Sunday, 31 May 2020

This Steam Game Is Like Netflix Party For Online Board Games With Friends

As the US and other countries mobilize to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, more and more people are finding themselves stuck at home these days, effectively ending normal social interactions with friends and loved ones unless they live with you. Because of this, online games and platforms like Netflix Party have become crucial links to friends and family, and one 2015 PC game is even helping people have virtual board game nights with friends they can’t meet with in person.

Tabletop Simulator has been around for years, but it feels even more needed right now. The indie game from developer Berserk Games allows you to play digital versions of board games in a player-driven physics sandbox, with classics like chess, poker, and dominoes included in the base version. You can also create your own digital board games with Tabletop Simulator, which lets you import custom assets, automate games with scripting, and more. And players have done just that, with thousands of fan-created board games and card games available in the Steam Tabletop Simulator workshop that you can play for free.

Berserk Games has also partnered with some board game publishers to create official DLC for Tabletop Simulator, and there are currently 41 games available as DLC, including some of our all-time favorites like Blood Rage, Scythe, and Wingspan.

I gave Tabletop Simulator a try for the first time recently and was surprised by how well it replicated the feeling of playing a board game. Naturally, some fan-made creations will run better than others, and if you’re looking for a more niche game, it may not be as polished. My group tried out a few different games, and while connectivity issues occasionally booted one of us out of the game, we had a great time playing some of our favorite games in this medium. The always-popular Catan was easy to pick up and start playing, and we ran an entire game of Root, a complex asymmetrical war game, with hardly any issues. It felt almost like we were all sitting around the same table as usual, and it was honestly the happiest I’ve felt since quarantine began.

If you check out the recent Steam reviews for Tabletop Simulator, it’s pretty clear I’m not the only one turning to this game as a source of entertainment and socializing during the times of coronavirus. “In these times of social distancing, Tabletop Simulator has saved our weekly gaming group,” wrote one recent reviewer. “I’m thankful to be able to have board game nights with my friends at a time like this,” wrote another.

While the game is available directly on Steam, many stores that would offer discounted Steam codes for the game have recently run out of stock, including Fanatical, Humble Bundle, and Green Man Gaming. However, you can still snag a small discount on the four-pack, which gets you four Tabletop Simulator Steam codes to share with friends, at Green Man Gaming. Normally sold for $60, the four-pack is currently on sale for $54, a price you could then split with whomever you’re playing with.

Tabletop Simulator offers a pretty good tutorial the first time you boot up the game, but I’d also recommend starting with a game you’re familiar with so you can get accustomed to the controls without fretting over the rules.

If you’re looking for board game recommendations, we recently rounded up the best board games to play in 2020, including staff favorites like Gloomhaven, Pandemic Legacy, Ticket to Ride, and Patchwork. Many of the games on our list have official digital versions or Tabletop Simulator DLC, but it’s also worth searching for fan-made versions in Tabletop Simulator if you’re looking for something new to try.

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