Hundred Years' War is a game involving dozens of players, played out over a period of months, in which each player represents a nobleman of France, England, or one of the surrounding countries--except for the four who represent the Kings of England and France, the Black Prince, and the Dauphin, and to whom most of the rest of the players report. There are two complementary sides to the game--the economic game, which you can play with occasional updates to your fiefs' orders every few days, passing on money and troops to your liege; and the military game, which is played out in realtime, with players on one side messaging each other to coordinate the movement of armies across France and England.
There's nothing like this anywhere. BUT. This is basically a pure-text game, and one that requires a serious commitment to play.
Lost you? Very likely. But if you're interested in the period, and think "community" is essential to multiplayer games, and are fed up with the level grind of MMOs, read on.
Hundred Years' War began in the 1970s (you read that right), when Jim Dunnigan and Al Nofi, then both working for Simulations Publications Inc. created a play-by-mail game, computer moderated by an IBM System/3 minicomputer, of the same name.
Years later, they revived the game as one played over GEnie, General Electric's commercial online service in the days when the Internet was restricted to government and academic use. And when the Internet was opened to the public, they brought it over to the Internet.
Today, it's played with a Java client that connects to a server running code that ultimately derives from the RPG app running back on that old IBM System/3.
The game itself has been refined and improved over time--but it is recognizably still the same game it was in the 1970s.
What's it Like to Play
You are the Duc de Poictesme, say (a non-existent fief for illustrative purposes). As such, you own three fiefs (hexes) on the map. Each has a set of economic parameters you can tweak, which involve tradeoffs--raising troops will cost you economically, and raising taxes will benefit you in the short term but hurt in the long. If you want, you can simply play the economic game.
If you raise troops, you can log on at any time and move them--but they can move only a limited distance each day of play. And the evil English may be running around with vast armies that will crush you like a bug. So you instead coordinate with the other patriotic French online--reporting when English troops are encountered, trying to scout out the position of the Black Prince, and perhaps assemble a large French army to face it in the field.
Since this is basically pure text, you're sitting at home with a printed-out map, marking down troop positions as you and your friends encounter them.
Of course, if things go badly--Edward claims to be King of France too, after all... You can always declare your allegiance for the House Plantagenet instead of Bourbon.
And then your former friends will attempt to hunt you down, of course, to hang you for the traitor you are.
Text? WIth a Java interface? A commitment of months to play through the whole Hundred Years' War? A community of dozens with whom you actually engage in the course of the game, instead of the tens of thousands on an MMO server whom you can never all know?
This is a game of the past, a distant era, hanging on somehow today. But perhaps it's a past that has a point--a better era, in some ways, than that of Web 2.0.
Well, we can thankfully dispense with RPG coding on an IBM System/3, at any event.
No, it's not free to play--a game on so obscure a subject, of such limited appeal, is not going to achieve adequate advertising revenue to support itself. It's going to appeal to a small but passionate audience--and can survive only by charging.
The charge is modest: $6/month, basically.
When I played it, back in the GEnie days, I was paying $6/connecttime hour. And sometimes more than $100/month.
And we waded through 20 foot drifts of snow on our way to school, too. Ahem.
Unlike some other paid games we feature here, by the way, we earn nothing in terms of an affiliate fee if you decide to play HYW.
We just wanted to include it. If only because game culture is for more diverse, and far weirder, than is generally assumed.