Depending where you live, we’re one to two weeks into the social distancing. We need to stick to the plan, but also people need to socialize. Games are a good way to do that and the internet has the tools to make it happen. It’s time to roll some dice. Tools for Socializing There’s quite a few tools out there for running a video or voice chat for more than two people. Video chat is fun, but having worked from home for a decade, I advise sticking to voice-chat. It’s lower bandwidth so it will have fewer interruptions. Your eyes will be focused on the game-board, so seeing people’s faces is wasted. Here are links to some of the tools people are using, many of these have mobile versions.
Google Hangouts https://support.google.com/meet/answer/9302870?co=GENIE.Platform=Desktop&hl=en&visit_id=637211290699338088-2428769352&rd=1 Facebook Messenger https://www.facebook.com/help/287631408243374/?helpref=hc_fnav Line https://line.me/en/ Tools For Playing Games Let’s get to the nuts and bolts. I have not tried these yet, but my fellow boardgamers have. Roll 20 URL: https://roll20.net/ Pricing: free + paid features Genre: Role playing game focussed (could be used for some other games) Chat: text, voice and video built-in Platforms: Web, iOS and Android I checked this out a few years back when it debuted. The program is aimed at RPGs, intending to simulate the ease of use of a battle mat, rather than automating everything. The GM drags and drops tokens on the map, loads up background images or sketches the dungeon walls. Vassal URL: http://www.vassalengine.org/ Pricing: free Genre: Board games Chat: text Platforms: Windows I don’t know much about this app, yet. A few local gamers swear by it. It is open-source and that's a good sign.
Tabletop Simulator URL: https://www.tabletopsimulator.com/ Pricing: Purchase Genre: Board games Chat: text and voice Platforms: Windows, linux, macOS (buy from Steam) It looks like you buy the game from Steam, and get access to any of the game assets in the library. The company works to get licensed versions. The game does not enforce the rules, so it’s just the play area and pieces. Tabletopia URL: https://tabletopia.com/ Pricing: free and paid premium features Genre: Board games Chat: text Platforms: Windows, Android, macOS This app supplies the basic version of games. Add-ons cost extra. And the players have to handle the rules, it supplies the pieces and layout. Board Game Arena URL: https://en.boardgamearena.com/ Pricing: free. Premium unlocks games, no wait, hotseat play and voice/video Genre: Board games Chat: text, voice and video Platforms: Web This tool has a smaller catalog, but appears to enforce the rules. That’s helpful to keep the game running smoother. Playing Cards.io URL: http://playingcards.io/ Pricing: free (some games) Genre: Board games Chat: unknown Platforms: Web This site hit my radar when Cards Against Humanity was announced as free to play. Card Games.io URL: https://cardgames.io/ Pricing: free Genre: Board games Chat: unknown Platforms: Web This site is named but appears separate from PlayingCards.io. It focuses on more classic games and might be a suitable option for non-gamers. Specific Games There’s many board games that were ported to programs. They enforce the rules, and also guide the game play. There’s quite a list, so I found articles that list them for me. https://www.pcmag.com/news/best-board-game-apps https://www.vulture.com/article/best-board-game-apps.html https://www.strategygamer.com/articles/pc-board-games/ https://store.steampowered.com/tags/en/Board+Game Start Playing It’s time to play games with friends again. The technology exists to make it possible. So download or make an account and start playing. Thanks go to my friends at the Spring Texas Boardgamers group who point me to several of these tools. If you know of other tools or tips for playing board games online or have feedback on the tools mentioned, drop a comment. I plan to update this as my own group of friends gets back to gaming.