RogerBW's Blog

Online boardgaming with Tabletop Simulator 21 November 2018

After some strong hints, I joined Steam and bought Tabletop Simulator.

It's a bit fragile, consistent with my general experience of games for Linux, but after bashing dependencies for a bit I got it working.

There are tens of thousands of game packs ("mods") freely available, though the quality is highly variable. I'm certainly working on building some of my own. One may wish to consider the ethics of playing games one hasn't bought (though of course one can already borrow them from friends in the real world…)

I got together with a friend, and verified that voice chat worked as well as text (indeed, either the sound card I was using or the software did such a good job of noise cancellation that the noise from the servers in my machine room wasn't noticeable at the other end).

The first game we tried was one of my favourites for two players, Onitama. There are several versions of this; this is the only one with cards that look like my physical edition of the game. But the table is quite small, and we found that cards tended either to overlap the edges of the board or vanish off into other players' "hand" areas.

Also, I lost comprehensively, in part because several times I didn't fully work out the moves that were available to my opponent.

We went on to give Star Realms a try; this was a rather better-built mod, with clean card scans and plenty of table space. It comes with a bunch of expansions that I haven't used, but they can be got out of the way easily enough. I got off to a very rocky start.

Eventually I managed to find enough Blobs to start reliably getting some Ally abilities.

And I won, though it was a close-run thing.

The experience of this game was very much helped by the discovery of the "Group" command, which gathers together a bunch of cards (e.g. those which one has just played) into a single stack ready to be dropped onto the discard pile.

A day later, I played some Flash Point – the mod for this one only has the content from the base game, but that's not a bad starting point, and of course these things are readily extensible. It's also rather well put together.

Setup is not scripted, but went easily.

A fairly standard starting lineup of Generalist, Hazmat, CAFS and Captain.

A quick early rescue was followed by a victim appearing in the Room o' Fiery Death (also known as the kitchen), and promptly being lost.

But quite soon after that, the kitchen was clear and we had no fire left at all.

The Captain dragged out a pair of victims on the north side.

CAFS switched to Paramedic, since we had most of the victims we needed.

A swoop round by the ambulance rescued three in a single turn.

With the last false alarm revealed, the victim appearing next to the ambulance was clearly the one to go for.

and we got the seventh one out with 11 damage cubes remaining.

While the process of getting the thing set up has been a bit rocky, the actual play experience – particularly on a big monitor – is pretty good. (My laptop, with i965 graphics, overheated after about half an hour.) It doesn't hurt that the game costs a mere £15. Never mind paid extra content (you could if you wanted to I suppose, though I doubt I shall); this is an excellent toybox in its own right.

[Buy Onitama at Amazon] [Buy Star Realms at Amazon] [Buy Flash Point at Amazon] and help support the blog.


  1. Posted by RogerBW at 11:24pm on 22 November 2018

    Currently half price (£7.49) in the Steam sale.

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