Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Frustrations of running a PBEM Campaign


I refer, of course, to the problems of dealing with 14 players all over the world by email.

I had thought that it would be easier with this campaign. The last one required each player to send me his orders every 24 hours, and mostly this was done. Of course it was easier for players to keep up to date with what was happening because I published an updated map on the blog each day with the locations of each corps on both sides.

The current campaign is hidden movement, which requires the players to keep track of where they are themselves. I do send each side a map showing current locations of friendly corps each campaign day. There are three moves in each day, so at the most each player has to keep track of where they have moved for three moves.

Each move starts with the player sending me an email confirming which square on the campaign map he wants to move to, and what his order of march is. I plot them on the campaign map and send them a contact report of what enemy they have spotted during that move. They then send me their orders for the next move.

Not much room for error there, but surprisingly some of the resulting corps orders for the next day contain errors. Usually they order their corps to move to a square which is too far away from where they are. In one case they ordered their corps to move away from the enemy rather than towards it, even though I knew that their commander in chief had ordered them to advance towards the enemy. All very understandable so far, its very easy to make a mistake, especially when the correspondence is by email.

However the frustrating part comes when I try to confirm what they mean. This is where "sod's law" seems to come into play. That is the law which dictates that if something can go wrong it will, and always at the most inconvenient time.

The players live all over the world, so a query like this is going to take at least 24 hours for a reply. After 24 hours I then send a second mail. But what to do if I still receive no reply?

The big problem with PBEM campaigns, as I have learned with my recent 1806 campaign in which I was playing the part of Napoleon, is that they can just stop dead. No explanations, no warning - just silence. I assume that a player just loses interest, and can not be bothered to tell anyone. Instead he just ignores his mail. Very, very frustrating for the other players. You would never do anything like this if you were dealing with people face to face. You would feel obliged to explain why you have decided to stop. But this feeling of mutual responsibility does not appear to apply to some of the internet community.

Of course there might be many very reasonable excuses. But I can't think of any except perhaps his computer had broken and he can not afford to replace it. As I am new to this PBEM business I am perhaps less "street wise" than those who have more experience. Perhaps other's do not feel so involved, or share my feeling's of commitment. Indeed it may even be an "age thing". But I do feel that its a little sad that a group who share even something as casual as a wargames campaign do not feel that they owe something to each other, even if its only the common courtsey of replying to an email asking what is happening.

Getting back to my current PBEM campaign. After two mails and no reply, I then sent a third mail confirming that I would accept the orders - even though they did not make sense. I then get a reply that another set of orders had been sent - but I had not received them. My last mail explains about the mail I had sent, with no reply, and asking is everything ok at the other end. The reply............none!!

Like I said at the beginning, the frustrations of running a PBEM campaign!



1 comment:

Monty said...

Ahh..the fog of war, methinks...