Of the many events we miss from the pre-pandemic days, board game nights might not get as much attention as visiting the bar or going to a movie theater. However, they are relatively easy to replicate online. You can include all your friends without breaking quarantine and still have (nearly) as much fun as you had before. Here’s how.
Any decent board game night has a few key traits that make it fun. Enough people to play most games, a wide variety of games to choose from, and something other than Cards Against Humanity for once, please. With that in mind, we’re looking for an option to play games online that are flexible enough to let you and your friends play whatever games you might want. Depending on the setup you want, there are a few options.
Option 1: Discord and Webcams
We’ve already discussed how Discord gaming parties can be used to play things like Jackbox, but the same principle can be used to play physical board games, with the right setup. If you have a collection of games already in your home that you want to keep playing with your remote friends, this might be the best way to do it.
The trick is to use one person’s camera to point at the table. As long as other players can see the board, and the host can move pieces, many games are just as playable (with a little bit of extra work on the part of the host) as they were before. If you want the host to still be visible on camera, try using a second dummy account.
The major downside to this method is that it doesn’t work very well for games where players need to keep materials from the game secret. You can get around this in some cases—for example, in Clue, players can write info down separately where they are—but any game where you have to deal cards to a player and they keep those cards to themselves might not be possible with the Discord method. Fortunately, there are more alternatives.
Option 2: Tabletop Simulator
Tabletop Simulator is a game on Steam that you can use to play other games. It features robust tools that let you and up to nine other players control virtual versions of physical objects like game pieces, cards, boards, and even the table itself. If you so choose, you can even flip the virtual table, throwing all the pieces everywhere. The game aims to emulate the experience of sitting around a table as authentically as possible.
It comes with a collection of preset board games built in, but you can also find a wide array of community mods that can add custom versions of board games and tables for thousands of games. If the game you want to play is among the ones in this mod list, then you can load it up into Tabletop Simulator, invite your friends, and start playing. It even comes with built-in text and voice chat (though you can also just as easily use a separate app like Discord to make things simpler).