(02-20-2013, 12:49 AM)Maximus Dominus Wrote: It was issue # 131 of Dragon magazine, and I did manage to locate a copy of the article in question.
This is the article that started my love of the game, I rushed in my signup after reading this as was placed into game #39. So happy it is back!
I have the Dragon issue in a PDF format, here is my attempt to cut and past the article I also attached the two pictures from the article that go with it.
©1988 by Michael Gray
Alamaze is a computer-moderated, fantasy play-by-mail game from Pegasus Productions and it is a treat. You play this
game with other players around the country,
by mail and by phone. It takes more than a year to complete, and it will be a very interesting year youll meet new people, role-play a king and run a kingdom, and have lots of fun. Alamaze is full of monsters and wizards,
spies and spells, warlords and diplomats. Fifteen players control different races, each with different strengths and weaknesses.
All the races (or kingdoms) start the game spread out across the 26 x 26
square grid that forms your world. On each turn, you get a readout of what
is going on and what your people and armies are doing. You have only so many orders that you can issue each turn, so the
problem is to decide which orders to write. Youll probably want to issue twice as many orders as you are allowed, but
you have an order limitation based on a character trait known as Influence (for example, if your kings Influence level is 12, you can issue 12 orders). Additionally, most orders have a cost; diplomats and
agents have to be paid, and soldiers must be paid and fed. Since your readout only tells you what you know about the places you own and where your spies and armies have gone you dont know everything. Fourteen other players are trying to win the game, so youre wise to make some friends and allies soon, or youll find your kingdom
is the target of someone elses plans. There are three ways to win the game: by controlling six out of 10 regions on the map; by achieving your kingdoms special victory conditions; or, by having the greatest number of status points on turn 40. Special victory conditions are based on the nature of each kingdom. For example, the dwarves need to produce gold, the elves need to control the forest cities, the magic users need magical artifacts, etc. Status points are awarded for the number of allies you have and for the number of regions you control. After you sign up for this game, you get your setup information and two spiral bound booklets: a rulebook and a manual of orders. The rulebook gives just enough information for you to play the game. For example, you only learn a little bit about each kingdom, but you dont know where the towns and villages are, and you have no idea where any artifacts are hidden.
The order manual is nicely done. Each order (like #150: Attack a Population Center) has a number that indicates the sequence
in which that order is processed by the computer. There is nothing more
maddening than to wonder what happens when in a PBM game; here, the sequence of orders is much clearer than in most such games Ive played. The general orders are in the manual, but there are other orders that are not. Magic spells, for example, have order numbers, but you only find out about these orders when you gain the ability to cast new spells. As mentioned before, the number of orders you can issue equals your Influence level, which starts at 12 to 15. There are several ways to raise or lower a players Influence, as the game will reveal. Your starting Influence is given on your setup sheet. For each turn, which takes about two weeks, you must send in your order to the Gamemaster at Pegasus Productions. Your orders are then processed with those of all
other players, and youll soon be sent a multipage readout of what took place. With each readout, you get a blank turnsheet and a preaddressed envelope. The grid-map of Alamaze contains several different types of terrain, cities, seas, and rough regional locations. The regional names are overprinted across the grid. There are no printed regional boundaries, as these may change from game to game. Terrain includes plains, forests, mountains, seas, marshes, deserts, and cities, all of which affect movement and combat. Towns and villages are not shown on the map; their locations change from game to game. You have to explore with groups, agents, and magic to find things. There are 18 possible kingdoms, 15 of which are used per game. The kingdoms are: Giants, Paladins, Gnomes, Elves, Darkelves, Rangers, Uriks, Westmen, Halflings, Dragons, Nomads, Dwarves, Barbarians, Swampmen, the Sorceror, the Witchlord, the Warlock, and the Underworld. Each kingdom is different. Dragons can fly, the halflings can trade food for gold, the paladins have very strong troops, the Underworld has lots of agents, etc. Each kingdom starts with a given number of population centers that are either clustered together or scattered about the land. Each kingdom also starts with differing numbers of troops, agents, emissaries, leaders, and wizards. All but the troops can progress upward to higher levels during the game. However, your kingdom has only a fixed number of wizards, and there is a limit on the maximum level these wizards can achieve. Military groups are made up of troops (archers, cavalry, infantry), leaders, and wizards. You can have only four such groups, which can move around, fight other groups, and attack population centers. Movement rates also vary by kingdom. All groups can use 20 movement points per turn, but the number of points it takes to enter each terrain type varies. For example, dwarves can move easily through the mountains, but the Witchlord uses up 12 of his 20 points to enter a mountain square. Dragons can fly over anything! The military groups have to be fed and paid, so the more troops you have, the more it costs you to maintain them. Maintenance costs vary by kingdom. There are three types of population centers: cities, towns and villages. Cities produce 15,000 + gold units each turn but have a negative food production. Towns produce about 8,000 gold and 3,000 food units; villages produce about 3,000 gold and 8,000 food. It takes a good mix of population centers to feed and pay your military groups, and still have plenty of gold left to pay for your orders. Production can be increased by issuing the appropriate orders and paying for the increase. Production can also be sabotaged by enemy agents. Each turn in the game represents a month in the year. During three months of each year, gold production is halved and food production is quartered. Almost everything you do in this game has a gold cost. For example, it costs 6,000 gold to use your prince emissary (see next paragraph) in any way, and 8,000 to 10,000 gold are needed to raise a wizard up to the next power level. Emissaries come in many ranks: princes, dukes, counts, barons, governors, ambassadors, and envoys. The higher the rank, the more effective the emissary is at diplomatic efforts. Emissaries can be ordered to attempt to start a rebellion in an enemy town, to usurp control, or to maintain the status quo. The strategic power of emissaries is easily underestimated by new players who concentrate on military conquests alone. The High Priestess is a very special emissary. It costs 18,000 gold just to hire her and 5,000 to 7,000 gold for each divination. There is also a 30% chance per divination that the High Priestess will die from the shock. But the benefits of having a
priestess are awesome. For example, you can find out where all the towns in Amberland are, or where all the villages that the Rangers own are, or the name of a hidden and powerful magical artifact. Agents and fanatics are your spies and assassins. They can train to increase levels,
or they can increase levels by successfully completing their missions, including stealing gold or food, sabotage, kidnapping, assassination, bribing, trailing groups, or exploring a square. Magic is reserved for wizards. Each kingdom starts with up to five wizards. Military kingdoms may start with two low level wizards who can only get to power 3 (power is used for level) during the game, whereas the Witchlord starts with four low-level wizards and a wizard of power 4, with a limit of power 8! The spell lists vary only slightly by kingdom. When a wizard goes up a level, he gets a list of new spells he can cast. Low-level spells include Create Food, Fear, Magic Research, and Raven Familiar. High-level spells include
Kill Leader, Create Gold, Wall of Flame, Invisibility, Teleportation, and
Earthquake. Military groups are led by leaders (captains,
generals, marshals, and warlords) who are promoted as they fight battles.
Leaders confer a percentage increase to the troops strength during battle.
Kingdom-named troops, such as the Gnome troops of the Gnomes player, are stronger than new recruits (which are levied in towns and cities). Recruits can be trained up to veteran level. Other types of
troops can be magically summoned and added to your groups; monsters, skeletons, and ghouls are available. The best part about summoned troops is that they dont have to be paid! If all this isnt enough, you can trade gold and food with other players, search for artifacts, or struggle for a seat on the five-member High Council. The High Council votes to commend its members and friends, and to condemn its enemies. Being on the High Council increases your Influence by 1. Its nasty when your enemies
control the council! Each king has three secrets, called Skeletons,
listed on his setup sheet. These secrets are embarrassing facts that lower his Influence if revealed by another player, and they can be discovered by bribing a players emissaries. When a skeleton is revealed, a player loses Influence and gets thrown off the High Council (if he is on it). Alamaze is a very diplomatic game. Ive communicated with other Alamaze players more than in any other PBM game I've played over the past 11 years; be prepared for a huge phone bill. If you dont try to diplome, you may not last long. As a game designer myself, Id have to say that this is one of the finest designs Ive seen. Its roots are in Earthwood, a fine
fantasy game by GSI, but it is much more complex and sophisticated. Though Ive had some problems with the processing of my orders, the wrinkles are being ironed out on an ongoing basis. The designer, Rick McDowell, is a very conscientious game master, quick to fix errors and always ready to improve his game. He doesnt leak secret information, even to reviewers like me. Several areas still need cleaning up. The spell lists need some work, for example. Of two spells I received at level 5, one does
900 points of damage to the enemy per level of the spell-caster (Command Tornado), and the other does 1,100 points of damage per level (Earthquake). Ill never cast a Command Tornado. It would have
been better to give me the Tornado at level 4. Perhaps this was an attempt to vary the spell lists from kingdom to kingdom. I have two other pet peeves, but one of them has been fixed. There was once no way to protect a wizard from an assassination attempt. If you lost a wizard, you never got another to replace him! This problem was recently patched up a good example of how effective the game master is in keeping the game enjoyable. My other peeve is that an enemy player can hit and run before you can catch him. For example, an enemy group can show up at one of my towns on one turn, then attack the town on the next turn, capture it, and move away before I can catch it. I can use an agent to find out where the group went, but unless I am lucky, it can always stay one jump ahead of me. There is a magic spell that prevents a group from retreating, but you have to be in the same square as the enemy to use it. Maybe theres a higher-level spell that takes care of this problem (I havent seen the higher level (6-8) spell lists yet). I like this game, and I recommend it to experienced players. At $6.00 per turn, it is expensive to play, and it is quite complex. Novices can do quite well if they ally with and learn from veteran players. Players should consider spending lots of time on the phone. Two or three players can find out much of what is going on through coordination of their orders. If this sounds like the game for you, good luck! Ill be waiting for you in Alamaze! Alamaze is offered by Pegasus Productions, P.O. Box 70636, Ft. Lauderdale FL 33307. The setup package is $15 and includes two rulebooks, a map, your setup, and your first two turns.