What is the basic idea?
The central elements of TribeNet are strategic thinking and positioning, tactical planning, political alliance and military and economic development. These ideas provide the framework for the game at the macro level. But there is also a good portion of micro-management.
At the start, players control a nomadic Clan of people, with some basic skills and goods. The Clan advances by developing skills each turn and by gathering resources that can be used to make weapons, armour, etc, and other goods useful and crucial for both survival and development.
At some point most players develop a more settled Village which enables the building of structures that allow a new range of skills – such as Milling, Baking, Distilling, Apiarism and Refining. Beyond this, Clans move into Politics, Economics, Research and possibly Religion.
Clans are located on a hex(agon)-grid map aligned north-south. Terrain beyond your starting position may be explored by moving your Clan (and Scouts) around the map (which is vast in scope).
What is the appeal of a PBEM game like TribeNet?
While TribeNet is fun in itself there are a couple of other reasons why you might find it appealing.
First, as mentioned elsewhere here, PBEM games allow you to ponder a response to your situation – you do not need to sit at a computer for hours straight where you are forced to make quick decisions. Manual dexterity is not required for TribeNet, it draws more on deliberative and creative thinking than fast reactions.
Second, PBEM allows ongoing interaction with people you can talk to via email (and many TN players have met each other in outside life). There is always a human face behind the Clan. You can create a live sense of gaming community and it allows for a return to those old values found in game play. Some players connect with each other through live chat. You can even respond ‘in character’ if you so wish. So you can role-play a tribe leader as well as be one.
Discussions around strategy, plans, etc is lots of fun, and some of the characters portrayed by players can be hilarious at times.
How complex are the rules?
There is a reasonable degree of detail in the full rules. But they are written in plain English and come as a Word document so can be easily searched for key words. You don’t have to learn all the rules at once, in fact trying to do so might be counter-productive.
There are Beginners Rules, specifically designed for new players. This is all you’ll need for the first few turns of play. New players are guided through their first Orders by the GM until they get the hang of things. The GM will make suggestions regarding the best places to move, skills to develop and Activities to perform. You will also be given the names of a couple of more experienced players who will be available to answer questions. Once you feel comfortable that you can play on your own you can unlock more rules. Of course you may request at any time that this guidance ceases and assume full autonomy for the running of your Clan.
In addition, new players are guided through their first Orders by the GM until they get the hang of things.
The first few turns require following a few fundamental principles common to most build/strategy games. Feed your people, produce a few basic goods such as Skins and Leather and scout the terrain to create a map of your local area. From here the turns build incrementally, meaning that in practice your grasp of the game evolves along with your Clan.
As your clan gains more abilities and resources you can start to explore an increasing range of options. You will broaden the range of goods you can produce and then engage in the development of Politics, Research, Economics and culture on a much grander scale. And then there are the negotiations with other players over resources, treaties, military and political alliances, trade and doctrine. Where TribeNet makes its greatest deviation from the average “civilization” game is that the player determines the developmental direction of their Clan. This is done via research. For example, you may develop a new weapon, new buildings, new animals, new farm crops, specialist troops, new ships, etc.
Is TribeNet a War Game, if not, what sort of game is it like?
TribeNet is neither a pure build game, nor is it a war game, it is somewhere between. By straddling the line between building and war gaming, TribeNet allows a range of choices about what to do with one’s Clan and how to approach the game (and other players) that are not available in either straight building games or straight war games. Straight war games have the war going on when you start, which means that the reasons for the war are someone else’s.
You do not need to play TribeNet aggressively to succeed – but your degree of success will often depend on your capacity to conduct diplomacy and negotiate around areas of mutual interest and conflict.
What are the chances of a new player winning or indeed, surviving?
Firstly, TribeNet is not necessarily about winning or losing. It is ongoing, forever and a day. There is no end point so nobody can, technically, win. All tribes, new or old, can suffer terrible defeats and disappointments, but there are also exhilarating moments of success and achievement.
However, as with all games of this type, there will be aggressive players. In order to avoid a newer Clan being trampled by an older one the new players are placed (by the GM) on parts of the continent quite distant from more established Clans. In practice, the established Clans are just that – “established” and are highly unlikely to uproot from their villages to spend months, maybe years, wandering around in order to find a newbie to attack. It is much more likely that they will send an element to trade with newer Clans.
In my experience, the time at which a player joins does not seem to unduly effect their enjoyment of the game or their chances of survival.
A few other points might be relevant here. Firstly, you will start near other newish players who will be in the same boat as you – this is often an opportunity to form immediate alliances with these players so that from the outset you can form a strong miltary/political/economic bloc. Secondly, there is a period of 12 turns during which new players may not be attacked, so even if you make some “poor” decisions the early consequences may not be all that disastrous. Third, you start the game in a “Neutral Zone” where no combat is possible – you can avoid combat by being in this site (and it should be said that while the possibility of combat is always present it is more of a rarity than regular occurrence). Fourth, although some players have been playing a long time the game took a hiatus in 2012 and was relaunched in 2013 – so the oldest Clans in this version are only 2 to 3 game years old.
TribeNet might be regarded as an ongoing story about a world with a past, present and future into which each player contributes. TribeNet is a process and the traditional idea of “winning” is not relevant.
How much time does it takes for a player to do his or her orders?
How long is a piece of string? The Orders for a basic clan can be very quick – between 10-20 minutes. As you increase the complexity the time increases as well, but most players can do their orders in 20-30 minutes per turn (every two weeks), possibly an hour for a complex set of orders. However, some players spend a lot of time discussing any number of questions between turns. This makes it difficult to put an exact figure on what you will be up for here – one player admits to revising his orders many times over before submitting them and another says he spends hours looking at the map – it really depends on your level of attachment and involvement.
The communications aspect of the game, though, is one of the things that differentiates TN from modern graphical computer and console games.
The upshot is that there is no fixed time during the week that you need to set aside – and this flexibility means that in one sense time is not really an issue. In this game diplomacy/negotiation is not essential – but most players can’t help themselves. How much time you spend on any aspect of the game is entirely up to you.
Where do players in the game come from?
The majority of players are from the US, UK and Australia but there have also been Canadian, German, Italian, Japanese and New Zealand players. TribeNet has enabled people to forge friendships and connections with like-minded folk from all over the world. Many players have physically visited others around the world thanks to TN connections.
Although it is unlikely you will or want to meet many of the players physically, the sense of community in Tribenet is palpable, not the virtual sense of community common to many other multi-player cyber space games.
Is TribeNet Web Based?
No – it is not a real time game (or Web game) but rather a turn based game conducted via email (no postal mail accepted). There are no system requirements other than being able to send and receive email and having a copy of MS Word or Excel (or an equivalent like Open Office). The general philosophy is that your chance of success does not depend on how often, when, or for how long you can log-on. There is a lot of diplomatic and political discussion mid turn, but this can be conducted at your leisure and is not “hot seat” driven. As a consequence, there is not a great deal in terms of graphical interface, relying largely on that old-fashioned idea “imagination”! In addition, there is much fuller documentation than found in many Web Based games. Although turns are database processed the game is NOT computer moderated.
There is, of course, a website.
How is the turn report sent? What about orders?
Orders are in MS Word2000, Word6 or Word97. Excel is also acceptable and files can be .rtf. Reports are sent in Word6, but other options can be arranged.
Find a sample report in the Resources section.
How long has TribeNet been around? I ask because I am sick of enlisting in promising games that fold when the GM finds a “real” job.
I have been running TribeNet since 1997. It grew out of a game called Tribe Vibes, which started in 1985 so the TribeNet genre goes back over 20 years, which places it as a seminal contributor to games of this genre. While it is not my full-time job it is a significant part of how I conduct my working life.
See the History tab.
Do I need to download special software?
No, but there are some resources that you would be advised to look at.
See the Resources section
What do the players say about the game?
Have a look at What the elders say.
Does TribeNet cost anything to play?
See the section on costs