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About Turn-Based Games

Why play turn-based games? Well, of course they're fun, but to millions of game players so are the rapid-fire, highly-graphic games so common today. What makes turn-based games more interesting to many players is that they aren't just a test of how fast you can pull a virtual trigger. Instead they challenge the mind instead of the reflexes. Talisman Games comes from a rich, old history of play-by-mail gaming that over the years has included play-by-BBS, play-by-email and play-by-web varieties, but still offering the same style of games. The attraction of turn-based games was well-summarized as follows by a notable figure in the industry:

Where else can you compete against a dozen or more mature, intelligent adults in a sophisticated, thinking manís game set in a genre of mutual interest? In a format that lets you play whenever you wish within a cycle of several days, and affords that same convenience to all allies and enemies in the campaign? Where else do games build to a crescendo over several months of thoughtful planning and execution, where lifelong friendships may be made, some of whom may also frequently play the role of arch nemesis? Where reflexes matter for naught, strategy is everything, both in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your position and style of play, as well as those of your fellow competitors?
— Rick McDowell

Complexity is a hallmark of games of this type, which turn-based players appreciate rather than cringe from. By their nature they have lots of rules to absorb and enjoy before doing anything in the game. Anticipation of the next turn's results replaces the instant gratification from firing shot after shot trying to hit targets. If you're looking for mental stimulation rather than eye candy, then these are the kind of games for you!

The fact that turn-based games are inherently slow is actually a blessing. Players need not sit in front of their consoles or computers continuously for hours and hours at a time, just to complete their current game-task, typically causing them physical hardships (whether they notice it or not). Likewise, because actions are not resolved second-by-second, cooperation between players need not be simultaneous. Players may coordinate, negotiate, or even coerce over a period of hours, days, or even months as the game unfolds. There is no need to be "playing" simultaneously with all your other allies. One player may make their turn today and their friend may make their cooperating turn tomorrow or next week and the two of them will still be working closely together. There's no need for allies on opposite sides of the Earth to have restricted time-frames to play together, where one may be playing in the middle of the day and the other in the middle of the night. Each player spends time on their game whenever it is convenient for them, without concern for the other player's timing.

Yes, turn-based games do require a larger investment in learning to play. But spending a little time and effort figuring out the game system in detail is well-rewarded by the enjoyment gained in playing the more involved, more thoughtful games. These are also not "disposable" games to be enjoyed on the spur of the moment, only to be discarded when the overall repetition becomes too tiring or the next "big thing" comes out. They play on and on, some with definite goals and end points and some without, but never stagnating. But there's no re-spawning here … if the character is killed in the game then it's all over, and the only option is to start up a new character from scratch. Since players tend to have a great deal of time invested in each character or position, it's important to think carefully about the ramifications of each action so as to not risk losing that entire investment. So thorough planning and dedication pays off in continued play and long-term satisfaction.

For more information about the turn-based gaming industry in general, you might visit PlayByMail.net to peruse a web site dedicated to the subject. It hosts information about this style of gaming, history and general information about the industry including their WIKI page and HiveMind, and news, blogs and discussion forums for players to chat with one another. A free Play-By-Mail newsletter called PBM Unearthed is currently being published, as is a subscribable magazine named Suspense and Decision, covering an assortment of Turn-Based Distance Gaming subjects. A Discord channel is available for PBM-related conversations, as are two different Facebook pages here and here.