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5:30pm on Tuesday, 4th October, 2011:



When I was in my teens, I used to play games by post. Yes, that's post as in write down your moves on paper, put them in an envelope, address the envelope to the gamesmaster, put a stamp on the envelope, post the envelope in a postbox, then wait a month for the results to come back. Because of this palaver (and the cost of stamps), most of the people who played were serious about games, so the games were pretty good. The biggest beast on the block was Diplomacy, but plenty of other games were played if they were amenable to the medium (indeed some, such as En Garde, were improved by it).

One of the games I played was Railway Rivals. This was a build-a-railway game that involved drawing lines on hexagonal maps based on (usually) real-world geography. Because of this, people would create maps for areas that hadn't been done before — an early example of what would now be called modding. I did a map for Spain. I sent it off to the designer of Railways Rivals, David G. Watts, and (with minor changes) it was added to the official corpus.

I played several games of RR over the years. I usually did pretty well, as it turned out I was quite good at it (although my dad used to win most of the games we played at home); I was rated one of the top 5 players at one point. I didn't win any of the games that used the Spain map, though, which was annoying; I kept coming second.

I didn't win, that is, until RR557SP. RR557SP is an identification number meaning that the game was played in the Rostherne Games Review, was the 557th officially sanctioned postal game that had been played, and used the Spain map. I called my company TIR ("Trans-Iberian Railway") and yay, I won! It went right to the wire, though.

I know it went to the wire because I kept the page from the RGR. Because we were all gamers through and through, most zines used to ask players to write end-of-game statements describing how they felt the game went; most players were happy to comply. Here are the two pages of the RGR that record the final round of RR557SP:

I wonder if, were I to give my students the rules of RR and the materials to play it, they'd: a) do so, and b) write an end-game statement?

Actually, I don't: most would do neither. It would help me spot the ones who were serious about the games degree, but I can usually tell that anyway.

Don't read the comments by the GM, Anne Nock, about the design of the map. I have an ego to protect.

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