TribeNet – PBeM is seeking new players

Chap called Peter Rzechorzek is  running a fabulous “old skool” style multiplayer PBEM game called TribeNet and looking for new players.  Peter says:

“TribeNet is a detailed and rich game of exploration, advancement, trade and conquest.  It is an open-ended epic campaign game with historical sensitivity and a wargaming element.  The setting is Iron Age to post Iron Age.  It asks of players that they be skilled in the arts of strategy, diplomacy and negotiation.”

TribeNet has been relaunched this year after a one-year hiatus (it previously ran for about 12 years – but has its origins in the 80’s). Most players are 25+ and is currently being played by close to thirty or so players.

“If you have played civilisation type or diplomacy style games you will have something of the idea of TribeNet.  However, it is text and not graphics based.  It is for players who like to ponder and negotiate their response over a few days. “

Apparently TribeNet has a very stable player base (few drop having started) and a high degree of reliability.  It enables the player to think in terms of both short term and long term strategies, and enables you to feel confident that the game will still be there when you want it to be.  I love the idea of it, but with current workload on new novels in development (The Social Club; Oakfield; and Sunder Gloom) I just can’t spare the mental bandwidth until next year at the earliest. I’m so impressed by Peter’s presentation and the solid nature of game play that I’d like to share it with you here.

If you’re interested yourself, please contact him via peter (dot) rzechorzek (at) optusnet (dot)com(dot)au

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Featured Image Above: Shattered Queen by (the insanely talented) Charlie Terrell – All Rights Reserved

FAQ’s for TribeNet below:

photograph of keyboard to demonstrate Play by email game PBeM TribeNet

TribeNet – pit your wits at a rate that suits a busy life

INTRODUCTION

TribeNet is a turn based PBEM that has been running since 1997.  It is an open-ended game of diplomacy, negotiation, build, trade and war.  The central elements of TribeNet are strategic thinking and positioning, tactical planning, political alliance and military and economic development.  You control the fate and fortune of a Neolithic Clan of Nomads as they carve out an Empire or struggle for survival.  As you read on please bear in mind that nothing substitutes for a few turns of play in the cauldron of human motivations and interests.

QUESTION

Is TribeNet a War Game, if not, what sort of game is it like?

RESPONSE

If you have played Civilisation, Age of Empires or Diplomacy you will get something of the idea of TribeNet by combining some of the central elements of these games.  But TribeNet is neither a pure build game, nor is it a war game, it is somewhere between.  By straddling the line between building and war gaming, TribeNet allows a range of choices about what to do with one’s Tribe and how to approach the game (and other players) that are not available in either straight building games or straight war games.  Straight war games have the war going on when you start, which means that the reasons for the war are someone else’s.  TribeNet contains a number of highly prized hexes that are useful to control – you can do this through military presence and/or political alliance – the course you choose is, well, your choice.

QUESTION

What is the basic idea?

RESPONSE

TribeNet is a PBEM game in which players control a Clan of people (which at start-up is a single undivided entity).  The Clan advances by developing skills each turn and by gathering resources that can be used to make weapons, armour etc and other goods useful and crucial for survival.

Clans are located on a hex (agon)-grid map aligned north-south.  Thus directions are indicated by N, S, NE, NW, SE and SW.  Your clan can move around the map by giving directional instructions during the movement turn.

Each turn you will receive a personal report on your results and a newsletter called Tribe News.
Please note that although turns are database processed the game is NOT computer moderated.

Overseeing all this is the GameMaster.  The GM is something like an umpire and world creator.

QUESTION

How many players are there in the game and where do they come from?

RESPONSE

At this stage there are 30 players (the previous game had 100+).  The majority are from the US, UK and Australia but there have also been Canadian, German, Italian and New Zealand players.

QUESTION

How complex are the rules?

RESPONSE

There is a reasonable degree of detail and quite a lot of it.  Some people like this, some don’t.  But the rules are written in plain English, with no need to understand or run code and so on.  Further, you don’t have to learn all the rules at once – you need to understand about 10% of them to make an effective start.
The first few turns require following a few fundamental principles common to most build/strategy games.  Feed your people, produce a few basic goods and scout the terrain.   In fact, if you read through all the rules before starting, your first turn would probably look little different to the example provided.  I doubt that anyone has read all the rules before starting, and most that start seem to survive.
There is also a Mentor system available so that an experienced player can walk you through the first couple of turns – if you come into the game without knowing anyone the use of a Mentor is recommended.

As your clan gains more abilities and resources you can start to familiarize yourself with the extra rules, taking advantage of an increasing range of options.  You will broaden the range of goods you can produce and then engage in the development of Politics, Research, Economics and culture on a much grander scale.  And then there are the negotiations with other players over resources, treaties, military and political alliances, trade and doctrine.  Where TribeNet makes its greatest deviation from the average “civilization” game is that the player determines the developmental direction of their Clan.  This is done via research.   For example, you may develop a new weapon, new buildings, new animals, new farm crops, specialist troops, new ships, etc.  When you reach this stage you will find that you have already grasped 90% of the rules.

QUESTION

Has this game got an ultimate goal?  In Civilization, for example, the ultimate goal is military victory or space colonization.

RESPONSE

You can achieve one of two goals.  First, to survive for two game years.  Second, to build a Pelagoria (see Rules)

QUESTION

With so many Clans well established what are the chances of a new player winning or indeed, surviving?

RESPONSE

The idea of “winning” is not really appropriate to TribeNet.  It is an open-ended game that is more involved with the process rather than the outcome.  However, this does not mean that individual Clans do not get eliminated – which I guess gets to the heart of the matter.

In order to avoid a newer Clan being trampled by an older one the new players are placed  (by the GM) on parts of the continent quite distant from the first positions (of course this does not guarantee that an old hand will not make the journey, but this has not yet happened in seven real years of play in the older version).  Another thing to add here is that new continents have been developed that will enable newer Clans to remain isolated from the “establishment” until they feel they are ready for interaction with the older groups.

But simply being established does not mean that a Clan has it easy – in fact, it is often just the opposite as the main feuds historically seem to be between the older rivals – with the newer players largely ignored in these conflicts.  If you are familiar with games like Diplomacy you will know that being (perceived to be) a leader simply draws attention to yourself, and often brings the weight of co-operative action against you.

On the other hand, the older established blocs are always on the lookout for new recruits – so if you want some immediate action you can join one of these, take advantage of their information etc, but also bring heat upon yourself from their enemies.

In my experience the time at which a player joins does not seem to unduly effect their enjoyment of the game.

A couple of other points might be relevant here.  Firstly, you will start near other newish players who will be in the same boat as you.  Secondly, there is a period of 12 turns during which new players may not be attacked, so even if you make some “poor” decisions the early consequences may not be all that disastrous.  Thirdly, new players are carefully positioned so as not to be exposed to the “excesses” of the longer-term establishment.

QUESTION

How easy is it to survive if you “go it alone”?  In Diplomacy this is fatal but in other games it may just be possible to survive – where does this game come in to it?

RESPONSE

Much of the interest in the game comes in planning with other players – planning economic, military strategies etc.  However, ultimately there are a variety of strategies available in this respect.  But the game is much more interesting if you actually talk with someone and form alliances and joint plans.

QUESTION

So if I do not want to go it alone how do I find allies?

RESPONSE

Ghengis Khan did not spring fully formed from the breast of Mongolia.  He had to spend a while developing the coalition that turned into the Mongol hordes.  And you will too.  But unlike so many other games, TribeNet requires you to do the actual work.  One of the most important lessons of TribeNet is that isolation breeds nothing.  An isolated Clan can remain safe and secure, but with that safety and security it also makes the Clan moribund.  The Clan can grow in power, and develop huge potential, but that is exactly where it will remain.  TribeNet is not for the player who expects to be entertained by others.  The player must establish relations of some sort with other Clans.

The first opening for this is the early service provided by the GM of “Know thy Neighbor”.  If he is asked, one time he will tell you whom your neighbors are.  You won’t know which direction they lay.  You won’t know how far.  But you will know that they are the closest Clans to you.  A door is rarely opened for someone who will not knock.

You want to conquer the world?  You must create your coalition by careful diplomacy.  You must establish a relationship with your neighbors, finding out who is gregarious and who is not, and through them establish a network of friends among the other Clans.  TribeNet is the ultimate limited intelligence game, and you will know little unless you are talking to players.  You will find many players willing to talk to you too because they suffer from the same lack of solid intelligence information that you do.  This single act is the most important and largest step taken on the road of success in TribeNet.

On the geographical front you are limited in your knowledge of terrain – until you either do your own mapping or negotiate to trade maps with other players.  On the political front you are limited in your knowledge of the positions, attitudes and affiliations of other Clans.  However, to fill in the political and geographical gaps you are able to interact freely with the rest of the players through email.  This is diplomacy in its purest form.  The power that you can project can be real or illusory.  Player interaction is the hallmark of TribeNet.

During the course of this effort you will also find out who can be your friends and who are likely to be your enemies.  Your first goal is to establish an alliance or solid working relationship with at least one other Clan.  For both offense and defense, Clans do better with company.  This can mean pulling up stakes and moving to another location to be with a second Clan, or inviting another Clan to move over to where you are.  The more the merrier.   As the Clan’s leader, you decide your friends and enemies.  An alliance with the better-equipped and more powerful Clans allows you to become more powerful; gaining more wealth and resources than you will on your own.  But with alliances comes caution, most Clans are looking for Slaves.  Will your people be the next supply?   And remember, too much power also creates wary neighbours!  Maintain your allies, but maintain your army also.  Military might has a way of talking a language understood by all.

QUESTION

Do you have any idea how much time it takes for a player to do his or her orders?

RESPONSE

The Orders for a basic clan can be very quick – between 10-20 minutes.  As you increase the complexity (you are not obliged to do this, but the majority of players do), the time increases as well – but the most complex of clans should take no more than 1 – 1.5 hours per turn (two weeks).  Some players spend a lot of time on Diplomacy/Politics between turns and it is difficult to put an exact figure on what you will be up for here.  The obvious point is that there is no fixed time during the week that you need to set aside – and this flexibility means that in one sense time is not really an issue.  But if you become engaged in the game and develop your position, your Orders take longer to construct and the diplomacy gets more complex.  In this game diplomacy/negotiation is not essential – but most players can’t help themselves (propaganda is also big).  How much time you spend at this is entirely up to you.

QUESTION

Is TribeNet Web Based?

RESPONSE

No – it is not a real time game (or Web game) but rather a turn based game conducted via email (no postal mail accepted).  The general philosophy is that your chance of success does not depend on how often, when, nor for how long you can log-on.  There is a lot of diplomatic and political discussion mid turn, but this can be conducted at your leisure and is not “hot seat” driven.  As a consequence, there is not a great deal in terms of graphical interface, relying largely on that old-fashioned idea “imagination”!  In addition, there is much fuller documentation than found in many Web Based games.

QUESTION

How is the turn Report sent?  What about Orders?

RESPONSE

Orders are in MS Word2000, Wrod6 or Word97.  Excel is also acceptable.  Reports are sent in Word6.

QUESTION

How long has TribeNet been around?  I ask because I am sick of enlisting in promising games that fold when the GM finds a “real” job.

RESPONSE

TribeNet itself has been running since 1997.  It grew out of a game called Tribe Vibes, which started in 1987 so the TribeNet genre goes back over 20 years which places it as a seminal contributor to games of this genre.  I should also add that GMing is my job – which I have been doing for 17 years.

QUESTION

Do I need to download special software?

RESPONSE

No.  All you need is some hexagonal mapping paper.

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David J Rodger – DATA

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