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Gamer Challenge for the week of January 16th

Each week the gamer challenge comes from the BGG gamer calendar for 2012. This weeks gamer challenge was to play a game via email. If you are interested in the calendar check out: www.boardgamecalendar.com/pages/what-is-this

Turning the page in the gamer calendar I saw that this weeks challenge was to play a game via email.  No sweat!  So I pinged an old friend and colleague of mine who I use to play a lot of email games with.

Games via email?  How 1990 can we get, right?  You have to understand something.  A lot of cubicle dwellers need a midday distraction.  We can’t exactly whip out WOW at the office.  However, idly flipping to our email and taking our turn in a “play when you have time” game is completely do-able.  In fact, given that I am not a smoker, I find taking my turn to be a nice alternative to the “smoke breaks” some of my other coworkers take.

So I walked into this challenge thinking it would be a breeze.  We use to play a lot of games of Risk using a website called “Warfish” which would send out email notifications when it was your turn.  Then you simply clicked the link, took your turn, and it would send an email out to the next person in the line.  So we rallied the troops and got a game set up.

Now I admit, I was busy, and it took me a couple of days to get my initial starting places picked. Then the Warfish server went down, and I really had no option but to wait.  So given that I had no idea how long the outage would be, I poked around on the internet and found another email game site.

GamesByEmail.com came to the rescue, and had some other really neat games.  One of my old favorites, Twixt, was on the list and I got really excited.  My husband and I use to play the game all the time, and so I invited him to play the email game with me.  *Crickets* No response during that day, so when I got home I asked him if he got my email invite.  He had, but hadn’t had time to sit in front of the computer and play a game.

“But you don’t have to sit there the whole time.  Just make your move, and then go about your day.  You’ll get an email when it’s your turn again.  This is a very low stress activity!”

“Yeah, but I like to think about my turns, that takes time.”

In frustration, I took my search for a player elsewhere.  I sent out a few different email requests to friends.  More crickets.  Then I lost a day to the SOPA protests, as many sites were blacked out for the day.  So on Thursday, I talked to my old friend again, the one I use to play Risk with to find out the status of our game.

“Yeah, the server is back up, but we are waiting on Mike.”  And there in lies the other bane.  You have to get everyone to join that you invite to a game, or it just sits there, waiting.  Likewise, if you are in the middle of a game with coworkers, and someone leaves on vacation, you are stuck waiting until they return.  I explained to him that I had to get this task done, so being a good friend, he agreed to do some two player email gaming with me.

A look at the Twixt screen on the GamesByEmail.com website.  I trounced my friend at this one.

A look at the Twixt screen on the GamesByEmail.com website. I trounced my friend at this one.

So we started with Twixt on the GamesByEmail site.  My friend had never played the game before, but he picked it up pretty quick.   We found that the GamesByEmail system left a few things to be desired.  It seemed that the person who started the game had to be the one to do a rematch, which annoyed my friend.  I also found the system to be slightly buggy at times, as there was a time or two that I took my move and submitted it, but then the system thought I hadn’t.  However, all and all, the game played pretty true and we had a good time.  Like all good email games, it incorporated a feature that allowed us to chat back and forth each time we sent in our move.  This always helps facilitate the smack talk, or the friendly advice.

After a couple of games of Twixt my friend pulled up Warfish and started a two player game of Risk for us.  Warfish is a rather neat setup.  It allows players to play many different variants of Risk (blind play, all at once, with cards, without cards, etc.  You can even play on user generated boards, should you wish).

We played on the standard board, but with a “everyone plays blindly at once” variant.  Basically, everyone sets their moves in secret and then the computer works out who wins and loses each battle and sets up for the next round.  It’s a style of play that I am absolutely horrible at, but is a nice variant from standard Risk.

This is me losing handily at Risk.  I am green, my friend is the dark gray, and a computer generated neutral player is the light gray.

This is me losing handily at Risk. I am green, my friend is the dark gray, and a computer generated neutral player is the light gray.

In the end, this was harder to accomplish than I had imagined.  Most people who are not well versed in email games seem to turn their noses up at them.  But for us gamers who live in a cube for a minimum of forty hours a week, email games can be a saving bit of sanity for us.  It helps us connect with friends in different offices, or just across that fabric wall, and it’s certainly a healthier option than joining our colleagues for a smoke break.  So next time you need to infuse some sanity into your work day, take a deep breath and delve into the world email games, and hopefully you can talk your friends into a rousing game of email Risk too.

Next weeks challenge is to “play the game you own with the longest name”.  Unless something changes between now and next week, for us this means “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:  Mystery at Hogwarts Game”.  Yeah, that’s a mouthful.   If you are playing along with our challenges at home, we would love to hear about your adventures in email gaming!

This entry was posted by The_Null_Entry on Friday, January 20th, 2012 at 8:07 am and is filed under Events and Tournaments, Gamer Challenge's .
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  1. David J. Bush says:

    I checked out the GamesByEmail site for Twixt. I found a few flaws:

    * That board display is really small. It doesn’t have diagonal guide lines either. No wonder your opponent needed to take his time with his moves.

    * The rules are incomplete. They don’t mention the pie rule. After red places the first peg on the board, the opponent has the option, at that moment only, to swap sides. If sides are swapped, the player who moved first as red is now blue, and makes the next move. If the 2nd player does not swap after red’s first move, then sides may not be swapped at all that game. This is called the pie rule because it’s like when two people share the last of the pie. One person cuts the pie into two slices, and the other decides which slice to eat. This makes the game much more balanced and fair. Both of the turn based Twixt servers, Gamerz and Little Golem, implement this rule. If you do not use the pie rule then you are playing a handicap game.

    * Another rule GbE missed is link removal, but that is less important than the pie rule. See the Wikipedia entry for Twixt board game for the complete rules, as well as options such as row handicapping.

    I recommend you use the Gamerz website instead of GbE. The full and correct rules are implemented there, as well as row handicapping and alternate grid sizes. Little Golem implements what they call “Twixt PP” where PP stands for Paper and Pencil. That means links are never removed, but your OWN links are allowed to cross each other. Wikipedia talks about this variant. In more than 99% of games, this rules difference makes no difference in terms of game outcome.

    Both LG and Gamerz are turn based. Both are free. LG has by far the largest field of active players. Gamerz sends you emails with text-graphics boards which require a monospace font, but you can see very nice graphics on their interface website. Three different image sizes are available, with or without diagonal guide lines. LG does not send out emails; you have to visit their website to play. So, if your place of work blocks these sites, GbE might be your best option after all.

  2. Thanks for the info David! I was not aware of LG or Gamerz, but I will certainly have to check those out.

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