Dare to discover Forbidden Island! Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. Your team will have to work together and make some pulse-pounding maneuvers, as the island will sink beneath every step! Race to collect the treasures and make a triumphant escape before you are swallowed into the watery abyss!
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Since the beginning of March 2020, the single most popular landing page on Board Game Atlas was a simple forum post by user JamesReid860 titled "Good games to play over Zoom". And with a view count of 40.8K views to date, it's clear that board gamers all around the world are searching for ways to combat the physical distancing created by COVID-19.
Below, I put together a list that includes some of the most popular games from that forum post. It also includes commonly suggested games I've seen around other board game communities. Hope this helps make your next remote game night a success!
"Roll n Writes"
Whether or not roll and writes are still in fashion, there's no denying that it's one of the most suitable genres for remote play. Its low barrier to entry comes from simple rules, barebone number of components to manage, and often printable player/score sheets you can find online. Oh, and its near infinite player count. It only requires one person with the copy to point the camera onto the board state, while all other players come ready with their player sheet and a pencil (or pen) in hand. Besides the fact that you're not in the same room, it creates the same atmosphere of fun, relaxing game time that invites plenty of casual chatting.
"Players will become architects in the American 50's as they use combinations of cards and actions to construct the American dream real estate." (Also pictured at the top)
Tip: Players who are either unable to print out a player sheet or prefer digital can download the app and fill out the sheet digitally: iOS, Android. If it's an option, I'd always recommend going paper and pencil since that's the big part of the fun and relaxation.
"Players roll the Route dice and must then draw the subsequent results on their individual Route boards. Players score points for having long interconnected Routes, as well as connecting the entry points to their board, plus having Routes through the center of their boards."
"Each turn two ten-sided dice are rolled to make two 2-digit numbers. For example, a roll of 3 and 7 creates the numbers 37 and 73. All players write each of those numbers in a state on their map. The regions they can write in are restricted by three cards turned up in the middle of the table.
At the end of the game, each player draws a route on their map, starting with a low number and visiting adjacent states with higher and higher numbers. Players get a point for every state they visit.
Unlike roll and writes, word-based games may not support as high of a player count, but it's an ideal choice for large gatherings if you want people interacting together and getting to know how each person processes information. And while there are tons of word games out there, here are some of the best games to rise to the top (note that these games require hidden information and will require a bit of creativity and coordination work than roll and writes. I'll offer some tips for the harder ones).
"Just One is a cooperative party game in which you play together to discover as many mystery words as possible. Find the best clue to help your teammate. Be unique, as all identical clues will be cancelled!"
"The two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents. Their teammates know the agents only by their CODENAMES.
The teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board. Their teammates try to guess words of the right color while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And everyone wants to avoid the assassin."
Tip: Have the player with the copy of the game setup the camera to give a top down view of the board state. Have all players download the Codenames Gadget App. The two spymasters for the round can generate an identical key card by entering the same code on the app (see images below).
"Wavelength is a social guessing game in which two teams compete to read each other's minds. Teams take turns rotating a dial to where they think a hidden bullseye is located on a spectrum. One of the players on your team — the Psychic — knows exactly where the bullseye is, and draws a card with a pair of binaries on it (such as: Job - Career, Rough - Smooth, Fantasy - Sci-Fi, Sad Song - Happy Song, etc). The Psychic must then provide a clue that is *conceptually* where the bullseye is located between those two binaries."
Tip: There was a recent post on Reddit where a user shared automated PowerPoint slides to help facilitate the game for remote play. This is the hottest word-based game around so don't glance over it! You can also check out Shut Up & Sit Down's latest review for their take on the game.
Bluffing games can be a hit or miss depending on the player's personality. You should really give this game a try though. One of the simplest, pure form of bluffing games around that's easy to DIY. You may be surprised to see who in your group has the biggest gambling spirit, or someone you probably shouldn't trust as often!
"Players will hold three rose cards and one skull. Add a card to the pile in front of you, and when you feel lucky, announce your challenge and declare how many cards you will flip. Cards that show a rose are safe, but if you expose your opponent's hidden skull, you lose one of your own cards. Keep your cards to the bitter end to win this clever game of deception and perception!"
Tip: Use coasters if you have them handy. Just make sure they have clearly distinguishable "front" and "back" sides that you can use as a rose/skull. You could also have the players bring out the artist in themselves and DIY the skulls and roses for fun.
With all that's happening around the world, maybe it's time to try out a game where you work together to accomplish the same objective? Note that these games will still require fiddling around to get the right camera view that captures the entire board state and the cards that each player has "drawn". The person who owns the copy will have to be more than willing to coordinate each player's moves, which will be quite frequent to be honest.
"Dare to discover Forbidden Island! Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. Your team will have to work together and make some pulse-pounding maneuvers, as the island will sink beneath every step! Race to collect the treasures and make a triumphant escape before you are swallowed into the watery abyss!"
Tip: Make sure to turn on some music to accompany the game! It will be a nice way to maintain a bit of the tension that gets lost from not having the tactile element of gameplay. Go to the linked game page and click on the melodice link to help you choose.
Pandemic (or whichever version you have really)
"In Pandemic, several virulent diseases have broken out simultaneously all over the world! The players are disease-fighting specialists whose mission is to treat disease hotspots while researching cures for each of four plagues before they get out of hand."
Tip: Similar advice as Forbidden Island. Plus, especially given the current times, be courteous and respectful of other players' decisions throughout gameplay. Besides, if a player makes a bad move, it will make the gameplay more "exciting".
If All Players Own a Copy
The games I'd recommend for this situation are similar in nature to roll and writes. Less player interaction, simultaneous turns, somewhat solitaire-like, but have satisfying gameplay. Here are the games that have been mentioned the most often. Games in this category may need a tiny bit of house ruling to address issues like limited resources and other minor issues, but it should work quite seamlessly.
"Toadstools, Mandrake, and African Death's Head Hawksmoth, Oh My! It is the 9-day Quedlinburg festival of quack doctors. Purchasing good ingredients for your brew can help you make the best "healing" ointments in the land, winning you fame and fortune! You can use that fortune to buy even more powerful ingredients to put into your pot. But be careful, one ingredient too many and your potion will explode!"
"In Tiny Towns, your town is represented by a 4x4 grid on which you will place resource cubes in specific layouts to construct buildings. Each building scores victory points (VPs) in a unique way. When no player can place any more resources or construct any buildings, the game ends, and any squares without a building are worth -1 VP. The player with the most VP wins!"
Tip: Unlike the way it looks, Tiny Towns is actually quite mean. The remote play will likely eliminate this aspect as players won't be able to observe one another's board state and try to ruin a good pattern. Actually, scratch that. If you really want to retain the usual dynamics of the game and don't mind not seeing each other's faces, then all players should point their camera toward their board.
Lastly, I wanted to give recognition to games that I wouldn't have thought of but were mentioned frequently enough that I thought it worthy to share.
"Have you ever had the desire to walk the streets of Victorian London with Sherlock Holmes in search of Professor Moriarty? To search the docks for the giant rat of Sumatra? To walk up Baker Street as the fog is rolling in and hear Holmes cry out, "Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot!"? Now you can! You can enter the opium den beneath the Bar of Gold, but beware, that may be Colonel Sebastian Moran lurking around the corner. You can capture the mystery and excitement of Holmes' London in this challenging and informative game. You, the player, will match your deductive abilities against your opponents and the master sleuth himself, Sherlock Holmes."
Tip: The publisher, Space Cowboys, have "material for remote play" available on their website. Here's the direct link to the google drive that contains the necessary resources. And here's the link to a comment by a Redditor who explained how his/her group approached playing this in remote.
Dungeons and Dragons
To be honest, I've never tried. But, it's been one of the most widely mentioned tabletop game options to play over video chat. Makes a lot of sense actually, and perhaps this may be the right moment for people who have been hesitant to jump on board!
And we're done! I hope at least one of these games will work out for your remote game night with friends and family. Stay safe everyone!
Random thought: Is there a unique feeling or experience that certain mechanisms tend to draw out from players? or does it entirely depend on how the designer wields that mechanism? If each mechanism does drive a unique type of feeling, is there a certain compatibility or non-compatibility between different mixture of mechanisms?
For example, let's take worker placement. This mechanism typically involves players having a group of workers they can allocate to different action spaces on the main board. Each worker completes a task for you to build your empire toward a common goal.
- It's evocative of a managerial role. There's a sense of control, organization/structure, and efficiency.
- The player's role is also one step back in terms of the degree of personal attachment to what's happening. The events in the game directly affect your workers, which then affects you as the "manager". The workers are a bit of a means to an end, I'm afraid.
Variable Player Powers and Asymmetry
Let's do one more, taking variable player powers and maybe even asymmetry. Like the name suggests, this involves giving each player an entirely different power he/she can utilize throughout the game, and typically assigns each player a unique character or faction. In the case of asymmetry, it's basically variable player powers, except with added chaos where each character or faction plays by its own rules.
- There's a greater sense of attachment to your character because it has a unique identity.
- In the case of asymmetry, you even end up thinking in the same mindset of that character or faction. This leads to players feeling naturally inclined to playing a specific character because it resonates with their personality and playing style.
- As a consequence, game events that impact your character also feel more personal. Will get into this more in the following section.
Case Study: Atlantis Rising 2nd Edition
The reason I bring this up is because of Atlantis Rising 2E. It's a great co-op game and my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. But, there was one little part that bothered me just a tiny bit—lack of your own personal character—and I think it's mostly due to the combination of worker placement and variable player power mechanisms at play.
I had read before that some people claim this game to be Forbidden Island "but better" in every single way. And while I agree that Atlantis Rising is an excellent game with nail-biting tension, it was lacking in the character department, which is funny to say because in comparison, Forbidden Island's character cards barely have any character. It simply shows scuba diving gear for the "Diver," a helicopter for "Pilot," or a compass for a "navigator," and so on. Certainly not like these beautiful Councilor player boards illustrated by the amazing Vincent Dutrait.
This is where I felt slightly misled by those who claimed this game to be "Forbidden Island but better". Let's compare:
- Variable player powers - Each player takes on a role within a team of a navigator, pilot, diver, and other rather generic individuals. Each character comes with its unique power such as increased mobility or the ability to "shore up" the flooded island tiles at a faster rate.
- Point-to-point movement - Each player moves one character around the island tiles that are flooding away at an alarming rate. You are desperately trying to maintain foothold while collecting ancient treasures to escape the island.
Atlantis Rising 2E
- Variable player powers - Each player takes on the role of an Atlantean Councilor. Similar to Forbidden Island, the Councilors have unique, powerful abilities that encourage making cooperative decisions in order to construct the Cosmic Gate and lead their fellow Atlantean citizens to safety.
- Worker placement - Unlike Forbidden Island, players control not just the Councilor (the Leader worker), but also have numerous Atlantean followers to place on the board to retrieve crucial resources. Similar to Viticulture, the Councilor is like your Grande worker—a special worker you reserve to maximize your benefits. Players place their Councilors and their followers on the board to gain actions, but they're not able to complete their actions if the island tile ends up flooding away. When this occurs, the workers at the flooded tile simply go back to your supply of workers and just can't be used for the current round.
Going back to our look at the two mechanisms—worker placement and variable player powers—there's a tension between the feelings they create in Atlantis Rising 2E. In return for rewarding the players with a more strategically satisfying gameplay where you manage not just your character, but also another set of workers, your character takes a backseat and becomes a part of the puzzle. It's not the main character and is instead a stat booster to help other workers' probability of success for gathering materials for the Cosmic Gate. And when disaster strikes and an island tile that your workers are standing on floods away, it's a shame that you've lost your workers and/or your Leader for that round, but you'll have them right back for the next. This isn't to say that Atlantis Rising 2E doesn't have tension. In fact, it has plenty of brutal moments but the case I'm trying to make is that the characters have a bit of hollowness to them in comparison to the nice chrome.
On the other hand, Forbidden Island is a much simpler game with a small decision space and little ways to mitigate bad luck. But, it has one thing that it does really well—immersion. You and your friend feel like you're on the island. You feel like you're the diver of the group. You can feel the danger in a way that's more personal. In comparison, the danger you feel in Atlantis Rising 2E is not the safety of your character, but the end goal getting disrupted. There's a difference.
Again, I want to be clear. Atlantis Rising 2E is a great co-op game that deserves your attention if you love Pandemic-esque type of games. But as someone who tends to overthink and ponder these things while taking a drive, it's interesting to think about how mechanisms might play a heavy hand in shaping our feelings during gameplay.
With that said, what do you think about my thoughts? And what sort of feelings do you think are created by other mechanisms such as rondel, drafting, hidden movement, or others? Let me know in the comments below!
I'm new to the world of board game reviewing and would love for you guys to check out my latest post.
I did a comparison review of Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Sky. I hope you guys like it. Any feedback would be massively appreciated as well :) Thanks
The first weekend of March and that means game nights. I had some fresh meat this weekend too 3 retired people ages 58 - 72. Gaming experience of mostly card games, knucklebones and the Milton Bradly Hasbro classics. I think the only somewhat new game between them was Taboo. Game night this week there were 7 people which went beyond the capacity of most of my games so we paired up an experienced player to help the new 3 and dived into a 6 player game of Ticket to Ride Old West.
Being an introductory game it wasn't played very fast but everyone got into the swing of things after the first few turns. I got to share a bit about how modern games work and the various expansions to ticket to ride. I have requests to play it again next time this group can get together and it looks like they will be picking up their own copy of at least the base game this week. After that game 3 of us played a few rounds of Sushi Go! before cleaning up.
There is another game night of tonight with the previous group of 4 returning for game 2 of Catan. This should be fun with the introductory game out of the way and a lot of questions having been answered. If it does go well I will be adding the 5-6 player expansion soon. Also on the docket is Forbidden Island since co-op games have been a big hit.
That's all I have for you this weekend. What have you all brought to the table? Any new games picked up? Next weekend I might have a group of 8 so it will have two games to run.
[Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition, Forbidden Island, Pandemic, Forbidden Desert, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases,...]
[Forbidden Island, Atlantis Rising (second edition)]
[Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert, Forbidden Sky Height of Danger]
[Forbidden Island, Sushi Go!, Catan: 5-6 Player Extension, Catan, Ticket to Ride: France and Old West Expansion Map Collection 6]
[Forbidden Island Board Game]
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$124,201 / $20,000
The highly anticipated stand alone expansion to our acclaimed 1-4 player cooperative game, Set a Watch. Set a Watch: Swords of the Coin is a 60-90 minute, cooperative adventure puzzle game for 1-4 players. Swords of the Coin is a stand-alone expansion featuring the same critically-acclaimed gameplay along with some new twists centered around collecting coin and buying items from the merchant. The expansion is fully compatible with the original game; creatures, locations and characters can all be mixed and matched together with the original Set a Watch.
Ends in 19 daysSee Kickstarter