Play-by-mail games have been around for many years and have a number of advantages: availability of opponents (where else could you easily find a dozen or more opponents to challenge?), impartial umpiring and the complexity of games that can be played. Play by mail games are generally far more detailed than computer of board games.
It's generally recognised that chess players were the first to play games through the post, while Diplomacy was the first game to be played postally on a wide scale. Commercial play-by-mail games, originally board games adapted for postal play, first appeared in the 1970's and have been growing in popularity ever since. We've been designing "purpose-built" play-by-mail games since the late 1980's.
One of the biggest advantages of play-by-mail games is the availability of opponents. Depending upon the game, you'll be playing against between a dozen and thirty "live" opponents, rather than a computer program. Many players enjoy the challenge of a battle of wits against active opponents, which is almost impossible to arrange in any other sort of game.
In a simulation game (such as Gameplan, Gameplan Baseball, Raceplan, Slapshot, Hoopplan and Run Chase) you are taking the role of a real-life coach or manager. The team you coach is not the same as the real-life team (though the names and those of the players are usually the same), with the team and player strengths being individual to your team.
The game will work the same way as the real-life sport does, but you've far more flexibility than if you were restricted to the same strengths and weaknesses as real-life players. You could have a cricketer with the batting skills of Alec Stewart and the bowling of Darren Gough. Then again, you could have one with the bowling skills of Alec Stewart and the batting of Darren Gough.
A further advantage of simulation games is the detail involved in the game, and that the players never get to know how everything works. The detailed information as to how the game works remains secret to the programmer and the players have to simply play the game as they see it, rather than simply "playing the rules". The fact that you're playing against other active players rather than against the computer means that every game is different and every situation is different.
One final advantage of simulation games is that many players find the games increase their appreciation of the sport in real-life. Often you'll find through playing the game that you discover nuances about the real-life game and understand it even better than when you started. If you aren't an expert follower of a real-life sport it's no reason not to try our games, you'll find you learn more about our game and the real-life game the more you play!
In a stats game (such as Gridiron Stats, Slamdunk, Rugby Union Stats and Rugby League Stats) you are coaching and managing real-life players. Each stats game runs parallel with its real-life sport, and your team is made up of real-life players. Your performances are decided purely on the real-life performances of your players - if Lawrence Dallaglio scores for Wasps and he's in your your team then he scores for you.
Every turn you are sent a printed "turnsheet" with your results for you to send your next set of orders in on. These are clearly laid out, with plenty of examples in the rulebooks. They make it very straightforward for you to give your instructions in the correct format.
Our simulation games (such as Gameplan, Gameplan Baseball, Raceplan, Slapshot, Hoopplan, Run Chase, Dark Age, Empires, Star Chase) all run on two week deadlines (giving you enough time for analysis and planning), whilst stats games (Gridiron Stats, Slamdunk, Rugby Union Stats and Rugby League Stats) generally run on weekly deadlines (because they run parallel to the real life sports' seasons).
One or two weeks per turn may seem quite slow at first, but you'll soon find that you're using a lot of that time for thinking and planning. Once you've sent in your instructions you'll probably find yourself patrolling the doormat each morning in anticipation of receiving your results.
With all of our games we follow a policy of continuous development. Real-life sports change from one season to another and our games mirror these changes. As the real-life sports change and evolve so do our games and we expect to continue updating and improving our games to keep pace with real-life.
When you first start playing one of our games it may seem quite daunting. The games are fairly complex and it does take a few turns to get to grips with the rules and all of the aspects of the game. However, this isn't a reason to be put off. If a game is so simple to play that you can pick everything up straight away it's unlikely to be a game you'll still be playing in a few years' time. Our games are designed for long term enjoyment, and there are players who've been playing for ten or more years who'll confirm this.
As with anything it takes a while to get used to the game, and you'll find you're learning as you go along which adds further enjoyment. This is just like real-life and many of our players find not only that they enjoy playing our games, but that the game enhances their appreciation of the real-life sports they simulate.
It is normal in play by mail games to pay for turns in advance. Click here for more details of costs and credits for play by mail games.
All of our games are now being adapted for Play by Email. Click here for more details.
All games normally run with weekly or fortnightly (two weeks) deadlines. Click here for more details of deadlines.
We have a page with the full set of house rules for Ab Initio Games. You'll find much of it on other pages as well, sometimes in more detail, but we think it's a good idea to have all the essential information in one place in case you want to find something. Click here for the full set of our house rules.