An Intro to Digital Boardgames

I’ve been meaning to write about boardgames for a while now, so this article is well overdue. But if being stuck indoors for weeks on end is good for anything, it’s boardgames. The only problem is finding a way to play with other people when you’re supposed to be isolating yourself. Fortunately, you have several options.

Although I have played digital versions of boardgames, I haven’t really played them remotely against other people. That changed a few weeks ago, when I joined some friends online for their regular boardgames night. Ever since, I’ve joined them on Discord every Friday as they introduced me to different options for playing boardgames online. As a result, I’ve played several games I had never tried before, and learnt a little about some of the services that let you play boardgames with friends, regardless of where they are. Overall, it’s been a fun learning experience, so I thought I’d share some of it with you. Let’s dive in!

Now, I’m not talking about playing games against complete strangers, although there are plenty of options if you’re happy to go that route. (More on that later.) I’m primarily talking about playing games with people you know. You’ll need to figure out what is best for your group depending on what your group has access to, or plays games on usually. Before we look into your options for finding, choosing, buying, or trying out games, you need to decide how your group is going to communicate.

In my opinion, the best part of playing boardgames with friends is hanging out and catching up. So if you like the social aspect of playing boardgames as much as I do, the first thing you should discuss as a group is how everyone prefers to chat to each other. Again, there are plenty of options, depending on whether you prefer text chat, audio only, or audio and video. It doesn’t have to be expensive – you could use any of the instant messaging apps you’re used to. (If you want recommendations, let me know in the comments.) Keep in mind that everyone doesn’t have the same access to the internet, and not everyone loves technology. Whichever option you choose, be prepared to spend a lot of time during the first session just sorting out technical difficulties. (Again, if you run into any problems you can’t solve by doing a quick web search, leave a comment to let us know.)

The most important consideration is where everyone is, physically, and which devices or platforms they have access to. You have more options if everyone is in the same place, but technically the players could be anywhere in the world. A lot depends on everyone’s living arrangements, including whether they have somewhere they can sit and play a boardgame for several hours, and whether they need to be talking or listening to other players. Also, they may share their living space with other people who aren’t as keen to participate or watch them play boardgames or hang out with friends online.

We’ll cover specific options if you’d like to play boardgames with people you live with, but at least one person in every location will need access to a service you can use. As a group you’ll need to choose a service that lets everyone play together. Except for web-based services and services, most require you all to play on the same type of device – for example, either on X-Box or Playstation consoles; Apple, Android, or Windows devices. Next week, we’ll discuss specific issues related to web-based services; we’ll also mention which platforms each option supports.

So far, we’ve looked at various considerations you should take into account when planning a digital boardgame session. Which other issues have you run into? If there is anything specific you’d like help with, drop a comment below! In the meantime, if you’d like to find some people to play boardgames with online, you can join our Discord server and let us know what you’d like to play.

Next week we’ll look at some of your options for services, and maybe even make a few game recommendations.

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