I enjoy boardgames – I’ve been playing them longer than MMOs (by 2-3 years) – and am in two gaming groups. Both meet on Mon every other week, so in normal times, every Mon I’m usually playing in group 1 (which focuses on LoTR the Living Card Game), or group 2 (strategy games of all kinds). Due to current circumstances, neither is able to meet in person…
Last week, two friends (let’s call them B and T) and I tried an experiment: conference call via Google Hangouts (not sure how this is done, B set it up and emailed the link to join) and attempting to play a boardgame online.
We examined TableTopia, TableTop Simulator (all 3 of us had those in Steam), and Board Game Arena (https://en.boardgamearena.com/).
First we tried TableTopia, which appears to launch https://tabletopia.com with Steam credentials, so you can probably just go directly there and make an account. It looks great, but the problem we hit was most games required somebody to be a Premium subscriber in order to play 3 or more people. From random sampling, games allowed a 2 player free version, presumably so you can try things out, but player counts 3 and higher were locked behind a premium subscription.
I understand this model, but it makes for an expensive trial. TableTopia has 3 tiers: bronze (free), silver ($5/mo; can play premium games), gold ($10/mo; can play premium games AND also invite non-premium players).
So we went to TableTop Simulator. I believe, but haven’t had a chance to investigate, TTS has zillions of plug-ins to implement games. The model is: buy TTS, use a plug-in to play a game. The catch is the plug-ins that were in the Steam catalog for TTS cost extra.
Not to say we are trying to dodge paying, but that kind of model quickly adds up. Plus, B and myself and huge board game collectors – I have over 100 board games, and B has way more than me. For example, I own Wingspan and its expansion, in to play it on TTS costs another $8. Which I get is probably (hopefully) some money that is funneled back to the creator. Am I willing to double dip, virtual and physical?
The answer is Yes for Wingspan. It’s a fantastic game and I have other friends who aren’t local that want to play it.
So we put a bookmark into TTS. My homework in the upcoming days is to figure out if my favorite boardgames are in TTS. Currently that list is Wingspan, Spirit Island, Root, and if there’s a good implementation of Tzolk’in, Great Western Trail, Galaxy Trucker and some co-ops like Pandemic, Ghost Story, or …. hehe too many to list and that’s plenty. I’m also in the middle of some campaign style games: Gloomhaven, Betrayal Legacy, and Clank Legacy, so if those are there, I’m in. Gloomhaven is great but there is a lot of fiddly record keeping so I’m using 2 helper apps (!!) in my campaign: Gloomhaven Helper and Gloomhaven Scenario Tree.
Anyway, we then tried Board Game Arena. It turns out to have a very generous “free” player limit – we had no problems finding 3+ player game we could play, and a very reasonable subscription fee – $24/yr, or $4/mo. That’s basically round off in my gaming budget, and much better than TT. In fact, after we played our session, T went ahead and subscribed.
In our first online session, B, T, and myself played Dice Forge, Race for the Galaxy, and 2 games of Red 7. It was fun, great to hear/see my friends, chat a bit, and game like we used to before the need to social distance.
This was all a test for a bigger session, with all 5 regular Mon evening player: B, T, myself, plus C and R. Buoyed by the success of the 3 person session we emailed instructions to C and R to make a BGA account and sent a link to a hangouts chat.
It went great! This time we played Race for the Galaxy, Saboteur, and 3 games of Incan Gold (re-published as Diamant). T subscribed in between our 3 player session and the 5 player session, but I’m not sure if that mattered. It was a success and we will game in this fashion until it is safe to meet in person.
T and I are also looking into playing One Deck Dungeon via Steam as well. That’s another game I own a physical copy of – the base game plus its expansion. It’s a simple, straight forward game and I tested the Steam version which helps me see if I got the rules correct.
If this goes on longer I may also look into multi-player games on the PS4 and Switch as well. T is an avid PS4 player so perhaps we can find some games to player together. Over on the Switch side my friend M would probably be up for something too.
Interesting times indeed!