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October 24, 2009

Table Of Contents

Old lags start here

How postal gaming works

A game takes how long?

Games conventions

More info for new starters

Sampling some zines

Subscribing to overseas zines

The state of the hobby

About the editor

The 2002 Zine Poll

 

Mission From God Issue 24

The directory of magazines that run games by post

If you are new to postal gaming read this

Hello and welcome to issue 24 of Mission From God. To those of you who saw a previous issue or who are already cognisant of the pleasures of playing games by post, most of the stuff in this section will be familiar to you, and I suggest you go straight to the "Old Lags" section. To those of you, however, who are wondering what postal gaming and this magazine are all about, read on.

Mission From God is a listing of amateur magazines (usually called "zines" for short) that run games by post. The name "Mission From God" is a reference to a line from the film The Blues Brothers; I didn't choose the title of the zine but I presume the aim was to convey some sort of evangelical zeal to convert people to the joys of playing games by post.

Classic games like chess and draughts have been played by post for many years but it is only since the 1960's, and the advent of a game called Diplomacy, that the idea of playing multi-player games by post caught on. Since the sixties the amateur postal gaming hobby has evolved and in some cases mutated - on the one hand into professional Play By Mail games (see the review of Flagship in this magazine) and on the other hand into play by e-mail (For Whom The Web Rocks is a good zine to see for a window into this faction of the hobby). Despite the rival attractions of these other means of playing games with people who live possibly thousands of miles away from you, the postal gaming hobby has survived as a cheap, leisurely and above all friendly arena in which to play games.

Here’s How Postal Gaming Works

A man or a woman decides to run some games by post and starts up a postal gaming magazine. People subscribe to the magazine and sign up for one or more of the games on offer.

The players send orders in to the adjudicator (called the "GM", or Games Master), who is usually - but not always - the editor of the magazine. The GM processes the orders from all the players and adjudicates the games.

A game report is then printed in the next issue of the magazine which is then posted to all the subscribers. A deadline is set so that players know when they have to send in their next set of orders. Players then analyse their position, perhaps communicate with other players, and then submit some more orders to the GM.

And so it goes on, with one turn getting processed every 5 weeks or so (frequencies differ from zine to zine).

A Game Takes How Long?

You may have spotted that games can take a long time to complete when played by post. It's not unheard of for games of Diplomacy to last two or three years. The beauty of postal gaming is that you can play several games at once, thereby getting a massive gaming fix each month. Besides which, in a game such as Diplomacy, there is much frantic activity between turns as players write to each other and try and set up joint ambushes of other players (but beware the double cross!). Mind you, not all games require the players to work hard between turns - there are many enjoyable games where the players who give 5 minutes thought to their orders do as well as those who put in 5 weeks of effort.

Pros and Cons

One of the main appeals of the hobby is that it is a network of like-minded people. This enables the hobby to organise conventions (called "cons" for short) four or five times a year, where subscribers to postal gaming zines meet up in hotels or university campuses and spend the week-end drinking beer, eating curries - oh, and playing games until the wee small hours. So postal gaming acts as a contact network for face-to-face gaming too. See our Conventions listing page for more details.

More Info for New Starters

The Postal Gaming Starter Pack consists of Mission From God, some zines from the Zine Bank and a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document relating to the postal gaming hobby.

To get the starter pack just send 4 first class stamps to me:

John Harrington (FG)
1 Churchbury Close, Enfield,
Middlesex, EN1 3UW.

In case you are wondering what the Zine Bank is, it is simply a store of zines from which I choose samples to send to anybody who requests them. Anyone can get zines from the Zine Bank – you don’t have to be a newcomer. If you have a particular gaming interest (e.g .Diplomacy, war games, sport, railway games) let me know when requesting samples from the Zine Bank and I’l try and fix you up.

Editors are, of course, encouraged to send me samples of their zines for the Zine Bank.

Mission From God is available in hard copy format from Fiendish Games for 1. Click on the Shop button in the menu button to see how to order stuff from us.


OLD LAGS, START READING HERE

Welcome to issue 24 of Mission From God, under the editorship of:

JOHN HARRINGTON
Fiendish Board Games
1 Churchbury Close
Enfield
Middlesex
EN1 3UW

This is the eighth issue of Mission From God since I took it over some six years ago and if much of it looks familiar it is because it is largely a revision of a rather poor issue 23 that I handed out for free at MidCon. As I joked at the time, the zine was free but still overpriced; the zine was rushed and also lacking in viewpoints other than my own. I am glad to say that after a good deal of whining and cajoling a number of people subsequently agreed to submit zine reviews for this revised edition of Mission From God and I am now much happier about the content. Big thanks, therefore, to my generous contributors:

Alex Bardy, Howard Bishop, Neil Duncan, Paul Evans, Douglas Kent, John Marsden, Allan Stagg

If anyone else would like to contribute reviews of any zine they see regularly, they are most welcome to. My preference is for reviews on diskette or sent to my e-mail address but failing that typed or neatly hand-written will do. I can accept most formats but if in doubt, include a text-only version.

If you contribute all I can offer you is a free copy of the zine - and I can't even offer you that if you don't put your address on the reviews.

I am happy to include reviews of any magazine that you think has some relevance to the postal gaming hobby, whether it be a Diplomacy zine, a United zine, En Garde! zine or even a chat-zine by a postal-gaming personality. Increasingly I am sneaking in web sites too if I think they are particularly relevant to the postal gaming community. Editors may not do reviews of their own zines but are encouraged to send me factual details.

Where possible, try to include information in the standard Mission From God format, which is as shown below:

Name of zine plus ‘also known as’ (aka)

Latest issue number, size/format of zine, frequency, typical page count, price (specify whether including or excluding postage)

Games being run (and number of each)

Waiting lists open (and number if relevant)

Waffle, waffle, incisive comment, waffle, etc.

If you contribute, all I can offer you is a free copy of the zine — and I can't even offer you that if you don't put your address on the reviews.


THE 2002 ZINE POLL

With effect from 2002 I have become the Zine Poll organisor so I have been able to include the results for the first time on this web site. The poll is a fair guide to the popularity of zines but one should not necessarily think that a lowly ranked zine is a poor one - quite often a zine's performance is directly related to how attached its readers are to the mainstream; the footie zine fraternity, for instance, is almost a separate hobby from the multi-player board game side of the hobby and this is usually reflected in the results of the football management zines.


Sampling Some Zines

OK, enough of the sermonising. Almost time to get to the main event, which is the zine reviews. If, after you have read through the reviews, you fancy checking some of them out, write off for some sample issues. Most editors are only too pleased to send off free issues to potential new subscribers. It is, however, considered good form to send some stamps (the editor will supply the envelope). It's probably okay to send two second class stamps (i.e. 38p), as that should cover postage for all but the largest zines. In all probability editors are so keen to (a) get subscribers and (b) clear some space in their spare room, that they will like as not send you more than one sample issue.

I hope the reviews in this zine give you a useful guide to a zine's worth. Most reviews are complimentary but there's two good reasons for that: most zines are bloody good value for money, and no-one likes to slag off a person who devotes several hours of their spare time to producing a zine. Nevertheless, when subscribing, it is probably best to start off with a small subscription — say 5 — just to get a taste of the zine. If you decide to let your subscription lapse the polite thing to do is to let the editor know. Hardly any editors send turds through the post to lapsed subscribers' houses these days.

International Subscription Exchange

I have cut back on the number of overseas zines featured this issue, concentrating - funnily enough - on those which provided me with details for inclusion in this issue.

Do not be put off subscribing to an overseas zine by the thought of having to draw up a foreign currency cheque as the International Subscription Exchange offers a way round this. If you live in the UK and fancy subscribing to an overseas zine, you can send the subscription money to me (John Harrington) and I'll arrange for the funds to be transferred to the editor of the overseas zine to which you wish to subscribe. Similarly, if you live in North America, Australia or Europe and wish to subscribe to a zine published in another country then contact me for more details.

About the Editor

Middle aged, tired, slightly pissed off, probably in his last year of regular employment before he is thrown on the scrapheap. Apart from that he is, by and large, an upbeat sort of a bloke who at the moment just happens to be feeling beat-up rather than upbeat.

John Harrington


This World Wide Web edition of Mission From God was translated from the original by John Harrington, using Mike Woodhouse's template. We're not getting paid for this: we're doing it because

  • We're nice guys
  • We have the web space and we're already paying for it
  • We don't have enough to do with our lives
  • We're hoping you might want to purchase a copy of our games

WORDS

Postal gaming

Published in January 2003

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