Have You Played… Tribal Wars?

Actual footage of me running from my responsibilities

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

Oh god. When I think of Tribal Wars [official site] all I feel is a deep, clamouring shame. You see, as a stressed and skint student I became the leader of a hundred villages. I walked to the university library to check on my vassals – all real players with their own villages to run and armies to manage. I rounded up all the clans and unified them under a single banner, using nothing but private messages and internet diplomacy. Then, when our power was at its zenith, when all seemed possible… I abandoned my tribe.

To explain the basics, Tribal Wars is one of those grubby-but-free town management, always-online, war games. If you’ve been on any games website, you’ve seen them advertised. You have to build your town on a hexy map and train soldiers. You can send them to attack enemy towns but it’ll take them hours of real time to get there (and significantly, the same amount of time to get back). For this reason, scouting and information is your best friend. Banding together in large groups and praying that you don’t land near a “border” is another tactic. That was my plan, when I started the big tribe.

I was very very stressed. We were moving house. I could barely afford my daily ration of chips from Broomhill Friery. There were days we slept on a mate’s sofa. It was the start of summer and the city had emptied apart from myself and a couple of close friends (they were also playing Tribal Wars). Thank god they were in another world, otherwise they might have learned of my shameful decision to not only abandon the tribe but also to disband it during our first real test. A small group of powerful dissidents were eating away at villages to our southwest and weren’t responding to any messages of peace. The last messages I remember seeing were in a group chat, bubbling over with talk of this crisis. They were asking: “Where the hell is our leader?” … “Where’s Hawk?” For that, forgiving and understanding reader, was my cool Tribal Wars username.

I never answered them. My calm inside voice came to me in that moment, on the second floor of the spiffing new uni library, and said: “You don’t know these people. You don’t owe them anything. Look, you are lousy with anxiety. You do not need to log onto a grindy, timesinky browser game every few hours. You do not need this, Brendan. Let it go.”

So I clicked disband. And was overcome with a mixture of shame and relief. This must be what it feels like to resign as Prime Minister during a war. I don’t remember what I ordered from the chippy that evening (if it was the chippy we went to), but it probably tasted like freedom.


  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    You monster!

    Not really though.

    Sometimes I feel like it’d be fun to somehow become a huge important person in something like, say, EVE, and then just disappear. Not sell the in-game money, not cause a big thing directly. Just stop logging in or interacting at all, and maybe pop on a free account to see it crumble.

  2. skyturnedred says:

    Never played it, and I still hate it. My reason being that I used to have this C&C clone as a kid, and it had Tribal in its name. Trying to google it was made damn difficult I would always get results for this game.

    It was Tribal Rage, by the way.

  3. Sardonic says:

    I did, but only for a short time.
    I did however play, for a very long time:

    Lunar Wars
    Astro Empires
    and of course, Cybernations. Spent something like 4+ years leading a major faction there. It was a lot of fun and entertaining drama. When I stepped down, the faction I led disbanded a month after, which was bittersweet, but we had already stripmined all the entertainment value from that place we could get our grubby mitts on, so it was all good really. Looking back, it’s a lot of great memories.

  4. LexW1 says:

    I never played Tribal War or anything much like it, but that sense of relief-shame seems very familiar.

    I’ve experienced that when quitting from guilds I’ve been in for a long time in MMOs, at least a couple of times. I remember one time in mid/late-WotLK in WoW (shortly before the final raid came out), my wife and I were kind of the lynchpins of a 10-man raiding guild (which we hadn’t formed or anything, just been in for a long time), and decided we’d had enough of the ever-worsening drama-monger-ing and stress-bombing of some of the younger people in the guild (we were late 20s, they very early 20s), so announced we were leaving. Ructions ensued, of course. People begged us to stay at horrifying length, and yeah, really, we were leaving them in the lurch, because they didn’t have anyone who could replace us, in terms of experience or gear or desire to play those roles and we had some very practiced methods for various raids, so I did feel rather bad on a certain level.

    But good god the relief when we were actually out, and we didn’t have to deal with the artificial drama and idiocy and people always wanting something. Phew!

  5. vorador says:

    I played a very similar game once.

    I lasted a week. Basically, the game told you when you could play, not when you wanted. You were at it’s mercy. Those game are designed to get people to check several times, every day to create them an habit. Like an obsessive spouse.

    I play games on my terms.

  6. dangermouse76 says:

    Bottom right guy is……..fat kid running.

    link to imgur.com

  7. Captain Narol says:

    I played for a few years “Illyriad” and “Pit of War” which were (are ?) both excellent and had nice communities, but ended taking too much of my time and attention.

    I still play “Path to Pelantas”, a gladiatorial fantasy team management game, which is not very demanding but really fun and competitive !

    Those 3 browsers games are all indy products, and they didn’t had the same usual tricks to get you hooked and spend money than commercial FTP browsers games of the same kind.

  8. Gomer_Pyle says:

    I don’t necessarily think that was the best way to go about leaving, but good for you on being able to leave something that you knew you weren’t enjoying. I have played way too many of these games (finally quit cold turkey after GG Empire a few years back) but there was always that feeling of “But what will the clan think?” or “But what about my great kingdom? I can’t just leave it.”

  9. Ejia says:

    My browser game of choice in the late 90s/early 00s was Utopia, as it was the internet version of BBS door game Falcon’s Eye.

  10. Durgendorf says:

    Writing this must have been extremely cathartic.