Technology For Table Top Gamers

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Did y’all know I’ve seen every episode of Table Top? I. Love. Boardgames. I am not always very good at them, but what I lack in skill, I make up for in enthusiasm. And on Thursday, I got to play D&D for the first time ever. I know, I know—how did I make it through this life until this moment without doing so? It is basically making shit up and eating chips and drinking cider with fellow nerdy people. HOW HAVE I NOT ALWAYS DONE THIS? I know why: math. I am very good at telling a computer how to do math for me. I am not very good at doing math by myself in my head. As a result, I am all about mixing a little technology in with table top games—I think it increases access to some of the most fun and nerdy bonding experiences I’ve ever personally had. Actually, there are a lot of good reasons to mix up technology and gaming. Here are just a few!


Playing Table Top Games On Your Tech

Catan

This app will let you play Settlers of Catan on your phone. I can attest to it being a perfect answer to bouts of insomnia. For those of y’all who haven’t played, Settlers of Catan is a civilization building game in which you obtain and trade resources to build roads, settlements and cities to earn points. The app either lets you play against other real people on the internet or against computer people that live inside your mobile device (each of whom has their own distinct play style). The base app costs $4.99 on iOS and $3.99 on Android, but if you make an in-app purchase of one or more of the expansion packs, you get that expansion PLUS the ability to undertake campaign mode. If you’re looking for a free way to play, you can play in your browser!

iDixit

Dixit is my favorite game in the entire universe. It consists of beautifully illustrated cards, one of which an active player must describe. Other players try to match that description with cards from their hand and then everyone tries to guess which was the original card. If everyone guesses the original card, everyone but the active player gets points. If no one guesses the original card, everyone but the active player gets points. The trick is to choose a description that some people at the table will guess, and some won’t.  iDixit is a free iOS app that lets you play with others on local wifi and (theoretically) also allows for play against people across the world (I have never successfully used this feature). Originally I wasn’t going to include this app because, like the internet version of Dominion, the game is SO MUCH MORE fun when played in person and the tech is SO FAR BEHIND the game play in the real world. But I can’t not include anything that allows me to play Dixit in a bar. Because Dixit is the best. The. Best.

Board Game Arena

Board Game Arena is one of the things I joined because I was researching this and now I’m hooked (much like You Need a Budget when I was researching this post). They have an extensive library of games (including Takenoko, one of my favorites). You can play a multitude of games online with other real humans in either real-time or turn-based play. I’ve only availed myself of turn-based because I find it’s a really good way to take a quick break from work and then go right back to working. Board Game Arena is totally free with an option to monetarily support the service. Are any of y’all using it? Do you want to play Takenoko with me? They just released Lords of Xidit on there, which I haven’t played yet but after I’m done writing this I’m totally going to YouTube a review of it because it’s produced by the same folks who did Dixit which, as you now know, is my favorite game in the entire universe.

Now I’m going to be the first one to shout from the roof tops that part of the charm of table top games is just that—the fact that you play with your friends in a real room in the real world on a real table. The apps we’ve covered so far are to supplement your nerdiness, or even to play with friends when they live far away. Now let’s move to the IRL sort of gaming—


Tech-Assists for Playing Table Top Games

Dice and Dragons

Forgot your dice? Can’t afford a set? Play Dungeons and Dragons anyhow! This free app for iOS allows you to save combo rolls (I have one in there for my character’s short bow) and use each die individually. Obvious the ideal is to have real dice you can hold in your hand, but the sound effects definitely make this app good in a pinch.

Just FYI, there are about a million different D&D apps out there. I also contemplated putting Sheet Yourself ($4.99 for iOS and $2.99 for Android) for creating and editing an unlimited number of character sheets and GM Toolkit ($4.99 for Android) in here. I couldn’t make up my mind which to include, so this is me including all of them.

Merriam Webster’s Scrabble Dictionary

If you play a ton of Scrabble and are really into the strategy of it and all (I am actually not because I’m really terrible at Scrabble which is a lot for a writer to admit), this might be your dream dictionary. Not only will you be able to call your roommate out on her bullshit (FARQED IS NOT A WORD GLADYS, IT CAN ONLY BE USED IN UNSPEAKABLE WORDS), you can also bone up on what you could’ve made with your tiles. The app costs $4.99 for iOS and Android. If that’s too rich for your blood, Merriam Webster also has Scrabble Tools for free use on their website.

ScoreGeek

Holy crap, ScoreGeek is crazy powerful. I wouldn’t call this a scoring app, per se. It’s more like a scoring suite. It allows you to choose from a whole crap ton of games with different scoring templates and different things to keep track of—anywhere from a simple scoring game (Munchkin) to something a little bit more complex (Agricola). If you’re a BoardGameGeek user, you can upload your scores directly from the app. Their app costs $3.99 for iOS and Android and $0.99 on Windows Phone. They also have a free web version you can use.

If you’re looking for simple scoring only on your mobile device (and don’t need to choose from the game library), I can also point you in the direction of Games Keeper, which is free for iOS.


Table Top Games About Science and Tech

CPU Wars 2.0

Over on Gizmodo, I found this. AND I MUST HAVE IT. No, I’ve never played it before but I don’t care. It is everything I like—computers and card games ALL ROLLED INTO ONE THING. Volume 1.0 is £8, as is Volume 2.0. But both decks can be played either separately or together, so if you get both to make one big super deck, thats £14. Before you say anything, it’s a pricing deal and not my bad math skills.

Pandemic

The game that hates you. The game of infectious diseases. The game of rogue CDC backstory that players invent while they’re playing. This group game lets four players play against the game instead of each other. The goal is to head off all the epidemics before they intersect with each other and become a global pandemic. There are a million ways to lose this game. I have never been part of a group that’s won at Pandemic, but I hear it’s possible. You can get it for $30 and enjoy losing to it for a lifetime (however long that is).

So what did I miss, queermos? How to you mix your table top games and technology? WILL ANYONE PLAY TAKENOKO WITH ME?


This has been the one-hundred-thirty-fourth installment of Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy tech column. Not everything we cover is queer per se, but we talk about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to websites you have to bookmark to any other fun shit we can do with technology. Header by Rory Midhani.

Staff Writer for Autostraddle, Part-time Faculty at The New School (teaching digital storytelling), Managing Editor for Scholar & Feminist Online at Barnard Center for Research On Women. Follow me on Twitter @AEOsworth or on Instagram, also @AEOsworth.

A.E. has written 539 articles for us.

33 Comments

  1. I’m down to play Takenoko ! Just send me a PM.

    A really cool game that I found recently is Hearthstone. It’s a turn-based card game, you need to download the game first (free) and make an account but after that you’re all set ! A game lasts around 20 minutes, it’s really fun and there’s a lot of strategy involved! If anyway wants to play against me just send me a PM 🙂

  2. I played Takenoko with my mum at the local board game cafe a couple months ago, after only seeing the Tabletop episode (which is my FAVOURITE thing, almost). So yes definitely down to play Takenoko!

    Tried playing Pandemic last night with five people (I know, we broke the rules) and we were SO CLOSE to winning but ran out of time. Great game.

    I love board games. I got some money from relatives for graduating, and I /could/ save that money or buy a new work outfit but instead I just wanna buy $150 of board games.

  3. TABLETOP SIMULATOR. You download it on Steam and then you can get a crapton of games for free from the Workshop and play with all your friennnnds. It’s initially a little fiddly but once you figure it out you can do literally whatever AND it features an option to flip the table for bad losers. Fantastic times.

  4. Once again, Autostraddle is psychically attuned to me: I literally just discovered “Tabletop” like, last week, and I’ve watched every episode (I have a lot of free time, you guys). Thanks for the awesome post, Ali. I also love Dixit (the player markers are bunnies!) I haven’t played Pandemic, yet (saw the Tabletop episode, though) but I have played Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert and love them. Yay games!

  5. During my “hip young thing with Jesus and totally denying my sexuality” phase, my friend, her boyfriend and I would literally spend the day playing RISK or Carcassonne (always with the river expansion).

    It’s only now I realise that I was just there as the safety net, lest they be tempted. Y’know, their eyes meeting across the coffee table, maybe a stray hand lingering over a tile, or the constant attempts on his behalf to get into her castle.

    Now I have my own castle and am finally comfortable to play by my own rules. This is why board gaming is important, kids.

    I’d highly recommend Carcassonne, Blokus, Risk & Ticket to Ride.

    (I also have these in my cupboard should anyone ever want to play)

  6. All I need is a way to play Arkham Horror online so I can re-learn the rules bit by bit in an interactive environment in a way that won’t take four hours – aka all of the time I actually have to PLAY the game with my game-playing sisters – again!

    IT IS ALL I NEED!

    Also just taking the time to say that this status is right up my alley

    also that Smallworld is the best and most beautiful game ever.

  7. I’ve beaten Pandemic all of twice since I first played it a few years ago. Both times, though, it was on the easiest mode, we got really lucky, and we had at least a few veteran players. That game does not take prisoners.

  8. This is super relevant to my life! Thank you!

    I’m currently designing an app version of my tabletop game about evolution – it’s a strategy rich version of Go Fish that you play with animal cards (yes, there are dinosaurs!). It’s called Go Extinct! and you can buy it here

  9. Also, for actual tabletop RPG as in Dungeons & Dragons and all those sorts of games…

    Roll20! It’s a website that lets you run campaigns, set up rolls, keep character sheets and basically all you need for good old fashioned tabletop RPG.

  10. Haven’t looked into steam yet, but my username on BGA is ‘wtfwombats’. If you want to play any turn-based game with a straddler and don’t mind me taking a day or so to figure out the rules, send me a game invite anytime.

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