Having fun on line has taken on another dimension this last week. As much as our Roll20 campaign is bedding into the virtual space it is worth a blogging moment to bear in mind that there is now a significant board gaming faction to our club. To be fair to people who turn up early for a drink I wouldn't expect anyone to sit around twiddling their thumbs but the board game faction has landed like a large drunken flying saucer in the middle of what was once a purely sociable meetup. Each to their own I suppose but whilst I do like to chat to people in general the lock down has afforded me the chance to engage with some of the systems that drive these cardboard and plastic fanatics.
And to be honest I have been extremely impressed with Tabletop Simulator available on Steam. Its simplicity is its brilliance which is not to under represent the technology but the provision of basically a simply physics engine on a virtual surface with rendered models suddenly means that any board game or indeed RPG can be visualised from the simplicity of draughts through to the heavy model and positional based games such as Warhammer 40k. This, like a lot of digitisation, divides the community into those who love the touch and feel of owning a real game and those for whom the convenience and perpetual availability of global play makes it the only game in town.
For our part, three of us cracked open a virtual copy of the classic Escape From Colditz. Originally published in the early 1970s the idea is that one player sides with the Germans and tries to prevent the other players, the Allied forces, from escaping. More specifically the game itself, whilst having some questionable game phases, was quite far ahead of its time in terms of a complex environment and uniquely challenging strategic elements. More to the point the board itself is quite sophisticated and there are several card decks, several tokens for prisoners and guards as well as various other markers for items including a virtualised clock for game countdown and rules documentation. All objects were rendered very faithfully within the simulator and once one got the hang of basic manipulation play became very natural and transparent. Of course the session depends on the organiser not getting disconnected but beyond this I feel a very large universe has just opened up. If you have ever wanted to play Russian Roulettte with the actual Russian Mafia from the comfort of your own home, then that time has now come.