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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Errata: Gaming Long Distance


(Errata is the weekly Q&A feature on Geek Insight.  Feel free to post any board game related questions, concerns, or disputes). 

So, the Q&A feature, keeping with our board gaming theme, is now being called, ErrataLast week, I answered a question about how to find yourself a group of gamers when you're in a new city or don't know many people.  In response:

Jonathan asked:
What's the best way for me to find other people to game with in a small rural town of 800?

I think the best way is to start with the local hobby shop as I discussed last week.  But with a town of 800, there may not even be one.  Or the closest shop may be miles away. 

The best way to find gamers is to get to know your neighbors.  With only 800 people, you'll soon come to know everyone in the town.  Even if board gaming is foreign currently, you'll run into people who have the right personality to give it a try.  And many of those people will like it.  Reassure them that there are funner (yes, funner) board games than Monopoly and Risk ::shudder:: and you should be able to create gamers from scratch.  You can then shape their experiences and mold them in your own image!, bwa ha ha h- .. ahem. 

But, lets assume that the other 800 people rebuff your every advance and you find zero success.  Then, it's time to turn to the interwebz.  I know what you're thinking, but yes there are other things to do on the internet besides pr0n and LOLcats (heaven help us if they ever combine forces). 

1.  PBEM.  Play By E-Mail.  If you have a friend long distance, you can always do a PBEM game.  Chess has been played by mail (and now e-mail) for centuries.  Just set up the board and start corresponding your moves to the opponent.  The only downside is that there is a substantial lag time between moves.  So while you are technically playing a game, you're only playing it for maybe 30 seconds per day over the course of a year.

2.  Skype it.  Setting up a netbook at the table is awkward at first, but once you get into the swing of things its not so bad.  Especially if you have a webcam that can be pointed towards the game board.  Having one laptop around the table isn't so bad for the remaining players.  It's a little stilted for the guy on the computer because they can't turn the camera to see what everyone else is looking or laughing at.  But it beats PBEM. 

Setup can be a pain to duplicate (especially with random boards like Settlers of Catan), but once its done things will move smoothly.  Games with chance elements (like where the cards show up in Agricola or Le Havre) will have to be replicated on a master board.  Games with cards or random draws will have to be drawn, then shown to the webcam and set down.  This makes things logistically a little difficult, but again, when you get a system down, it's not so bad.  And certainly better than not playing at all. 

I've successfully used the duplicate setup with a laptop and speakerphone.  We also logged into a chatroom and used the random number generator so there'd be no temptation to cheat rolls over the phone.

3.  Play Online.  Some games are available as multiplayer online versions of themselves.  The Xbox 360 has an online Carcassonne game through the Marketplace.  Days of Wonder allows you to play Ticket to Ride for free here.  And there are a number of Catan games you can join.  The downside is that you are playing with often faceless opponents, but at least you get to play. 

On the whole, though, nothing beats in person plays, so I'd go with the conversion option.  Find the people in that 800 that can game and bring them into the fold. 

(Questions for next week can be sent to me over twitter, via e-mail, or left as comments to this post)
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