We might all be on lockdown, but that’s no reason to give up on the board games just yet. Thanks to the wonders of technology (thank you Zoom!), there’s still loads of ways to play all your favourites from home.

So, whether you’re stuck on the sofa or killing time in the kitchen, here’s how to keep your gaming skills sharp and put the “social” back in “social distancing”.

Part One: Exercise equipment

If a bodybuilder wants to stay in shape, they use weights. If a board gamer wants to stay in shape, they use these:

1. Board Game Arena

Just like that Gladiator movie, it’s time to step into the arena and put your skills to the test.

Jump into a lobby filled with randoms or challenge your friends in over 100 different well-known games, from Seven Wonders to Sushi Go. The best thing about this website is that it’s completely free, although it can get busy from time to time. They’re increasing their servers to meet demand, but try signing in before 5pm if you’re struggling to get a spot. Trust us, it’s worth the wait.

 

2. Airconsole

Finally, a good reason to be glued to your smartphone.

This one really feels like you’re living in the future. Just select a game on the website, get everyone to type the code into their smartphone and BAM — everyone’s got their own controller to play with. There’s a bunch of cool free games in the Starter Pack, but we’d highly recommend getting the full pack for £5 a month. Mainly so you can play ‘Brawl Landers’, because it’s amazing.

 

3. Steam

The grandaddy of them all.

You’re probably thinking, “Hey, this is supposed to be a blog about board games, not video games.” Well, you can stop right there. With over 30,000 games in its library (ranging from free to £300), it’s no wonder that there’d be some board games available. To properly talk about all the options on Steam, we’d need to write a whole new blog, but here’s two good places to start: Tabletop Simulator and Asmodee Digital.

 

4. Tabletop Simulator (requires Steam)

For people who miss the simple pleasure of flipping the board when they’re losing.

If you’ve mastered the Board Game Arena and want to get your teeth into something a little chunkier, this is one step above. It comes with a bit of a price tag, but there’s around 2,000 games to play once you’re in, from simple party games to super-serious tabletop games. If you can’t find what you’re looking for (somehow), you can even create your own and show it off to your friends.

 

5. Asmodee Digital (requires Steam)

Catan, Pandemic, Gloomhaven and more.

Just when you thought they couldn’t get more ambitious, Asmodee have taken all their biggest hits and transported them onto Steam for you to enjoy online. With games ranging from £6 – £20, there’s all sorts of classics to comb through. Plus, you can get a bunch of them on your Switch, which means you can play board games in bed. Quarantine doesn’t get much better than that.

 

6. Horsepaste

Weird name, great idea.

Sometimes, the simple sites are the best sites. Horsepaste only does one thing — and that thing is free, online Codenames. Just start a lobby, send the code over to all your friends, then start playing a free game across your different devices. You’ll still need a way of chatting to each other, but luckily, we’ve got that covered in our next section.

 

Part Two: Get chatting


If you’ve ever tried playing a board game in total silence, you’ll know that it’s not nearly as much fun. To bring back the joy of encouraging (or badmouthing) the other players, give one of these a go:

 

1. Zoom

Super-smooth videos. Super-funky backgrounds.

Pros:
Probably the smoothest video-calling software we’ve used, even with 50 different people in the call.
You can change the background to anything… and we mean anything.

Cons:
The free version will time-out after 40 minutes, which means you’ll have to restart the call.

 

2. Discord

Probably the best choice for a serious gaming group.

Pros:
Completely, absolutely, 100% free.
Able to create different sub-groups and channels, meaning you can dedicate different chats to different games.

Cons:
A little bit more complicated to get your head around at first

 

3. FaceTime / WhatsApp

Old reliable(s).

Pro:
Video and call quality tend to be pretty stable (unless you’re living in the jungle).
You probably already know how to use it.

Con:
Only able to have a maximum of four people in a call at one time.

 

4. House Party

“Mum, is that you?”

Pros:
Comes with a free library of built-in games to play.
Absolutely anyone can join at any time. Could be good, could be bad.

Cons:
Can get pretty laggy, especially when you hit the maximum of 8 people.

 

5. Google Hangouts

It’s Google, so it has to be good.

Pros:
Pretty much everyone has a gmail account already, which makes it easier to send invites.
Free version can host up to 10 people without breaking a sweat.

Cons:
Works great for video, not so much for chat.

 

Part Three: Let’s get physical

Are none of these online versions scratching the itch? Do you miss the feeling of holding the cards  in your hand? The joy of rolling the dice without clicking a button? Well, your games don’t necessarily have to be on-screen (even if your opponents are).

Here’s a few ways to take your Big Potato games and play them online against your friends. Just remember, you’ll need a copy of the game for this to work.

 

1. Bucket of Doom

Like watching a disaster movie online, except you get to write the script.

  • To start, deal out three Object Cards to everyone playing. You can either send a screenshot of the cards to each player, or just show them one-by-one on video chat.
  • Have each player choose two objects each. Now, read out the Scenario Card for the round.
  • On their turn, players must tell the story of how they managed to escape the deadly scenario using only their Object Cards. Acting out the story on camera is not necessary, but encouraged.
  • Finally, have everyone vote on who had the best story. If there’s a tie, you get the deciding vote (because it’s your game and you’re the most important one).

 

2. What Came First

You can’t remember what day it is, but you can remember what year Shrek came out.

  • Have all the players run around their house until they come back with a yellow object and an orange object. These are their voting chips.
  • Since it’s your game, you’re the Question Master. Read a question out loud, then show the card to the screen so everyone can see it. Count down from three, then have each player hold up one of their coloured objects.
  • Read out the answer to reveal who got it right. Players earn one point for every answer they get correct. The first player to reach ten points, wins!

 

3. Colourbrain

Coming to you live — in full technicolour!

  • To begin, get everyone together in one big video call. Once again, you’ll be the Question Master, which means you’re in charge.
  • Have each player take a sheet of paper. Get them to split it into 12 boxes by drawing a line down the middle, then five lines across.
  • Finally, get them to write one colour in 11 of the boxes (Yellow, Red, Blue, Green, Purple, Orange, Pink, Brown, Grey, White and Black). Cut these out so each player has 11 separate cards.
  • Now, read out a question and have the players place their colour (or colours) face-down in front of them. When they’re all ready, get them to reveal their answers.
  • Read out the answer and award one point to every player that got it right. The first player to reach 10 points is the winner!

 

4. Mr Lister

How to host a hoedown on the low-down.

  • Enjoy a free version to play right here!
  • You’re better off using Zoom for this game. Luckily, since our games are always pretty quick to play, you should be fine using the free version.
  • You’re the Question Master, so you get to pick the teams. Hold up your fake moustache and tell everyone whether they’re in Team A or Team B.
  • Now, read out a question. Teams get 30 seconds to discuss their answers with each other, which they can do secretly by using the ‘private message’ function on Zoom.
  • Once the 30 seconds are up, it’s time to play. Get the teams to give you three answers each, going one by one. The team that got the most right, win the point.
  • If it’s a tie, you’re heading to the Last Chance Saloon. Have each team nominate a player, then read out the Impossible Question. Get both players to privately message you with their answer, then reveal who was closest.
  • The first team to successfully win five points are the winners!

 

5. Weird Things Humans Search For

An internet-based board game that you can play on the internet. Simpler than it sounds.

  • Get on a video call, then get all the players to grab a pencil and paper. Read out the first part of a weird internet search for everyone to hear.
  • Players now have to guess the second part. They write down one “Main Answer” and one “Bonus Answer”, then place the paper face-down in front of their camera.
  • One by one, get each of the players to turn over their paper and read out their two guesses. Make sure to keep an eye on everyone’s camera, just in case they try to switch out their answers at the last minute!
  • Finally, read out the correct list of answers. Jot down the scores, then keep going until a player has won 10 points or more.

 

6. Obama Llama

That online acting masterclass is about to come in handy.

  • In Obama Llama, the more people the better — so you might want to use Zoom for this one.
  • Split everyone up into two teams and bring out the three decks of cards. For both teams, you get to roll the dice.
  • Depending on what colour you roll, take the top card and take a picture of it. Have the team nominate a player, and send that player a picture of the card in a private message.
  • This player now has 30 seconds to get their team to guess all three rhymes on the card. They get one point for every rhyme they guess. If they manage to guess the entire card before the timer runs out, they get a bonus point (so four points in total).
  • Keep going until each team has had five attempts at a card. The team with the most points at the end, wins!

 

7. The Chameleon

The perfect place to practice your online poker face.

  • Technically this one doesn’t require the actual game, so you won’t get the satisfaction of holding a physical copy. However, the Chameleon App is just too good to miss out.
  • Have all the players download the free app (available on iOS and Android) and create their own username.
  • Have someone create a game, then get everyone to join the lobby.
  • Now you can play the game wherever you go (although, since it’s a lockdown, that probably won’t be very far).

Have fun (and stay safe) everyone!

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