For the last two months, I have been running a play-by-email game for four friends. It was a kind of Kriegsspiel insofar as the players had limited information, but the map and the rules were more akin to board games. After my last experiences with Kriegsspiel, I wanted to have better structured rules – I thought it would make it easier and quicker to write orders and to process those orders. This worked out only partially: As the rules were written a bit hastily, there were many loopholes and inconsistencies and I had to modify them along the way. I’m very grateful for the player’s patience!
The game was set in a fantasy world I called “Ringsend”, with four kingdoms vying for control: The Wood Elves, the Dwarves, the Orcs and the Humans. However, the humans really were undead – the human leader was a necromancer and I gave him some special abilities to integrate his enemy’s losses into his army. Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, I really didn’t think it through properly and it caused some frustration with the players (after one turn, another player took over). I also changed the special abilitiy several times to find a balanced mechanic.
The other special abilities were rather predictable: the Elves were quick, the Dwarves had advanced siege equipment and the Orcs couldn’t be too sure how many of their troops would turn up at a battle.
Players could also assemble heroes and give them tasks, such a retrieving an artefact or trying to assassinate an enemy leader.
At the start of the game, the Elves and Dwarves quickly expanded while the Orcs and Humans took some time to get off their feet. Virago, the Elf player, was very methodical in his approach and managed to occupy the most locations. He also forged alliances with the Orcs and the Dwarves. Dwarves and Elves soon began a campaign against the Humans, while there was some skirmishing between Orcs and Humans. The campaign culminated in a big and chaotic battle at the town of Ilsig, which covered the entrance to the Necromancer’s fortress. The battle was a lot of fun for me as a game master, as the Orcs unexpecetly pitched in, but as they were not allied with the Dwarves, those suddenly began to fight against each other.
The Necromancer managed to get the help of a dragon, but had little chance against the combined might of Elves and Dwarves. He sent two assassination parties to the Elvish court, but neither of them succeeded. In the end, his fortress was overrun. His realm was destroyed, but, like any good villian, he himself escaped on the back of the dragon…
As the Elves and Dwarves quite liked their alliance and did not want to break the peace, we decided to end the game here.
This is the end score (numbers indicating locations occupied):
The Dwarves had a number of well placed armies and a surprise strike against the Elves would have been interesing. But alas, the players prefer peace!
It was great fun running the game and I hope the players also enjoyed it, even if the rules were shaky and rather fluid sometimes. But the narrative turned out great, and at least for me, that’s the main thing.
I’m already planning another such game – this time in a sci-fi setting. Let’s see how it works!