PLAY BY EMAIL & ONLINE - FREEBack to Main Page
For sports fans it'll probably be obvious which game would suit you, but if you're looking at the Empires and Dark Age games, be warned that Dark Age is a challenge (like being dropped into a river full of piranhas, according to one recent player). European Empires is a good bet if you're interested in the history concerned or want a quick start. Medieval Empires is the best bet if you'd like to be in a game right from the start: in that you're not really at a disadvantage at all relevant to the other players until people start to build large empires. Star Chase and Spaceplan are good for short-handed games and there will often be one running that you can join right away. Spaceplan is very challenging - it would usually be better to master something else first.
HOW TO PLAY BY EMAIL - FREE
European Empires is based on the Napoleonic Wars, so for historical accuracy some countries are a lot stronger than others. Few players want to to pay for a position that's weaker than the next guy (although for anyone that's really interested in the history, or the game itself, rather than just in trying to win, it makes perfect sense). But the weaker countries are are an important part of the game.
To take advantage of the way European Empires works, we're making the minor powers and minor countries available for people to play as "freemailers". All you need is to play entirely by email. That is, you must receive your game reports by email and enter your orders on the website.
The chances of winning when you're not playing one of the major powers are not so good, but if you're doing well you still have the option of declaring your empire to be a major power. That means you can no longer play for free, but your empire is upgraded to the same status as the other major players.
Otherwise if you're playing as a freemailer you're probably playing for survival, but that's no less of a challenge. Managing to keep Bavaria on the map or maintain Spanish independance while Napoleon is rampaging across Europe would be no small achievement.
THE MAJOR POWERS
The idea with this scheme is to improve the game for the major powers as well. At present the major powers are always in conflict with the minor ones, because all the minor countries are run by the computer as if they're dropout positions (it's rather aggressive, so they make for bad neighbours). Minor countries run by real players are going to be a more effective part of the game. They'll be potential allies, for a start, so they can be good neighbours instead of bad ones.
The same deal is now available in Speculate II as well. In Speculate there are two types of player positions. Traders deal in shares and commodities, and tycoons deal in these and also run the companies whose shares are traded (fighting for control and building conglomerates in the process). The Trader positions are available for freemailers.
There are always two winners to each game. The game ends when the winning tycoon reaches a net value of a million and the Top Trader is whichever trader has the highest value at the end of that turn.
MORE FREEMAILER GAMES
The freemailer option has now been extended from European Empires and Speculate to all versions of Empires, plus standby places in Dark Age, Star Chase, Spaceplan, Cricket Stats, Soccer Stats, Play On and Rugby League Breakout (a standby place is one where you replace someone that dropped out).
In the sports games you're restricted to teams at the bottom of the league, but it does mean you can try it out and build a team up from the bottom without having to pay turnfees until you've made them competitive. In the other games the rules and restrictions are the same as in European Empires except you get the normal number of actions (being restricted to standby positions is disadvantage enough).
At present you must be new to our games, or returning after a reasonable length of time (a year or more). Current players wanting to try oout new games can usually play under the same conditions through a different offer.
For freemailer positions we keep a count of the missed turns, and if you miss orders for three in a row you'll be chucked out of the game (and your empire is made available for someone else). Freemailer positions with credit below zero won't be processed (it won't happen unless you get charges for extras like posted or manual turns - but if you do run up some charges you need to clear them before the next turn).
In Empires there's a system of discounts so that experienced and successful players get cheaper turns. Results obtained when playing as a freemailer DO count towards earning these bonus credits - simply surviving to the end of the game earns a discount for future games.
WHAT TO DO
1. Make sure you've got Adobe Reader If you haven't, it's a free download and it's from a reputable source. PDFs should work on just about anywhere for anyone.
3. In some games you'll also want a copy of the map, and you can find those on the Maps Page.
4. Check if there's a waiting list for the game concerned - that might tell you what positions are available.
5. Many games have their own startup forms for freemailers (see the box at the bottom of this section), but otherwise email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your preferences (in games with set positions, like Empires and Dark Age) or made-up team/empire/company name (in games where that works - usally up to 25 characters including spaces). Include your surname, not just your first name or nickname.
For Star Chase and Spaceplan you need to make up an empire name, and for Play On and Soccer Stats you need to make up a team name. For Rugby league Breakout you need a preference list of real life teams (ARL or Superleague) and for Dark Age you need a preference list of kingdoms. Include these in your email. There often won't be much of a choice available when it comes to standby places, of course.
6. We'll allocate your position, send you a current game report and provide you with a username for the www.softsim.co.uk website. It's best to log on and set a password as soon as you can, and setup your online turnsheet.
7. You're ready to play. You input your orders online. Game reports will arrive in your email. Contact details for the other players will be in the game report if appropriate.
In games where there's a freemailer option you can upgrade a freemailer position to a normal one either by paying turnfees or by becoming an online member. Thta's something you might do if you really like the game and want to do more. The form to sign up for online membership is inside the softsim website, on the same page as turnfee renewals.
For online membership the freemailer restrictions don't apply, except you must still play entirely online. The cost is £24.50 per year in the UK (Aus $74.50, US $48.50, Euros 44.50). That's the whole cost: you don't need any of the other things we'd charge extra for. You get an extra freemailer startup with each annual membership as well, so you can go on exploring other games.
Renewals are not automatic. A membership renewal only happens if you log on and push the buttons yourself. There's no re-billing. Your only commitment is what you've already decided to spend, the same as if you paid by cheque (as many still do). You don't have to cancel or tell us if you want to drop out. You can simply let it lapse.
COSTS - HOW & WHY IT WORKS
Freemailers are workable because players who enter their own orders online and whose game reports don't need to be printed and posted cost very little extra in a game that's already running. The costs of design, development, maintenance, production, presentation, advertising and setting-up still remain, but those are mostly overheads which don't increase much when extra players are added.
Given all the costs that still do apply, a game wouldn't be viable if it didn't have people playing (and paying) normally. They're the ones who are paying for all those development costs. And it wouldn't be worth offering it for free except for the hope that if you like the game and find it works for you as a freemailer, then you might upgrade or have a go at playing a major power (or a different game) later. That's also why it's good for the paying players - they want more people to play against (or with, as the case may be).
CHARGES - THAT YOU WON'T NEED TO PAY
Although these positions are intended for all-email play, the options for manual turns (ie. paper or faxed turnsheets) and game reports that are printed and posted do still exist. You pay for these if you want them, but if you don't use them (and you won't) then you don't pay anything.
The charges that apply are 0.3 turn credits for a game report posted instead of emailed (0.5 turn credits to have versions posted AND emailed) and 0.3 turn credits for a manual turn (0.4 turn credits if it's one page sent by fax). There's a charge if you want a printed rulebook, but the online versions are free (the printed one will be prettier, but the content will be the same). The average turn credit is around £2 (there are all sorts of discounts, so many people pay less) so a charge of 0.3 turn credits is around 60p.
Yes, a freemailer can play by post, paying for postage and manual turns and still pay less than a payplayer - but the playing restrictions still apply.
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