Playing Board Games Online

Playing Board Games Online

This is a fairly big topic right now in the board game community as people around the world are physically distancing itself from other people out of necessity or mandate. There are plenty of people who are turning to solo board gaming now, but that isn’t quite the same thing for a lot of people, including myself. And while not being face to face is still tough, online gaming can help soften the blow. So let’s talk first about how you can do online gaming, various resources or set-ups out there, and then some good game options.

There are three main spots that I can think of when it comes to table top gaming. Assuming that you don’t just decide to play something like Ascension on an app because you want more of that real time interaction. Obviously, for conversation purposes you’re going to want to have a webcam ready to chat with.

Image Source: Z-Man Games

Tabletopia
This software works on all platforms and you can hook your Steam account up to it. Boasting more than 800 games to play, it certainly will give you a lot of options as to what you can grab.

Tabletop Simulator
Another digital platform, also available with Steam, that you can play a lot of games through.

Zoom/Other Meeting Software
This is the one that I’ve done thus far, but also going to be the hardest to pull off, because I have the streaming set-up for Malts and Meeples, I can go ahead and do a two camera set-up. That means that in a meeting, I’m able to have a camera on myself as well as then one of the table for the game. It’s also trickier because while Tabletopia and Tabletop Simulator have all the pieces for the game, if multiple people don’t own the game, you need something with open information. However, because I played Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game with a friend and we both have it, that meant that the hidden information, what was in our hands, could be hidden because we each had a hand of cards.

I do want to check out the fully online options, but I have to say that I like the Zoom and using the streaming set-up that I did. Mainly because I still go to play with a physical game. And I think that’s a piece that’s always going to be missing from something like Tabletopia and Tabletop Simulator. Now, I don’t think that those are bad systems to use and for a lot of people they are going to be the only thing that they can use because of limitations for their set-ups. Though, a webcam pointed at the game on the table would work, so even if you aren’t able to be “face to face” because of only using a camera, you’d still be able to play with a physical copy of a game.

So besides the library that they have on the digital gaming set-ups, what are some games that would be pretty easy to play even if everyone doesn’t have a copy of a game? Some of these will be easier than others because they have a smaller footprint, but all should work online.

Pandemic
Sounds like a joke, but it isn’t, because all the cards are face up, you need a single person moving pieces and flipping cards, but the decisions are still going to be able to be made by the person whose turn it is, just maybe with asking a few questions. Pandemic can have an Alpha gamer problem that might be a little bit worse if the alpha gamer is the person who has the game, but that’s not so much a problem with the game as an issue that the alpha gamer has to deal with. And if you use Zoom, the leader can mute the person if they are talking over others.

Just One Game Box
Image Source: Board Game Geek

Quoridor
A simple enough abstract game where you’re racing from one side of the board to another while placing obstacles in the way of your opponent(s). You have a limited number of walls that you can place up, so as long as you can see how many you have left, it would work well online. Again, no hidden information so you don’t need to hide what you have or face a challenge of passing information to someone in secret or acting like you don’t know that information.

Just One
Cooperative games tend to work well, and this is a good cooperative party style game. In it one person has to not see the card being held up to the camera and then picks a number, everyone else writes down a one word clue, any repeated clues aren’t displayed and then the person has to guess. This should work exactly how it does in the real world simply by people closing their eyes at the right point in time. It’s also an easy game for people who might not be gamers to join in on because of how simple the concept is.

Second Chance/Welcome To…/Criss Cross/Cat Cafe/Yahtzee
Roll and writes or flip and writes are simple where you don’t need to be passing around the dice. Even the ones where you do, if they use normal six sided dice, like Yahtzee, most people can find the right number of dice. The trickiest thing is that as a roll or flip and write, you need something to write on. So it would require people to have a printer, but on Board Game Geek you can find a lot of these sheets that you can print off. Or if you have a scanner, you can scan them in and e-mail them so that people can then print them off. While Cat Cafe and Yahtzee might require a little more work, the other three would be simple to play and give you a lot of hours of entertainment. And all of them can play good sized groups.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

Scattergories
This one can also play a large group and works as a party style game for more casual gamers. It works because you just need someone to display the list and you can play on a blank sheet of paper coming up with answers. Probably the simplest one to do because someone could just literally type the list into a chat window for everyone to see.

Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
This is one that I saw people suggesting or talking about on Facebook, I believe in the Dice Tower group. Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game is what it says, a game about figuring out who done it. And it’s an involved and complex game. There’s an online database that you use, you can google things are appropriate times, and you can easily discuss a case and actions over a meeting. You just need one person reading off the case cards and presenting the options, which I think a lot of groups do in terms of dividing up the demands of the game. Plus, you need someone to take notes as to what has been discovered.

Image Source: Fantasy Flight Games

Legacy of Dragonholt/Choose Your Own Adventure House of Danger
Story driven choose your own adventure style games work. Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game almost falls into that category, but these are really just reading through things, and House of Danger has a few dice rolls with it but it’s a six sided die so that is going to work for most people because even if people don’t have many games, they probably have a die somewhere in their house.

Small World
Last one on the list, but I’m kind of surprised as I thought about it, that it actually works. The game is simple with just putting down pieces of cardboard to take over areas. So you just need to see how many characters you have left and how many are on each spot on the board. Plus, at times, what combos are available. Yes, you would need to have a single person moving everything around on the board, but that is pretty simple, there just might be a need for some clarifying questions as to what spot to place down your characters.

Now, I’m sure there are a lot more games that could work, and certainly classic games like Chess and Checkers where there is no hidden information would work really well. But those are some that I have sitting on my shelf that jumped out to me as good options for being able to play online. And while for me this will never replace playing games with people in person, during these times, there is certainly opportunity for groups to come together and play games online through one of the ways that I mentioned.

What are some games that you think would work well to play with a web cam? Have you tried out any thus far that have been a big success or a miss?

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