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.