I am new to PHP as well and your problem seems interesting to me. You need the players to be able to communicate with each other. I would break it down into something like this:
//Allow user to input desired settings
//Communicate settings to local files as a means of transferring data
//Wait/Loop until required peer players are ready to begin
//Start the game
I would attempt to solve the problem of communication with the fget() and fput() commands. Each client would place their own information into their own local file. Each client would scan for information file from peer players.
This is of course a basic new programmer approach. I suspect it would not be particularly scalable to massive application to many players. It would be interesting to see how the pros would handle this.