I used to think playing digital board games could never be anything like the real thing. That is until I discovered Tabletopia! Now there’s no turning back.
Several months ago I thought playing online multi-player board games wasn’t for me. Seriously, this is a true statement.
Granted, my only experience up to that time was via app integrations of various games like Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne and Pandemic.
Any multi-player app games I tried were often too clunky to enjoy. In the ones that weren’t buggy, the player to player social interaction was almost non-existent. In fact, in the Ticket to Ride app specifically, it seems like players are more interested in getting 20 games played in an hour than they are actually sitting down and enjoying a game with other, real people. Thus, most of the social interaction is:
- “Hurry up!”
- “COME ON – MOVE ALREADY!” or
- “Seriously, you need to move or I’m going to another room.”
And those chat messages often start when a player spends 15-30 seconds deciding on their move. I’ve timed it.
So for those reasons, I thought digital gaming was something I would only do when I was waiting in an airport, or passing time when absolutely nothing else was going on, and generally only in solo mode.
I have to admit. I was skeptical.
But on one fateful night on Twitter, board game designer and CBA Podcaster Joe Brogno was looking for someone to playtest one of his designs with him. Now, you have to understand, I’m a HUGE fan of the CBA podcast, so getting a chance to play a game with Joe was a no-brainer.
I tweeted back, we got together, and played his game, Escape Pod Scramble.
Now, I have to give a lot of credit to Joe (Brogno…I’m not referring to myself in the third person). I had never played on Tabletopia before, and I was a newbie to Discord as well. So, jumping in to playtest a game, with the game’s designer, without knowing a lick about the interface, probably wasn’t the smartest as far as first impressions go.
But man… I was hooked.
First, I couldn’t get over the fact that I was chatting with Joe Freaking Brogno. I tried to keep it cool. (If he ever reads this, my cover is totally blown. Oh well.) And it wasn’t text chatting like you get in a crummy game app… we were voice chatting on Discord!
Second, I couldn’t get over how much it felt like we were playing a physical copy of the game he’d designed. Yes, of course I was using a keyboard and mouse, but the way I was interacting with the pieces, moving them around the board, rolling the dice, and even the fact that he was teaching me the game as we played, it just felt very…analog, and very…personal and that’s a very good thing.
Man, long winded intro much?
Since that time, I subscribed to Tabletopia, and then I subscribed to their gold plan. I don’t see myself going back any time soon.
Let me tell you just 4 of the many reasons why:
1. Tabletopia Gives Me Access To Hot New Games
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the budget to buy every new, hot game that comes out. For instance, Anachrony, Vast, Brass, Islebound, and Santorini are just a few newer titles that I really, and I mean REALLY, want to try. But I don’t have a large group of game purchasers in my core group of gamers, which in the past has left me only with the option of buying most, if not all, of the games I want to try.
For a guy who has less than 50 games in his collection, you can see how that’s just not gonna happen. But instead, for the price of 1 or 2 games, I have year-long access to ALL of them online! (Note: you can even access some for FREE).
Let me be clear, unlike other digital board game simulators, you do not have to purchase individual games on Tabletopia. As a paying subscriber, you get access to their entire library.
2. Tabletopia Gives Me The Full “Cube Pushing” Experience
Tabletopia is an online “Physics Simulator.” It’s like you’re sitting at a Digital 3D table. You can roll dice, stack things, and push things around very similarly to how you would in real life. Want to stack your Mechs in Scythe? Go for it! Want your pieces to be neat and organized by your play mat? More power to you! You are beholden only to your creativity and play style.
This other related aspect might be a personal thing, but one of my problems with game apps and online gaming platforms is that almost everything is done automatically for you. From keeping score, to putting coins into your bank, to even highlighting what moves are legal and what ones aren’t. While some of this is great in the sense that it makes some board games less “fiddly,” it removes one of the most important reasons I enjoy board games: the fact that they engage my mind on many levels.
I don’t know about you, but when everything is done for me, I’m a lot less plugged into the process. Now of course, it would be nice if I didn’t forget to collect my 3 coins for deploying a Mech in Scythe, but I have to remember that when I’m playing the actual board game, and maybe I’m weird, but I want to have to remember that when I’m playing it online. Tabletopia is exactly that experience.
It’s this aspect that drives my one sentence pitch of Tabletopia to my friends: “It’s like playing a board game….online. Literally.”
3. Tabletopia Gives Me The Chance to Game With Far Flung Friends
I’ve made some awesome new friends lately on Twitter and across the internet. It’s been great getting to know Spencer from Married with Board Games, and David and John from the Playing Rough Podcast through email and social media interactions. But I have to say, social media just isn’t a substitute for playing games with your friends.
Of all the perks of Tabletopia, this is the one that sealed the deal for me. I told my wife – “Tabletopia is totally worth the expense for me if I can get together with these guys once a month and play a board game.” She said “make it happen then.”
So… I did!
There’s no way this happens without great platform like Tabletopia. A group of friends from Florida, Texas, Indiana and Michigan can get together once a month and play some digital board games together. That, my friends, is making the world just a little bit smaller.
It’s been awesome getting to know these guys even more! We’re hoping Spencer’s wife Lara get’s to join us for some games as well, and if you remember Mark (The Chubby Meeple) who guest posted on Art of Boardgaming a while back, he’s gonna get in on the Tabletopia game night action too!
4. Tabletopia Is Legit
This one may feel odd, and I apologize for that, but it’s also very important to me. Before I reached out to Tabletopia about this post, I researched their titles and how they deal with designers. After all, there are a lot of big name games in here!
I wanted to know:
- Are these games sanctioned by the designers or publishers?
- Are they just ripping off games that exist and making their own profit?
- Does having a game on Tabletopia benefit the publisher beyond simple publicity?
I have to say I was pretty pleased with what I found. From my research, Tabletopia not only doesn’t provide users with unsanctioned digital game play, but they have a formula that pays the game publishers based on how much their games are played.
Why is this important? The margins in the board game hobby are tight, sometimes unnecessarily so, in my opinion, but that is beside the point. Something that hurts the hobby more than helps is people making copies of a game, renaming it, and either making a profit off of it themselves, or just giving it away for free. Copyright infringement is never good for any hobby. Period.
The fact that Tabletopia has a system that pays publishers is one of the reasons I feel comfortable in throwing my support behind them.
So, You Wanna Play Digital Board Games?
It’s so fantastic to be living in 2017 where I can not only get to know people from around the world, but I can play games with them too. It’s mind-boggling.
If you’re like I was, and are skeptical that an online gaming platform can give you a similar social and physical experience as an actual board game, I encourage you to take another look. If there’s anything I’ve learned from doing this blog, it’s that opinions often are formed even if you have a lack of information.
- I didn’t like dice, until I played Tiny Epic Galaxies.
- I didn’t like Legacy games, until I played Pandemic Legacy. And
- I really didn’t like digital board games, that is until I discovered Tabletopia.
Feel free to hit me up! You can find me on Tabletopia as AoBJoe!
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Disclosure: In case you missed it at the top of this post, this article is sponsored by Tabletopia. I have to say that but I also WANT you to know it because it’s important to me that I’m transparent with you. I also want you to know that every single opinion in this post is completely my own. I do not, and will not, write sponsored content about companies that I do not personally use and enjoy their products. Read my full disclosure policy here.