Like many others, over the past year I have played fewer games than I would have guessed. I expected to be playing games several times a week with different groups of people, showing off my favourite titles and learning new games. The biggest thing I have learned this year has been that the world cares very little for my feeble mortal plans, and so, like many others, I have spent the vast majority of my time in my home without my regular gaming group around. For a while, that kind of bummed me out, honestly. Though, I have learned how to still scratch the board game itch (in ways), and I would be happy to share some ways to stay involved in gaming.
In the early days of the pandemic, sad about being home, I spent a ton of time doing this. I learned to paint my miniatures, I learned to magnetize them, I learned to build terrain. These activities helped to keep me busy but they also helped to keep me excited about gaming. I will admit that they didn’t scratch the gaming itch, but learning a new skill was a lot of fun and helped me through the aimless sadness that was the beginning of this quarantine. If you have time and idle hands, give it a shot. The worst case scenario is you just don’t enjoy this side of the hobby.
There are many players who advocate all the wonders of solo play, and several articles here on DWP that explore solo gaming in more detail and offer more advice. I will go on record and say that I am not a solo player. So much of gaming to me is being handed a pile of mechanics and trying to figure out how they all go together and how I can turn them into a success, but a greater part is doing that with other humans. The dynamic at the table is more important to me than the mechanics at the table. So, solo gaming has never really appealed to me. I played a solo Scythe game a while back, and have tried a few other solo games since, but nothing stuck. That is until I played The 7th Continent. The 7th Continent is an exploration game and is the perfect solo game for my brain. It offers an experience that is best to consume individually, and by being so different from my expectations of board games, it was a great success. If you are interested in solo games, I have two pieces of advice. Look for a game that is unique and built for solo, or check out this article by David W. for great options that have sweet solo modes.
Board game apps are an interesting option. While they can offer some really nicely streamlined play, I often find myself wondering why I wouldn’t just play a regular video game instead. But if you’re looking to scratch a really specific itch, Ticket to Ride, Lords of Waterdeep, or Agricola all have app versions. Personally, I have played Ganz Schön Clever on the app so much since I think it doesn’t really lose any of its charm by moving into an app. I think you’ll quickly find whether this option scratches the itch for you or not.
Some people would loop digital board games into the same category, but for me that fill completely different needs. Digital board games come in the form of Tabletop Simulator, Board Game Arena, Tabletopia, and whatnot. I was incredibly skeptical about digital board games before giving them a try. Given that so much of my enjoyment comes from the physical nature of games, I was worried digital versions wouldn’t cut it. But with Tabletop Simulator and chatting on Discord, I found there was enough of what I love about in person games to keep me engaged and having a good time. The games are longer and you lose the tactility, but with the physics engine of TTS and surrounding yourself with good people, it is lovely. I would highly recommend it to supplement your in person game nights.
This last one has been really big for me. You’re here reading this, so you at least do this a bit. Read about games. Watch reviews. Listen to podcasts. Fill your world with people being excited about games, and it will help fill you with excitement about games. If you can stay excited about games when playing games is difficult, think of how wonderful the games will be when our world is safe again.