Starweb is a play-by-mail game of strategy and diplomacy invented in 1976 by Rick Loomis. The game has won a number of awards over the years (including the 1984 Charles S. Roberts Award for Best Play-by-Mail Game, the 2000 and 2003 Origins Awards for Best Play-by-Mail Game, and the 1997 Origins Award for Best Ongoing Play-by-Mail Game), and is likely the longest lived play-by-mail game that started life in that medium. It remains a popular game at Flying Buffalo.
Played for points, Starweb is primarily a hidden movement wargame. Six different types of players (Empire Builder, Merchant, Berserker, Apostle, Pirate, and Artifact Collector) gain points in different ways; nevertheless, most victories come from taking something away from somebody else.
Players write down their orders using an arcane command language, which is then entered into the Starweb computer program and the orders calculated simultaneously. The results are then printed and mailed back to the players. In recent years the system has moved to e-mail. Scoring rules differ based on the character class. The game ends when any player reaches a score determined (but not revealed to the players) at the beginning of the game.
One interesting concept in the game is the idea of "artifacts", a number of which are randomly scattered around the game map during setup. The artifacts have certain point values for each class, but the Artifact Collector gains considerably more points for holding collections of them in a single place. One of the artifacts, The Black Box, has a random effect which is not revealed to the players.
Starweb uses the term "Berserker" with permission of Fred Saberhagen; Saberhagen returned the favor by using a fictionalized Starweb game as a backdrop for his novel Octagon (1981).
In 1999 Pyramid magazine named Starweb as one of the Millennium's Best Games. Editor Scott Haring said "Starweb is the king of [play-by-mail games] -- the industry's most popular and longest running. ... Beautifully balanced, with a design so well-polished it gleams."
- "Charles Roberts Award Winners (1984)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2008-04-15. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
- "Origins Award Winners (2000)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2008-04-15. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
- "Origins Award Winners (2003)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Retrieved 2008-02-18.[dead link]
- "Origins Award Winners (1997)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2008-01-30. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
- Haring, Scott D. (1999-12-24). "Second Sight: The Millennium's Best "Other" Game and The Millennium's Most Influential Person". Pyramid (online) (Steve Jackson Games). Retrieved 2008-02-16.