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At first sight it might seem a silly idea to run a play-by-mail game with only a few players, since the point of play-by-mail games is that you get real opponents - but the advantage is that you get to work through the rules at your own pace without being stomped on by players who already know their way around. So they're mostly learning games.

Which is quite important if you're new to the game, and especially if you're new to play-by-mail games entirely. It's a good way to get started.


The other good way to start is to take a "standby" place in a normal game, which means taking over from someone that's dropped out. The advantage is there are other players to talk to, and you can learn faster that way. The disadvantage is that you're not likely to win (but that's mostly the previous guy's fault, anyway).


The same doesn’t apply in sports games: you probably won’t expect to win many games when you first start, but you get time to learn and improve - in later seasons you can fight back. Sports game are usually continuous, after all. In a wargame or a business game, on the other hand, you can be dead and buried (or bankrupt) and out of the game by the time you work out what you’re trying to do.


It's also possible with short-handed games to use shorter deadlines (turns are closer together) and that's usually important to new players. Established players usually prefer the longer deadlines (once you've got other players to talk to, and have alternative plans to think about, then the extra time isn't wasted). Plus a lot of established players will play more than one game at a time.

For a short-handed game you don't have to wait for the deadline. If everyone in one of these games gets their orders in early then we'll go ahead and run it early. If you're the only player in the game, then we don't really need deadlines at all, and we can run it whenever you're ready.

If you find you actually like short-handed games, as some people do, there's nothing wrong with that. Lots of people spend far more time and money on computer games than anyone does on play-by-mail, and in computer games there are no live opponents and the opposition isn't going to improve or get smarter as time goes by. If games that involve thinking and planning are your preference then it's likely we can do it better than people who make computer games. We don't waste lots of time and money on packaging and fancy graphics, for a start.

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