Have you ever bought a board or card game, only to never have the requisite number of players around at the same time? I know I have. What an awesome thing it would be if I could take that game and play it over the internet with my friends, without having to schedule it with everyone a month ahead of time. Enter Tabletop Simulator by Berserk Games. It’s not the first piece of software that has sought to fill this niche, but it is my favorite by far.
Here’s the deal – Tabletop Simulator isn’t a game in and of itself. As the name implies, it simply simulates a tabletop. That is, the board, pieces, dice, cards, etc. are all physics objects in an engine designed to be manipulated in the same manner you would if you were playing a game on your living room table. There are no mechanisms in place for rule enforcement. If you want to cheat, and the other players don’t stop you, the game will happily let you. The game comes with the objects you need to play several classic games like chess, checkers, marbles, pachisi, backgammon, and many others. There are dice and figurines suitable for various pen and paper role playing games. Standard decks of cards for any number of games. Blocks for building sets. And much more.
But the biggest draw of all is the game’s modding potential and the community around it. There are already hundreds of games people have modded in. Everything from Risk and Clue, to Galaxy Truckers and Munchkin. The quality of the mods varies somewhat, but there is no shortage of great mods to choose from. This of course begs the question of the legality of these mods. Since it’s all user generated content, the developers are free of culpability. The creators of a few mods have been hit with DMCA takedown notices, but this seems to be a rare occurrence. Some game makers encourage the mods, or even create them themselves. Most seem to be content to simply ignore them, and it makes sense why. These games are meant to by played in person, and are difficult or impossible to play online. The mods, on the other hand, are played exclusively online, so there is no overlap. If anything, the additional exposure has probably garnered additional sales.
Tabletop Simulator is an Early Access title, but it already feels very polished, though not perfectly so. In the 32 hours I’ve played it, I’ve experienced two crashes. Many people have had issues with getting network connectivity to work, including myself. I finally solved my problems by setting a static outbound NAT for the game, but many consumer routers don’t allow that level of manipulation. In my opinion, the technical difficulties have not made me regret the purchase in the least.
All in all, Tabletop Simulator is a fantastic program, and I’m excited to see where the developers take it in the future.