It has been more than two months since I’ve been in self-quarantine because of the coronavirus pandemic and my two main social activities (boardgaming and pub trivia) have taken a hit. Thankfully resourceful people have created ways that can mimic the in-person enjoyment I get from my hobbies. (Shout out to Terrance Balazo, my regular trivia host, who has switched to online trivia nights, see Another Round Trivia on Twitch, Facebook and Twitter.) I am not going to exhaustively list all the ways you can play boardgames remotely, other people have already done that better than I could, instead I will talk about how my boardgaming experiences have changed, and not changed, during the lockdown.
Here are a few things that have not changed.
The people who are late for game events, or bail on them completely, are the same people who are late even when attending only requires them to turn on their computer.
Scheduling game events is just as complicated and frustrating as it was when trying to plan in-person meetings. Some people are still working full-time (thankfully I am one of them), others part-time, and many people are out of work entirely, meaning people’s availability is all over the place.
FOMO (fear of missing out) has not gone away. In part because my work hours are a bit random, I often miss out on game events planned by my friends. And there are so many games I do not own or have access to online versions that I really want to play.
Even if we are only chatting via video chat, it is still great to “get together” with friends for a game night. In many ways boardgames are more important than ever and are a great excuse to catch up with people you haven’t talked to in a while.
Here are a few things that have changed.
There has been more solo gaming on my part. I rarely did solo boardgaming pre-pandemic. It was limited to online games such as Terraforming Mars or using it as a vehicle to learn a game better before teaching it. As I live alone, I do not have other people around that I can “force” to physically play boardgames with.
Online gaming is on the rise and has helped me try new games I have either only dabbled with or never played, such as Star Realms, Dominion, Scythe and Through the Ages. Online games with a good tutorial system are very much appreciated when you are trying to learn.
Social deduction games have moved online, which is great, but I’ve noticed a few problems with them. Technology, rather than actual behaviour, is sometimes used to “deduce” answers. For example being quiet is often picked on by people as suspicious in these types of games. But when playing online sometimes people’s mics are off, or their connection is slow so they aren’t hearing everything. In my small sample size I’ve also seen emotions also seem to get more heated online than in-person. (See Twitter or Reddit for proof of this.)
Rule enforcement is not necessary in some cases. In well-built online versions of boardgames the rules enforce themselves and often give you reminders of actions you can/should take. I wouldn’t say this lessens AP (analysis paralysis) but it makes sure no one has to be the rule police/game guide for newer players.
My shelf of shame is only growing. I haven’t added any new games since the lockdown but I haven’t taken any games off my shelf of unplayed games.
I think that is a good start for both of those lists, I’m sure I will have some additions by the time I get back to physical game nights, but now let’s move on to how I have been keeping myself busy. And how to do that? Well use one of things I didn’t mention in the hasn’t changed list: my use of the BG Stats app. So here is what I have been playing since mid-March:
Terraforming Mars solo challenge on Steam. I bought this app well before the lockdown but my usage of it has ramped up. I have played against the game’s AI,but even on hard I find it’s too easy to win. I’m not a big fan of playing random online players, so have avoided that but have plans to play online against some friends that also have the app.
Twice As Clever solo. As mentioned above I do not solo game much, so I don’t have many games that have solo options. This roll-and-write does and it’s very quick to play so it has hit the table many times in the past two months.
On Tour, solo and through shared play on its app. On Tour is a great flip-and-write route building game that has a great app, which recently added a feature where you can play against other people. You get a code and your friends can enter it in the app, and then you can compare scores. I have also played this “live” via Discord where we went through each round at the same time.
Castles of Burgundy on Yucata. It’s one of my favourite games and I’ve been happy to wrangle people to play it online. Also got in games of Las Vegas and Can’t Stop on that platform.
Chronicles of Crime solo. Lucky Duck released a free downloadable scenario so I gave it a shot solo. It was fun but I prefer playing this game with a few friends.
Just One through online video. I managed to get a group of friends in a video chat where I held up the cards for this party game, with everyone wrangling up their own writing implement. It went over really well and I need to organize another round…
Charterstone through Steam. A group of friends decided to get the Charterstone online play a campaign. It’s gone pretty well, although it was a bit glitchy the first couple of plays.
Werewolf, Resistance: Avalon, Blood on the Clocktower through various platforms. I’ve managed to find a solid group of social deduction players and we have found online options to keep our games going.
7 Wonders, Liar’s Dice, Hanabi, 6 Nimmt, Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow through Boardgame Arena. 7 Wonders was MUCH faster online than in person. Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow is a variant of Werewolf and was enjoyable. The middle three were fun fillar experiences that didn’t seem to lose anything by going online.
The Dungeons and Dragons campaign I am in has also managed to continue in the lockdown thanks to the system at Roll20. Although I do miss rolling actual dice and our in-person meet-ups.
To some people this list may seem extensive, while for others it’s just a drop in the bucket. Hopefully I will find new and wonderful games during the self-quarantine and keep connecting with my friends and family through this great hobby.
Growing up in Toronto, Matt was fed a steady diet of gin, rummy, cribbage, along with Monopoly and Balderdash. Over the past 10 years he has worked in journalism, editing, writing and designing pages for a variety of print publications. He spends most of his spare time playing any board game he can get his hands on, whether it's a quick 10-minute filler game or a five-hour epic.