does anyone actualyl still play strategy games like that? the thought seems abhorrently slow. imo it would be a complete waste of effort these days
Yes. It allows for asynchronous play with other people anywhere in the world. If we were playing by email, I could take my turn while you're asleep or at work or whatever because, unlike hotseat or networked multiplayer, it doesn't require all players to be available at the same time. And if only playing one turn per day doesn't give you enough of the game, then that's no problem - you can easily have several play-by-email games in progress at the same time, either with the same opponent or different ones.
Asynchronous play really is the best way to go for turn-based games of any significant complexity (say, anything where it's common for a player to spend more than a few minutes on a turn) because it avoids making players wait for their opponents' turns to be completed. Even if all players take their turns simultaneously, there's still generally a lot of variation in how long players take to complete their turns, which means lots of waiting for the players who finish faster.