventures and wars you have journeyed through together.

The time is now, ‘O king. Will you heed the call, and partake in the greatest of adventures, or will you sit by and listen to the tales of the courage of others?

Duel 2 Alamaze

Duel 2 Alamaze

By: Rick McDowell

Issue #1

Twelve Newbies in One Alamaze Game

     What we see below are a few accounts from newbie Alamaze players posted on our Players’ Forum regarding their experience in their first game. This was an unusual game in that 12 of the 15 players were brand new and all players knew each other from the RSI game Duel 2 (formerly Duelmasters). This was especially interesting for me as I used to play Duelmasters, and had a friend in Paul Brown who ran RSI. RSI was next to the Alamaze booth at Origins / GenCon when Alamaze won the PBM Game of the Year Award, and Paul went on to license a version of Alamaze from me and engaged me to design their next game. You can get more Alamaze info and signup at the Alamaze website.

     The below are straight from the players’ posts, except where indicated with the *ED notations, mainly to explain Troll language.

     Just a bit of explanation for some of the acronyms and Commendations referenced below. We recently introduced Commendations wherein active players at the end of an Alamaze game can recommend special recognition for other players in that game. The three commendations at present are:

  • Iron Willed. This is a commendation for a player who persevered beyond all odds, battling on rather than resigning even in the face of near certain (eventual) defeat. Often close-ended PBEM games can be unbalanced by drops, so Alamaze has an Honor system (to retain their important “Citizen” status a player cannot drop a position before turn 12), augmented by the potential of an award from being recognized by peers as Iron Willed.
  • Chancellor. This is our mentoring commendation; with an experienced player nominated by new players for unselfish acts to aid their understanding and their learning the various subtleties and finer points in the game. We feel our experienced players are very willing to fill this role and are a source of pride in our community so we want them to be recognized.
  • Infamous. This is an award for a player who in any number of possible ways, made the game unforgettable, increased the fun and intrigue, and likely involved some aspects of role-playing to pull it all off.

     These are the abbreviations for the kingdoms in Alamaze Classic:

AN –The Secret Servants of the Ancient Ones

BL –The Dark Skies of the Black Dragons

DA -The Onyx Imperium of the Dark Elves

DE -The Seven Hells of the Demon Princes

DW –The Dwarven Lords of the Talking Mountains

EL -The Golden Woods of the High Elves

GI -The Stone Giants Above the Trembling Ground

GN –The Gnomish Bastions of Alchemy

RA -The Rangers of the Frontier Marches

RD -The Reign of Terror of the Red Dragons

SO -The Hidden Realm of the Unseen Sorcerer

TR -The Damned Lands of the Troll Uprising

UN –The Shadow Brotherhood of the Underworld

WA –The Fiery Reach of the Red Warlock

WI -The Witchlord’s Empire of Doom

     A couple of terms referenced in the newbies’ accounts:

     ESO –Early Strategic Objective. A set of conditions that, if met, provide substantial and important awards to the kingdom accomplishing them either on turn 10 or turn 15. There are more than 100 possible ESO’s.

     SVC –Secret Victory Condition. Besides the Standard Victory conditions, each kingdom is assigned a SVC, a set of accomplishments that result in victory. Similar to the ESO, there are nearly 100 different SVC’s and this is the most common form of victory. A kingdom with a High Priestess can divine the secret intentions of any kingdom. The High Priestess risks death in the endeavor.

Duel 2 Alamaze -Game 105 Remembered (by persona Nitnux)

     So that was pretty fun. I played SO in game 105. We had three players of recent Alamaze experience in Hawk (AN), Nikodemus (DE) and paway (RD) but the rest of us, mostly recruited from the Duel2 play-by-mail community, were all completely new to Alamaze. Because of this, the three pros made a point of going easy on us (at least while we were all floundering in the early game). They all gave out tons of advice and let us find our feet at our own pace.

EARLY GAME

     IRL I was travelling a lot and my early game was abysmal, not only because of immense misunderstandings about rules, misreading the reaction/emissary tables, and my terrible proof-reading of my order sheets, but I also did a lot of inefficient things with my armies and personnel, and I mis-budgeted several of my early turns, meaning that many orders were wasted and I actually got no PC gains until turn 6.

     Most foolishly of all, rather than focusing on the land grab I had been itching to see some different dynamics early on, regardless of proper strategy, so I ended up losing a level 5 agent in a failed assassination against Rangers in the R9 city, and I discovered how weak SO troops were when I was thoroughly beat up by a neutral village I should never have attacked. Still, I eventually had a battle victory and also got to exploit the broken Chaos mechanic to devastating success, when I landed on a stray WA town in Region 9 where he had two brigades and decent early game wizards sitting very peacefully. None of these actions were of any value diplomatically or strategically, but being a noob I couldn’t resist trying them out all the same.

     When the scores came out with turn 6 I was in a very poor last place, though I had finally gained a first town. Despite that assassination attempt I made early peace with RA and also with DA and DW. I ceded my control claim of Region 9 to the Rangers to guarantee his ESO and we hoped to arrange mine for turn 15 though it ended up proving too tricky. DW took Region 3, DA took Region 6, and between the four of us we wanted to get stuck into war as soon as we could, planning to hit the Giants in Region 5 and the Black Dragons in Region 10.

     Elsewhere on the map, WI was first to get regional control, taking Region 2 in turn 4. He was allied with EL who took Region 1 very soon after. The two of them kind of turtled for a good 10 turns, working on artifacts, training and economic consolidation, while the rest of us got stuck into various costly battles.

     But the biggest dynamic within the game was unquestionably the AN/TR alliance. From turn 1, TR wanted to come out fighting, and boy did he pick fights with pretty much everyone around him. AN focused on keeping DE and RD disrupted (for honorable reasons he didn’t attack new players but was happy for TR to do so) while TR started marching all over the southwest.

MID GAME

     From turn 9 or 10, Rangers invaded Black Dragons, and Dwarves invaded Giants. I sent a couple of emissaries into Region 5 with the DW but I focused mainly on backing Rangers up in Region 10. Dark Elves were also present in both regions.

     In Region 10 we had a pretty fun war. BL was allied with WA, but WA was defending himself against AN/TR. So we hoped BL would be an easy campaign, though it was anything but that. He fought every step of the way, winning several battles against RA and our progress was slow, though gradually our numbers advantage worked in our favour. Progress against the GI was also good to start with but he too proved himself in combat against the DW and halted our progress.

     In the western conflicts I saw that RD and DE made some deft maneuvers and for a long while it wasn’t clear who had the upper hand, but AN/TR recruited GI and EL and by that point, essentially had unstoppable armies. At somewhere around the turn 15 mark, AN and GI swarmed into the DA in region 6, and EL attacked the DW, effectively neutralizing my allies’ offensive opportunities as they had to go into defensive mode.

    UN and GN dropped in turn 16, having not made much impact in the game previously. I think they were already inactive and were defeated by TR long before that point.

     By about turn 18, RA and I had taken most of Region 10, and I had an invisible p7 poised to strike the main BL army with Summon Deaths to finally try and take him down for good. However, the game-changer for us was the point WI announced his plans to invade Region 9 to start working on his SVC. He was pretty gentlemanly about it too, giving a couple of turns notice, and being extremely reluctant to fight anyone anyway.

     At this point, me, RA, DW, DA, and the other beset-upon nations DE, RD, BL and WA realized that an SVC was imminent but might come out of the blue from any of GI, WI, AN, TR and EL. We had to defend together with whatever we could.

     RA and I brokered immediate peace with BL/WA and I ceded pretty much all my Region 10 gains back to BL so he could try to feed his armies. So I never got to fight the BL on the field, which was just as well in retrospect because my army would certainly have been annihilated. He was a fun opponent. I would definitely fight beside him or against him in another game.

END GAME

     From about turn 23 we tried to engineer a counter/defense/final stand. While Rangers and Dark Elves attacked AN/TR, DW continued fighting EL and I supported DA against GI in region 6. With the imminent arrival of WI we knew that it was going to end badly for the eastern coalition anyway. DE and RD were now out of the running but kept harassing AN/TR for as long as they the units to do so. They also kept the strategic advice coming, for the rest of the game.

     When WI arrived in Region 9, he first apologised to the RA and then attacked him. Then he apologized to me and attacked me.

     My armies weren’t worth much, but with Summon Demon I killed the GI king as we speculated (maybe incorrectly) that he was closest to his SVC and then right after that, I killed the WI king. Those two-turn results were the best news I got all game. WI returned the favour, but only after he had spoken to me and confirmed that we were going to continue fighting, and had reminded me that he now had artifacts protecting his new king.

     In turn 26, AN and GI had knocked me out of Region 6 but for one short, glorious turn I gained the city and control of Region 9 before WI’s numbers advantage started to tell. He swatted away my troops and emissaries and when his Summon Demon killed my king, I lost 10 influence in a single turn.

     By turn 28, Rangers had been evicted from Region 9, Dwarves from Region 3, Dark Elves from Region 6, Black Dragons from Region 10 and I was down to a couple of PCs but with a few turns of gold to keep my emissaries busy, an army still hungry for enemy contact, and a P7-3-3wizard team still itching to make someone suffer.

     Turn 30: RA, BL, DA, DW and RD were all eliminated or dropped, having nothing left to fight with, but mostly all keen to return when we get a new game started.

     At this point, the eastern coalition was just WA, SO and DE, we were all bankrupt and probably had only one or two PCs between us. It became a concern to WI that his allies had taken too much other territory and he’d probably not be able to gain his SVC without stabbing one of them, which he was definitely not prepared to do. It was also likely that they might not have room to gain their SVCs and that we’d possibly be fighting until one of the other game-end criteria was reached, either turn 40 or the elimination of all the smaller players. So WI and I agreed to continue fighting in Region 9 anyway. I didn’t know he’d given an artifact to TR but it figures with his sense of honour that he’d sacrifice something to help bring the game to a close.

     On turn 32, the penultimate turn, at the gates of my final town, the main SO and WI armies were to finally meet on the field, but with a P10, P7 and P7 at his disposal, the WI was able to wipe away 11 innocent SO brigades before they could even finish their breakfast. So, when the battle commenced, I had a demoralized and devastated single brigade left, who felt it their duty to charge into a row of spears and mark their place in history.

     Both AN and TR tried and failed an SVC check, and AN landed his immense army at my final town too.

     For turn 33, WI asked again if I was still going to fight him. With both him and AN on my doorstep with massive armies, I only had one answer. As the TR claimed his hard-fought and well-deserved victory, my p7,3,3 and a rag-tag band of survivors were faced off against the enemy, and were crushed to the last man, at the gates of Fort Goliath, where now the banner of the AN proudly flies.

POST MORTEM

     The scoring system did not reward me. 8 players finished the game and I ended up in 11th place, behind others who had gone out. I had had a slow start, was always short of PCs, never made HC, owned a city only for 2 turns all game and controlled a region for just 1 turn, and I never owned a single artifact all game, so my point earnings never really got off the ground.

     The finishing players in order were TR, WI, AN, EL and GI, the western coalition who had all been ultimately successful in their campaigns, and then DE, SO and WA. We weren’t the only players from the losing coalition who fought hard, we were just the ones that were able to hold onto something until the end.

SOME HIGHLIGHTS AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

     In the late game, TR won a bid for the HC with 250,000 gold, being the most remarkable example of conspicuous consumption in gaming history.

     Whether on the giving or the receiving end of king assassinations, Summon Demon was great fun either way.

     In turn 32 I speculated with a 1 gold bid for an empty HC seat. I didn’t win but it would have been a funny way to earn extra points.

     In turn 32 I was comprehensively zapped by WI’s p10-7-7. It was fitting that I could meet a noble death at the hands of a P10 called Ry Vor.

     One example of my poor ordering: In turn 5 I had a 2 brigade group on 2 ships, and mistakenly tried to recruit another brigade, obviously illegally. The game auto-processing sunk my ships, my 2 brigades and a p2 wizard, all to my immense horror.

     Thankfully Cipher rectified the adjudication so it just disallowed my recruitment, and restored the brigades and wizard to life. Thanks, Cipher!

     I imagine this was an atypical game because of the learning curve for all involved. There was a lot of banter shared in the D2 chatroom between allies and enemies alike, and we shared lots of questions, battle reports, SVCs, and other tactical clues/details which would probably remain very secret in a second game. There was one accidental emissary usurping between DA/DW which DA was very apologetic about, but as far as I saw, everyone played with the utmost honesty and treated friends and foe with equal honour.

     Thanks for arranging the game and recruiting me, Nikodemus! Looking forward to the next one.

MY COMMENDATIONS

     Iron Willed: Destitute Noble (WA). He was fighting against the odds, up against the biggest players for the whole game. Apart from my one-off surprise early battle, I didn’t directly campaign against him while we were at war, and when we teamed up I wasn’t in a position to support him directly. But he was stubborn as hell and when we formed the ‘losers coalition’ he kept going with energy for the fight, the whole way through. Kulvac (BL) was also a stubborn opponent for me and RA, and paway (RD) has to get a mention for the way his armies kept AN/TR at bay for a hell of a long time.

     Chancellor: Nikodemus (DE). He recruited most of the players and made the arrangements to set this game up. He, Hawk (AN) and paway (RD) all helped the newcomers immensely, generally giving advice at the expense of their own game interests.

     Infamous: Tripwire (TR). His desire to fight fight fight fight fight from the get-go was the dynamic that shaped this whole game, as he overwhelmed one opponent after another. He was funny in the D2 chatroom and dropped in to laugh at his own mistakes and (few) military defeats, mainly at the hands of RD. I didn’t meet him in combat or even land in a PC of his, all game. I’m pretty grateful that I didn’t.

     Honorary Mention: There isn’t a category for him but The Dark One (WI) was the most honorable player. He upheld all his agreements with allies, even to his cost. He wanted to play an artifact-based game rather than a war-based one so he was consistently apologetic about attacking people, and kept up a regular communication with me the whole time we were at war. He clearly got the game and played extremely well from the outset -it was just too crowded for him to engineer his own victory. Would definitely enjoy fighting with or against him again.

Duel 2 Alamaze -Game 105 Remembered(by persona Tripwire)

     Me TROLL Rule the world! <Slobber>

     Back at start me trolls couldn’t find our bungs with a stick! Me had many problems and cried to Ancient peoples “Why me?! We poor trolls can’t find bungs!” Ancient peoples helped trolls and we were friends. Me told Ancients, “We only care about Ancients and Trolls, me no like to talk to others. Me eat them all.” Ancients said, “OK, me help you find bung.” Ed* The Troll finds a mentor and ally in the Ancient Ones

     Trolls smiled and said, “Me eat your face!” and fight everyone. Sometimes even friends of Ancient Ones by accident! They other people were in towns and trolls eat towns and sometimes villages. I think we even ate Ancient Ones towns a few times or were going to but Ancient say, “Troll that’s me!” I say, “OH whoops I no mean to eat you.”

     Big moment very early came when Ancient one say, “Troll you make floating sticks and float your trolls to the big city and fight!” Troll say, “We no float before! We no likely!” But Ancient ones show trolls how to make big boats and trolls surprise bad guy on water and smash them! Bad guy said, “WTF!? Why troll on floating sticks!?”

     Troll say, “We eat your face! And then we ate their face and took city on water!” Ed* The Troll invests in sea power in the Sea of Foreboding and captures Avalon.

     Then ‘nother big moment when troll came to fight 2 big fights against giant lizards who like to fly in and blow fire and beat up trolls then fly away! Trolls no like fire! So Troll cry to Ancients, “Big lizards whipping my bung! Me need help!” So Ancients cast spell thingie and make the lizards go to sleep so troll can eat the face from the town while lizards sleepy. So we take 2 capitals from enemies without having to fight big lizards and some other bad guys. We ate the capitals faces though and it was good! Ed* The Red Dragons became a problem for the Trolls, who received some magic assistance from their AncientOnes ally.

     Then bad time came when Warlocky people appear out of nowhere! Then they eat troll army faces and fly away! Troll no like that so we go hunt Warlocky people and eat their faces and their momma’s faces and daddys too!

     Then trolls get confused and start eating more faces of ancient one friends and troll says, “Ancient one has lots of friends! Troll want to eat more face!” Ancient one says, “nononono! You fight that way!” So troll say “Sorry” and move on to other towns and villages and take those instead.

     Then troll start buying talky trolls to talk to towns! Every town we take we put talky troll in it and we start to take towns without eating anything! Was very strange. Ed* The Trolls begin to discover uses for their emissaries

     Then trolls ate some more.. And talky trolls talked some more. Then Ancient one says, “What your SVC?” And troll say, “WTF is an SVC?” And had to go and look back and find out what that was. Then troll started pushing towards getting SVC to rule the world and eat all the faces. But Troll not have artifacts he needs. He has only looky artifacts. So he trade with other good guys and get artifacts. Ed* The Troll Secret Victory Condition required artifacts other than scrying artifacts, so he makes a trade.

     Trolls had lots of shiny coins! Troll saw talky group that liked to talk and said, “Ancients! Me want to talk on talky group!”. Ancient said, “Use many shiny coins and they will put you on talky group.” So troll load up hoards of shiny coins and put them and he got on talky group! People say, “WOW! That lots of shiny coins!” and Troll shrug and say, “We got many more shiny coins!” And people no like that. Ed* The Troll joins the High Council with an outrageously high bid to gain the open seat.

     Then troll get key to open artifact he found but that was all troll needed to eat everyone’s face and win the world. The END! Ed* The Trolls win the campaign by Secret Victory Condition after recovering a powerful quest artifact: one that requires first obtaining the Key to allow access to the location of the quest artifact.

Awards

     INFAMOUS: Paway (The Silent One) and his Red Dragons! This was probably the only ASS whipping that the Trolls really got aside from the Warlocks surprise attack. Man the attack 1 is really a punishing attack on trolls. If they can’t get in your face so to speak they are in trouble and none seemed to do it better than RD and their fire!

     CHANCELLOR -Hawk definitely for me. I told him early on I didn’t want to get into any huge alliances and regardless how it ended up and you can ask any of the allies that we had, I only went through him and just wanted to play an aggressive and attacking game. I never asked for much and gave gold away like crazy all game. I think I needed food 1 time in the game but that was it. And a few traded artifacts (Thanks guys!)

     IRON WILLED-Destitute Noble-Definitely! I thought he was out like 3 times and he kept coming back. Near the end we got soooooo lucky. We saw he was back and we guessed that his AN3 I think it was would attack my group by surprise so “Just in case” We had TR1 attack on a 2 vs AN3 and then attack the town and sure enough he did attack and I slaughtered him bigtime. Another instance where Hawk saved my butt suggesting we do that.

     Thanks to all I couldn’t have done it without everyone elses help and the win definitely doesn’t feel deserved with all the help I received with orders!

Duel 2 Alamaze -Game 105 Remembered (persona The Dark One)

     Well, that was my first game of Alamaze and it was a lot of fun. I think the best thing I did was take Hawk up on an offer of help early on. He pointed me in the right direction and left me alone to do what I wanted. My personal goals were to get the ‘feel’ of the game and hunt artifacts. So that’s what I did. My goal was to snag the Ring of Power, so I started working on that right away, but it took a long while! I was able to gain region 2 early and made a bunch of non-aggression pacts with my neighbors, which I upheld with honor. My one official ally was the Elves, and Erik and I spent a bunch of the early turns trying to figure things out. Hawk helped out with advice as I needed it, which was often. I didn’t want to / plan on actually attacking anyone all game.

     And that worked out. I didn’t have any early hitches and worked on powering up my wizards. Frankly, I was terrified that someone would show up with even a small army, as I had like zero military and as cool as the wizards are, you can’t be everywhere at once. Fortunately, no one did. The only real hiccup was that I loaned D. Noble (WA) a ring of protection, but he got mauled by the TR and they took it…

     Finally on turn 18 or so I managed to get the Ring of Power. It turned out I already had found the Ring of Spells and stumbled across the Ring of Invisibility, so I also managed to achieve one of the in-game quests, which was highly cool!

     With rings in hand, and everyone telling me to ‘Get Involved’ I decided to be a little more aggressive and decided that since I was already in Region 10 to get the Ring, I’d see about taking some PCs there. Since I was already friendly with everyone in the North, that seemed to work best.

     So I ended up rumbling with the RA, and it turns out that high level wizards are really, really cool. Fortunately, I was able to take some territory in 9 and 10 and eventually take over region 9. Had some good fights with both the RA and the SO along the way. Learned a lot more about how combat works and what to do with those high-level wizards. Along the way I managed to get Ry Vor up to LVL 10, but about a week after someone else already achieved that quest, dang it.

     Finally, my highlights of the game were:

     Taking Region 2 on Turn 4, which was coolTrading assassinations of our kings with the SOFinding the 3 Rings and solving the quest level 10 Wizard!

     My thanks go out to Floyd/Nikodemus for setting up the game and offering advice, OAB (The Silent One) for also giving me some tips, Erik (Otto X) for being a great ally and most of all, Hawk, for helping me through the growing pains and not laughing at me when I screwed stuff up.

     Finally just a few notes about what I liked about Alamaze:

     I really enjoy hunting artifacts. Great aspect of the game.

     I like the magic and the balance of it. Not sure why the invisibility aspect of the game is getting changed, because wizards are helpless militarily. If you can see them coming and kill their wizards, it’s all over, baby. Seems unnecessary.

     I think the map should ideally be more randomized, but that’s another thing. It could also be larger to allow for more exploration before conflict is imminent.

     Emissaries seem too powerful, rebelling and flipping PCs at will… Seems like that could be a little harder.

     I like a lot of the subtle and detailed orders -very cool -shows a lot of work went into the game.

     Mostly though, it was a fun time and I enjoyed it! Looking forward to playing again!

 

The Jungle Clans

The Jungle Clans

By: Peter Rzechorzek

Issue #1

     From a rock outcrop on the big hill, Chun-gah watched his camp in the jungle. Pandemonium. Where the vegetation had been cleared he cold see all sorts of people milling around, engaged in all sorts of who-knows-what. Brightly outfitted Aisharians and short, bow-legged Forsung mixed freely with the Kung Sah, all eager to get something from each other that they have never had before. Never mind that they knew not what it was. At least the Forsung knew what they were about, but he had heard that compared with his own people, they were lousy gamblers. He feared that soon some Forsung warrior would get sick of being cheated and draw his sword. So far that hadn’t happened. The Aisharians were drawing the most attention and were freely mixing with his people. They stood out like a tree on a prairie hill that was for sure. Where the Kung Sah were the color of the steppe, the Aisharians were whatever color struck their fancy. Leathers in red and white, and the color of a fruit he had seen in this jungle that the Kung Sah had no word for. And cloth. Common Aisharians would be dressed in colors that glowed compared with his best ceremonial dress. Kung Sah women were not normally taken by the frivolous or the useless, but the Aisharians had awoken something in them. He saw a Kung Sah woman in a bright Aisharian shirt and hoped in his heart that she didn’t cheat someone out of it in a game.

     They had seemed aloof and a bit arrogant when they first entered the Kung Sah camp, but that broke down very quickly. It was simply their version of the Kung Sah “Suspicious Eye.” Lack of a common language proved no barrier to trade between their peoples. Aisharian cooking implements became a hot item, and in return Aisharian boys were whooping it up, learning to ride horses from the skillful Kung Sah warriors. Recipes were exchanged and young men and women looked each other over hungrily.

     “Quite a mess, isn’t it?”

     Chun-gah just about spat his heart out and almost fell off the rock as he wheeled around. “Damn your ancient hide, Yagadai! How do you expect to stay old when you sneak up on people like that?”

     Yagadai sat down on the rock with a sigh. “My old bones make too much noise to sneak. You were daydreaming.”

     “Daydreaming, my butt!” Chun-gah moved over beside his friend, and they both regarded the mob swirling below them. “I’ve never seen so many people in my life.”

     “It’s been a trial for my clan. You remember Xan Kan Su, do you not?”

     “Yes. She’s been a midwife for Chieu Hoi. Short little thing.”

     “Well, that short little thing almost started a small war. Seems some Aisharian woman was in a hurry and didn’t think little Xu was a real obstacle. Hell, the foreigner was almost twice as tall as Xu, so she might not have even seen her. Anyway, she shoved Xu aside with enough force to push her face down in the mud.”

     Chun-gah looked at his friend with a stricken expression. “Oh, no.”

     “Oh, yes. By the time it was broken up, Xu was doing her level best to flatten the foreigner’s skull with a leg bone. Damn near did it too. She’s hurt, real bad, but she’ll live. Apparently they’ve got good medicine women there. I was lucky, there were lots of witnesses of both sides and they all agreed that Xu was provoked. I don’t think the foreign woman was very popular with anyone. Anyway, I didn’t have to do anything about it, but Xu was so mad I thought she’d just swell up and burst.”

     “I swear, Xu kept the temper of every demon she’s ever slain.”

     “Kept? She’s been a war waiting to break out ever since I’ve known her. And I’ve known her all my life.”

     “And you’re older than dirt.”

     Yagadai laughed and slapped Chun-gah’s shoulder. “I sure feel it today.”

     In a hurt some distance from the hill, Xubachu sat cross-legged by their small cooking fire. He stared at the fire in silence, his moustache drooping limply around his mouth. A stout, middle-aged woman sat beside him, looking at him with moist eyes. She reached out a stubby arm and rested her small hand on the man’s arm. “Why you?”

     The man shook his head silently. He raised his eyes to meet those of his wife, but could not hold them. He returned to the fire. “The task is a big one. We will go very far.”

     “Yes, it is, my husband. I know we have seen many years. I know I will give you children no more, but my husband…” she stopped. The sounds of revelry carried on outside the yurt but could not penetrate the wall of emotion that surrounded the two. Xubachu raised his eyes to his wife’s again and gathered her graying hair in his hand. He squeezed the back of her neck lovingly. “You have many to care for you if I am gone.” He cupped her ear and she pressed her cheek into his palm. “You will not be alone.”

     “If you go I will always be alone.” Her gruffness gone. He winced as he saw her naked love for him. She had always been such a strong woman, and now he beheld a terrified little girl.

     “You will protect me at night? You will guard me from the shadows?”

     She smiled. He saw years melt away from her lined face. “Yes, my husband. No demon will touch your soul.”

     Xubachu traced his thumb against her cheek. “Will you protect me from the demons of the great water when I find it?”

     “I will fight the water demons ‘till my last breath.”

     “Then I will be safe.” He smiled back at her. “I will not fear the dark. And in the light it is I who is feared.”

     “I will make you an amulet tonight, my husband. I will join my sisters under the full moon tonight, and when we are done I will make you an amulet. All our power will be in that amulet. The demons will quake at your passing.” Her eyes began to glow as she gratefully grasped the task. “We will celebrate the coming spring and together we touch even the creator. I will use this power.”

     “That is good.” He drew her close to him. “Now, let’s think of better things than my journey.”His nose touched hers as he smiled into her eyes. “Let’s remember our youth.”

     Children ran and shouted, and people went about their noisy lives, while inside the yurt the years melted like snow beneath the sun.

Nowhere But PBM

Nowhere But PBM

By Rick McDowell
rmcdowell@kingdomsofarcania.com

Issue #1

     Where else can you compete against a dozen or more mature, intelligent adults in a sophisticated, thinking man’s game set in a genre of mutual interest? In a format that lets you play whenever you wish within a cycle of several days, and affords that same convenience to all allies and enemies in the campaign? Where else do games build to a crescendo over several months of thoughtful planning and execution, where lifelong friendships may be made, some of whom may also frequently play the role of arch nemesis? Where reflexes matter for naught, strategy is everything, both in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your position and style of play, as well as those of your fellow competitors?

     Nowhere other than here: PBM/PBEM. While there are thousands of computer, online, and well-presented board games, no other style offers all the advantages of PBEM. So why is the hobby waning instead of waxing?

     Ironically, for some of the same reasons it stands alone as a most appealing combination of attractive game play elements, it is neigh unapproachable to the huddled masses hooked on instant gratification, splashy graphics, download-and-start-clicking, and a torrent of low brow free online games.

     PBEM games and their purveyors are high-end boutique in comparison -for very discriminating buyers who generally know what they want and what they’re getting into:

  • Complexity, which they appreciate rather than cringe from and which by their nature means lots of rules to absorb and enjoy before doing anything in the game;
  • Anticipation replaces instant gratification. This is a hallmark of PBEM but a foreign idea to most gamers, especially younger ones;
  • The boutique (low volume, high cost and high customer loyalty) requirement of producing PBEM is met by the uninitiated as priced too highly. Probably all PBEM moderators have heard something like, “I can play World of Warcraft unlimited for $13 a month. Why would I pay your price?”

     All gamers that haven’t should try World of Warcraft (WoW) or something similar to see what it’s about. After all, it has tens of millions of mostly teenaged players. If after a few hours of play or a few leveling ups, you don’t find WoW tedious and numbingly repetitive, haven’t seen there is little substance behind the flashy graphic veneer, don’t mind a game dominated by 16 year olds who aren’t thinking five minutes ahead, and/or your monthly entertainment budget is about that of a movie and a box of popcorn, you should stay with WoW and its ilk.

     If you want something more stimulating for your brain than for your eyes, come back to PBEM and bring your friends. Players in good PBEM’s think about their game even more of their time away from the game than while actually playing it. They are evaluating the situation, considering alternatives, calculating the implications of every move, inventing the next steps in various diplomatic overtures and the potential consequences of each. It is absorbing, thought provoking, challenging, fraught with peril for miscalculation and great intrinsic reward for plans well-conceived and executed. Of course, there is also that underrated aspect of going against (and with) very bright fellow competitors of living tissue instead of AI. And each campaign is very different than the one before, bringing fresh challenges.

     PBEM will always be boutique; it will never attract a million followers. But it can survive and encourage its bright designers to create new worlds that entertain us for years to come. Here are some obstacles to overcome:

  • Marketing is not very effective because a single company has a very limited budget and is trying to compete online with the marketing dollars of gaming companies with millions to spend.
  • The perception that PBEM is too expensive.
  • The learning curve to come to love the game is normally substantial.
  • The demographic is aging and not necessarily the most technically savvy.
  • The lack of glitz and instant gratification.
  • We need exciting new concepts for games and worlds.

     To those obstacles, I suggest the following be considered:

  • PBEM companies should consider forming a consortium for marketing and awareness and sharing player lists to build a unified community of gamers.
  • PBEM isexpensive, although many boxed games are expensive as well. So are high quality products in any field. The value proposition must be emphasized, meaning the hours of enjoyment per dollar and the uniqueness of the experience for each player, rather than having the same experience a million others might have identically in most online and computer games.
  • This is a delineator for sure. A casual gamer (plays free games) is unlikely to become an avid PBEM gamer, because it is too complicated. We need to find those gamers who enjoy the challenge and mental stimulation, and they are less likely to be actively looking for challenging games than are kids looking for the newest release
  • This is much a marketing problem: we are trying to reach the people who would really enjoy the hobby but just don’t know about it or think immediately that they would enjoy it, and they aren’t looking for it.
  • Producers can make largely text results more attractive, but this is another hard line between eye candy gratification and mental stimulation and anticipation. It seems avid readers of both fiction and non-fiction are the best target demographic, rather than existing gamers
  • A breakthrough design in a totally new genre or an existing genre presented completely differently with lots of hooks could be big for the whole field by bringing new attention

     Word of mouthremains probably the most important marketing tool and way to convey what our hobby has to offer those who would seek mental stimulation in their entertainment. Players, tell your intellectual friends about your favorite PBEM game and join your favorite game with them to help them learn the ropes and become a happy member of our wonderful PBEM community.

Rick McDowellDesigner and Producer for Alamaze, Fall of Rome, and Kingdoms of Arcania