I'm looking for a term to describe a game where neither player is present at the same time. Chess-by-mail is a good example of this, but the opponents may be separated by time instead of by distance. Another example is my aunt, who used to play Scrabble with her friend by phone. Each had a separate Scrabble board, and she would get a phone call once or twice a day from her friend to let her know what move her friend had made. "Correspondence gaming" is not an uncommon term, but what I'm trying to describe doesn't always involve correspondence. For example, you could have a game set up in the break room at work, where each player just takes turns as they are able, rather than all sitting down and playing at the same time.

Example Sentences:

  1. This Catan tournament will include a _______ game.
  2. He never met his opponent in the ________ game of Uno.

Summary: What is the term for a game where the opponents are separated by time?

  • It still might be classified as a correspondence game since they are still co-responding, except instead of by mail, this is by the refrigerator. ;-)
    – Jim
    Apr 5, 2016 at 4:12

1 Answer 1


The word in use for the situation you describe is 'asynchronous':

asynchronous, adj.
1. Not synchronous; not existing or occurring at the same time, not coinciding in time.

In your examples, the use would be verbatim:

  1. This Catan tournament will include an asynchronous game.
  2. He never met his opponent in the asynchronous game of Uno.

Although the term 'asynchronous game' (or 'asynchronous gaming') is a comparatively recent coinage applied primarily to contemporary gaming conditions, it serves your purposes, and the purposes of others with the same descriptive needs, admirably. As Christian Dolan put it in a 2012 Vice article titled "Asynchronous Gaming Is Sexier Than it Sounds":

Asynchronous gaming has been around ever since Oxford dons first took a break from running Asian spy rings and having affairs with Vladimir Nabokov, and decided to play postal chess with each other instead. It’s as old, probably, as the Penny Black. Modern asynchronous gaming really got its mainstream start with Facebook, however, and its first star was Scrabulous.

More specific terms such as 'play-by-mail game' (often abbreviated PBM) or 'play-by-post game', along with 'correspondence game' have long been in use to describe chess and, since the 1960s, a board game called Diplomacy. The latter was, more recently, played via email.

Before being marginalized by computer-assisted gaming, a variety of play-by-mail games were popular:

In the 1980s, play-by-mail games reached their peak of popularity with the advent of Gaming Universal, Paper Mayhem and Flagship magazine, the first professional magazines devoted to play-by-mail games. (An earlier fanzine, Nuts & Bolts of PBM, was the first publication to exclusively cover the hobby.) Bob McLain, the publisher and editor of Gaming Universal, further popularized the hobby by writing articles that appeared in many of the leading mainstream gaming magazines of the time.

(Wikipedia, "Play-by-mail game")

  • I think it’s a terrible name, though, because it conjures up images of the players making moves whenever they feel like it instead of taking turns.
    – Jim
    Apr 6, 2016 at 2:46
  • @Jim I understand your bewitchment. The term isn't perfect, but is the best in use for the given circumstances. As for the turns, the order of one succeeding another is as per the usual rules of the game (for example, in some games a turn or more may be skipped), while the timing of occurrence of turns is dictated by preconditions. Also note, the sense of "co-responding" you advocated in a comment on the OP, applies to many games irrespective of whether they are played F2F, by mail, post, or with other preconditions. 'Correspondence game' is used with another, special sense, of course.
    – JEL
    Apr 6, 2016 at 6:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.