Online Board Games, What to Play?

Last week I talked about the value of online gaming. If you don’t think there is any value in online gaming, then I’m confused why you are reading this, but if you are reading this and haven’t read the other other, go check it out now.

This week I want to look at the two types of games that I have found to work very well over Skype or Google Hangouts. This is not an exhaustive list at all, but these are the ones I play the most.

Open Information Games

This is probably the more common type of game that is available. An open information game is where everyone knows what everyone else has and there is at no point in the game a secret known by only a part of the group playing. There might be some games that you could pull off the secret information thing, but it adds some difficulty to those that are hosting the Skype call.

Open information games work really well because it allows for one party within the group to have everything for the game on their side. The camera could then be focussed on the board/cards/bits or whatever else is necessary for the game. Everyone else can check out the video when they need to see what is available to them.

There are lots of games that could fit this category, but the type of game that probably comes to mind immediately is a cooperative game. In truth, that is the only type of game that I have tried this way, but it works and it works well. I don’t know if all cooperative games would work well in this setup, but here are some that I have played in this format and others that I have considered playing over Skype or Google Hangout.

Flash Point: Fire Rescue

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Desert

This list is not extensive, so please feel free to comment on games you think would be fun to play over Skype or Google Hangouts.

Ghost Stories

Let me talk a little about another game that has worked really well on a Google Hangout and that is Ghost Stories by Antoine Bauza.

Ghost Stories board
courtesy of BGG

Ghost Stories is a cooperative game where each player is a Taoist monk, with their own special abilities, who are fighting against ghosts that are attacking their village. The village consists of nine tiles in the center of the board with the four Taoist monk player boards provides a place for the ghosts to start their journey towards the village.

Each turn the player can move and activate a tile or exorcise an adjacent ghost. At this point the different abilities, chits and other things that you have collected can be used to add to what you collect/do or make it easier to exorcise the ghosts.

Exorcising the ghost (and some actions) is the only time where this game might make some people not want to play this game online. In order to exorcise ghosts you have to roll the dice to see if you have enough of the specific color needed to defeat that/those ghosts. People like to roll their own dice so this could bother some people. My friends came up with a great idea where they assigned the colors on the Ghost Stories die to the numbers on a d6. This way I could roll the dice myself and report the results to my friends.

I have never played Ghost Stories at a normal table, but I don’t feel like I missed out on anything in regards to the experience of the game. The game flowed smoothly, with only a few questions of what the spaces do again, or what my powers did, but those were minor and would be non-issues as soon as I had gotten more plays of the game in.

If you want to try out a game completely over Skype or Google Hangout, then Ghost Stories is a great place to start, that is, if you can handle getting your butt whooped by the game itself.

Completely separate information

This is a more rare type of game that can be played online. In fact, I can only think of two that would qualify (again please share any games you can think of in the comments).

This type of game is where both players have their own information and nothing (or nothing much) is shared. You can’t have secret information in this game either, but you can have your own dice or cards or other part of the game. For this to work, both (or all) players must have a copy of the game. Each player can play their game and explain easily what they are doing that affects the other player.

These games can work really well even with the player interaction. Sure, it might require a slightly better camera to clearly see what your opponent is bringing to the table, but if their is trust, that doesn’t even matter too much. This can also be mitigated by setting up what your opponent has on your own table so you can see it a little more clearly (this isn’t always applicable or possible, but for Marvel Dice Masters, when it is possible I would recommend doing that).

The two examples that come to mind that I have seen played the most over Skype or Google Hangout are Marvel Dice Masters and oddball Aeronauts. I haven’t played Marvel Dice Masters over Skype (although I would like to), but I have played oddball Aeronauts several times.

oddball Aeronauts

oddball aeronauts
courtesy of BGG

oddball Aeronauts, a game by maverick:muse (Nigel and Lloyd Ash Pyne), has been billed as a tableless game and that’s completely true, but I would also call it a perfect game for Google+.

Right now the game is a two player game, but with the latest stand-alone expansion (on Kickstarter until December 5th 2014) it brings it up to a four player game.

Each player takes control of a different faction and fights to the death of the others! Each faction has their own set of cards that are unique to them so as long as you and the other players own the game you can all choose different factions and be all set.

The game plays relatively simple, but behind the simple play, lies a deeper strategy. During the game each player announces their type of attack (sailing, boarding, guns) and then secretly decides on how many of the top three cards they will use to attack the other players. Once both players decide there is a reveal and the attack values are added up. Tricks (special abilities of the cards) can be played to aid you in your win, or loss and magic can be played to help increase your attack value. To the victor goes the spoils, causing the other player to lose more cards and/or gaining cards back depending on the attack type.

Over Skype/Google Hangouts, this game essentially runs no differently than it would face to face. The only difference would be in the delay of the reveal due to the video being sent to space before coming back to your computer. That is negligible though. This game works very well online and doesn’t require anything  extra on the part of the host of the game which is even better. You can fight it out oddball style with people from across the world as if they were in your living room.

The designers of oddball Aeronauts have recognized this tool as a great way to spread word about their game and even have a league set up where official matches can be played and scored.

Are Co-ops, Marvel Dice Masters and oddball Aeronauts it?

There are probably other games out there that I have not thought of that would work very well over Skype and Google Hangouts. The nice thing is, just about everyone probably has one game they could play in this format. I would love to hear what games you have tried or plan on trying in the near future. For me, personally I am going to try to get Flash Point: Fire Rescue played with the same people with whom I played Ghost Stories. What are you thinking about playing?

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