Last week I reached a small milestone in my math reading, so this week I’ve been taking a break to play some video games. Mostly I’m trying out video games that implement board and card games. I think hobbyists just call them all board games.
I played a few board games growing up, but most of the ones I’ve played have been in a lunchtime gaming group at my current job. We usually play on Fridays. Sometimes the group’s organizer (who writes for the excellent board game community site iSlayTheDragon) gives us a few options, and I typically vote for games I haven’t played before because I want to survey the field. In the past two-and-a-half years with this group, despite some long breaks I took from playing, I’ve still played almost four dozen games.
But while it’s fun to see what’s out there, it can be slightly tiresome to feel like a newbie even when we repeat games because I haven’t had any practice in the meantime. In fact, for most of my life I’ve largely avoided games because I find them taxing and I expect to play poorly. I don’t own any board games, and I need a way to play the same games often so I can improve. And that’s why I’m glad there are enterprising developers who have created software versions of a lot of these games and game creators who are nice enough to license their content for them.
Among its many, many features, BoardGameGeek offers some ways to find virtual board games. It has a wiki page with dozens of links to websites where you can play them, usually for free. Then some of its pages for specific games have links to places you can play online or download an iOS version of the game. See Carcassonne, for example. The iOS app link is under the game image in the upper left of the entry, and the online and other virtual play links are in the More Information section farther down the page and the Web Links towards the bottom.
You can also look up the games directly in whatever stores will work for your platform. Here’s a search of the iOS app store for games by designer Reiner Knizia. And here’s a search on Steam for PC games related to the publisher Games Workshop. Here’s another Steam search for their board game tag.
Then there are game engines that are designed for board games. These are single programs that let you play a lot of different games. A couple of examples are Tabletop Simulator, which is a 3D environment, and Vassal, which is open source. You install the engine and then the modules for the games you want to play. I’ll probably buy Tabletop Simulator once it has better support for touchscreens.
Virtual board games offer several modes of play, which you’ll need to be aware of when you’re deciding when to play what with whom. Some games will let you play by yourself against AI opponents. Some let you play online against other people. Some give you a hotseat mode (also called local multiplayer) where everyone plays at the same computer and the game cycles through the players as their turns come up. As I hinted at in my previous entry, I’m especially looking for touch-friendly games with a hotseat mode so I can pull out my Surface whenever I’m with people and we want something to do–Small World 2, for example. I played that with my coworker on his iPad during the train ride home from a workshop.
I’ve played a few virtual board games this week. My brother was visiting last weekend, and we played Hanabi (BGG entry). We had to play on separate computers, but it worked really well. Since then I’ve played a couple of games of Sentinels of the Multiverse (BGG), which I’m learning in order to play with some other friends (and now I have the theme song stuck in my head), and the iOS version of Ra (BGG), which will need a lot more study and practice. Yes, I treat games like school.
Looking into these virtual options has gotten me kind of excited about board games. They’re a good way to socialize, so after I’d resisted them for so long, this enthusiasm is a nice change.