Relieved to be back to his full page IAN LACEY takes a look at some distinctly off-beat PBM games...
WELL I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for April’s 4th British PBM Convention, to be held at an as yet undecided London address. It should be a good event, so be there! Now on with the reviews.
Car racing seems a strange subject for PBM, but RatRacing proves to be a pretty fun game. For your £3 start-up fee you get two rulebooks, one with essential game rules, the other with an amusing and informative running commentary.
All the racing drivers are different people, created by the players’ distribution of points amongst various driving skills (cornering, overtaking etc). However, the cars — or Rats as they are called — all drive the same; four wheels and electric engines with left-hand button for braking, right-hand button for accelerating. This means it’s up to the drivers’ skills and judgement, not the cars’ abilities.
Turn results come in two sections. First you receive a personal results sheet with detailed analysis of every manoeuvre you made in the race, a final placings list, ‘extra activities’ and an updated character analysis. The second part of the turn results goes to all players and is a commentary on the race.
The quantity and quality of information in the turns represents good value for money at £1.25 a throw. Moreover, every other turn you receive a map of the next two racing circuits with their cornering speeds and braking distances. These are used when you write your orders. You decide whether to go faster or slower, or to brake earlier or later than recommended. Many other features affect performance though, such as morale, skills, health and reactions. Overall, RatRacing is very enjoyable with computer-moderation to give fast and unbiased results. I think it deserves a larger audience than it has seen to date. £3.00 start-up fees should be made payable to Darren Cook at RatRacing.
Slapshot is an ice hockey simulation from Tactics Play By Mail Games. The game remains very true to the sport, using the rules, jargon and team names. For your £5 start-up fee you get an A4 rulebook explaining the rules of ice hockey and the PBM game. Best of all, though, is the wealth of info gained with each turn. You get a turnsheet; a description of your next opponent’s playing strategy; a detailed report of your last game; less detailed reports on all league games; an update on the league tables and occasionally a newsletter with lists of the league’s best players; rumours; news and reports from the college ice hockey scene so you know which rookies to look out for. Obviously that lot doesn’t come cheap, but I think it warrants the £2 price tag. A great game if you’re anything of an ice hockey fan and a lot of fun even if you’re not. Contact: Tactics PBM.
Ideal Games is the creation of Dan McCrossan and begins trade with the launch of two computer-moderated PBM games. The first is a rather run-of-the-mill football manager game called Soccer Boss, still its presentation is above-average and the price is appealing. Start-up is totally free which gets you a nice, although pretty brief, rulebook and a starting position. From then on turns are 80p per fortnight for two or more matches.
Their second game is a simulation of the pop world! Pop Star has you as a singer, or band, desperate to top the charts. With good videos, stage performances, TV appearances and lots of boasting you too can try and con your way to stardom. Alternatively you could try writing good songs, but why bother? Nobody else seems to! The price is the same as Soccer Boss.
The latest computer-moderated fantasy wargame from Games Laboratory is Magelords Of Dorm. Set on the planet Dorm (originally designed for their RPG Further Into Fantasy), players act as major leaders of a Dormian army. The action takes place on an island, a rough map of which is provided in the rulebook. The map shows the position of fifty settlements. On your turnsheets a computerised version of the map gradually builds up as you explore. At first you seem very isolated, but in truth the other magelords are only four or five squares away. Fighting starts quickly, getting rid of weaker magelords and setting play up for later stages. The object of the game is to become the one ruling magelord. This is accomplished by controlling a hundred squares for three consecutive turns.
You control your entire economy and war effort. It is also possible to intervene in your armies’ actions by lending moral or physical support using magik. You control your armies with a choice of five actions combined with six strategies, and a choice of eight directions. It is possible to control forty armies, but you can only order three — so you must get your priorities right near the game’s end. You may also hire heroes to fight alongside your army generals for extra power.
Magelords Of Dorm is a great fantasy wargame. The start-up package contains a high quality 32-page A5 rulebook, two free turns, a list of other players’ names and addresses and a postcard-style starting sheet. The text is a little confused, but creates a great atmosphere, and the game is easy to get into. Normally a start-up pack costs £1 but The Games Laboratory have agreed to let us have 50 free start-ups. To get one draw, or write a description of, a Magelord of Dorm. it doesn’t have to be a long description or great picture, just so long as it’s got atmosphere. Send your entries, or (if you’re not artistically inclined) a cheque for £1, to The Game Laboratory.
That’s my lot, and if you decide to go to the convention why not look out for a neatly presented individual (smart clothes; polished shoes, slick hair, cleanly shaven etc.)... he should know where I am if you fancy a chat!