What's that? Play by Email you say? Sure thing. I've been doing it for probably three months now. It's great. If you missed out on the Vassal tutorial last year, it's here. About three months ago, a buddy of mine brought up an old way of playing 40k that involved people on the forums. Two players would build lists based on suggestions and run them at eachother based on advice from the same people. We gave it shot on PPForums, and it went over like calling Nemo3 an A-list caster on the Cygnar forums.
Heck, it went over like saying anything on the Cygnar forums. Someone, somewhere out there, throws tomatoes at you, says you're doing it wrong, and that PP hates Cygnar, otherwise we'd have weaponmaster medium-based infantry by now.
First off, this isn't the kind of format that you message the first dude on the forums you meet and ask him if he's up for a game. It's not too hard to cheat this way, and if you're worried about the other guy cheating at all, then he's not someone you want to PBE with. Same goes for how well you know the rules. If one of you guys doesn't know the rules all the well, there'll be a lot of emails bouncing around back and forth until finally, a turn goes right. This isn't saving anyone time, and it's not enjoyable. If you just started Warmachine last week, you still have a lot of trips to the LGS or the Vassal server before you fire off your first email.
How it works is fairly simple. There's a "Begin Logfile" option in the main menu that essentially records the game. You can open the file just like you would a savegame, and press the forward button on the program or the page down key on your keyboard to scroll through the game. At any point in the game, you can measure, take a look at stuff, make sure your opponent didn't miss something or do something wrong, and go pack to the slideshow.
What's this do for you? For one, this goes at your pace. Our games last about two weeks. During the holidays, it gets so long I forgot what spells I cast a turn ago. But it goes at our pace, we go about our jobs, catch up in the evening if we get a chance. I'll save the logfile, attach it to an email, let him know in the email what happened, and harass him on facebook.
It also solves timezone problems. The guy I normally play is a Norwegian. I'm a Nebraskan. He's going to bed when I get ready to have my first break at work. It's very rare that our days line up well enough to play a whole game through, and even then, we'll do 35pts because a 50pt game on Vassal borders becoming a 4hr event.
It solves distance problems. I've a brother that plays Retribution, and he lives 3 hours away and works 2nd shift. This works great.
It lets you think. This is a double-edged sword. I like to log on in the morning before I go to work and see how badly my guys did. Hopefully, that evening, I can come back and play a solid turn with well-thought out decisions. I find that I do much, much better in this format. That kneejerk reaction to assault with the Nyss because I can turns into a much better idea of shifting around and shooting CRA at a couple of solos vs. loosing all of my dudes in the assault. I like that I have time to think about my choices. The flipside to this is that if you get used to that, the day you go to a tournament, you'll have zero ability to make a decision in 7 minutes. So keep that in mind. Enjoy your time, but make sure you're still being competitive at the LGS or something so that you're not losing that speed. The middle ground is the best here. The experience to make the right decision, and the speed at which you arrive at it.
I suck at both. I played Saturday 2-2. Ignore strategy articles from me. Although my Kraye list trashed an eHaley single-Wall list. Anyways.
The other downside to this format is some of your playability goes out the window. Tough rolls might be your first clue, but no worries. If you're playing a friend, and doing the logfile, they can roll the tough roll for you there, no problem. I never roll my tough rolls in PBE, my opponent does, and the results are right there for my logfile to record and show me. No problem.
Countercharge, however, is an issue. No Ol' Rowdy, or at least, no countercharging. Things like Hyper-Aggressive become complicated, and take more time to resolve. The worst thing is Fury transfers. You can't just say "Here's all the damage I did, what do you want to do?"
"Well, uh, I'll transfer this one, and... (quick math) this one, and I live! And kill your dude!"
So there is that. Either the game takes considerably longer at that point, or you just make an agreement to transfer as soon as the damage would kill him, or damage over a certain point, or whatever. It's up to you. This isn't a format you play with someone you don't know, that's just frustrating. But, if you're looking for a way to play more games with that buddy of yours you don't see as often as you'd like, here it is. It's been great, I've gotten to test out a lot of lists and ideas I normally wouldn't get to because I want to play the stuff that works when I get the chance. With PBE, I can play that janky 4 minuteman Kraye list and see how it goes because it's a no-pressure learning game at an easy-going pace.
Just dropping the idea out there.