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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Friday, September 30, 2005

Johnny Can't Learn Games via PBW

I’ve been a big fan of play-by-web (PBW) games for several years now. It fits my busy, interrupt-driven lifestyle by allowing me to submit about a turn a day, sometimes more sometimes less. The three I’ve played the most are Tigris and Euphrates on BGG, Wallenstein on Spiel-by-Web, and Alhambra on Boite Jeaux. There’s a also a fairly inactive Yahoo! group on PBW, though you should check out their great list of PBW sites you can use to find games – join the group to check it out.

Anyhoo… I’ve learned that in most cases I just can’t learn a new game via PBW. I tried it last year with La Citta on Spiel-by-Web during a beta test and it was a miserable failure. More recently, I did the same with Reef Encounter and Torres. Ditto.

Now, I had the rules in hand and gave them a decent try. I even got coaching from the other players (thanks for your patience!). The very nature of PBW games makes it hard for me to learn in-place – fragmented play, short attention span, lack of verbal real-time discussion. I’ve had much better success learning on BSW – that’s where I learned Alhambra (ironically enough with Mikael Sheik who does Spiel-by-Web) and Tongiaki. At least there I can engage in a dialog and see real-time feedback on my decisions.

I head to Germany with the family next Wednesday for some vacation and Essen (woot!). Hopefully I’ll have internet access and will post next Friday, but don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for a week or two.


  • At 1:49 PM, Blogger Mike said…

    Bus is the only one I learned on Spiel-by-Web, and it wasn't too much of a challenge although I did make plenty of mistakes. Most of my on-line learning games have been on BSW, and I'll agree that the on-line dialog makes it a _lot_ easier to learn there.

  • At 3:57 PM, Blogger mike said…

    Heh..the only time I tried was Wallenstein...and if I'm not mistaken it was against the two of you. The combination of learning the game with the software interface (and how it differs from the printed rules which oftentimes don't have graphics) is more cumbersome than I have the patience for these days (it's amazing how my attention span has shortened from my HS/college days). It's the same reason I haven't explored the cyberboard/ACTS/AdC options for playing wargames. Just too daunting to learn the game and software together.

  • At 9:15 PM, Blogger Dug said…

    Cyberboard has such a short learning curve that it's not of a load compared to the game you're trying to learn.

    I find almost all games much much easier to learn in person, preferably with someone else who is willing to sit with you and page through a copy of the rules.

    Of course, pbem/pbw has never really grabbed me. The tactile nature of the hobby is a big part of the fun for me. That, and I get really tired of waking up at 3am thinking of what I should have done last turn in that Paths of Glory game on ACTS...

  • At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Rita said…

    I played E&T online once by email. The game took way too long and I missed the player interaction very much.

  • At 9:40 PM, Anonymous vex 3 said…

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