Board Games Lockdown

The “because of COVID” memes are wearing thin and our board game collections are starting to gather dust. That itch to play a game of Ticket to Ride or Undaunted is getting stronger and we all began to think of ways we can get back to our favourite hobbies and board games, without breaching the rules of the lockdown.

The tech savvy folks in our circle of friends have come up with some methods we could use to get back to games, without the luxury of being able to spend time in the same room or house. Happily enough, there were several options that proved to be viable.

Some of the less plausible ones have included playing board-games in the park which is all well and good until a passing dog steps on the board or a gust of wind sends the rules or paper money fluttering away. Another is a return to the anachronistic “play by email” games that test your ability
to remember what’s happening and have little of the social dimension we crave. One nice idea, was a special “D&D in the Forest” where an outdoor camp was set up for enterprising D&D players so they could play in a socially distanced and immersive way.

For the more everyday experience, technology comes to our rescue and these seemed to be the best options during the lockdown. Obviously with restrictions relaxing, soon we’ll be able to resume some of our old activities but for now, here are a few ways we’ve been back at the table during

Discord – I’d never used Discord before the lockdown (I am aghast – Ed) but boy am I becoming something of an expert now! With its multi-functional voice and text channels and improving options for video calling as well as screen sharing, there are plenty of ways to use it for board games. My group has tended to use it for RPG’s rather than board-games but we’ve also played a few strategy games using Discord.

Zoom – Zoom calls are also a simple and free way to conference with any number of people, share screens and to play a boardgame or an RPG together. Obviously there remain the issues around being able to see the board so for most games it becomes vital that either everybody has a copy (tricky) or that the game is more social in dimension like Apples to Apples or Secret Hitler. Again, this works well for RPGs and needn’t be Zoom, Whatsapp and other, similar platforms would work just fine.

Client Programs – Finally there are some websites that can be used to simulate the board game for you and serve as a way to play games without needing the physical game to be set up. Tabletop Simulator has seen a lot more use since lockdown and websites like Boardgame Arena allow you to
play many board games without needing to set-up the specifics and will serve as a good client to show all the players where the pieces are. Of course, many of these virtual clients do not include any rules so won’t necessarily serve as a replacement for the physical copy of the game
And nor should they. Board games are social things as well as tactile. Whilst we all enjoy the gameplay, who doesn’t get a kick out of nicely designed pieces, that linen finish on a nice set of cards or the clink of game currency in your hand.

Tabletop Simulator running “Wizard’s Academy”

The methods to play above are simply ways to keep the
hobby going and keep in touch with fellow gamers while we’re all locked down. Once the lockdown eases and ends, we can all get back to the table and unpack our favourite games again, though it may be a while until I’m ready for a game of Pandemic!