It seems that more and more of us are looking to play our games using online options. Friends move away, COVID-19 happened, and just other reasons that drive us to online tools rather than our tabletops. In this article we’ll give you some of our top online gaming platforms that you should check out.
For each platform I will give it a quick review on the pluses and minuses of using it. I will also give you a rating on how much I liked it. I am using a 1-10 rating with 10 being as good if not better than in person gaming and a 1 being that this platform is like seeing a blue screen of death on your Windows computer.
Tabletopia provides an amazing line up of games that can be played. This tool is strictly for board games, but with one of the largest libraries of games that can be played it’s differently in there for a top choice on our list. The interface provides a very manual approach to the games provided, but the controls and keyboard shortcuts are the same no matter which game you are playing.
A few of our favorite games on Tabletopia are Quacks of Quendlinburg, Santorini, and Architects of the West Kingdom. One of the beauties of Tabletopia is that you are given the game and components as if you were at the board game table. Since it puts you in control of the game, if you make a mistake or need a quick redo it’s simply a quick ask to the players you are playing with.
Licensing for Tabletopia isn’t bad. There are a ton of games that you don’t have to pay anything to play with a free account. Upgrade to a premium account and you unlock any game you want to play on the platform. Best part, as long as you are the person inviting others to play a premium game then they get to play with you without having to upgrade their accounts.
Like all of these online implementations, Tabletopia has a couple of downsides. First, Tabletopia’s web interface is a bit of a resource hog on your computer. This may make it impossible to use for some of your friends this way. There is a Steam implementation of Tabletopia, but noone I play with has given it a try. Additionally, Tabletopia is all manual so you spend a lot of time scrolling and struggling to pick up groups of components. This can make games where you have a number of components like Tapestry or Everdell a bit tricky to play on it.
Tabletop Simulator, available from Steam, is another platform with an impressive game library. Unlike, Tabletopia, there is no free user access. Everyone has to purchase the application from Steam. Once you have it though, there is a crazy amount of community driven modifications that allow you to play most games on this platform. That includes miniature games such as Star Wars: Legion, Bolt Action, and Batman Miniature Game!
This is an interface I have struggled with the learning curve on. While there is a ton of great content out there for tips and usage on the core of Tabletop Simulator, but the mods themselves may require different levels of understanding to really implement and make them work. I am looking at you Batman Miniature Game mod.
Rating: 6.5 (Online Miniature Game Play – 8)
Board Game Arena is quickly becoming one of my favorite online tools for playing board games. There is a number of games available via BGA. While the selection isn’t nearly as large as Tabletopia or Tabletop Simulator the automation that is implemented in each game really aids players pick up and play games more quickly.
In addition, there is a great way to coordinate and set up tournaments and competitive play on BGA. Even if you aren’t a competitive player, this is a great way to grab pick up games on some of your favorite games.
Board Game Play is another amazing board game website with official implementations of the games that they have. There is no fee for an account which is an additional bump. I actually ran into a bug in one game I was playing on it. Support responded within an hour to correct the issue.
The games I have played prompt you a bunch to make sure you want to commit the action you played. On top of that, it’s relatively easy to invite people to a game you are putting together.
The downfall with Board Game Play is that there are only a handful of games on this interface. If you like the games, you will likely use it. If there isn’t anything on it that appeals to you, keep an eye out. I don’t expect tons of games coming to this platform soon, but it’s good.
Vassal is the open source equivalent of Tabletop Simulator. The beauty of that is that it is free. The negative is that it can be a bit buggy. Like Tabletop Simulator you can play your favorite miniature game or board game on it. You are dependent on there being a mod for the game you want to play. If it doesn’t exist, you can create it.
There are some great games on here that you won’t find other places. I found Cthulhu Wars and Conan from Monolith games. Both are games that make my top ten of all time that I can now play online with friends.
Over the years, Vassal has been know for it’s bugs. Yet, like most things open source, the community has continued to build and work on this platform until not it’s something actually pretty good.
Wrapping it up
So that was quite a few platforms that you can check out. While you are at it, why don’t you catch our review and check out the Batman Miniature Game on the Tabletop Simulator Mod. If board games are more your thing, swing over to Board Game Arena and play Teotihuacan: City of the Gods after reading our review.