Best Way To Play Board Games Virtually
Updated: Apr 2
Playing board games while social distancing can be incredibly difficult. Especially since most games require communal pieces. Strategizing a board game via Discord, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype is a major undertaking. Do you take out cards as the person on the interwebs pulls them, do you try to match board states, or do you direct the person with access to the game board on what your next move will be? The good news is there are online ways to play board games with your current friends or potential friends you haven’t met yet. Here are four resources for playing board games virtually. (Note: This is not a ranking, just a general list of options.)
1. Tabletop Simulator by Berserk Games - https://store.steampowered.com/app/286160/Tabletop_Simulator/
This online board game simulator can be purchased on Steam for $19.99. For that price you have access to countless games and a large community of active players. You can go into the community boards and find open games to join or start your own closed game with your friends. This tool has countless game options, but is not the most user friendly option. The controls can feel cumbersome especially to people who don’t play computer games. Finding your way into the available online games can be a little confusing as well. Also Tabletop Simulator’s greatest strength is also its weakness. Tabletop Simulator allows you to manipulate the table and components of the game and you don’t have to worry about annoying rules bots telling you how to play. However, this means that you or someone in the game needs to know how to play the game well because the software is not going to catch a misplay and there are no built in tutorials for the game. Some people are willing to teach games and can put that in the forum, but if you are getting used to the user interface jumping into a game you have never played before may be overwhelming.
2. Tabletopia by Tabletopia Inc. - https://tabletopia.com/
Tabletopia gives you the option to play in your browser, download in Steam, or as an app on your phone. It is a free to play game with an optional premium subscription option. This resource has more licensed board games than many of its counterparts. Much like Tabletop Simulator this game does not have an AI or a way to make sure you are playing the game correctly, so you will need to know how to play the game going in or find a game with someone willing to teach. You can join an open game online, or open a private game for you and your friends. Tabletopia is more user friendly than Tabletop Simulator. Most of the commands are click based and navigating the site and forums is much easier. This paired with the fact that it is free and can be played in your browser without having to download anything makes this a fantastic option for people who are not normally PC gamers.
3. Yucata - https://www.yucata.de/en
Yucata is a free to use board game website that works in your browser. It has limited games, limited functionality, buy it does have the options of online game play or private games with your friends. It is pretty user friendly and is still a great resource for jumping into a game. The games available seem to focus on gateway games and Euro style games. So if either of those are your jam this is a good website to test out.
4. Check the app store!
Don’t have a computer? Not a problem. There is a very good chance that your favorite board game has been digitized and is available in the app store. (Note: Tabletopia is also an app and can be played on your phone.) Some games are free, and many have been made temporarily free to download due to COVID-19 and social distancing. Most board game apps cost under $10. Many of them have online play, or pass and play modes so you can play with people in your household. Most apps also have fantastic tutorials and track the rules for you so you know you are playing the game correctly. Board game apps can be a great way to learn to play a new game as most of the tutorials include walk throughs. Hate the game you downloaded? Sometimes you can return these apps to the app store if you figure out quickly enough that it wasn’t for you.
If you are into very specific gaming types such as war games or Magic: The Gathering there are many online resources dedicated to those and can be found by Googling. Hopefully, these options will help you scratch your board gaming itch. Stay safe and play games!