PBEM Helper - Play By E-Mail Helper

Version 1.3.362 (11.9.2004)
by Harri Pesonen  © 2000-2004

View the latest version of this document (alternative). Download the latest PBEM Helper version (alternative), 2.5 MB. When updating, it is usually enough just to download the executable (alternative), without system files, 460 kB.

Supported Games: Matrix, Battlefront, TalonSoft, Shrapnel, HPS
Adding support for other programs  
Release Notes


This program is used to automatically send turn-based game files between opponents.

Requirements: Win98 or later. Microsoft Windows Script 5.6 or later.


  1. You run this program. It registers a .PBM file type.

  2. You must enter your own e-mail address.

  3. You must select if you want to use Simple MAPI (mapi32.dll) or SMTP (blat.dll) to send e-mail. In case of SMTP, you have to enter the SMTP server name (e.g. smtp.isp.com) and your SMTP e-mail address (usually the same as your own e-mail address).

  4. PBEM Helper finds the supported game programs in your computer. It may ask you the installation directories.

  5. If your program is not detected automatically, check Options / Modify installed programs and Enable it manually.

  6. This program scans all the saved PBEM files in your game programs.

  7. You should enter the e-mail address for each of your game files by double clicking the game (or F2).


  1. Select the games that you want to send, and send them. Later the program will automatically select the correct games.

  2. The game files are zipped into one archive named PBEM.PBM. If anything goes wrong, you can still open it in WinZip.

  3. PBEM.PBM is sent by e-mail to your opponent.

  4. When the opponent receives the e-mail, he opens (does not save) the attachment in PBEM. Because this program registers the .PBM file type, the e-mail attachment opens automatically in this program.

  5. The attached zip file is automatically extracted into correct game directories.

  6. Your opponent can then run the game program directly from this program.

  7. The game files got automatically your e-mail address, so that your opponent can now send them back to you.


Automatic Play is enabled by clicking Options / Automatically Play received games. Received games are played automatically if all the following conditions are met:

  1. Game status is Play (it is if you just received it)

  2. Game has a password

  3. Program status is not "No CD"

  4. Ctrl or Shift keys are not pressed

Automatic send is enabled by clicking Options / Automatically Send played games. Games are sent whenever the status is Send. It is recommended that Taunt your opponent is not selected, and also SMTP sending may work better if your MAPI e-mail client requires additional confirmation (virus check in Outlook and Outlook Express).


Select "Options / Set additional working folder" to enable this. A default additional working folder will be created under C:\My Documents\PBEM. This is recommended if your email opponent does not have PBEM helper installed and he is sending game turn files in either .txt/.zip formats instead of the program's native .PBM format. If you receive game turn files which are in .TXT or either .ZIP formats, then save (don't open/extract) these game files into the C:\My Documents\PBEM folder.

Note: All ZIP files saved - not opened - into the C:\My Documents\PBEM subfolder are automatically extracted and deleted without you doing the extraction manually via an unzip utility.

Also SIT, LHA, RAR, ARC, ARJ, BZIP and GZIP files are processed if the StuffIt Expander has been installed. ACE files are processed if WinAce is installed.

PBEM Helper will create the correct subfolders under this folder, one for each program. WARNING: The files in these subfolders will be moved (deleted) when PBEM Helper starts!

If you do not use this additional working folder, and instead save the game files directly into some game application folder, then PBEM Helper doesn't know if you should "Play" or "Send" these files. The game status is then displayed as Play/Send (or Unknown).


Most Windows e-mail clients support Simple MAPI by MAPI32.DLL in Windows/System directory. If you don't have a compatible e-mail client, then use SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol). The SMTP support is provided by BLAT.DLL, which is installed into Windows/System directory.

If you use SMTP, then your sent PBEM file is not saved anywhere (except into the temporary "0" subdirectory under PBEM installation directory). This is good because your e-mail program does not get filled with PBEM files, but on the other hand, you don't have a good backup for sent files.

Remember to send a test file to yourself (in Options menu) after you have selected the mail mode!


The used Zip technology is by Info-Zip. It is possible to send the attachment as a plain .ZIP file (or not compressed at all) if your opponent does not have PBEM Helper.


If you check this option, then you can enter comments to your opponent before sending each attachment. These comments will be sent as the e-mail body text.

In the bottom of the window are two text boxes. When you add text to the first one and press enter, the text is added to the list of phrases in the bottom, and also to big text box above. Later you can click on the list to add that text.


PBEM Helper puts the password into clipboard when you click Play F9. Most programs do not support the clipboard when entering the password, though. That's why PBEM Helper has a hot key, Ctrl+Shift+P, that sends the clipboard contents to the active window as keystrokes. This works with SPWAW at least. The status bar shows Ctrl+Shift+P if the hot key is active.

Also Ctrl+Shift+F sends the file name (after Play F9).

Gamma hot keys work as follows: Ctrl+Shift+
0:  Restore default (how it was before PBEM Helper was loaded).
1 - 8: Gamma = from 1.0 to 2.75 in steps of 0.25. 1.0 is usually the same as default, 2.75 is the brightest.
9: Blank screen to grey, use this to test if it works in CMBB fast&trust mode.


PBEM Helper will convert the file modification times automatically, if the files are sent from a different time zone. For example, the Finnish time zone is GMT+2 and Swedish is GMT+1, so the clock in Sweden is one hour less than in Finland. So when a file is sent from Sweden to Finland, one hour must be added to the modification time.

The time zone conversion is done by the Info-Zip routines.

You can also manually adjust the day light saving time in Options / Fix dayling saving time. You can fix the Received/Sent timestamps when the daylight saving time changes. PBEM Helper also detects this change automatically.


There are popup menus on Programs and Games lists, use right mouse click to open them. Double clicking a program will run it, double clicking a game will either Edit, Play or Send it, depending on the game state.




Steel Panthers: World at War

SPWAW is free! Published and developed by Matrix Games. Visit the support forum.

Pacific War: The Matrix Project

PACWAR is free! Published and developed by Matrix Games. Visit the support forum.

War in Russia: The Matrix Project

WIR is free! Published and developed by Matrix Games. Visit the support forum.

Uncommon Valor

UV a was added by David Heath, fixed by me, and is published and developed by Matrix Games and 2by3Games. Visit the support forum. Instructions from Spooky's site:

How UV PBEM works !

1st Japanese turn: Japanese player enters password, gives orders, ends turn, saves game (to whatever number that was decided upon for the PBEM game). The save game will look like this : uvXXX_YYY_date.uvs with :
XXX is the slot number (ie : 16)
YYY is the name of the game (ie : Spooky vs Mario)
date : the date of the savegame (ie : 07_07-42)

1st Allied turn: Allied player loads the saved game received from the Japanese player. Allied player enters password, gives orders, ends turn, saves game. Then Allied player sends the save file to the Japanese player.

Subsequent Japanese turn: Japanese player enters password, gives orders, ends turn, saves game. Then Japanese player sends both the save-game file and the Combat Replay ("uv001_CombatSave.uvs_date")  to the Allied player.

Subsequent Allied turn: Allied player loads the "Combat Replay" file received from the Japanese player, watches the replay, then loads the save-game file. Allied player enters password, gives orders, ends turn, saves game. Then Allied player  sends the save-game file to the Japanese player.

Original text by Rowlf

Updated for the v2.3 patch by Spooky


Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord

CMBO is a commercial game, only available from Internet. Published by Battlefront.com and developed by Big Time Software. Visit the support forum.

Automatic password entering is not enabled in PBEM if the intro movie in CMBO is active. To disable this is to press and hold the Shift key when executing the CMBO program executable file.

Also numbered files are supported (filename001.txt, filename002.txt, etc). Numbered files are treated as one logical file (filename###.txt). There must be exactly three digits in the end. Also the latest file (by modification date) is shown in the Description field if it is different from the biggest file (by numbering).

If the file name is numbered, then a matching subfolder will be created automatically under CMBO/PBEM, and all previous turn files are moved into that folder. For example, if there are files Berli_Fuerte_001.txt and Berli_Fuerte_002.txt and there is a subfolder Berli_Fuerte, then the file Berli_Fuerte_001.txt is moved into this subfolder. Besides _ character also space and - are ignored from the end of the file name when creating the subfolder.

The latest file is never moved. But if you click Delete (in Edit F2), then also this file is moved into subfolder.

Fast&Trust mode is supported, see CMBB below.

Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin (+demo)

CMBB is a commercial game, available from Internet for U.S. and from CDV for European people. Published by Battlefront.com and developed by Big Time Software. Visit the support forum. See CMBO for more information.

Hot key F5 sends the next numbered file name in file save dialog (it first sends a mouse click so that you get to the file name dialog, and after the new file name it sends an enter so that the dialog is closed).

Two turns per e-mail (or Fast&Trust mode) is enabled if the file name starts with "2-" characters, e.g. 2-PBEM001.txt. Both players must have PBEM Helper. It is also possible to change an existing game to fast&trust mode in Edit F2, by using Trust/Secure button.

Warning: Operations (switching to next battle) and end-game sequence may not work in all cases, or they require at least some help from the player. Test if screen blanking works when CMBB 3D display is loaded with Ctrl+Shift+9 before using this mode (Ctrl+Shift+0 restores the colors).

That said, if you have an opponent that you TRUST, then this makes PBEM game much more enjoyable, and faster. You get two full turns (view, plot, view+plot) after the setup phase is over. The trick is that the opponent's password is sent with the game file, encrypted, and that password is used to skip the other player's view turn, so that you can view and plot moves for your next turn in advance. When the other player's view turn is skipped, the display colors are set to gray, so that you don't see anything, and the movie is quickly fast forwarded to the end.

This is how it works. On the left is the ordinary PBEM sequence, on the right is the two turns per e-mail sequence. We have two players, A and B. The first two turns is the setup phase. A turn is generated when there is a separating horizontal line. On the right, only the turns in bold are sent to the opponent (in one file), turns marked with d are just dropped. When a player views other player's turn, hidden, it is in brackets.

			A		B
A     setup     -> 001	|      -> 001
B 001 setup     -> 002			|  001 -> 002
A 002 plot      -> 003	|  002 -> 003
B 003 plot      -> 004			|  003 -> 004
-------------------			|
A 004 view      -> 005	|  004 -> 005d	| (004 -> 005)
B 005 view+plot -> 006  |		|  005 -> 006
A 006 plot      -> 007	|  006 -> 007
-------------------	|
B 007 view      -> 008	| (007 -> 008)	|  007 -> 008d
A 008 view+plot -> 009	|  008 -> 009	|
B 009 plot      -> 010			|  009 -> 010
-------------------			|
A 010 view      -> 011	|  010 -> 011d	| (010 -> 011)
B 011 view+plot -> 012	|		|  011 -> 012
A 012 plot      -> 013	|  012 -> 013
-------------------	|  ...

In Quick Battles there can be two extra unit selection turns in the beginning, if both players buy their units, so the fast mode starts in turn 5 instead of 3.

Thanks to Scott Karch for explaining this system in this thread, and to
Caesar for the black bmp and encrypted password ideas.

How to start a fast+trust mode game (thanks Andrew!)

  • Start a PBEM game, save the game with 2- prefix (e.g. 2-PBEM or 2-PBEM001 if you use numbered system (the temporary 2+ files are always numbered and backed up, so you don't usually need this)). You can use PBEM Helper File / Generate Password F11 to create a random password, and then Ctrl+Shift+P to send the password (in clipboard) to CMBB when it asks it. Send the game to your opponent (in .PBM format).
  • Open (don't save) the PBM file from this email. This automatically opens
    PBEM Helper.
  • Make sure your password is in the game file by Game / Edit / Generate (if you have put it there once, it will always be there). Fast+trust mode does not work without the password.
  • Have the CM disk in the CD drive.
  • Select the game file and press the play button (or use F9 key, or double-click it if the status is Play).
  • In turn 3 or 5 (depending if this is a Quick Battle where both purchased units) you have to switch to fast mode by clicking Yes in the message box.
  • CM will automatically start, the game will automatically be selected and
    your password automatically entered.
  • Do your turn(s).....
  • If it ever goes out to the Save Game screen, don't enter the name yourself, just press the F5 key and it does it automatically.
  • Once it is the end of things, it will automatically close CM and send you
    back to PBEM helper.
  • If you have Options / Automatically Send Played Games enabled, PBEM Helper will then automatically zip and send the turn to your opponent. It is good to have Taunt Your Opponent checked if you use automatic sending, so that you can cancel it if needed.

When to change a normal game to fast+trust mode

You should do it right after view+plot, before sending the file, when the status is still Send.

Program / View Movie allows you to see the full battle movie replay. The password must be in clipboard (use Ctrl+C to copy it from some game). Use hot keys:

  • F5: First turn
  • F6: Previous turn
  • F7: Next turn
  • F8: Last turn
  • F9: Quit

Normally turns 004 and 005 are the first movie turns for both players. If this game is a quick battle where both players have bought units, then add 2 extra setup turns.

Tip: Change vertical sync Always On in Direct3D settings to get a much better hot key response with ATI Radeon cards.

Combat Mission: Afrika Korps (+demo)

CMAK is a commercial game, available from Internet for U.S. and from CDV for European people. Published by Battlefront.com and developed by Big Time Software. Visit the support forum. See CMBB for more information.

Strategic Command - European Theater (demo)

SC is a commercial game, published by Battlefront.com and developed by Fury Software. Visit the support forum.


TalonSoft’s East Front II

EF2 is a commercial game, published and developed by TalonSoft. Visit the support forum.

TalonSoft’s West Front (Battle Pack)

WF is a commercial game, published and developed by TalonSoft. I have not personally tested this at all.

TalonSoft’s The Operational Art of War, Vol I

TOAW is a commercial game, published and developed by TalonSoft. Visit the support forum.

Battleground 3: Waterloo

WATERLOO was added by Rick Martin, and is published by TalonSoft. Visit the forums.

TalonSoft's Battle of Britain

BOB a was added by Strategist, and is published and developed by TalonSoft. Visit the support forum.

TalonSoft's Twelve O'clock High

TOH a was added by Strategist, and is published and developed by TalonSoft. Visit the support forum.

Age of Rifles

RIFLES a was added by Strategist, and was published and developed by SSI. Page at Wargamer. Forum at Historical-Gaming.com. Yahoo group.


Space Empires IV

SE4 is a commercial game, published by Shrapnel Games and developed by Malfador Machinations. Visit the support forum.

Both Turn Based and Simultaneous modes are supported, and in Simultaneous both Host and Player modes.

If you are running Host, set the e-mail address empty, and set the host (and player) password in Edit F2. When all the player files have been received, the game status will change to Host. If you then execute Play F9, the turn will be generated automatically, and the status will change to Send (after pressing F3 or F5). Ctrl+Play will host the game even if the status is Wait.

If you are running Player in a Simultaneous mode, then you must have the host e-mail address in the game settings. You should get it automatically when you receive the first .gam file from the host.

PBEM Helper supports mods, it knows about the path.txt file. And if you have several SE4 installations, you can change the folder in PBEM.INI:


Dominions 2 (+demo)

DOM2 is a commercial game, published by Shrapnel Games and developed by Illwinter. Visit the support forum.

If you are running Host, make sure that e-mail address field contains the e-mail addresses of all players, separated by ; character. E-mail addresses must be in the same order as the nations, sorted alphabetically:


There must be as many e-mail addresses as there are .trn files. If host is playing as well, leave the e-mail address empty for that nation (but still add that ; separator). When all players have sent their .2h file to you, then the game status changes to Host. Double click the game to generate the turn. Host will send all *.trn files (except your own nation) to all players. If you have Automatic Play enabled, all this happens automatically.

If you are just a player, make sure that the e-mail address contains the host's e-mail address. Player will send just one .2h file.

If you want to use the password sending with Ctrl+Shift+P, make sure that the password contains only numbers, not letters (sending letters does not work for some unknown reason).

If you want to hide a game from PBEM Helper, set - to e-mail address. You have to manually edit PBEM.INI to make it visible again.


Campaign Eckmuhl

ECKMUHL was added by Rick Martin, and is published by HPS Simulations.

The War of 1812: The Conquest of Canada

CANADA was added by Rick Martin, and is published by HPS Simulations.

Squad Battles: Vietnam

VIETNAM was added by Randy Casebier, and is published by HPS Simulations. Forum at Blitzkrieg.

Squad Battles: The Proud and the Few

PF a was added by Randy Casebier, and is published by HPS Simulations. Forum at Blitzkrieg.

Squad Battles: Tour of Duty

TOD a was added by Randy Casebier, and is published by HPS Simulations. Forum at Blitzkrieg.

Panzer Campaigns: RZHEV '42

RZHEV42 a was added by Strategist, and is published by HPS Simulations. Forum at Wargames Board.


Empire Deluxe for Windows

EMPIRE is an old classic, this version is for Win3.x.


Adding support to other games is relatively easy. Just select Options / Modify installed programs. You need the following information:

  1. The short game name (e.g. SPWAW).

  2. The full game name (e.g. Steel Panthers: World At War)

  3. Executable name (e.g. MECH.EXE).

  4. Possible e-mail subfolder name (e.g. EMAIL or PBEM).

  5. Possible registry settings ([HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\
    ]). It may be possible to find out the installation directory from these registry settings.

  6. If the program requires that a CD is in drive, the CD label.

  7. Names of PBEM save files (e.g. email2.cmt, email2.dat, email2.aux, email2.rec).

If you add a new program, then please send me (see Help / About / Mail me) the resulting .INI file (in PBEM Helper installation folder), and I will add it to the public release, along with your name (and e-mail address) if you want.

PBEM Helper is programmed in MS Visual Basic 6.0. Unfortunately there is no Macintosh version; perhaps somebody will do that.


Blitzkrieg Wargaming Club, ladders, message boards, tournaments, chat rooms, scenarios, downloads...

The Grognards, PBEM ladder for many games (Combat Mission, Campaign Series, Panzer Campaigns, Operational art of War, Steel Panthers, World At War), merging with Blitzkrieg.

The Wargamer, news, reviews.

Rugged Defence, A PBEM wargame club. Ladders, tournaments (Panzer General 1 + 2, Pacific, Allied General; Combat Missions, The Operational Art of War, Steel Panthers).

John Tiller Games Ring The John Tiller Games SiteRing

This site owned by
Harri Pesonen
Previous Site List Sites Random Site Join Ring Next Site
SiteRing by Bravenet.com

Special thanks to Winecape for six bottles of great South African wine!


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  • New: Added support for additional working folder.

  • Fixed: MAPI sending finally works with Outlook.

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