A player returns

I’ve been playing TN for just over a whole game year now, but I previously played the game when it was called Tribe Vibes. I joined about 2 turns in. I started playing on 9 April 1985. I know that exact date because my tribe was called Tuesday and my tribe leader was April 9. Recently I looked up that date and found it fell in 1985.

It all started when I was moved into a new section of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The guy on the next desk to mine was Jeff Perkins. I’d not met him before then. Over the next few weeks Jeff and I found that we shared a love of 70s prog rock and science fiction. One lunch time I found him secreted away in a corner cubicle rolling dice and jotting down numbers. Naturally I asked him what that was all about and he told me he was generating random numbers and he’d use them for a play-by-mail game he had started up for a few friends. It sounded interesting. He gave me the rules and a few days later I had a tribe. Tribe 010.

So, although newish to TN I thought I could contribute to the general culture of the game by providing some deep history.

The first thing I noticed with TribeNet was that the rules are far more complex than TribeVibes ever was, and there are many more skills to deal with. Basically, it is still the same, although there are some fundamental differences.

Back in the day, we had a thing called an op/threat, an encounter. This was a ‘what will you do’ kind of thing. It may be that your scouts found some wagon tracks, or somebody came to the tribe and offered to do something – I recall people turning up with map fragments or information to sell; though you’d have to be wary of charlatans who took your coin and gave you duff information. Trade caravans were regular visitors. The Trade Fair in TN has obviously evolved from these humble beginnings.
We also used to have two phases of scouting – pre-movement and post-movement. The rationale for this was that sometimes when moving through unknown terrain you’d find yourself short of where you wanted to be because of the vagaries of weather. The pre-movement scouts were handy for scouting terrain you thought you’d get to map the turn before. We still had a limit of eight scouts per tribe.
There were many more non-player clans around, and they were often aggressive and well-armed, and there were bandits in the mountains that preyed on scouts, making scouting more hazardous than I’ve found so far in TN. Though maybe I’ve been fortunate in that regard and maybe NPCs abound elsewhere.

Every turn had to have a combat grid attached to it – 8 columns, 2 rows. The first column showed the number of warriors for that sector, the second column showed the number of archers for that sector. And you had to give each row an order, something like ‘counter-attack’ ‘attack’ ‘withdraw’ or ‘retreat’.
By the way, warriors were a proud group and would not be a party to menial tasks like herding or making things. They would fight and scout and hunt but would otherwise take no further part in tribal activities. But they had individual skills. Warriors could attempt combat, leadership, scouting, diplomacy and a few others than escape me at the moment – things that are now tribal skills. Warriors could multi-task, so you’d have individuals who might be something like a Com 6 Sct 3 Leadership 8, Dip 4. It was good to be able to track an individual’s progress, but it became a nightmare for Jeff’s dice rolling wrist. I’m not surprised that that particular rule changed.

I have wondered at the diminished difference between an active and a warrior in the Activities phase.
Tribes were much smaller and we were allowed just the one tribe and one element, and one village and an element (but maybe my memory is faulty here – it was a long time ago). Research was possible but still in its infancy as a rule item. Turns were weekly, which meant things chugged along at pace. Later they became fortnightly when Jeff found it hard going because of the numbers playing – it was all done by hand back then. And it was free.

At some point – I’m not sure when – Jeff moved us all to a new continent. It meant very little to me as nothing in my part of the world changed, but I think it was about then that the village rules began to expand. I think it may also have been when the name changed to Tribe Vibes Pi, or TVP for short, though I’m not certain of this. My tribe became 001 at that point. I like to think that many of the changes evolved from discussions I had with Jeff. The one I’m most proud of was getting a second skill attempt added to the rules, though Jeff turned it into a 50% thing.

Jeff ran a newsletter alongside the game, a place where general announcements could be made, much as Tribe News is used now. It was called Wimp Waffle. It wasn’t much of a production and generally was quite boring, but it occasionally had interesting contributions from players. At one time it featured a comic strip of Good King Kelvin penned by one of the players, another time someone offered up a rather beautiful hand drawn map of his local territory.

When Jeff finished up, so did I. I can’t recall exactly when that was. I’d been playing for almost 10 years. That was about 20 years ago. Then, early this year, a particular patch of violets in the garden prompted some deep memory of the Tribe Vibes map. I thought I’d google Tribe Vibes and see if it was still going. I eventually made it to a TribeNet web page. I recognised Peter’s name (it’s a hard name not to recognise) and wondered … then emailed him. And here I am.

I’ve increasingly found that much of my previous experience is redundant. TN is a quantum leap away from TVP, and I believe the enhancements are well and truly for the better. I congratulate all who have been involved in progressing the game. I’m very glad I was around at its inception and more than happy to be back. It’s still the best game I’ve ever played.

Ancestors of April 9