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How to Play a Board Game Online

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Keep family game night alive, even at a distance.

The holidays were always a time for family togetherness in my house growing up. Snow outside, a fire in the fireplace, some soft music on the stereo, and my dad letting me win at chess were a common sight in the cold months. It’s always a great time for a family board game, but obviously, the current circumstances may make such a thing a little more difficult for some families. If you want to get that bonding goodness while physically separated, there’s a few promising avenues you can take.

The first and simplest choice is to simply rig up a webcam or smartphone camera and point it at a physical game board. While this is the least technologically intensive choice, it can be a hassle, since one player will need to take it upon themselves to man the entire board while another just watches. This also doesn’t work for all games, since some board games have secret elements like cards.

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If all participants have decent tablets available, there are official versions of many board games available on app stores you can play online. From Catan to Scrabble, most well-known games exist in one form or another, and many feature built-in voice chat (though video chat may be a different matter). If everyone has full-on PCs available, Tabletop Simulator on Steam is probably your best bet. You may infer from the name that it has more emphasis on RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, and it can do those, but it can also be used to recreate just about any board game ever made. If you don’t want to set up a game yourself, other players have pre-generated versions you can download and run yourself, while communicating with your family through a separate voice chat program or over your phone.

It is important that we stay safe this season, but that doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of that classic family togetherness.