Hyborian War is a play-by-mail game published by Reality Simulations, Inc (RSI). It is set within the Hyborian Age world of Conan the Barbarian created by Robert E. Howard. It supports players in the United States and internationally.[1] The game has been available for play continuously since its inception in 1984 and has changed little in its overall format, using a computer program to simultaneously adjudicate player orders. Although still relying on postal mail (or email) with relatively long turn turnaround times in the digital age of computer games, Hyborian War continues to retain a loyal fan base in the 21st century.[2]

Hyborian War
Hyborian War title from Reality Simulations Inc. Hyborian War web page.gif
Hyborian War title
Designer(s)
  • Inspiration: Robert E. Howard
  • Game Design: Edward Schoonover
  • Systems Design: Charles Kraver
  • Game Development: Paul W. Brown III
Illustrator(s)
  • Folder Cover Art: Richard Becker
  • Illustrations: Brian McCrary
  • Maps: Liz Danforth:
  • Graphic Design: Dunn & Hill
Publisher(s)Reality Simulations, Incorporated
Years active1984–present
Genre(s)Fantasy, sword and sorcery
Language(s)English
Players36
Playing timeVaries
Skill(s) requiredStrategy, operational art, tactics, diplomacy, economics, communications, problem solving
Material(s) requiredSet-up kit, kingdom reports, game maps, order sheets, turn results, paper, pencil
Media typePlay-by-Mail, computer-adjudicated turns
Websitehttp://www.reality.com/hwpcont.htm

Hyborian War gameplay is multifaceted and has been described as "marvelously complex".[3] A central focus of the game is conquest and expansion through military action to gain provinces and seazones aided by the other main elements of gameplay: troops and characters.[4] Diplomacy, intrigue, magic, and other tools of statecraft in a fantasy setting are also available.[5] Players can also collaborate through various means to further game goals. A number of fan-based websites support the game with reference material while providing forums for player communication.[6] Continually played for over 35 years, Hyborian War received mixed ratings and reviews in its initial years, trending to largely positive in the 21st century.

GameplayEdit

"Reading through the rules of Hyborian War is a mind-blowing experience."

— A. Kaviraj, cover artist for "Suspense and Decision" issue #1, November 2013.[7]

In preparation for gameplay, players request a setup package and express country preferences. The setup kit includes a set of detailed game rules, while initial kingdom reports come in varying lengths.[8] Orders are submitted by mail or email for simultaneous processing every 16 or 28 days for regular or slow games, respectively—the latter noted as suitable for international players or those needing more time for turns.[1] Turn results run in the dozens of pages, providing detailed descriptions of kingdom facts and events to players in narrative fashion.[9] Players may also communicate among themselves (unless privacy options have been invoked) to further goals in the game.[10]

 
Cutaway of a small portion of the Hyborian War game map, showing land provinces and sea zones as an element of gameplay

Gameplay is multifaceted and complex, drawing from various factors.[11] It begins when Conan is a youth of sixteen years and spans a period of about two hundred years.[12] Conan appears in the game as a wandering hero that players can use, when available, before fortune takes him elsewhere.[13] Players take an indirect role—that of a power behind the throne or court of one of the 36 playable countries.[14] Elements of play include troops, provinces, and characters with abilities permitting activities such as adventuring, assassinating or kidnapping characters from other courts, commanding large armies or navies, using magic, spying, and others.[15]

Conquest and expansion play a central role in Hyborian War.[16] Thus, military operations such as raids and invasions figure prominently, and there are hundreds of troop types and naval units, from standard infantry, cavalry and archer units, to more unusual unit types such as mammoths, undead infantry, and mounted flying reptiles.[17] Invasions offer players opportunities to leverage dozens of options to select terrain, array forces, employ various stratagems, use magic, etc.[18]

Players make progress toward victory conditions through imperial goals which differ for each kingdom and reward players with the status of "empire", if achieved.[19][20] The player with the highest rating at game conclusion is the winner, although ratings are based on the most optimal performance from available starting resources, not the largest kingdom.[21] Each country has unique victory conditions with some relying on wealth, some relying on mere survival, some requiring minimal expansion, and others requiring domination of half of the globe.[22]

DevelopmentEdit

Programmer Edward Schooner created Hyborian War for gameplay within the world of Conan, as a homage to both him and his creator, Robert E. Howard.[23] Schooner designed the game with "sweeping history, great battles", and other aspects such as kingdoms, grand armies, and diverse leaders reflecting elements of Howard's Hyborian Age.[24] As in the Conan stories themselves, magic plays an important, but not decisive role, a factor which Schooner also replicated in the game design.[25]

In 1984, RSI opened the game for play.[26] Program modifications continued in the early years after release in order to continue to improve gameplay.[27] After the game's first four years, Edward Schooner, the game's designer, stated that Hyborian War was a "very good game" but would continue to receive programming improvement, not because it wasn't commercially successful, but because the game deserved high standards as a tribute to Conan and Robert E Howard.[28]

The basic tenets of the game remain largely similar to their original form.[29] However, various players over the years have recommended additional game updates,[30] and RSI has made game improvements.[31] Additionally, Charles Mosteller, in the September 2017 issue of "Suspense and Decision", an online play-by-mail magazine, noted that in various personal communications, Lee Kline—the president of RSI—appeared to be receptive to future game adjustments.[32]

Verious new possibilities emerged for players with the advent of the Internet. While the play-by-mail format remained, RSI added an email option to submit game turns.[33] Various online fan pages also emerged, providing additional collections of reference material and secondary commentaries about the game as well as forums for players to collaborate.[6] These websites allow players to organize games of specific formats and to practice in-game statecraft at digital speeds—in some cases before a game even begins.[34]

Reception and LegacyEdit

"[C]ertain games in circulation … are so carefully and creatively crafted that no amount of mere reviews of systems and game management can convey the atmospherics and feelings of such designs."

— Bud Link, pointing to Hyborian War in "Paper Mayhem", Sept/Oct 1987.[35]

Hyborian War opened in 1984 to a generally positive reception. It was reviewed in the 1987 issue #77 of Space Gamer/Fantasy Gamer, with the comment that minor improvements were still needed but Reality Simulations deserved credit for delivering the game at the promised level of quality.[36] The game tied for the #1 spot for Best Play By Mail Game of 1987 in Paper Mayhem, a magazine for Play by Mail games.[37] In 1989, it was tied for #5, and in 1990 tied for #8 in the Best Play By Mail Game category in the same periodical.[38]

In the late 1980s, a mixed picture of Hyborian War also emerged in ratings and reviews. In 1988, Vickie Lloyd's review in Paper Mayhem noted that the game had various positive aspects with some challenges in gameplay remaining.[39] In periodic reviews of play-by-mail games in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Paper Mayhem readers ranked Hyborian war consistently in the bottom 25 percent of games based on playability, design, and product understanding.[40][a] In 1991, Reviewer Rick Cote noted this trend, while also identifying that RSI had made improvements to the game over the past years.[43]

In the digital age, Hyborian War has secured a largely positive reception. For example, in 2008, the game won the Origins Award for "Best Play By Mail Game".[44] As late as January 2014, reviewer J.D. gave the game a 7 out of 10 in the online magazine "Suspense and Decision", noting drawbacks such as "forced peace treaties", troop type issues, and character skill gaps in certain countries, balanced by the game accounting for the factors of actual warfare along with diplomacy, intrigue and other positives which keeps players coming back.[45] In March 2014, Robert Paquin identified the diversity of the 36 playable kingdoms as a "major drawing point", noting that he'd "yet to encounter such a gaming experience quite like this one anywhere else".[46] While most play-by-mail companies have fallen by the wayside,[47] RSI's Hyborian War continues to maintain significant loyalty from its core players into the 21st century.[48]

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ E.g., in the Paper Mayhem Game Ratings as of March 30, 1989, readers rated Hyborian War 37 of 44 games.[41] In the Jan/Feb 1990 issue of Paper Mayhem, readers rated Hyborian War 42 of 53 games.[42]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Reality Simulations, Inc. "Questions and Answers about Hyborian War". RSI. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  2. ^ Robert M. Paquin (March 2014). "Hyborian War & The Road of Kings: A Partnership of Play-By-Mail Gaming". Suspense and Decision, Vol 5. PlayByMail.net. p. 64–65. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  3. ^ Scheid, Mike (1987). "Hyborian War: How to Get the Most from Your Characters". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. Nov/Dec (#27): 13.
  4. ^ Reality Simulations, Inc. "Elements of Play". RSI. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  5. ^ Scheid, Mike (1987). "Hyborian War: How to Get the Most from Your Characters". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. Nov/Dec (#27): 11.
  6. ^ a b Robert M. Paquin (March 2014). "Hyborian War & The Road of Kings: A Partnership of Play-By-Mail Gaming". Suspense and Decision, Vol 5. PlayByMail.net. p. 64. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  7. ^ Charles Mosteller (November 2014). "Hyborian War: A Mindblowing Experience?!". Suspense and Decision, Vol 1. PlayByMail.net. p. 24. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  8. ^ Terrablood. "Terrablood's PBM Archives: Section One – Kingdom Reports for Hyborian War". Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  9. ^ Lloyd, Vickie (1988). "Hyborian War". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. July/August (#31): 42.
  10. ^ Reality Simulations, Inc. "Setting". RSI. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  11. ^ Scheid, Mike (1987). "Hyborian War: How to Get the Most from Your Characters". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. Nov/Dec (#27): 13.
  12. ^ Schoonover, Edward (1990). "PBM Corner". White Wolf Magazine. October/November (#23): 40.
  13. ^ Schoonover, Edward (1990). "PBM Corner". White Wolf Magazine. October/November (#23): 40.
  14. ^ Sheron, Mark (1988). "Is Bigger Really Better? A Look at Kingdom Size in Hyborian War". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. July/August (#31): 40.; Schoonover, Edward (1990). "PBM Corner". White Wolf Magazine. October/November (#23): 39–40.
  15. ^ Reality Simulations, Inc. "Elements of Play". RSI. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  16. ^ Schoonover, Edward (1990). "PBM Corner". White Wolf Magazine. October/November (#23): 39.
  17. ^ Reality Simulations, Inc. "Troops". RSI. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  18. ^ Reality Simulations, Inc. "Invasions". RSI. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  19. ^ Sheron, Mark (1988). "Is Bigger Really Better? A Look at Kingdom Size in Hyborian War". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. July/August 1988 (#31): 40.
  20. ^ Reality Simulations, Inc. "Imperial Goals". RSI. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  21. ^ Reality Simulations, Inc. "Victory Conditions". RSI. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  22. ^ Schoonover, Edward (1990). "PBM Corner". White Wolf Magazine. October/November (#23): 39–40.
  23. ^ Schoonover, Edward (1990). "PBM Corner". White Wolf Magazine. October/November (#23): 39–40.
  24. ^ Schoonover, Edward (1990). "PBM Corner". White Wolf Magazine. October/November (#23): 39.
  25. ^ Schoonover, Edward (1990). "PBM Corner". White Wolf Magazine. October/November (#23): 40.
  26. ^ Charles Mosteller (September 2017). "The Future of Hyborian War: Don't Count RSI Out, Just Yet!". Suspense and Decision, Vol 17. PlayByMail.net. p. 51. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  27. ^ Schoonover, Edward (1990). "PBM Corner". White Wolf Magazine. October/November (#23): 40.
  28. ^ Schoonover, Edward (1990). "PBM Corner". White Wolf Magazine. October/November (#23): 40.
  29. ^ Robert M. Paquin (March 2014). "Hyborian War & The Road of Kings: A Partnership of Play-By-Mail Gaming". Suspense and Decision, Vol 5. PlayByMail.net. p. 65. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  30. ^ Charles Mosteller (September 2017). "The Future of Hyborian War: Don't Count RSI Out, Just Yet!". Suspense and Decision, Vol 17. PlayByMail.net. p. 52. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  31. ^ Cote, Rick (1991). "A Second Look at Hyborian War". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. July/August (#49): 21.
  32. ^ Charles Mosteller (September 2017). "The Future of Hyborian War: Don't Count RSI Out, Just Yet!". Suspense and Decision, Vol 17. PlayByMail.net. p. 54. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  33. ^ Reality Simulations, Inc. "Hyborian War E-Mail Turns". RSI. Retrieved January 16, 2020.
  34. ^ Robert M. Paquin (March 2014). "Hyborian War & The Road of Kings: A Partnership of Play-By-Mail Gaming". Suspense and Decision, Vol 5. PlayByMail.net. p. 65. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  35. ^ Link, Bud (1987). "The Hyborian Chronicles". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. Sept/Oct 1987 (#26): 15.
  36. ^ Space Gamer/Fantasy Gamer (February–March 1987). "It Lives, Igor. It Lives!!!". Space Gamer/Fantasy Gamer. Diverse Talents, Incorporated (77): 45.
  37. ^ Paper Mayhem (1987). "Where We're Heading". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. Nov/Dec (#27): 2.
  38. ^ Paper Mayhem (1990). "Where We're Heading: Best PBM Game of 1989". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. Jan/Feb (#40): 2.; Paper Mayhem (1990). "Where We're Heading: Best PBM Game of 1990". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. Nov/Dec (#45): 2.
  39. ^ Lloyd, Vickie (1988). "Hyborian War". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. July/August (#31): 42–43.
  40. ^ Paper Mayhem (1989). "PBM Game Ratings". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. May/June 1989 (#36): 3.
  41. ^ Paper Mayhem (1989). "PBM Game Ratings". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. May/June 1989 (#36): 3.
  42. ^ Paper Mayhem (1990). "PBM Game Ratings As of 11-12-89". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. Jan/Feb 1990 (#40): 23.
  43. ^ Cote, Rick (1991). "A Second Look at Hyborian War". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. July/August (#49): 21.
  44. ^ The Game Manufacturer's Association. "The 2008 Origins Awards - Presented at Origins 2009". Archived from the original on 2012-11-07. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  45. ^ J.D. (January 2014). "How I Found Myself in Hyboria". Suspense and Decision, Vol 3. PlayByMail.net. p. 13. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  46. ^ Robert M. Paquin (March 2014). "Hyborian War & The Road of Kings: A Partnership of Play-By-Mail Gaming". Suspense and Decision, Vol 5. PlayByMail.net. p. 66. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  47. ^ Charles Mosteller (September 2017). "The Future of Hyborian War: Don't Count RSI Out, Just Yet!". Suspense and Decision, Vol 17. PlayByMail.net. p. 52. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  48. ^ Robert M. Paquin (March 2014). "Hyborian War & The Road of Kings: A Partnership of Play-By-Mail Gaming". Suspense and Decision, Vol 5. PlayByMail.net. p. 64. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

BibliographyEdit

  • Cote, Rick (1991). "A Second Look at Hyborian War". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. July/August (#49): 21.
  • Link, Bud (1987). "The Hyborian Chronicles". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. Sept/Oct 1987 (#26): 15.
  • Link, Bud (1987). "The Hyborian Chronicles Chronicle I: Aquilonia; Chapter 2: Revolt and Transition". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. Nov/Dec 1987 (#27): 38–43.
  • Lloyd, Vickie (1988). "Hyborian War". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. July/August (#31): 42.
  • Mosteller, Charles (November 2014). "Hyborian War: A Mindblowing Experience?!". Suspense and Decision, (#1). PlayByMail.net. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  • Mosteller, Charles (September 2017). "The Future of Hyborian War: Don't Count RSI Out, Just Yet!". Suspense and Decision, (#17). PlayByMail.net. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  • Reality Simulations, Inc. "Questions and Answers about Hyborian War". RSI. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  • Paper Mayhem (1987). "Where We're Heading". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. Nov/Dec (#27): 2.
  • Paper Mayhem (1989). "PBM Game Ratings". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. May/June 1989 (#36): 3.
  • Paper Mayhem (1990). "Where We're Heading: Best PBM Game of 1989". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. Jan/Feb (#40): 2.
  • Paper Mayhem (1990). "Where We're Heading: Best PBM Game of 1990". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. Nov/Dec (#45): 2.
  • Paquin, Robert M. (March 2014). "Hyborian War & The Road of Kings: A Partnership of Play-By-Mail Gaming". Suspense and Decision, (#5). PlayByMail.net. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  • Scheid, Mike (1987). "Hyborian War: How to Get the Most from Your Characters". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. Nov/Dec (#27): 13.
  • Sheron, Mark (1988). "Is Bigger Really Better? A Look at Kingdom Size in Hyborian War". Paper Mayhem: The Informative Play By Mail Magazine. July/August 1988 (#31): 40.
  • Schoonover, Edward (1990). "PBM Corner". White Wolf Magazine. October/November (#23): 40.
  • Space Gamer/Fantasy Gamer (February–March 1987). "It Lives, Igor. It Lives!!!". Space Gamer/Fantasy Gamer. Diverse Talents, Incorporated (#77).
  • Terrablood. "Terrablood's PBM Archives: Section One – Kingdom Reports for Hyborian War". Retrieved January 16, 2020.

External linksEdit