Home Consulting Games Writing Personal Links

Pax Britannica Play-by-Mail Rules

One person acts as gamemaster (hereafter called the GM); he does not control a Great Power. Instead, he collects moves from the players, adjudicates them, and mails them the results.

The gamemaster should set regular deadlines for moves; we recommend three to four weeks between moves during peace.

Before the game begins, each player should send the gamemaster a list of the powers, with the power he would most like to play listed first. The gamemaster will strive to give each player as highly-ranked a position as feasible.

Start-of-Turn Phases

At the beginning of the game, the gamemaster will perform the Random Events, Administrative, and Minor Powers phases, informing the players of the results. The players will then submit moves for the Movement/Status Change Phase.

Movement/Status Change Phase

In a postal game all actions in the Movement/Status Change Phase are considered simultaneous. Players may make moves conditional on the actions of other players (e.g., Italy may write, "If Britain places a Protectorate in Tunis, purchase a Protectorate marker, place it there, and move two 3-strength armies from home.").

If two or more conditional orders depend on each other, and having both or all occur would resolve the conflict, they all take place. Example: Italy writes "Place a Protectorate in Tunis if anyone else does." Britain writes, "Place a Protectorate in Tunis if Italy does." Both powers will place Protectorate markers.

If two or more conditional orders create a paradox, the gamemaster will arbitrarily resolve it; his decisions are final, and not subject to appeal. Example: Italy writes, "Put a Protectorate marker in Tunis, unless Britain does so." Britain writes, "Put a Protectorate marker in Tunis, unless Italy does so." If no markers are placed, both powers should place markers; but if either power does, neither power should. There is no logical resolution to the paradox; the gamemaster might rule that both powers placed markers, or neither.

Players may submit orders that involve the use of more funds or counters than they possess. The gamemaster will assume that the first order listed on the player's order form takes priority. If not all orders can be carried out, the highest-priority orders will take precedence. Example: Italy's first order is, "Place a Protectorate marker in Tunis and two 3-strength armies if Britain places a Protectorate marker there." Britain does do so; the cost of purchasing the Protectorate marker means Italy does not have enough money left over to fund any of his remaining moves, which are therefore nullified.

Nullified orders are not reported to the other players.

Negotiation Phase

Once the gamemaster adjudicates the Movement/Status Change Phase, he performs Colonial Combat and the Marker Adjustment Phase. If there are any casus belli at this point, he notes them, and reports the results of the Movement/Status Change phase to the players.

The players must resolve outstanding casus belli by:

    voluntarily down-grading status markers;
    signing treaties resolving outstanding disputes;
    or calling for a Congress of Europe.

Treaties: The gamemaster must be convinced that each proposed signer of a treaty actually wants to sign it. There are several ways to convince him of this; one is to circulate a single copy of the treaty among the signers, and have them each afix his signature. Time may not permit this. Another is to photocopy the draft treaty and have each player sign one copy and return it to the GM. If different players return different versions of the treaty to the GM, he will assume they do not intend to sign the same treaty.

Players may establish secret treaties, or secret protocols to otherwise public treaties. The gamemaster will not make these public until asked, but must be informed of these agreements if the players wish them to be enforced. Any party to a secret treaty or protocol may ask the GM to publish it; he will do so with the next report (even if other parties wish the treaty or protocol to remain secret).

No casus belli exists for violation of a secret treaty or protocol until published; a player may use the terms of a secret treaty or protocol to declare war in the same report that publishes the treaty or protocol.

The GM will publish all public treaties, and the public portions of treaties with secret protocols, in his first report after their adoption.

The signatories should choose a name for the treaty; the usual practice is to name it after the city or town where negotiated (e.g., "Treaty of Versailles," "Treaty of Oshkosh," etc.).

Congress of Europe Phase

If a Congress of Europe is convened, the gamemaster will determine where it is to be held, what power presides, and what powers must or may attend, reporting these results to the players. He should set a deadline (usually four weeks) by which time the Congress should complete its work.

During a Congress, any member of the Congress may propose a treaty resolving the casus belli under dispute by mailing copies to the GM and all other players who are attending the Congress. The proposer should state a deadline for voting on the treaty, usually two weeks from the date on which the proposer mails the treaty to the other players. The GM will compile votes; if he feels the deadline for voting was unreasonably short, he may extend it.

If no treaty resolving the matters under dispute is passed by the GM's stated deadline for the Congress, he must set a new deadline.

At any time, any member of a Congress may inform the gamemaster that he is declaring war. At this point, the gamemaster will announce that a war is in progress to the other players, cutting short the Congress of Europe negotiation period. Exception: If the war will not resolve all matters under dispute before a Congress, the Congress may continue negotiations while the war is being resolved to draw up and adopt a treaty resolving those other matters.

When a player submits a vote on a treaty to the GM, he should also tell the GM, at the same time, whether he plans to defy the Congress if the treaty is passed, or sign it. If the treaty is defeated, the gamemaster will keep this information confidential. If a Congress is defied, the gamemaster must immediately determine whether or not the other members of the Congress intend to declare war on the defier. We recommend he use the phone or e-mail for quick response, but that's up to the GM. If they do, a war begins; if not, status markers are downgraded and the end-of-turn phases resolved (see below).

Chinese Resentment Phase

If war is declared, the gamemaster immediately performs the Chinese Resentment phase, to determine whether a Chinese Rebellion occurs first. The results of the phase are reported with the declaration of war.

If no war is declared, the GM performs the Chinese Resentment phase; if no Chinese Rebellion occurs, he continues with the end-of-turn phases (see below). Otherwise, a war turn begins, and the results of the game-turn so far are reported.

Any Chinese Rebellion or Ottoman war is resolved before subsequent wars.


At the beginning of a war, the gamemaster will determine which alliance has initiative. During a war, the first alliance submits its moves to the gamemaster, who adjudicates the results and reports them to the players; then, the second alliance does so. In the interests of speed, players are requested to submit war orders as quickly as possible, via e-mail if feasible. The GM should set reasonable deadlines -- 2 weeks, perhaps -- but will, if all members of an alliance submit orders in advance of the deadline, adjudicate them as soon as feasible.

In the first report of a war, the gamemaster will adjudicate the first alliance's movement, combat, and attacker retreats. The second alliance will then submit orders; the second report will include defender retreats resulting from the first alliance's attacks, the results of the first alliance supply phase, movement and combat for the second alliance, retreats for both sides, the second alliance's supply phase, and initiative determine for the next war turn, assuming the war hasn't automatically ended. This sequence repeats until the war ends, either automatically or by treaty.

Movement orders may not be made conditional on the orders of allied players.

Units only attack if specifically ordered to do so. Players can make attack orders conditional on the moves of allied players (e.g., "Attack Italy in Tunis, but only if Britain moved at least 5 strength points of army units to Tunis."). They may not make attack orders conditional on the attacks of allied players (e.g., "Attack Italy in Tunis only if Britain also does so" would be invalid). However, if two or more allies independently order attacks in the same area, they deliver a single, combined attack.

Players should submit orders indicating where their units will retreat if forced to do so; if no retreat order is assigned a unit, and it is forced to retreat, the gamemaster will determine where it retreats according to the following preference schedule:

  1. Units never retreat to areas or sea zones where they would be out of supply. If this is their only option, they surrender.
  2. Land units retreat to land areas, in preference to sea zones; naval units, to sea zones in preference to land areas.
  3. An area controlled by the retreating player is preferable to one controlled by an ally; an area controlled by an ally is preferable to one that is enemy-controlled.
  4. An area or sea zone containing solely friendly units is preferable to one containing no units; an empty sea zone or area is preferable to one containing both friendly and enemy units. Army units may not retreat to sea zones or areas containing solely enemy units; naval units consider sea zones solely containing enemy units as being of the lowest preference, even lower than adjoining land areas.
  5. If, by these rules, two or more adjoining areas or sea zones remain of equal preference, retreat to the one that is topologically closest to the player's nearest Home Country, State, or Dominion.
  6. If still tied, roll dice.

After the gamemaster resolves movement and combat, he will check supply for all units and areas belonging to the active alliance. Unsupplied units (and areas; see "Pax Britannica Improved," change to War rules) surrender to the opposing alliance.

In a Chinese Rebellion, the gamemaster resolves the Great Powers' orders, then performs movement and combat for Chinese forces and reports both simultaneously. The same is true for Ottoman Wars when the Ottomans have no Great Power ally, and in a war with a minor power with no allies.

When a minor power or the Ottomans do have allies, the gamemaster decides which player will order the minor power or Ottoman forces. That player may transfer control of the minor power to an ally by so informing the gamemaster.

If two or more independent wars occur simultaneously, they will be resolved simultaneously. Example: America is at war with Spain; France is at war with a Germano-Japanese alliance. The first turn of the Spanish-American war is resolved at the same time as the first turn of the French/German-Japanese war. Exception: Chinese Rebellions and Ottoman Wars are resolved before all others.

Even if a treaty calls for a power to enter a war (e.g., France declares war on Germany; Germany and Italy have a mutual defense pact), the gamemaster will not assume that the power does in fact enter it, until the player specifically states that he is doing so. If the player does not submit moves by the deadline, and the GM does not wish to extend the deadline, he will instead assume that the power is abrogating the treaty (and will increase the European Tensions Index accordingly).

When a war ends, the victors must tell the gamemaster how the spoils are to be divided -- who is to receive status markers, what markers are to be removed, etc. The gamemaster will publish the results.

End-of-Turn Phases

Once casus belli and wars, if any, have been resolved, the gamemaster adjudicates and reports the Victory Point Record and Final Record phases for the current game-turn, as well as the Random Events, Administrative, and Minor Power phases for the next.

Missed Moves

When a player misses his moves, the gamemaster will use the rules outlined under "General Orders for Abandoned Powers" (see "Pax Britannica Improved") to determine the power's actions. If a player drops from the game (or misses his moves several times, to the annoyance of the other players) the gamemaster will try to find a replacement. If no replacement can be found, he will use the General Orders to determine the power's actions.

One change is made to the General Orders: rule 9 stipulates that another player is appointed to command an unplayed power's forces during a war. This is true only when the power has Great Power allies, and in this case the gamemaster selects one of the power's allies to order its forces. If the unplayed power has no allies, the gamemaster determines its actions during a war.

Sample GM Reports

Please note that reports from gamemasters will vary considerably in nature, depending on what happens on a particular turn. For instance:

FIRST GM REPORT: Positions are assigned to players, players' addresses and phone numbers published, the 1880 turn's random events, administrative, and minor powers phases are resolved.

SECOND GM REPORT: Movement/Status Change, Colonial Combat, and Marker Adjustment phases are resolved; there are no casus belli this turn, so the Negotiation and Congress of Europe phases are skipped. The Chinese Resentment phase is resolved; there is no Chinese Rebellion and no War Phase. The Victory Point Record and Final Record phases for 1880 are resolved; then, the Random Events, Administrative, and Minor Powers phases for 1884 are resolved.

THIRD GM REPORT: Movement/Status Change, Colonial Combat, and Marker Adjustments for 1884 are resolved. Casus belli exist; players are assigned a deadline for negotiations.

FOURTH GM REPORT: Some casus belli are resolved through negotiations; one power calls a Congress of Europe to resolve a particularly sticky issue. The GM assigns a deadline for the Congress's resolution.

FIFTH GM REPORT: The Congress passes the Treaty of Osaka; Japan defies the congress. The gamemaster has phoned other members of the Congress; Germany and Britain declare war on Japan, while others decline to do so. The Chinese Resentment phase is resolved, and no rebellion occurs. The GM determines that the Anglo-German alliance has the initiative, and sets a deadline for the first war turn's moves.

SIXTH GM REPORTS: Anglo-German movement, combat, and attacker retreats are resolved.

SEVENTH GM REPORT: Japanese retreats, Anglo-German supply, Japanese movement and combat, both sides' retreats, and Japanese supply are resolved. Initiative is determined for the second war phase; Japan has the initiative.

EIGHTH GM REPORT: Like the sixth, but reporting Japanese orders for the second war turn.

NINTH GM REPORT: Like the seventh, but reporting Anglo-German orders for the second war turn.

TENTH THROUGH THIRTEENTH GM REPORTS: Reporting orders for the third and fourth war turns. At the end of the fourth war turn, Japan signs a treaty with Germany and Britain resolving the casus belli for which the Congress of Europe was called, and also surrendering certain territories to its enemies. The thirteenth report announces the end of the war and reports the results of the Victory Point Record and Final Record phases of 1884, as well as the Random Events, Administrative, and Minor Powers phases of 1888.

Return to Pax Britannica page.
New Rules and Errata for Pax Britannica.

Return to Games page.

Home Consulting Games Writing Personal Links

Copyright © 1993 by Greg Costikyan and Robert Sacks. You may make any number of copies of this material for your own use and the use of other Pax Britannica players as long as this copyright notice remains affixed, but you may not incorporate this work in any for-sale product nor use it in any commercial capacity without the express permission of the copyright owners.