If you’re a board game lover like me, times are tough. It’s impossible to see each other in person to enjoy your favorite games by socializing with your friends face to face. Fortunately, I have a few solutions to offer you that will help break the loneliness and your thirst for board games.
Available on Steam but also fully playable on web browser, Tabletopia is an online service that allows you to play remotely with your friends more than 800 board games. The presentation is flawless, the games are automated, in short, it’s frankly interesting.
To get the most out of the service (access to all games, multiple simultaneous games), you will have to pay US$5 per month. A free iOS and Android application also allows you to play on your tablet!
Tabletopia touts its selection of 800 games, but beware: not all of them are commercial games. It offers a tool to create your own games and submit them to the platform. On the one hand, it’s good news if you have an idea and want to try it out without having to buy hardware, but on the other hand, we end up with hundreds of titles that may not be as balanced or fun as a commercial game.
Board Game Arena
This is the less glamorous version of Tabletopia. Be careful, this is not necessarily a bad thing! Board Game Arena is therefore less expensive, less demanding for your PC (a friend was not able to run Tabletopia on his old PC), and offers a completely different selection of games. I would even go so far as to say that the games available on BGA are more interesting, and contain more unmissable hits like 7 wonders, Carcassonne, Stone Age or King Domino.
Even if it is less beautiful visually, it is just as functional and offers interactive tutorials to learn certain games.
Several of these headlines are stuck behind the Premium subscription, but at $5 per month, or $3 per month with the annual subscription, it’s well worth it.
Board Game Arena’s servers are having a bit of a hard time managing demand in this time of crisis, but if you choose your gaming hours wisely, you’ll be able to enjoy the site without a hit.
It’s the most unstable option of the entire lot, but has the largest selection of games. Tabletop simulator is a 3D environment with physics that allows us to take objects, roll dice, organize maps, etc. It is the community that creates the necessary content for each game, downloadable on the Steam Workshop.
No less than 14,000 games are available. Think of a game, and it’s probably available. The Game of Life Star Wars Edition? Of course! The 1988 game The Legend of Zelda by Milton Bradley? He is there. Is it all legal? I have no idea!
The problem with Tabletop Simulator is that you have to be overly focused. It is not automated (except for a few Workshop games with scripts) and does not contain a tutorial, so you need to know the rules of the game and apply them yourself. It is also quite clumsy in its controls: a bad movement and the pieces on the table fly in all directions. Its famous “table flip” has made it popular, but it proves that the physics of the game makes the experience excessively fragile.
For savvy users, but its $20 price without subscription and huge selection of games make it a must-have. For the most total immersion, Tabletop Simulator is even playable in VR!
Good old Steam games!
Because the best possible experience is the official version of a board game on Steam. Optimized menus, a soundscape, beautiful presentation, and games against an AI will never be matched by the above options. Of course, this quality has a price. Each game has to be purchased individually, and at $20 for the more expensive ones, it can get the wallet. On the other hand, all it takes is one purchase and it’s yours forever, unlike subscription services.
The list of great games on Steam keeps growing, but some of my favorites include Sagrada, Splendor, Tokaido, Flash Point, Evolution, Potion Explosion, and many, many more.
Why not try a game on Steam before buying the physical version? This is the most optimal way to learn how to play, see if the mechanics you like, and make a few matches against the computer. Gloomhaven, Aeon’s End, Terra Mystica, and other games whose price is close to a hundred dollars is worth a little detour on Steam.
Remote play together
Most board games on Steam are playable online, but for the others, a new option has been available since November: Remote Play Together!
It simulates local multiplayer. Only one player needs to own a copy. This one streams its screen, while the remote players stream their controls (controller, or keyboard / mouse).
This is interesting for board games since many have a “pass’n play” mode, allowing local games. These are not action games, so even if a small lag would be present, it will not affect the experience. You can use Steam’s voice chat while playing, for social parties.
By buying a single copy, it can become profitable quickly, if each player gets a game and you use Remote Play in turn.
Dominion, the deck-builing game is playable in your browser for free on https://dominion.games/. Expansions are paid, but the base game is already a lot of fun. This is an opportunity to discover it or to replay it easily with friends!