PBEM (Play By EMail)
The PBEM information here is mostly contributed by Roger the Rampant, Swolte, RayB, Frogman, Davespice, and Nojd, and some info was taken from the Readme.html file in the AoW2 installation directory. The intention is to provide all necessary information about how playing by email works. This page is useful for both AoW and AoW2, since the PBEM functionality is almost identical.
Index over the sections on this page:
- Auto – Age of Wonders Email Wrapper
- Manual – How to PBEM manually
- Manual – PBEM Settings
- F.A.Q. (Frequently Asked Questions)
- How to set up a new PBEM Game
- RayB’s Guide to Good Play-By-Email Games
- Turn Logs
There are two methods you can use to play by email. Automatic or Manual. Up until recently the automatic method was not available to most players owing to advancing email technology breaking compatibility with the games. However some software exists now to overcome this. The Age of Wonders Email Wrapper is a small program that you run on the same PC as the game. This allows the games work automatically with modern email accounts like Google Mail, Windows Live and Yahoo (plus many others). The choice of method is, of course, yours.
Auto – Age of Wonders Email Wrapper
The Wrapper works with all three Age of Wonders games. Aow 1, Aow 2: The Wizard’s Throne and Aow: Shadow Magic.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to dive into PBEM games is to just install the Wrapper. To use it you need an email account that supports POP or IMAP access for downloading email, and SMTP access for sending email. Most modern email accounts do support these. Rarely some accounts, however, make you pay for this access – in which case you either have to pay up, or you can just use the manual method described below. Another option is to create a new account with a service that you know will work (like Google), and just use it as a dedicated email address for PBEM games.
The first thing to do is to download and install the Wrapper.
There are some good tutorial videos which will show you how it works and how to use it. These are worth a watch!
Essentially the Wrapper will sit in your system tray like this (above), and do the work of downloading and sending your game emails automatically.
The best feature of the Wrapper though is the activity log. This shows the state of all your PBEM games allowing you to keep track of which turns you need to play, which games are moving slowly and what the turn numbers are. Giving you a central heads up display for all your PBEM games. The activity log makes it quite difficult for you to forget or miss a game turn. The example below shows a very busy PBEM player with a lot of games in progress. The first three rows show games that have just been downloaded, with the status of “Received” meaning that the player needs to take their turn next.
The Wrapper comes with a comprehensive manual and a getting started guide. However the author is usually quite helpful if you run into problems. He can be contacted over email (see the getting started guide that comes with the program) or on IRC https://chat.mibbit.com/ or irc.mibbit.net:6667). Channel #AoW. Speak to Davespice. Please read the manual first before asking a question
Manual – How to PBEM manually
These are the simple basics, without any tricks, intended to make things as easy as possible.
You have provided the person that sets up the game with your email address. All you have to do is check your email once in a while. Included below is an example with a game on the Weeping Willows map with the players Swolte -> Rorschach -> Andalakus -> Kangaxx (in that order).
Objective: Getting your turn from an email attachment into the AoW2 EmailIn folder.
Suppose Rorschach has received an email from Swolte when he checks his mail. A PBEM email has an attachment (if not, the sender forgot) so Rorschach saves the attachment to his computer (save to disk). But he has to put the “.asg turnfile” in a certain folder called the ‘EmailIn folder’. The EmailIn folder is located in your AoW2 installation folder, usually: (Program Files -> Age of Wonders II -> EmailIn). So from his hotmail account he saves the turnfile directly into his EmailIn folder. The first time you don’t ‘overwrite’ an older turn, so you will get no warning message.
In summary: You get your attachment turnfile from your regular email to the EmailIn folder.
Objective: Playing your turn and saving it.
You start AoW2 and pick [SCENARIO] -> [EMAIL] -> [Load Game]. Then you load the game you just saved to your EmailIn folder. The game will start and you play your turn. When you end your turn by clicking the ‘End Turn’ button, you will get a screen that asks you to save it. Choose [manually], that easier for now. After that the computer asks confirmation to save the end of your turn (or perhaps an AI player’s one) into your EmailOut folder. It also states the next player’s email address. Click OK and start (over)saving. Once you have done that you can close AoW2 (or ALT-TAB your way to step 3).
In summary: Play your turn, end it, and save it to the EmailOut folder.
Objective: Sending the turn to the next player.
Go to your email and send an email to the next player. Rorschach has to send it to Kangaxx (email@example.com). Using his email (hotmail) he sends an attachement from his EmailOut folder. Something like: Attach file -> browse -> Program Files -> Age of Wonders II -> EmailOut -> practiceGame(WeepingWillows).asg. Don’t forget to attach the file, it is bound to be forgotten at least once… When the turnfile is attached, Rorschach can send the mail to Kangaxx. Kangaxx receives the turn and goes to step 1.
In summary: Go to your email, attach the turnfile from your EmailOut folder and send it.
Always remember (and put it on a note!):
Save to EmailIn (when you have received your turnfile)
Send from EmailOut (when you have finished your turn)
Don’t let your mailbox overflow! Delete files once you have saved them to your disk.
Once you’ve done your turn, please write a note in the turn log for the game in the AoW2 PBEM forum. It keeps people updated about what’s going on in the game, who has the turn, and it’s fun to read!
Manual – PBEM Settings
To access the PBEM settings panel, start AoW2 and click [Scenario] -> [Email] -> [Settings]. There are three settings available:
Local E-mail Address:
Specify the E-mail address you use on your Age of Wonders 2 computer to send and receive Email. The Local Email address is in the common firstname.lastname@example.org format.
For Age of Wonders to automatically send email attachments, your Internet Service Provider’s SMTP server name needs to be specified. If you are not sure what your provider’s SMTP name is, you can look it up in the configuration window of your E-mail program.
Microsoft Outlook Express
Go to the Tools/Accounts Menu
Select the E-mail account you will be using for PBEM
Click properties and see the Servers Tab
Go to the Edit/Preferences Menu
Under Mail & Newsgroups see Mail Servers
If this didn’t help you can contact your Internet Service Provider, they will be able to tell your SMTP server name.
If your ISP doesn’t provide you with an SMTP server, I don’t think you’ll be able to find one available for free on the Internet. I don’t think any of the free web email services has support for sending emails via SMTP server, since it could easily be exploited for sending out spam. But don’t worry, if you don’t have access to an SMTP server, it works fine to send the turns manually via your free webmail account.
Note that it works well to receive your turns in a free web email account, and autosending your turns using the SMTP server supplied by your ISP. There’s no conflict there (in case anyone for some reason got that idea).
If you don’t use the feature to automatically send your turns from within the game when you click end turn, this SMTP setting is irrelevant.
Specify the directory you use for incoming E-Mail attachments. Age of Wonders 2 will look in this directory for incoming PBEM games sent to the Local Email Address. Some mail programs automatically save attachments to a specified directory when they come in, others require you to manually save the attachments.
If you don’t use the feature to automatically load games directly from your email account, this setting is irrelevant.
F.A.Q. (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q1. What are the requirements to play via email? What do I need?
A. You need the game, an email account and Internet access. If you’re reading this, you probably have that covered.
Q2. How long does a typical game last?
A. A small, quick game is completed in a couple of weeks, but those games are rare. A long game can last more than a year. Typically, perhaps 1-3 months. Look at some of the threads in the PBEM forums for AoW and AoW2 to get an overview of running games.
Q3. How many players can be in one game?
A. You can be 2 – 8 players in an AoW2 PBEM (up to 12 in AoW), if the map supports that many. But too many players is a “good” way to make sure the game will never finish. With at most four players, the game should be able to move at a good pace.
Q4. Is there a popular map that everyone plays?
A. No special map, AFAIK. Again, check the threads in the PBEM forums.
Q5. Do all players have to have the custom map downloaded or is it enough, that the one who set’s the game up has it?
A. It’s enough that the one who sets up the game has the map, but of course it’s more fair if everyone playing has an equal chance to look at it.
Q6. When your hero character levels in a game and the game finishes, can you keep him to your next game or is he lost for ever?
A. Your hero belongs only to one single game. There’s no way to transfer him/her to other games (well, you can use the map editor to create whatever heroes you like for any map, of course).
Q8. How do I change the email address for one of the players in a game that’s already started?
A. This is usful when a player changes email address, or someone substitutes a player permanently or temporarily in an ongoing game. It’s easily done by the player before the substituted player when he/she is about to autosend the turn. In the dialog that comes up when end turn is clicked, simply edit the email address the game sends to. The new address will be the new default, so it only needs to be done once.
How to set up a new PBEM Game
First of all you need to know:
- Which map you want to play
- Which players want to play which wizards (or races in AoW)
- The email addresses of the players
Then start AoW2 and click [Scenario] -> [Email] -> [New Game]. Select the map that you want to play. This will bring up a list of all wizards that are available in this map. Change the wizards that will be played by humans to Human using the dropdown menu for the appropriate wizard. Depending on how much opposition you want from the AI during the game, you can set AI races to CPU Squire or Knight or Lord or King or Emperor, or you can leave them on the settings preset by the mapmaker.
Select the options (like exploration and allied victory) you want on the panel to the right. There are two additional options for restricting the building of teleportation gates and outposts available if you click the [Advanced] button in the lower part of the screen.
Once that screen has been completed, click [Start], which takes you to the PBEM Player Settings screen. It should show your email address. You can change this and your other PBEM settings by clicking the [Settings] button.
The main part of the PBEM Player Settings screen is the lower part where you type a name for your game, and enter the email addresses for all the players next to the names of the available wizards. You can change the turn order for the players by selecting a wizard in the list and clicking on the [Up]/[Down] buttons. This is very useful when the players live in different parts of the world. If the turn order is adjusted according to the time zones of the players, the game is likely to move much faster than if it’s jumping back and forth around the world.
It’s a good idea to include the map name and the names of the players, in correct order, in the name of the PBEM game. An example of a good name is First Conflict (Archie, Bill, Charlie, Dave). When Charlie receives a turn with this name, it’s easy for him to know which map it is and who the next player will be (the one he should send the game to when he’s played his turn).
Click [Ok], and the game is started! If you are the first player, the game starts with your first turn. If someone else is the first player, the send dialog comes up. From now on this game will work as per the Auto or Manual instructions above.
The final step is to start a new thread in the AoW2 PBEM forum for the game. With the example used, a good thread name would be First Conflict (Archie, Bill, Charlie, Dave). Type the relevant information in the post, like the name of the map, the wizards, players, turn order, magic spheres, story, and whatever might be interesting.
Notes about setting up an AoW PBEM
There are a few, but important, differences between AoW and AoW2 regarding how the PBEM games are set up. For further help about setting up AoW games, please have a look at Roger the Rampant’s thread How to set up a PBEM game in the AoW1 PBEM forum, and Frogman’s Guide to Setting Race’s Turn Order in PBEM Games in the AoW Heaven Strategy Section.
RayB’s Guide to Good Play-By-Email Games
This was originally written as an article for AoW, and is available in AoW Heaven’s Strategy section: RayB’s Guide to Good Play-By-Email Games. It’s reprinted here since it’s just as valid for AoW2! /Nojd
I thought I’d set out some tips on what you can do to speed up your play-by-email games (“PBEM”). Every day I check my email in the morning and night, and everyday I am inevitably disappointed to see some of my very favorite PBEMs still haven’t returned. Still it isn’t hopeless. Sometimes I get two to three turns in an evening… How? Well, that’s what I hope to convey in this article.
Writer, Triumph Studios
1. Choose a reliable team. This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. Also match players, especially if you intend “team play,” such that not all the evil players end up more experienced and all the good end up novices save one who ends up the sole survivor after turn #8. Grrrrr… (yes, this happened to me..)
2. In general, teams which work in and around the same time zones tend to work better than those spread all over the world. If you do choose to go international, which can be fun, don’t arbitrarily mix the nations. I once played a PBEM that had people from Asia, Europe and the states and it was prohibitively difficult to manage, because there was never a time when everyone was together.
3. Optimize player ordering. If player 2 lives in time zone A. And Player 4 in time zone B and players 1 and 3 in Time zone C, reorder such that you don’t cross nearly as many zones in time. This may mean an arbitrary ordering of the players, and even some map editing but that’s okay, it can be worth it to make this more efficient. Player 1 and 3 in the above example should be moved to play one after the other. To learn how to change the order of play (in AoW), check out Frogman’s Instructions.
4. Choose smaller maps. While it is tempting to use XL maps, it does take a significant amount of time to upload such maps. One game I’ve enjoyed in PBEM is the “Cramped Quarters” map, mainly because it doesn’t take five turns to route your units all the way across the map. Hence your games tend to feel quicker. Also, that map has lots of exploration sites, which are great in PBEMs because they don’t resolve with “fast combat”. Download/upload time isn’t as big a deal if you know you can’t bang out more than one turn a day, but if you think there’s a chance you might all be online at once, this *IS* an issue.
5. Use the Editor! Don’t be afraid to make your maps more interesting for players, balanced, or whatever, by using the Map Editor to Customize PBEM maps to your particular game. This doesn’t necessarily speed up the game, but it makes older maps more interesting for play and leaves your players guessing. It is also a great way to get your group to start playing at a different level than perhaps the original author intended (for example, starting with higher level main heroes, more gold, better starting units, etc.)
6. Talk about your game in regular email; create a mail group for each of your PBEMs. Also, use the PBEM Forums. When the game is going slow, make sure that you let your group know the game is going slow. If you’re gonna go on a break for a while, make sure the rest of the group knows about it. It also helps to periodically let people know that you passed on your turn to another, as the internet has a tendency to do bad things to large emails. Some ISP’s might have fixed disk space and if your friends let that fill up, they might not get some of their messages. The feedback also helps give a feeling of progression to the other players, so that they aren’t nearly as anxious for the next turn.
7. Keeping a “turn-log” for your game on the PBEM Forum is the best way to not only stay in contact with your gaming group, but allows other readers to share in the excitement of your game. Exercise those creative writing skills and try role-playing your characters in the turn log. Convey the action from your turn as if you were writing a fantasy novel. Related to the above, talk out long-term strategy, and things that’ve happened to your characters as if you were that character. It can be very diverting. Warn fellow players that if they don’t get off your farm, you’re fairly certain their lack of experience at your farm will cause a “farming accident”. That’s always fun… and provides something to do between turns such that you don’t totally forget what you were doing once you get the next turn.
8. Choose partners who can sub for one another. One of the good things we’ve been able to do with some of our players has been this. I dunno how many times one player would say, “I’m gonna be gone, but I’ve given my password to my buddy so-and-so who’s in town, and will be playing for me.” If that doesn’t work or you’re not willing to share such private information, use the manual mail feature and instruct the player ahead of you to manually send the next turn to another player, and he can play that turn for your team. Bottom line: provide for yourself while you’re away.
Best regards, Raymond
As mentioned above, posting turn logs in the PBEM forums (AoW1 PBEM Forum and AoW2 PBEM Forum) is a great way to spice up the games with strategies, stories and intimidations, and it also helps keep track of where the game is currently is which is very useful in case the game stalls.
I find it convenient to type my turn logs while I play my turns. I have a separate folder on my disk with one text file for each PBEM I’m playing. I allways play in windowed mode, so it’s easy to Alt-Tab back and forth between the game and the text editor (for example Notepad). In the text file I don’t only write my turn log before posting it on the forum, I also write down notes of things I want to remember, for example when Altars will be reloaded, haste berries regrown, defenders in crypts, spells in towers et.c.
The PBEM forums are very active, so it can be a bit tricky to find the thread for your game. But if you copy the URL to the text file I suggested (if you like that idea), you’ll have it easily available. Or you can just bookmark your threads in the browser. Or do as ZombieEater suggests:
I’m playing in 5 PBEMs right now. I don’t know about you, but I have found it most tedious to hunt for the game logs in the PBEM forum. Particularly, in slow games, where not everyone posts, your thread can end up way on the bottom, or on page 2. It also doesn’t help that there are only so many maps being played right now, so the topics look quite similar. There are several Random, Stone and Sea and River Arne’s under way.
To help me find my logs faster, I just copied the URLs from the browser into a simple HTML file, which I bookmarked. To get to my log now, I just go to the bookmark and select my PBEM. Logging on, of course, is still necessary.
Here is a sample for the HTML code:
<title>Age of Wonder 2 PBEM Games</title>
<body bgcolor="#000000" text="#CCCCCC">
<font size=5>Age of Wonders 2 PBEMs</font>
<li><a href="https://aow.heavengames.com/cgi-bin/forums/display.cgi?action=st&fn=25&tn=280&f=25,,0,60&st=80">Stone and Sea</a></li>
<li><a href="https://aow.heavengames.com/cgi-bin/forums/display.cgi?action=st&fn=25&tn=275&f=25,,0,60&st=40">River Arne</a></li>
To adjust this to your needs:
- copy and pasted everything between and including the <html>, </html> tags into a text editor e.g. Windows Notepad
- go to the PBEM forum, locate your game and open the last page of the game log
- copy the URL string from your browser
- replaced the blue text with the new URL
- replace the red text with your PBEMs title
- save as aow2pbem.html
You are done. Whenever you want to post an entry now, just bring up this HTML file, select the game about which you want to enter a post and you are there.
Only drawback is that whenever a new page is generated for the posts, the URL for the last page changes. So you have to update the URLs from time to time, or navigate to the last page by hand.
See you in the PBEM forums! /Nojd