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Subject: Wargame PBEM frequency rss

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E Haight
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Aided by my opponents (not explicitly, my opponents are uniformly very nice guys), I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not presently a very good wargamer. Despite the fact that I think I’m a reasonably smart guy (though I’m open to being convinced otherwise), there are some good reasons why I neither win, nor fight the good fight in a loss. Part of it is an approach to gaming that is rooted in laziness (something I’ll explore more in a blog post one of these days), but I’m sure a large part of it is simply that I don’t play enough.

I, like so many of you, live in a part of the world that doesn’t have a significant wargamer presence and don’t get any face to face gaming opportunities. Oh, would that we had something like the 1st Minnesota around here (curse you for living so far away, Dockter and pals!), but that’s not going to happen until I start working on it myself and while that may happen down the road, it’s not going to happen right now. And again, like a lot of you, I don’t have an eight hour stretch, or even a four hour stretch, at any point during the week to devote to gaming, so that leaves Vassal and PBEM.

I usually have one game going at any given time and can generally carve out a few minutes on a daily basis to play a turn, but I often put it off for a few days because of the intermittent nature of the process and because there is a certain amount of anxiety to overcome due to not being a very good player. No one likes to make patently stupid moves. And getting immersed in a game is a function of momentum. You have to ramp up to it and that’s hard to do, playing just minutes at a time. So, I play infrequently, play relatively poorly when I do, and these two facts reinforce each other. But it’s the medium that’s available to me so I’d better make the best of it.

Which brings me to the poll. I’m curious to hear from you Vassal PBEM’ers out there. Those of you that play this way, how many games do you typically have going at one time? And how many moves do you typically make in a given day (total moves across all your games, not moves in each game)? And, for those of you moved to comment, has playing more games at a time via PBEM improved your play or helped you feel more immersed in your games?

Poll
At at given time, how many different PBEM games are you typically playing?
0-1
2-3
4-6
7-10
11+
      99 answers
Poll created by smade

Poll
On average, how many moves/turns/logs do you send out in a given time period?
Less than 1 per week
1-2 per week
1-2 per day
3-5 per day
6+ per day
      87 answers
Poll created by smade


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Tim Franklin
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I've currently got 5 games on the go, but 3 of them are 18xx rather than wargames, and 1 is Twilight Struggle on the dedicated application. Most games get a look in most days, but my first learning game of Age of Napoleon is on a slower schedule.

I do find it helps learning, as I can take an amount of time over a turn I would never dream of inflicting on a face-to-face opponent.
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Mark
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Different games have different PBEM speeds, I've found. My Twilight Struggle and Virgin Queen games are typically 1 turn per day, while something like France '40 or Liberty or Death are/were around 1 turn per week. Wir sind das Volk is multiple moves per day. A lot of it depends on how much you have to do in each turn and the schedules of the people involved.

My amount of PBEM games is steadily increasing. I think I got 4-5 different ones going right now and that's about good for me. I don't know that Vassal/PBEM has improved my play per se, but I like having much more time to think about and analyze what I want to do.

As far as immersion goes, I have definitely felt more immersed in a game playing face to face with the actual game board and pieces. But that is a luxury that many of us do not have, so Vassal fills the gap well enough.
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Brandon
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Any more than 1 PBEM game at a time is another source of stress and any more than 1 move per week feels like a chore (and is thus yet another source of stress). A big part of that is that, like many people, I'm at the computer all day at work. But then, when I get home, I do a lot of volunteer work for a free software organization, which requires a ton of email reading and writing. So by the time that's done, I just want to shut my laptop and throw it out the window.

I also need to do more than one turn at a time to get into the game.

PBEM just doesn't work for me.
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Dom Dal Bello
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KBEM's frequency is at 88.5 MHz on the FM dial (Jazz out of Minneapolis).

WBEM's frequency is 1520 kHz on AM (Bluegrass, Classic Country out of Bemberg Station, TN).


Oh.... sorry PBEM.
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James
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I've got 4 going on now (I think) and I could squeeze in one more.
Turn frequency varies, but it's probably somewhere in between your 1-2 per day and 1-2 per week increments, or maybe a little more. I don't know, it varies.

Vassal is ace and I quite like the slow pace, which is similar to the slow pace I play solo games, which tend to sit on the table for a while. Example, last solo game of SPQR was on the table for a week.

Having it on the table with 'real' people is probably always going to be better though, as long as they do their rules homework and I don't have to teach the game.
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E Haight
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Interesting numbers so far and I appreciate the comments very much. I'm probably right there in the median with regard to frequency. For the person who said they like the extra analysis time PBEM affords, I think that's one of my less favorite things about it. I'm all too prone to analysis paralysis and will avoid the pain of a bad decision for far longer than it deserves.
 
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Tasos Protopapas
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Spoiler (click to reveal)
Doing some shameless promotion here, I'm the developer of ludilog...


I think that the frequency of play is affected by a number of variables.
Firstly it depends on the game you're playing.
If it is a tactical game, it should take less that an grand strategy game in which you have to consider a bunch of parameters that will affect your play.

Secondly is the experience. While PBEM is more ponderous by nature, it gives you a lower number of plays as any given game will last days as opposed to hours when played face to face. That is a factor that gives you less strategies to study. Less what-if scenarios and less mistakes to learn by.

Thirdly, I think that by PBEM you are missing lot of cause-effect things.
If the effect of your movements comes in two-three days, as opposed to 1-10 minutes, you are propably missing something, or do not make the same correlations (because you already forgot where you were in the game).

These things can be improved with higher frequency...

When I was playing some COIN games I figured that the whole process of the play was somewhat cumbersome.
Checking the forum in which the conversation about the game is held, going to dropbox and getting the latest file, playing and uploading the file prefixed with the proper numbering and going back to the forum to announce the next player took more time than necessary. That's why I created www.ludilog.com, a platform for handling conversation and vassal log files.

In some playtests we did on the platform we discovered that the frequency of the play was highly improved, and I personally was able to keep up and make some good strategy decisions because of the concentration the higher frequency gave me.

So, go ahead and check it out, it might improve your play time, play amount and, why not, your win-lose ratio.

Tasos

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Roger Hobden
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My current PBEM is Le Vol de l'Aigle, a remarkable game I enjoy tremendously.

Sending out orders once or twice a week (except during battles arrrh) is a stately pace which suits me fine.
 
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Tom Willcockson
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Yes for me playing pbem depends very much on the type of game. Tactical games I usually play face to face, because that seems more suited to the scale. In a face to face game I always feel a lot more pressure, I miss stuff and I don't do the optimal stuff that perhaps I should. In pbem, which I almost always play via ACTs with the physical board or using VASSAL to keep track, it is much more deliberative and things move at a slower pace. However that is really the way I think it should be.

Play in something like ASL should be faster and more chaotic with more mistakes made and games completed more rapidly. It doesn't bother me if I screw something up, seems more appropriate to the subject matter and if it is a critical enough error, well the game will be over soon enough. It would never feel right playing ASL pbem, just seems like you would have a really unrealistic amount of time to think about things.

In a strategic game however the long term game play and planning out moves and strategy just seems more appropriate. Perhaps you are less likely to really make a big mistake because you have more time to deliberate on a move, but then again if you do make a big strategic mistake in a pbem game it can take weeks or even months sometimes for the whole slow moving defeat to play out. Whenever I play a strategic game like Wilderness War or Empire of the sun, face to face play just seems much too rushed for the subject matter and that bothers me a lot while playing. Would much rather play fewer games of those more deeply.

So in a FtF ASL game I imagine myself in some ruined building or behind a stone wall, uncomfortable, unkempt and somewhat overwhelmed by what is going on as I try to direct the units around me. That needs to be FtF. In Wilderness War I imagine myself in a comfortable British headquarters in Albany (you know the scene from last of the Mohicans) with a glass of Port leaning over a mahogany table covered in maps and reports from the forts around Hudson's Carry, taking my time as I try to sort out what Montcalm might be up to. For me that is pbem.
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Grant Linneberg
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For me PBEM has been a godsend. My work schedule doesn't make for making appearances at club get togethers, so VASSAL PBEM is my way to play H2H. I'll play as fast or as slow as my opponents want. I'm usually good for a move per day (though I have an Up Front opponent where we sometimes fire off 5 a day if we happen to be home at the same time). Games like Guns of Gettysburg or The US Civil War or large games, I pour over the turn more so it might be more like a turn every 2 days. But if my opponent is slower, I'm fine with that. I usually have 6-10 games going on, so there is almost always a move to make, even if it's just a quick turn of CC:Ancients.

I play so much VASSAL PBEM that I find live VASSAL a bit disconcerting. I always feel I'm too slow. (Which is not something I ever feel F2F.)

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Sean McCormick
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I usually have 8-10 games going at once, and the types of games I tend to favor now are ones that play well over Vassal--games with small chunk moves. So CDGs, area-impulse games, COIN games--anything that allows me to easily go in and out. An IGO-YUGO is a non-starter at this point.
 
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Carsten Bohne
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terumi wrote:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Doing some shameless promotion here, I'm the developer of ludilog...


(snip)

These things can be improved with higher frequency...

When I was playing some COIN games I figured that the whole process of the play was somewhat cumbersome.
Checking the forum in which the conversation about the game is held, going to dropbox and getting the latest file, playing and uploading the file prefixed with the proper numbering and going back to the forum to announce the next player took more time than necessary. That's why I created www.ludilog.com, a platform for handling conversation and vassal log files.

I'm not sure what I'm missing here, but all you seem to be saving is... a handful of clicks for each logfile? And you could just as well lose those additional clicks if you did away with the forum posts and switched to straight up emails?
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Tasos Protopapas
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Hello Carsten,

I think that is more than a handful of clicks. It is the hassle to check your forum, your dropbox, play, rename the log file with the proper serial number, login to dropbox and upload it, go to forum and announce that someones else turn it is. I've been through this many times and sometimes, specially when the order of the files got mixed up, this was too cumbersome to the extend that some times I just didn't want to bother. That made my frequency lower.

The email thing is better, but, having used google, in one thread, that thing was getting quickly messed up. It was again great hassle.

What I meant was that the hassle of the procedures lowers the frequency.
That's all.






dasher47051 wrote:
terumi wrote:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Doing some shameless promotion here, I'm the developer of ludilog...


(snip)

These things can be improved with higher frequency...

When I was playing some COIN games I figured that the whole process of the play was somewhat cumbersome.
Checking the forum in which the conversation about the game is held, going to dropbox and getting the latest file, playing and uploading the file prefixed with the proper numbering and going back to the forum to announce the next player took more time than necessary. That's why I created www.ludilog.com, a platform for handling conversation and vassal log files.

I'm not sure what I'm missing here, but all you seem to be saving is... a handful of clicks for each logfile? And you could just as well lose those additional clicks if you did away with the forum posts and switched to straight up emails?
 
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Tonny Wille
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I currently have 4 games going. The 2 CDG are going pretty fast but my 2 OCS games are taking forever. I think my current game of Baltic Gap has already taken more than 1 year.





 
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Fusive R
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Boy I'd really like to be able to check into a PBEM game once a day. Where do y'all find the gamers? I haven't used ludilog but it seems that the creator has checked in so I will say that it looks fantastic however there the game requests are kind of sparse ... so again ... where do I find interested parties for PBEM?
 
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Carsten Bohne
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FusiveR wrote:
Boy I'd really like to be able to check into a PBEM game once a day. Where do y'all find the gamers? I haven't used ludilog but it seems that the creator has checked in so I will say that it looks fantastic however there the game requests are kind of sparse ... so again ... where do I find interested parties for PBEM?

Now that's easy...

If you're looking for online live games, just hang around on Vassal online (although that might not work at all depending on the game's popularity...).

If you're looking for email games, post in the forums of the game you'd like to play.
Or go to this geeklist: VASSAL/Skype/Cyberboard Request List August 2016
There's a new one every month (the metalist is this one: NEW Subscription Thread to the Monthly Vassal/Cyberboard/Skype Request List).
If you want to join a game, simply comment in the geeklist item. If you want to suggest something else, just add a new game (and don't forget to subscribe to your list item).
 
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Carsten Bohne
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Then I still don't get it. Here's what I did in forum games...

I check BGG regularly anyway, so I just subscribe to the forum thread. That way I recognize new posts to the thread and need not check it.
Then I'll switch the tab in my browser to dropbox which is already open, change the folder and download the file.
I replay it in Vassal. At the end of the log (or earlier if I need to interrupt), I click Begin Logfile in Vassal and enter a new filename, usually by incrementing a number by one and perhaps by exchanging the name/faction in the filename. As long as the that incrementing number is at the beginning of the filename, ordering them is pretty easy. Else you'd need to order by creation date which is equally easy.
Then I do my logfile and click End log.
I then upload the file into dropbox in the browser window that's open anyway.
Then I notify everybody in the browser window that's still showing the forum thread.

That hassle pre and post logfile replay and creation will usually cost me 30 seconds (if I'm generous). Alternatively, IIRC a login is required with ludilog as well. And you'd still need to update the thread because if you didn't it's not a forum game anymore.

Please don't get me wrong. Your site is looking good and certainly a lot of thought and love has been put into its creation. Perhaps we're just creating logfiles differently...

Edit: typo

terumi wrote:
Hello Carsten,

I think that is more than a handful of clicks. It is the hassle to check your forum, your dropbox, play, rename the log file with the proper serial number, login to dropbox and upload it, go to forum and announce that someones else turn it is. I've been through this many times and sometimes, specially when the order of the files got mixed up, this was too cumbersome to the extend that some times I just didn't want to bother. That made my frequency lower.

The email thing is better, but, having used google, in one thread, that thing was getting quickly messed up. It was again great hassle.

What I meant was that the hassle of the procedures lowers the frequency.
That's all.






dasher47051 wrote:
terumi wrote:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Doing some shameless promotion here, I'm the developer of ludilog...


(snip)

These things can be improved with higher frequency...

When I was playing some COIN games I figured that the whole process of the play was somewhat cumbersome.
Checking the forum in which the conversation about the game is held, going to dropbox and getting the latest file, playing and uploading the file prefixed with the proper numbering and going back to the forum to announce the next player took more time than necessary. That's why I created www.ludilog.com, a platform for handling conversation and vassal log files.

I'm not sure what I'm missing here, but all you seem to be saving is... a handful of clicks for each logfile? And you could just as well lose those additional clicks if you did away with the forum posts and switched to straight up emails?
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Tim Franklin
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I'm a bit confused by all the "log in to Dropbox, download / upload files" steps. Are people not using the Dropbox client? All my log files are just *there*, in another folder, same as any local files.
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Carsten Bohne
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tim-pelican wrote:
I'm a bit confused by all the "log in to Dropbox, download / upload files" steps. Are people not using the Dropbox client? All my log files are just *there*, in another folder, same as any local files.


I used to access dropbox from several PCs so I opted for the web client. I think it's just as easy to use though.
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dasher47051 wrote:


I check BGG regularly anyway, so I just subscribe to the forum thread. That way I recognize new posts to the thread and need not check it.



Ludilog sends you an email with a preview of the text that has been posted.

dasher47051 wrote:

Then I'll switch the tab in my browser to dropbox which is already open, change the folder and download the file.


The email has a link that automatically transfers you to the message with the file in question. Yep, you have to login

dasher47051 wrote:

I replay it in Vassal. At the end of the log (or earlier if I need to interrupt), I click Begin Logfile in Vassal and enter a new filename, usually by incrementing a number by one and perhaps by exchanging the name/faction in the filename.


The same here I download the file, load it, so my moves, and save it replacing the first file I used on my first move (say AUC.vlog if I'm playing a COIN game).

dasher47051 wrote:

As long as the that incrementing number is at the beginning of the filename, ordering them is pretty easy. Else you'd need to order by creation date which is equally easy.
Then I do my logfile and click End log.

I then upload the file into dropbox in the browser window that's open anyway.


I upload it to ludilog along with a message and the file get prefixed automatically. In dropbox, many times me and my fellow players had to go back and rename our files because someone forgot to prefix the file etc.

dasher47051 wrote:

Then I notify everybody in the browser window that's still showing the forum thread.


Everybody gets notified automatically.

dasher47051 wrote:

That hassle pre and post logfile replay and creation will usually cost me 30 seconds (if I'm generous). Alternatively, IIRC a login is required with ludilog as well. And you'd still need to update the thread because if you didn't it's not a forum game anymore.
Please don't get me wrong. Your site is looking good and certainly a lot of thought and love has been put into its creation. Perhaps we're just creating logfiles differently...


No, there is no problem. And yeah, I can see that there is no considerable change in time, specially if you have gone through the process many many times.
But still, I used to find your procedure (which was what I did/ apart from the dropbox client) more tedious than its alternative. And that kept me from starting many games and, surely, affected my frequency.
Not for the extra time it took (after all maybe we are talking seconds here) but for the hassle.

I can see perfectly clear your point of view and I'm not offended in any way by your questions. I truly appreciate skepticism for everything even against my opinions (especially against my opinions) if it is expressed in a polite way. And your way was polite indeed.



Spoiler (click to reveal)
continuing my shameless promotion

Indeed a lot of love, thought and work was put in ludilog and, a year after it initial launch is still in beta. A work in progress. I listen to people feedback and I'm trying to do my best to create something worth using. If you like, give it a spin, I hope you'll find it useful too.

Tasos

\m/


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