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As the name suggests, play-by-mail offers a number of popular games that can be played via mail.

Chess is a historic example for a play-by-mail board game. The game known as correspondence chess even kept the greatest figures of history entertained. A match was said to be played between King Henry I of England and King Louis VI of France in the early 12th century. Also Voltaire and Frederick the Great were engaged in play-by-mail chess during their time. In 1943, the FBI allegedly suspected Humphrey Bogart to be sending secret enemy codes to correspondence chess players overseas.

Today, eMail and websites make play-by-mail games quicker and more convenient than ever before. However, eMails play only a minor role. However, play-by-mail remains a fun way to find fun games to play online throughout the day, without devoting too much time to it. Besides, you don’t have to be online at the same time your match partner is. Here is a small selection of online games.

SoundChess

The SoundChess website is the link between you and your partner. Either one of you can set up the game and make the first move. With each move you can also include a message to your partner. The site shows the current board and provides some resources on possible chess openings.

play by mail games

After you made your first move, you will see the history of exchanged messages on the very right of the site.

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ItsYourTurn

Here a hub for play-by-mail games, including Backgammon, Halma, Checkers, Jamble, and many more. There are 13 standard games, and dozens of variations to many of the games. To play, you must sign up.

You can get into a game in several different ways. You can start a new game and post it to the waiting room. You can also go directly to the waiting room and see which games are seeking a partner. A screenshot of the waiting room is posted below. The time limit refers to the time each player has to complete one move. The minimum is 3 days.

play games via email

If you already know who will be your partner (they must be registered), you can start a match with a specific player.

fun games to play online

Finally, you can be auto-matched for up to 5 different games of any type and at the same time.

Communication happens through ItsYourTurn‘s internal mailbox. However, notifications of new messages are sent to your eMail. All games and standings are listed on the game status page.

play free fun games online now

For my example I picked Halma. All moves are recorded and shown below the board. With each new move you can add a message for your opponent.

play games via email

With the free account you can play up to 20 games at once and make 15 moves per day.

Phoenix

play free fun games online now

Phoenix is an incredibly complex play-by-mail strategy game.

Due to its complexity, the game has a very steep learning curve. However, sufficient material and an active community is available to guide players through each step. If you don’t mind reading and communicating with other players through forums, this game is for you.

After signing up and defining your mission preferences in a short questionnaire, you start out with your own ship. Head over to > Turns > Access and access your ship. It will then appear under > Turns.

online games play

To get familiar with your ship, its options, and available orders you should start a training session. Carefully read the mission, then head over to > Orders and give the first orders, so your ship takes off and heads to its first destination.

My mission was to dock in Balmoral on the planet Shiloh and issue a special action applying for the job as courier for the reserach labs of EEM Balmoral.

online games play

After making your orders you have to wait for the mission to progress.

When you play games via email you hardly ever know your partner personally and you cannot control how fast the game will progress. The advantage is that you can sit down and continue with your moves whenever you have time.

Have you ever played games via mail? Let us know in comments!

Image credits: lusi

  1. Free Browser Based MMORPG
    November 24, 2009 at 5:08 am

    Among the great number of MMORPG I prefer those with intuitive navigation, a comprehensive user interface, and a unique graphical player guide!!!

  2. DennisG
    November 21, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    There are lots of places to play Risk online, with reviews of most of them here, PlayRiskOnline.net however WarFish.net is the only one I would say is close to play-by-mail.

  3. Doug
    November 17, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    If you like Play-By-Mail (or Email) games

    Have a look at

    http://www.madcentral.com

    Dungeonworld is a fantasy game (commerccial and free)
    Brokenlands is a free-to-play version.

    Madhouse also do 2 Sci-Fi games called

    Twilight Earth (set after civilization has fallen) &
    Destiny 2

    Both have free to play options.

    I've been playing Madhouse games for donkeys years.

    KJC Games currently run what I consider the best Play by eMail game ever written ...

    Monster Island http://www.kjcgames.com/mi/mi.htm

    50 pence a turn is pretty cheap!

    The only reason I'm not playing that currently is I am overcommited to Phoenix and don't the cash spare.

    :(

    And if you like some pretty pictures then there is :

    http://www.runescape.com/

    Free and Paid for versions exist side by side!

    Enjoy.

    Doug

    ps ... great article!

  4. Darren
    November 17, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Phoenix has been updated and medernised totally since it's play by mail days as Beyond the Stellar Empire. Much of the game is now accessible via the Nexus website at http://www.kjcgames.co.uk/phoenix/nexus/.

    It's now quite possible to play the game for free and run a fleet of 10 or 15 ships.

    Whilst the game is still text based I believe that it beats MMORPGs because of the level of player interaction, the fact that there is a GM and that you can issue Special Actions to try things that don't fit in with the current orders in the game (for instance, trying to get a planet's population addicted to a drug you can supply!)

    • Ben
      November 18, 2009 at 10:54 am

      Wish I only had 10 - 15 ships sometimes. The game is wonderful but despite the continual improvements it can still be a chore to update a lot of ships.

      That said I've yet to come across a game with even close to as much depth and scope of action.

      None of the 'modern' 3D MMOPRGs are even close and certainly not worth a third of the cost to play. It's not for everyone but quite cheap compared to you average £30 to £40 game lasting around 6 to 8 hours, and free if you don't run starbases (and you don't need to).

      It is a very long term game and one of the few I have played where casual players can match 'hardcore' players, I would recommend anyone to give it a try.

  5. Ben
    November 17, 2009 at 11:21 am
    • Ben
      November 18, 2009 at 11:04 am

      Another FREE MMORPG:
      Dungeons & Dragons Online Unlimited
      http://www.ddo.com/

  6. Ben
    November 17, 2009 at 11:12 am

    I used to play Quest by mail (it's by KJC Games, the same company who make Phoenix).

    Quest was fun and was a very deep game but I can't believe they are still charging for these games - they are way too expensive. Quest is £30 for 1 month - and it's a text based game! I would rather play a 3D MMORPG for £10 per month!

    These PMB games haven't evolved much at all. It's a shame as they could be unique and awesome if modernised.

    To be honest I can't believe these kind of games are still in business!

    IMO, they could make alot more money by making their games free with ads and/or micro transactions.

    • Clay
      November 17, 2009 at 4:11 pm

      Ben,
      It appears that your knowledge has failed at modernisation. Phoenix is being updated constantly and based on input from the players.

      The reason they are still in business is because they can offer something the 3D MMORPG's can not - an evolving story, open-ended gaming and actual RP.

    • Ben
      November 18, 2009 at 10:40 am

      Well they are nowhere near as good/interesting as I imagine they could be. Social networking aspects, Web 2.0, graphics, etc. It doesn't have to be 3D.

      I admit that, in general, 3D MMORPGs could be more role-play oriented - but they're trying.

  7. Tina
    November 17, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks everyone for the additional resources and comments!

  8. Chris
    November 17, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Here is a great Risk Game.
    http://www.conquerclub.com

  9. fak
    November 17, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Oops, how could I forget this one: http://www.gamerz.net/pbmserv/

  10. fak
    November 17, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Here's some more:

    chess.com
    dailygammon.com
    brainking.com
    goldtoken.com
    yourturnmyturn.com

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