Board games and other tabletop games are a fantastic way to spend an evening with friends, family, and strangers alike. Games like this offer increased sociability between players and can be more rewarding to play than a typical video game. Unfortunately, as we grow older, the amount of time board game enthusiasts can spend playing dwindles. However, many game developers have provided a means to enjoy these types of games online.
Let’s mention the obvious elephant in the room; tabletop games aren’t the same when not in person. Playing these games in person provides a different level of immersion and experience that is impossible to recreate. While the lasting experience is much better, the downsides of in-person tabletop gaming include increased logistics such as driving time, scheduling issues, and allotted gaming area.
While the online counterpart of tabletop games is strictly at a disadvantage, it removes most of the logistical issues of tabletop gaming and even provides many unseen benefits.
Improving the Experience
While there is no way to recreate the experience of an in-person tabletop session, three things you can implement in your group to help emulate and improve the overall experience for everyone involved include:
- Using Video Cameras
- Atmospheric Music
- Incorporating Social Activities (such as light drinking)
The best programs that emulate tabletop games provide methods to implement all of the previous and require minimal effort to set up. Utilizing these programs with the game of choice, you can create lasting experiences that will leave you and the other players wanting more.
The Three Best Programs
I have personally used plenty of programs that attempt to create a virtual tabletop experience, and most fail to meet the mark. Tabletop Simulator, Discord, and FoundryVTT are the only programs you will need to provide a lasting online tabletop experience.
Tabletop Simulator is an all-encompassing program that allows excellent emulation of almost every tabletop and board game on the market. It offers modding, API, scripting, virtual reality, voice chat, and music players. Tabletop Simulator costs a cheap $20 when not on sale, but unfortunately, everyone who wants to join must also purchase it.
Foundry Virtual Tabletop
While Tabletop Simulator can handle almost every board game on the market, it fails to provide a good experience when playing hardcore tabletop games such as Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. Foundry Virtual Tabletop (FVTT) is the answer for those who wish to play those types of tabletop roleplaying games. FVTT offers the means to play any hardcore TTRPGs while including additional features such as chat, accounts, and voice & video.
Baseline FVTT is decent, but its core strength lies in its community-created modules. These modules allow you to modify your game with user-created modifications to provide benefits such as quality of life, game systems, immersive effects, and more. The downsides to FVTT are the steep learning curve, requires server hosting, and a price tag of $50 (only the host needs to pay).
Discord offers the ability to create ‘Discord Servers’ which you and your friends can join to chat and connect on mobile and desktop. Discord Servers are a great way to schedule events and use them as the primary method for voice chat while playing online tabletop games. While I use both TTS and FVTT for gaming, Discord is essential for organization and communication before it even begins.
Within the vast sea of tabletop programs I have tried, the three mentioned programs are all you will need to create the best online tabletop experience possible. Hopefully, the information within this article will help bring you and others together to create fun and exciting online tabletop experiences.