Hyborian War is a play-by-mail game published by Reality Simulations, Inc. It is set during the Hyborian Age in the world of Conan the Barbarian created by Robert E. Howard. The game has been continuously available for worldwide play since its inception in 1985 and has changed little in its overall format. It uses a computer program to adjudicate player orders. Although it relies on postal mail or email and has turnaround times which are relatively long for the digital age of video games, Hyborian War has retained a sizable player base.
The game is set within the heroic fantasy genre, also known as sword and sorcery. The central figure is Conan of Cimmeria, appearing in the game as a wandering hero whom players can employ until fortune takes him elsewhere. Game designer Edward Schoonover wove multiple aspects of Howard’s stories into Hyborian War including diverse landscapes and cultures, grand armies, large-scale battles, wizards tipping the scales of power, and stories of courageous and heroic deeds.
Gameplay is multifaceted: PBM commentator Mike Scheid described it as “marvelously complex”. There are 36 kingdoms available to players in small, medium, and large sizes, each with different victory conditions. A central focus of the game is conquest and expansion through military action and diplomacy. Intrigue, magic, and other tools of statecraft in a fantasy setting are available to players. They can also collaborate to progress their game goals. A number of fan-based websites support the game with reference material and provide forums for player communication. The game has had an active player base since 1985. Its nadir for ratings and customer service was in the late 1980s and the 1990s, while its high points were in its early years and in the 21st century—periods during which it won multiple awards.