Monday, 30 May 2011

Good Manners - Further Thoughts

My last post seems to have struck a nerve with MurdocK, who posted a very interesting response in the Comments.

He has run five internet campaigns and confirms that the one thing he can count on is “delay or non-response from key players”. So at least I am not alone! He goes on to explain the “consequences” he has introduced to deal with this sort of behavior. He then goes on to consider how to avoid this problem. A very interesting and well thought out response.

Having considered the problem some more, I have come to the conclusion there is not much more I can do. My campaign is already of short duration, so players do not have to commit for more than three months. It is fast moving, with a move at least once a week, so they should not get bored. The campaign diary blog is updated almost every single day, and battles covered in great detail.

The campaign is explained in advance, and what is required of them. In particular I lay great stress on meeting the 48 hour timetable. I also explain why it is necessary.

The administration of the campaign is very user friendly for the player. They receive an update at the start of each move, which provides everything they need for their next set of orders. There is an example of how to write orders, and what to consider. They are then given 48 hours to write their orders. Hard to see how it could be much easier.

So if they fail to respond, or just walk away from the campaign, I doubt anything else I can do would make any difference.

The real problem is recruiting the right sort of players. The internet provides a wide pool of prospective players, but they are all unknown in personal terms. So you have to take everyone at face value. There is really no alternative, and you just have to hope for the best.

I don’t think any sort of disciplinary procedure would have the slightest effect; indeed it might make matters worse. The ones who lose interest are not likely to respond to any sanction. But those who have an unavoidable delay would quite likely resent any sanction. I think everyone wants a quite life and a fun campaign. They really don’t want me telling them off for taking an extra few hours to reply.

When we moved to Spain we found it hard to accept the laid back attitude to life. A builder would promise to come tomorrow, fail to turn up and then fail to understand why you are upset. It is the downside of the relaxed, easy going, wine drinking life style which we all love. And you just have to accept the “downs” with the “ups”.

I think PBEM campaigns might just be the same.


mekelnborg said...

In chess online we have a 3-day limit, although that can be adjusted, to make a single move.

The penalty is loss of the game, and an adjustment to the player's permanently recorded rating. A loss on time is a loss in the stats, and it is quite a challenge to get a win to make up for it.

You could institute an attrition rule, that disease strikes whenever there is a delay over the one-week limit, only to the forces of the person involved. First week his men, second week his horses, and the human disease spreads from the militia up to his better forces, etc.

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

"I think PBEM campaigns might just be the same."

Yup............... :o)

Ray Rousell said...

I'll have a go on your internet campaign, I'm sure some of my pals will as well!

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Meckelnborg

I suspect that people who play chess on line are a lot more concerned with winning than the type I am talking about.

If someone drops out of the campaign they have to be replaced, either by me or by a new player. So any penalty awarded to the drop out would affect either me or the new player!



thistlebarrow said...

Hi Ray

I have one command vacancy in the campaign, which you would be welcome to.

You would need to join the forum as that is a sort of notice board for the campaign. It also contains the campaign rules and maps in the files section. You can find it at

You might also want to have a look at the campaign diary blog to see whether it is the sort of campaign you want to take part in. You will find it at

MurdocK said...

It is just this sort of 'back-up' players that need to be ready to jump into the breach.

As it was with our larger "Wars of the Coalition" game, once Russia player backed out I had a backup, however there is no real 'backup' for FRANCE in such a game.

Thus after the delay shutting down moves I took over a referee for a short while, could not recruit a replacement and called it a game with a revolution.

Ultimately it has to be something that 'makes sense' to the nature of the campaign to be played. In a military operation, a delay can easily be set up as sickness on the part of the senior command and 'dithering' by the junior officers ... perhaps the force just continues to the desired long term objective within the normal discipline of the historical force. While a suitable replacement is found.

Again I do not know all about your campaign in this case but it looks like a corps commander is what the players are taking on as a 'job title' meaning that ADC's can keep things going for the week of 'off' by the commander (read take action as the GM), then advertise for a replacement ~ since your 'overall games' take only a few months, in time you will have quite a list of stand by players waiting in the wings. This was how it was by the time I ran my 5th Waterloo campaign game ... I actually had 8 players wanting the 3 spots ... needless to say none of those three dropped out!

thistlebarrow said...

HI MurdocK

You are quite right that a list of standby players would be the solution.

The problem is that I have found it difficult enough to find the eight players required to fill the command posts. At times I have had one or two reserves, but not enough to cover losses.

The campaign is robust enough to allow for replacement players. And has worked well when necessary.

Perhaps in future I will try harder to recruit before the campaign starts, so that I have a pool of replacements when necessary.

Thanks for your suggestions



MurdocK said...

Play out the game with the players you have each time.

I really recommend a start of no more than 4 players till you have a handle on the whole situation.

My largest game was with 8 players, average was 6 and I liked the 3 player (Waterloo) ones the most.

In each case having either too much to handle (like all of a nation FRANCE, PRUSSIA etc) or too little (one Battletech game we started out with one mech each and after 9 months of waiting for a contract I told the GM that his system needed work ~ I was out of the game) action will bring about your troubles.


thistlebarrow said...

Hi MurdocK

I have brought the current campaign up to strength, and it is going strong again.

You could well the right that there are too many players. And obviously the more players the more likely to have one who does not stick to the timetable.

The problem is that I have 8 commands in my campaign, and it crates different problems if one players has two or more.

I do agree that getting the workload right is very important. Not too much, not too little. The problem is that too much for one player can be too little for another!

I suspect that the main thing is getting the right players with the right attitude. Given that, and a little give and take on both sides, it should be possible to run an enjoyable campaign for a reasonably short period - say three months - beore interest starts to wane.