"Know, O Prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars - Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west.
Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the earth under his sandled feet."
- The Nemedian Chronicles (Robert E. Howard)
Such is the age of Conan the Barbarian, most famous of the characters created by Robert E. Howard. As great a characters as Conan is, he would not be nearly as memorable without the vibrant setting Howard created for him to inhabit, the world of the Hyborian age. A world full of wizards, raiders, mysterious kingdoms and the clash of armies and empires.
A world that thanks to a company called RSI you have the opportunity to play in, to take control of the destiny of one of those empires!
Hyborian War is a play-by-mail wargame that debuted in 1984, and has been going strong ever since. Each turn, you mail in your orders for one of the 36 playable kingdoms, the staff at RSI input everyone's orders and the computers generate the turn results, which you get in the mail shortly thereafter. Typical turnaround is 2-3 weeks, though they do have games at a slower pace available.
I played in one game back in 2001, as the sinister power Stygia. I enjoyed it, but at the time had to do a lot of overseas traveling for work and keeping up with mailed turns became impossible. With a heavy heart I backed out of the game, always meaning to get back to it but never did.
Recently re-reading a number of Conan stories I thought about the game again, and re-discovered the impressive community the players have created. While much of the nuts and bolts of the game is hidden, the amount of information the dedicated players have been able to accumulate and share over the last 25 years is amazing. For a prospective new player this community can be an invaluable resource - allowing you to get in-depth information about the various countries to help you choose which you may want to play, how the mechanics work, and providing a number of seasoned players who can answer just about any question you might have.
If you're a fan of Conan and Hyboria (and shame on you if you're not!) check the game out. In a world full of real time games that are over in a matter of hours, sometimes it can be nice to be involved in a longer-term endeavor, to feel the excitement of opening up your dispatches and seeing how your plans - and those of your enemies - unfolded.
Hope to see you there sometime!
Reality Simulations, Inc. - The company that runs the game. Check out this site for basic info and to actually get into the game.
The Road of Kings - Great forum full of information, insight, and aid from grizzled Hyborian War veterans.
John Holt's Hyborian War page - Good source for info on the various countries.
The Hyborian Tome - Fantastic page with all sorts of compiled data, maps, and full introductory reports on all the kingdoms.