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Remotegaming


Mal Wright Fezian Inactive Member writes:

My group in Australia did an ancients game via email during a single evening for us….morning for them. It worked well up to the point where we lost email contact! Then it got a bit hairy for the UK side. But we muddled through. It was great fun to play against a group on the other side of the world.



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Revision Log
3 May 2007page first published

3,558 hits since 3 May 2007
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Gabriel Landowski Fezian of Damned Human Race writes:

Ever since I was a kid, I always enjoyed playing war with my plastic army men. I could spend hours building "sandbag" walls out of pebbles, and making wood palisade walls from pieces of twig. As the years went by, I realized I was the only one in my circle of friends who did.

I then discovered Squad Leader, and began to play small wargames in my bedroom (by myself). Slowly I mastered larger battles (by myself). Then I accidentally discovered 1/72 plastics (by myself) and made a sand table in the basement (by myself) and played Squad Leader in miniature (by myself). I managed to talk some of my friends and family into trying at least one game with me. These games never went more than a few rounds, and I never had any repeat customers.

As the years went by, I found a host of like-minded gamers on the internet. After several years conversing with my newfound allies from around the world, I realized that although we were not together in form, we could meet up to game in spirit. Once I received my digital camera, my destiny was clear I was to become a remote wargamer.

*dramatic theatrical music plays*

There are different ways to go about conducting remote warfare, so I will cut to the chase and tell you how I do it. You, of course, may have variations based on your own taste, techniques, or technical limitations.

For my games, I usually provide the rules (Damned Human Race), my 1/72nd scale plastic miniatures, and the subject (Victorian Colonial battles - 1866 to 1910 from around the world). I happen to have a website (URL above), some web skills, a computer, and a digital camera. I have a 6 x 4 foot table in the basement and plenty of scratchbuilt terrain. With these items in hand, I move boldly forward.

Once we figure out the scenario and the composition of the opposing forces, I set up the game table with the terrain. I take a picture of the table with the digital camera from a bird's-eye view (BEV) to give my opponent an overall idea of the table layout.

Overall view of the table layout

I then may take several close-up pictures of the terrain, as needed, to give my opponent as clear an idea of the terrain as they should have.

Terrain close-up
In some scenarios, having a vague idea of what the table looks like or how it is composed may be a more appropriate. Whomever hosts the game will have to make the determination as to what the other players can see. A sketch or other drawn representation of the board could also be substituted for the BEV. (When it comes to capturing the game in action, though, I strongly suggest pictures, pictures, pictures!)

Lastly, I specifically identify each of the visible units in the pictures and note the orientation of any guns.

Color-coded units

In this example, we have Infantry (RED), Infantry (BLUE), Machinegun with crew (GREEN) and Commander (WHITE). All leaders are marked with a white dot.

I then upload the BEV and other pictures to my website, and notify my opponent that they are posted. I try to include a description of what is going on in each of the pictures. Other techniques could be to email them or post-mail them to your friend. Some people even do video streaming (yikes)! The point is to give your opponent something to review, and try to give them all the details they will need to decide on their orders for the next turn.

My opponent then takes the pictures, and drops them into either a photo editor or PowerPoint, and marks them with color-coded dots to show the desired position for each of their figures and guns.

Movement noted

When you mark up a picture, try to also give as much detail as you can in terms of what the unit/figure is trying to do, and any alternative actions they may take (if deemed necessary). This will allow the host to keep the game moving when something unexpected happens.

Figures locked in combat

In this example, we see figures locked in combat. I send my opponent a marked-up picture with the previously mentioned color codes, plus his native warriors marked in purple - light [swords] and dark [rifles]. He then sends the pictures back, marked up with more descriptive lines and the following text:

Okay my three riflemen in the north (up) side of the fort are going to shoot at your straggler out there by himself. The other riflemen wait for targets of opportunity (meaning no friendlies within 3 inches of target). As the rest of my natives (swords) are activated, they will close into melee with an enemy as noted in the picture. My intent is to engage the enemy with swords wherever possible, and shoot down any exposed enemy where possible without risking a hit to my own guys.
Combat notation

Now, no system is perfect, but this is what you are trying to do when you provide instructions to the host, try to leave as little as possible up to their discretion. Rationale for this is if you let them make decisions for you, then why are you bothering to remotegame? Dice can either be rolled in good faith, or provided by some sort of online dice generator (such as here). I wrote a JavaScript program here, where I generate my rolls and then print-out the page to "capture" the numbers. A technique a host can use is, although an opponent may provide you with the dice rolls, you choose where in the dice list to start using numbers. This way no one knows what rolled value is being used for what action. Simply mark off the numbers as they are used, and request updated rolls from your opponent as desired.

Hopefully, you see how you can make such a remotegame work for you and your opponent. This will open up new experiences with other isolated wargamers from around the world. I myself in New Jersey, U.S.A., have had several games with opponents in other states, Canada, the U.K., and New Zealand. These games have been captured here and here and here and here and here and here.

A last great detail of remotegaming is that the battle can be played as the gamers have time to act. I often would conduct a move or two in the morning, while I was waiting for the coffee to come to a boil. Although a game could take up to a few months as players squeeze in a few moves here and there, it's better than no game at all! And of course, if both players keep on top of the action, an enjoyable game can easily be played in one afternoon plus with my digital camera technique, the battle is ready to be posted as a report!

Any and all questions or suggestions welcome, and good gaming!

You can see some of Gabriel Landowski Fezian's wargaming products here.