Gaming at a Distance

March 18, 2020

Hearken ye all, to tales of days gone by, when there was only one kind of mail and it traveled by snail, and yet gamers world-round could still vie for victory in their games of choice.  I speak, of course, of gamers who didn’t live near one another who played all manner of games, such as chess or Diplomacy, one move at a time, via letters sent through the postal service. 

In this current time of pandemic and “social distancing” we can look to such efforts to figure out how to get our game on.  But today we have much better tools.

In those days of yore, all players needed to have their own game board.  They’d get a letter describing someone’s move, reproduce it on their own board, and on their turn mail their move to all the other players.  It worked, but it was slow. 

Today, of course, you don’t need to wait for the postal service.  Email and text messaging mean you can instantly send your move to everyone involved.  You can easily include a pic of the board so everyone can see exactly what it is you did. 

You can even go one better.  Turn the camera you usually use for video chats on the board, and now you only need one copy of the game and everyone can play in real time.  Whether you’re using Discord or Snapchat or Skype, a bit of clever camera-placement means everyone can see the same board and know exactly what’s going on. 

Some games work better for this than others.  For instance, a game that requires you to shuffle and deal cards wont work so well as a game where everything’s on the board.  Cursed Court works well because most of the cards sit face-up (though it will require everyone who shouldn’t see certain cards to look away when those cards are revealed).  Social deduction games like Werewolf can also work well if one player acts as a sort of GM who assigns the roles but doesn’t play themselves.  Games like Talisman, where active cards are face-up, work really well for this sort of play, as do cooperative games like Castle Panic and Blackstone Fortress.  Competitive games that don’t rely on hidden information, like Azul, play almost as smoothly via video as they do in person. 

Wargames can be a bit more of a challenge, but those that play on a grid, like the Funkoverse Strategy Game or BattleTech, work best.  But the best games for remote play are probably RPGs.  You don’t even need video if you use theater-of-the-mind for combat.  Audio or even simple text can be enough to transport you and all your friends to far away and long ago, facing down danger with an overcharged blaster and a well-timed fireball. 

And just because you can’t be in the same room doesn’t mean you can’t share hobby time.  Chatting via audio while you and your friends all paint minis in your own homes is a great way to keep in contact with your best opponents even if you can’t get together to toss dice and clash armies.

Need a new game to help pass the time?  Your friendly neighborhood Dragon’s Lair Comics and Fantasy® stores are still open!  All four locations are offering curbside service as well, so you don’t even need to come into the store.  Keep in mind that the situation is shifting rapidly, so if there’s a game you’d like to add to your collection, paints you need to finish up your minis, or a new RPG you want get started on, don’t wait.  Call or stop by today to make certain you’ll be able to get what you want.

Gaming over the internet will never replace the face-to-face fun, camaraderie, and interaction that is a key part of the joys of gaming.  But while we’re forced to be apart, we can still enjoy our hobbies, still stay in touch, and help stave off cabin-fever and boredom together.  Wash your hands, stay safe, and keep having fun!


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