Just because we’re social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t play good old fashioned board games - with a bit of technical assistance, of course. Here are our favourite board games for fostering remote togetherness.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
Space Cowboy, the publisher of the Sherlock Holmes series, needs to be commended for their quick response to the Covid-19 shutdown. Within days they had uploaded digital assets for the games, allowing players to solve mysteries through Zoom and other online platforms.
Each of the four Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective games contains 10 mysteries for you and your intrepid crew of armchair detectives to solve. Throw on your deerstalker hat, sift through potential clues, and figure out whodunnit in this immersive series.
One player still needs to have a physical copy of the game to share interviews with witnesses and suspects, but remote players simply need to click this link to access digital newspapers, directories, and maps to assist in the investigation.
Detective: A Modern Crime Game
Detective is a modern-day spin on the Sherlock Holmes style of gameplay. And as modern-day detectives, you all have access to modern-day tools; Google is fair game, and the game’s publisher has set up a faux criminal database for you and your fellow gumshoes to use - and that’s where remote play comes in. As long as one person is relaying clues from their physical copy of the game, everyone else can hop online and do the legwork from a distance.
Roll-and-write board games
Roll and write games are like souped-up versions of Yahtzee: you roll dice or flip cards, then make a decision about the options that come up. These games tend to be very logic-oriented, so they’re great for the engineering brains among us.
To play these games remotely, one person will need a physical copy of the game. The others will need to download and print copies of the game board from Board Game Geek. Put a camera on the communal dice or cards, and you’re off to the races!
Welcome To Your Perfect Home is a perennial favourite around here. You’re laying out a Stepford-esque neighbourhood, complete with parks, pools, and real estate manipulation. Numbers and features need to fit together on each street - an increasingly difficult challenge as the board fills up. Welcome To can be played with any number of people, from 1-100 and beyond.
Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
Cartographers is set in the Roll Player universe - a totally-not-D&D world of fantasy heroes and monsters. As the name suggests, you’re mapping the world and its blocks of forests, swamps, villages, monster incursions, and other features. It’s a little bit Tetris, a little bit civil engineering. With monsters.
Ganz Schon Clever
Ganz Schon Clever (and its followup, Doppelt So Clever) is the game Yahtzee wishes it were. Players select dice to score points and unlock chain reactions on their personal game boards, but they have to be careful - any dice they don’t take get offered on a literal silver platter to the other players. It’s a balancing act of numerical offense and defense for 1-4 players.
Simultaneous action board games
This style of game allows all players to take their turn at the same time. That usually means each player operates quite independently from the others, making this a good choice for distance play - a convenient mix of solitaire strategy and verbal interaction.
But there’s a catch: unlike some of the other titles on this list, every player must have access to a copy of these games to make remote play work.
In Tiny Towns, you’re trying to fit as much small-town goodness into a tiny - and rapidly shrinking - map. On your turn you’ll select a coloured cube to place onto your map, forcing all other players to take a cube of the same colour. Over time these cubes will transform into different buildings, each of which will offer you different opportunities to score points… if your board doesn’t fill up first!
Quacks of Quedlinberg
This kooky push-your-luck game pits rival potion-brewers against each other in a competition to see who will craft the finest elixirs… and who will explode. Each turn you’ll draw ingredient tokens from your bag, place them in your cauldron, then perform a cost-benefit analysis - stop drawing too early and you’ll miss out on points; stop too late and your potion will blow up in your face. With the ability to change your ingredient bag’s composition over time, this is an object lesson in probability and dumb luck for 1-4 players.
Most party games benefit from, you know, a party. But these titles also stand up to remote play, making them excellent choices for when you and your fellow distancers want something a little more casual.
Just One won the 2019 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award, so you know it’s going to be a solid choice. This is a cooperative word game for 4-7 players, but here’s the truth: Channing and Andrea have played this hundreds of times and not once have they played for points - they just play to play!
On your turn you’ll select a random word without peeking at it. Everyone else then needs to write down a single-word clue that will help you guess your secret word. But before you get to look at your clues, everyone else will compare notes and remove any duplicates; you’ll only get to guess based on the unique clues. This game gets good after a few rounds, when the group paranoia sets in - you all want to give helpful clues, but what if someone else is writing that word too???
You’ll need a video connection, pens, paper, and someone with an original copy of the game to play this one.
The Mind is an exercise in psychic connections, statistics, or plain old luck, depending on your worldview. Two to four players work together to play numbered cards in order, without any verbal or nonverbal communication.
The Mind can be played through a video link if all sides have a copy of the game handy. Say two households are playing - one side will play with only even numbers, while the other gets odd numbers. Sure that makes the game ever so slightly easier, but with 100 cards in play you’re still facing quite the challenge.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include roleplaying games in this list. Though they’ve acquired a lot of bells and whistles (and fancy dice and miniatures and…) in recent years, RPGs are storytelling games at their cores - perfect for online play.
Dungeons & Dragons
D&D is, of course, the most prominent of the roleplaying games - and with good reason. It’s easy to get into, forgiving for beginners, and there are lots of supporting materials out there for a budding player or dungeon master.
If you’ve never played, we recommend snagging a copy of the Starter Set or Essentials Kit - both include excerpts from the game’s core rulebooks, a prewritten adventure, pre-built characters, and other goodies. The Starter Set is geared more towards true beginners, while the Essentials Kit is slightly more advanced.
But of course the absolute best way to learn is by playing! We’re taking our normal in-store D&D events online for Covid-19, using Discord to host interactive games led by our staff dungeon masters. That means you can play from home and experience the thrill of Dungeons & Dragons from the comfort of your finest adventuring PJs!