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  • Boardgaming in the Time of COVID-19 - How to Play by Zoom

Boardgaming in the Time of COVID-19 - How to Play by Zoom

FB Updated
Boardgaming in the Time of COVID-19 - How to play by Zoom
There Will Be Games

Sure, we’ve all known pretty much forever that board gaming brings families together and we’re thrilled that the current quarantine situation has brought renewed attention to our beloved hobby. It’s terrific that titles are selling out and everyone is jumping in to support our FLGS. But how do you use this time and knowledge to bring your far-flung family and friends together when you simply can’t BE together?!

Sure, there’s Board Game Arena, yucata, Steam and all of those other really great online sites - big shoutout to my super-affordable Board Game Arena premium subscription that allows me to talk to my opponents - but I really miss the live experience. You know, the colorful swearing, the facial tics, the shock and awe and the grimaces; you can’t capture that with an avatar now, can you?

To recreate the live experience as closely as possible, our family has turned to Zoom gaming to get through these trying times. Just like our Zoom Seder, this fabulous communication tool is allowing my brother, niece and nephew in Seattle to battle it out with my daughter and I in Connecticut on an almost nightly basis. 

How do we do it you might ask? Here’s the simple tutorial, using Ticket to Ride as an example:

  1. Each family must own a physical copy of the game being played.
  2. Divvy up the responsibilities- in this case one family is responsible for the train cards, the other for the destination tickets. More specifically:
  3. My group sorts our train cards by color for easy access (‘cause its easier and it was my idea!), while my brother’s family shuffles and deals. They hold up our four starting cards to each of us respectively as the other looks away from the screen and we grab our cards. They then toss the cards they’ve shown us into a stack. They manage the 5 face up cards as well, adding the cards we choose to that same stack. If we choose a facedown card they hold it up to the screen then throw it in that stack too. That way they can track the cards we as a family have taken without knowing who has which cards. As we claim routes they dig through the stack to pull the cards and put them into the discard pile, so that we all know when it’s time to shuffle.
  4. We are responsible for the tickets, dealing the requisite number out to each player and holding theirs up to the screen for each of them to see. They then dig through their ticket deck to pull the routes they’ve drawn. After giving everyone ample time to scan the map, we go back and hold each ticket up again, asking “keep or toss”. That way we have an accurate discard pile if it comes to a reshuffle, which it often does.
  5. As each person claims a route, we all lay out the trains on our boards, checking in every once in a while to determine that we have not misheard anything and we have matching maps.
  6. Play proceeds as normal, with the usual muttering, swearing, threats and laughter.

We have employed this method successfully with Ticket to Ride US, Switzerland, Pennsylvania, Legendary Asia, Team Ticket to Ride Asia and Europe, and a bit less successfully with TTR Rails & Sails (far too long).. We have also played Around the World in 80 Days, Vegas Showdown, New Bedford and Grand Austria Hotel, on a regular basis, as well as dialing in a third household on a few of our ventures.

So while no one wants to experience a global pandemic, our family has been fortunate enough to not be seriously impacted by health issues or job losses, so we are spending our days being grateful for all we have, while utilizing our favorite pastime to grow ever closer to our family on the other coast! How are you spending your downtime?

There Will Be Games


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This article was written by a member of
There Will Be Games.

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ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #313439 24 Aug 2020 11:04
Francie Berger is joining us to today. We hope to be running her articles monthly.

Please give her a warm welcome.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #313467 24 Aug 2020 21:21
Welcome to TWBG! I know Josh Look talks about playing this way too!
dysjunct's Avatar
dysjunct replied the topic: #313469 24 Aug 2020 21:41
Welcome, Francie!
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #313471 25 Aug 2020 08:54
My personal discovery has been that certain games cater to the new medium much better than others, leading me to wonder if this has been going on all along and I just haven't noticed.

A game like Ticket to Ride thrives in an environment where you can open your vision and take in the entire board looking for networks still available to you. You can play it online provided the board is viewable by everyone and viewable in a high-enough fidelity format to keep that part of the need satisfied. Cards and other shared resources aside, I suppose the game might not change much if all had their own deck and might change for the positive if multiple people were trying to fill out the same Destination goals. Three people all trying to do New York to Miami at the same time could get pretty doggone entertaining.

Role Playing, which has been by far my largest consumption of game hours falls in place just fine even in an audio-only format. I played a session by long distance call once (rather strange story, next time) and frankly, it didn't suffer. We were never map-drawers in the first place, so modern sessions via Skype or Zoom just proceed like they always did when we played in person. Because of this new requirement role-playing has come back into vogue with a lot of people and I've booked more hours in the last year already than I had in the previous five. You work with the toolset you have.

So it will be curious to see what games come out nine months from now. Developers are likely stretching different gaming muscles than they were a year ago, and it may affect their work.

Nice debut. Looking forward to more.
Jexik's Avatar
Jexik replied the topic: #313479 25 Aug 2020 11:49
I haven't played a true board game by Zoom yet, but our D&D game (with the help of D&D Beyond) has worked pretty darn well. I could see Catan working if you can set up the board the same way or get a camera set up in the right spot.

Some of us here have been playing with a combination of Tabletop Simulator and Discord for chat.

Welcome to the site!
Francie Berger's Avatar
Francie Berger replied the topic: #313750 03 Sep 2020 16:38
Hi all, Glad to be here! I'll get a short bio in once I can take the time to figure out how to add it. Until then, happy gaming!
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #313779 04 Sep 2020 14:41
It's interesting how many publishers who request reviews of their games are now including the option to play on TTS. Some are even offering appointments so reviewers have enough people to play with.