Well, needless to say the hobby has changed tremendously in these last few weeks. Just a couple of weekends ago I was gaming with friends and lightly talking about the virus, and now some weeks later we are mostly confined to our houses and can’t get out and game together. However, there is an alternative, and I have been exploring digital implementations over these past few days and pairing them with virtual meetings to create the next best thing. I will break these down into categories, talk about each, and then present the options. If you are eager to game and connect there’s lot of great options out there!
There are several websites that have asynchronous games where you can take your turn at your convenience. This gives you plenty of time to learn while you play, and fit in turns in spare moments of your day. These CAN work live although they are a little clunky that way, since they are more designed for long play over a series of hours or days. There is a downside of a player taking too long or being in a different time zone, but the upside is that the games are free and work on anything with a web browser. Definitely some great affordable entertainment!
Yucata.de is the oldest of these sites and has over 100 games to try. Easy to learn favorites of mine are Las Vegas, Machi Koro and The Castles of Burgundy (oddly listed in the T section of the site…) All the games include instructions and/or how to play videos.
Boiteajeux.net is a French site but has an English option in the top right corner. Similar to Yucata but with fewer games, this site has some really great options as well. My personal favorites are Concordia and Deus.
These are definitely some of easiest options although they are not as flashy as dedicated board game apps. You can’t beat the price either!
Simultaneous play is ideal for the virtual meeting format as everyone is playing at the same time. Games are much more seamless this way and don’t take as long as the asynchronous options above.
Boardgamearena.com is the best option for website based simultaneous play. The site has been getting a spike in traffic lately as more players try to log in, and is sometimes limited to just premium members. However, a premium membership for a month costs just 4 dollars, or 24 dollars for a year. For the price of a small card game this site offers over a hundred board games and has some really great features. Some real easy winners are Carcasonne, Kingdomino, Sushi Go, and Can’t Stop.
When an app or web implementation just doesn’t give the same feel as a board game, some player prefer a virtual tabletop. Here, there is no game logic or rules being implemented automatically like a video game. Instead, there are just virtual pieces that you you can look at and move around, much like a board game in real life. You move a virtual hand and can click different buttons to shuffle or flip cards, move tiles and roll dice. All book keeping and playing by the rules is up to the players themselves, and the honor system definitely applies! These implementations can be a little slow, as your mouse is never going to be as quick as your hands in real life, but that semi-tactile aspect can be more fun and worth that trade off.
Tabletopia.com has more than 800 games to play in this way, and works in any web browser. It is simply staggering to look at all the options here, as Kickstart campaigns often put up a virtual version of a game to convince players to back the project. Some amazing games are available here including Wingspan, Scythe or Chess and traditional card games for folks who want something familiar.
Tabletop Simulator on Steam does a similar thing and costs $20. Players can load their own virtual tabletop games or pay for curate downloadable games from the publishers themselves. This is definitely the cadillac of virtual table top and even has the option to use VR to truly be “at” the table.