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Issue #2 - Chaos is everywhere in the PBM realm! - Charles Mosteller
Chaos is everywhere in the PBM realm!
Charles Mosteller

Chaos is everywhere in the PBM realm! It’s never far away. It’s always lurking, and always working its magic, both good and bad. You can’t run from it. You can’t hide from it. It is what it is.

My most recent turn results for Hyborian War? Turn #32 of game number HW-982. The results arrived much later than they typically do. This was chaos in postal service form. Ever been there? Ever did that? The envelope was stamped 29 AUG 2023. So, when did the envelope containing my turn results finally arrive at my post office box? They weren’t there on Saturday, and it was late on Monday when my Hyborian War friend, JBad (JBad is his moniker on Lloyd Barron’s The Road of Kings forum site), sent me an e-mail at 2:32AM early on Tuesday morning. Having not made it to the post office on Monday, I exercised the Omega Option, and drove to the post office in my bedroom slippers. Lo and behold, for my turn results had finally arrived!

Had they dropped me from the game? No! The fine folks at RSI had processed the turn in a timely manner, and had mailed it out in a timely manner, but then my turn results and their accompanying trusty envelope fell straight into The Twilight Zone chaos.

Lately, I have been playing a lot of Alamaze. Trying to learn it. Trying to get the hang of it. trying to get better at it. The Play By Mail Facebook page sure has been getting plastered, of late, with a bunch of postings pertaining to Alamaze, Rick McDowell’s creative PBM undertaking that first started several decades ago, but which is currently playable in the online medium.

Has Alamaze replaced Hyborian War as my favorite PBM game? No, it has not. But what it has done, of late, is to really skyrocket up the list. I’m having fun with it. Lots and lots of fun with it.

Has it all been fun, though? No, it has not all been fun. The game, itself, is fun. Alamaze has 32 different kingdoms that you can choose from to play (unless the one that you wanted to play has already been picked, of course, by someone else who beat you to the punch on signing up for a new game of Alamaze. Early birds get the worms, as the old saying goes. I’m looking at YOU. You’ve been slow in making it to the Alamaze party. Boo! Hiss! Hiss!

Chaos prevents people from playing PBM games, from giving them a try. And I’m not talking about just people from outside the Play By Mail gaming realm. Chaos also strikes those within the PBM realm, as evidenced by YOUR lack of willingness to give Alamaze a try. Then, too, there’s a try, and then there’s a real try. You all know what I mean by that.

Being the world’s biggest and most unabashed hater of having to read a bunch of rulebooks and other documentation, just to get started giving new PBM games a try, I can attest that it is, indeed, possible to play and to enjoy playing Alamaze, without having to read a bunch of nonsense like that. I’m not shitting you, either. You do have to give it an honest go, though. You have to make some effort. You do not learn Alamaze, nor any other PBM game, modern or ancient, via osmosis. If John Mulholland can play Alamaze (I use the word “play” loosely, here), then YOU can play Alamaze, also. Don’t be a scaredy cat!

Just loosen up a bit. Take that Richard Weatherhead bow tie off, and set it on your coffee table. Forget about playing to win (Has Wayne Smith ever won a PBM game?), and just focus on getting used to the Alamaze game interface (which was bestowed with a long name, for some reason - Alamaze Online Order System). Don’t let long names scare you off. It really is a manageable affair. Give yourself six turns - a mere half-dozen turns. That’s when it really began to click for me.

Most of the Alamaze games that I play in are on a 72-hour turn processing schedule. If all players get their turn orders done and click on the Ready button in the Alamaze game interface, then turns can actually process faster than that 72-hour deadline. You know how people are. They sometimes take their sweet ass time getting around to issuing orders for their turn. Sometimes, real life intervenes, and other times, people just get slack. I know that feeling. Been there, done that. What about YOU?

In case you’re wondering who this John Mulholland fellow is that I mentioned, he’s the new owner of Alamaze. He bought it several months back from Alamaze creator and grand designer, Rick McDowell. He’s not as handsome of a man as Rick McDowell is, but he does really like Alamaze - a lot. How much is a lot, you ask? Enough to buy it. That’s how much!

He’s no kin to Carol Mulholland, the former editor of Flagship magazine, the Independent Magazine for Gamers, as far as I know, in case you might be wondering. And speaking of Flagship magazine, you can download some free back issues in PDF format here and here.
And if you don’t want to give Alamaze a try, then at least be decent enough to read Richard Jones’ A dissertation on gaming.

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Issue #2 - Chaos is everywhere in the PBM realm! - Charles Mosteller - by GrimFinger - 01-01-2024, 07:09 PM

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