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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Scramble for Empire: Where PBM meets Steampunk



The Agema website describes Scramble for Empire in the following way:

Scramble for Empire is a global wargames campaign. There are three basic types of player position. The main type is that of a nation, which you lead. These have strong ties to historical powers of the Imperialist Victorian age, so for example Britannia is Great Britain, Franconia is France, Germania is Germany, and so forth. The game is designed to allow us to have all the dramatic and exciting elements of history able to play out, but not necessarily in the same order they happened in real life. So, we could have simultaneously happening a war with Red Indians, skirmishes between the Union and Confederacy, the Boer War, the Indian Mutiny, Opium Wars in China, trouble in the Sudan at Khartoum, the Crimean War and the siege of Sevastopol... you get the picture!

Now, I have never played Scramble for Empire, nor any game run by Agema, but out of all of their current game offerings, this is the one that tempts me the most.

So, while I am in no position to review the gameplay of the actual game, nor even the game mechanics of it, I can say that it is a game that accomplishes the basic task of continuously tempting me into at least giving it a try.

The current currency exchange ratio is 1 British Pound equals 1.29 U.S. Dollars. Turn fees for Scramble for Empire cost £10 each, or £15 for two positions (a nation and a trade company), or just £5 for a single character. The advertised turn frequency is one turn played per month.

Many PBM and PBeM game companies offer the rules for their games as a free download, these days. Not so for Agema, as far as I know. The rulebook for Scramble for Empire will set you back a little less than four dollars American, at the current exchange rate. As one who publishes a PBM magazine (Suspense & Decision) for free, I cannot help but to wonder whether Agema's penchant for charging for rules (and other assorted materials) is counter-productive approach to attracting players for its games.

But, whether Agema charges for such game-related materials or not is a policy issue, and doesn't really speak to the game nor the gaming experience that Scramble for Empire brings to the table.

For me, personally, the most tempting thing about Scramble for Empire, when I browse the Agema website's pages associated with that game, is the setting. In fact, there are multiple positions (nations) within the game that tempt me, each time that I look at the list of what positions are available in the game.

I imagine myself always fighting the Zulu, for some reason - probably due to me watching the 1964 film, Zulu.I also find me asking myself whether once turn per month would suffice, if I'm going to be off fighting the Zulu, somewhere.

At almost $13 dollars a turn, though, Scramble for Empire would run me more than two kingdoms (a medium kingdom and a small kingdom) in Hyborian War would cost me. However, it would be less than the $19.95 monthly fee for the most basic level of play in Alamaze.

In one sense, these kinds of comparisons are an exercise in comparing apples to oranges, for each game offers its own gaming experience unique to itself. In another sense, though - namely, the financial sense, the fees associated with playing games do have a way of adding up, and ultimately, players tend to end up foregoing certain games that they might otherwise want to try their hand at playing, so that they can play something else, instead.

I will confess that Scramble for Empire is a game that has been tempting me for several years to give it a try. Who knows? Maybe someday, I will.

For now, though, I'll just keep on wondering what the game is like, while I carry on wishing that Agema would revisit its whole approach to the pricing structure for its games.

Scramble for Empire is available for play as a true PBM game, via the postal service, if you live in the United Kingdom. Otherwise, you can play via PBeM. Certainly, I would characterize it as being as tempting to play as any PBM game that I ever tried, but in this day and age of almost two full decades into the 21st Century, the pricing structure strikes me as being out of date with the times.

If you live in the UK and decide to play via mail (postal service type), then there's another fee to be incurred, a two pound surcharge. Speaking just for myself, each individual fee tends to have its own mitigating effect on temptation level that my reading about the game generates on its own.

The Agema forum can be found here.

The Scramble for Empire section of the Agema forum is located here.

Agema also has a large offering of materials available from the Wargame Vault website, here.

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