Alright guys, let’s get real for a hot second. Covid-19 changed a lot of things forever. I will say this now: the gaming community is not one of those things. I’ve been to a few game cafes and local gaming stores recently and I can assure you the gaming community is back and in force. However, something happened while the majority of the world was in lock down. Gamers who were itching to play games like X-Wing, Gloomhaven, Twilight Imperium or hundreds of other titles realized the solution was right in front of them.
Tabletop Simulator. For just over $20 bucks (Steam Price), a literal treasure trove of board games becomes instantly available. There’s original content but for myself and many others, it’s the board game and tabletop game adaptations that lured us in. Being able to boot up my computer, load up Star Trek: Attack Wing and instantly play against my friends from the comfort of our homes is huge.
Just as a word of caution: Tabletop Simulator isn’t the hardest thing to learn but it also is not massively intuitive. There’s a learning curve, to be sure, but the payoff is worth the effort. I promise!
So then, let’s talk my personal Tabletop Simulator favs. We’re sticking to board game/ war game adaptations so keep that in mind as you scroll through the list. And heeeeeere we goooooo!
Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition
Players: 3 to 6
Time to Play: 240-480 min
Some of the biggest drawbacks many promising board games face are things like having lots of pieces and/or complicated setups that can be tiring for all but the more ardent gamers. This is where Tabletop Simulator really shines.
A game like Twilight Imperium is, for lack of a better way to put it, extremely thick. The flip side is that once learned, TI offers an immersive gaming experience that rewards players with it’s many complexities. The main thrust of the game is that of galactic conquest through the 4X lens (eXplore,eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate).
Because this game has very long run times (some games last upwards of 12 hours), being able to save and walk away makes this a great candidate for best Tabletop Simulator adaptations. The gaming community has embraced the title as well with loyal fans being very impressed with this version of the game.
Star Wars: X-Wing
Time to Play: 45-60 min
Being able to play a game like X-Wing in a virtual setting comes with numerous advantages. For me, the biggest one is not having to travel with or store a few dozen ships, movement rulers, cards, dice and so on. Being able to boot up on a computer, load my saved file containing all my ships and get down to business is a huge bonus. Additionally, you get access to (correct me if I’m wrong) ALL the ships. Trying to purchase every ship, or multiples of the same ship costs hundreds of dollars. For people new to the game, being able to try before you buy should be a big incentive to try this out.
In X-Wing: 2nd edition, you are in command of your own squadron of advanced starfighters, locked in thrilling, tactical space combat The second edition continues the legacy of the original, refining the easy-to-understand and exciting core concept of maneuvering your ships into position by focusing on the physical thrill of flying starships in the Star Wars galaxy.
You’ll use your squadron’s distinct capabilities to gain an edge in the middle of battle. Each X-Wing ship handles uniquely, with its own suite of motions ranging from subtle banks to high-G turns. As in the game’s first edition, you’ll need to utilize every ship’s maneuvering capabilities as efficiently as possible to strategically position your vessels. A battle begins with players secretly selecting a maneuver on their ship’s individual maneuver dials. You’ll begin revealing the dials and moving your ships, starting with the lowest skilled pilots, once you’ve chosen how each of your vessels is going to fly.
You may also take an action to gain the upper hand after your ships have completed a maneuver. The decisions you make throughout the battle, such as whether to acquire a target lock on a rival ship or barrel roll out of an enemy’s firing arc, influence not just the battle’s progress but also your squadron’s survival.
If dog fights and almost real-time (I swear, in heavy combat rounds it feels like it’s real-time) are down your alley, Tabletop Simulator’s X-Wing is your ticket to fun town.
Settlers of Catan
Players: 2 to 6
Time to Play: 60-120 min
Forgive me for being so bold but Settler of Catan has become such an absolute juggernaut of a game that, for no other reason than it’s popularity, some gamers have decided they don’t like it anymore. Well, sorry to be the harbinger of truth here but Catan is still, and likely will always be a stellar board game.
With rules that are fairly easy to grasp yet also offering a ton of depth, Catan is almost always the answer when confronted with a diverse player group. And now, thanks to Tabletop Simulator, you don’t even have to look your opponent in the eye as you place the robber on their tile and steal one of their resources!
For the uninitiated, Settlers of Catan is game where players generate resources by building settlements around tiles offering things like sheep, wheat, stone and so on. At it’s core, this is a dice rolling game. Each tile has a number on it and if you have a settlement on a tile when it’s number is rolled, you get the resource associated with the tile.
Players can spend their resources to buy things like roads, new settlements, cities (upgraded settlements) and wild cards. Whenever a 7 is rolled (which happens a lot by the way) the robber is activated. The player who rolled the 7 moves the robber onto a tile and gets to steal a resource card at random from any player who has a settlement attached to it. The robber also blocks the tile from gathering future resources until it has been moved.
Tabletop Simulator gives gamers access to not only the original game but also the many expansion sets that have been released over the years. Being able to play a more casual game with friends and family, even when you can’t see them in person, is a great way to stay connected and have fun doing it.
Players: 2 to 4
Time to play: 30 min
One of the big bonuses of using Tabletop Simulator is being able to not only play core games but also include various expansion sets and add ons. A game like Dominion is no exception to the rule. Dominion is a deck building game which means there’s no board to speak of. Instead, there are various decks of cards players draw from as the game progresses.
Each player begins Dominion with the same deck of cards. While the decks start out small, they don’t stay that way for long. Around the table are numerous other cards that players might acquire as they have the money to do so. Players construct their decks on the fly as they choose cards to buy and how they play their hands as they draw them, striving for the most effective route to valuable victory points by game end.
The developers of Dominion describe the game like this,
“You are a monarch, like your parents before you, a ruler of a small pleasant kingdom of rivers and evergreens. Unlike your parents, however, you have hopes and dreams! You want a bigger and more pleasant kingdom, with more rivers and a wider variety of trees. You want a Dominion! In all directions lie fiefs, freeholds, and feodums. All are small bits of land, controlled by petty lords and verging on anarchy. You will bring civilization to these people, uniting them under your banner.
But wait! It must be something in the air; several other monarchs have had the exact same idea. You must race to get as much of the unclaimed land as possible, fending them off along the way. To do this you will hire minions, construct buildings, spruce up your castle, and fill the coffers of your treasury. Your parents wouldn’t be proud, but your grandparents, on your mother’s side, would be delighted.”
This is a must play for anyone looking to start gaming through Tabletop Simulator. The pace is quick and because of the variety of cards, games rarely play out the same twice.
Players: 1 to 4
Time to Play: 60-120 min
Cooperative dungeon crawlers are a personal favourite of mine and a game like Gloomhaven is a perfect example of how to take big games like D&D and adapt them to a board game setting. Tabletop Simulator takes a big game with lots of pieces and puts it all on your computer screen. No fuss, no muss.
Gloomhaven is a tactical combat game set in a persistent world of shifting motives, similar to games such as Dungeons & Dragons or Shadowrun. Players will assume the persona of a solitary wanderer with their own defined set of talents and motives for traveling to this dark region of the world.
A sense of urgency permeates throughout these dark fantasy realms, which can be explored solo or in groups. Players will have to work together out of necessity to get rid of ominous dungeons and long-forgotten ruins. They’ll improve their skills with time and gain treasure, discover new areas to explore and pillage, and develop an ever-expanding narrative fueled by the choices they make.
Each turn, a player must play two cards from their hand. Initiative is determined by the number on the top card. Each card features a top and bottom power, and when it is a player’s turn in the initiative order, they must choose whether to utilize the top power of one card and the bottom power of the other, or vice versa. The underlying threat is that, over time, players begin to lose cards from their hands which weakens their characters ability to keep fighting. Planning and strategic thinking are a must in a game like Gloomhaven.
So there you have it. If you’re looking to purchase TTS but aren’t sure where to start, games like Catan and Dominion are a great option. The major benefit is that once you have the program, you can try out a bunch of games without having to buy them first. What’s not to love about a no pressure game trial? Ok, I gotta go. Have fun gaming!