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5 Alternative Games to Play Remotely

Boss Monster feature

In these trying times we can’t all meet up with our usual gaming groups. But we all still want to play games! The solution is playing games remotely over video chat (Zoom, FaceTime, Skype etc.) Alternative gaming!

This is the case not just for regular game nights but also for those taking part in “Raise your Game” for Dementia UK which is running during the month of October. The aim is to raise money for specialist dementia nurses by playing board games.

Two of the Zatu bloggers are taking part in Raise your Game by completing 24 hour board gaming marathons (rather them than me!!). Nick T completed his 24 hour challenge on the 2nd of October, raising a grand total of £1,160. Jim is next up on October 10th! You can find out more here and offer your support. Check out our blog to find out about both events.

This feature will set out games you can play with more than one copy. Our wonderful team have also found some games which you only need one copy to play remotely! Click here to check these games out too.

So, what games can you play over Zoom? These alternative gaming ideas should spark some inspiration! Whether you are taking part in Raise your Game, or if you just want to re-kindle some of that game night spirit, here are our top picks.

Quacks of Quedlinburg - Sarah Carpenter

This time last year, I don’t think that any of us would have believed that gaming over video would be our only option if we wanted to play games with people outside of our own household. Although it is not a situation that we would like to find ourselves in, this year we have discovered that gaming over video can be done! Some games can be played with just one copy, whereas these will need each household to have their own copy in order to make the experience a success.

Earlier this year, my husband and I had many games of The Quacks of Quedlinburg with our two friends from another household over video. After agreeing on which set of ingredient books to use, each household set up their own copy of the game for four players. We agreed that just one deck of Fortune Teller cards should be used. Just one household read the actions aloud at the beginning of each round. During the main Potions Phase of the game, everyone prepares their potions simultaneously and announces when they are choosing (or forced) to stop, Doing this over video does not cause any issues.

Talking through the Evaluation Phase over video was also not a problem. The player who reached the highest scoring space would roll the dice and announce their bonus. Chip actions were resolved and rubies claimed. Victory points were then rewarded awarded and chips purchased.

The main thing to keep an eye on was the points, and we made sure that both households logged the points for every player. This made it simple to work out the number of rat tails players needed at the beginning of the next round. Players also needed to make sure they announced the number of black hawkmoth chips they had in their pots, since the benefits of this chip are dependent on having more than the players sitting next to you.

I can thoroughly recommend playing The Quacks of Quedlinburg over video as it only needs minimal changes to work. The game can also be played with different sets of ingredient books, which makes each experience different. For me, playing alternative gaming over video will never replace gaming face-to-face around the same table, but it is certainly nice to know that it can work.

The Search for the Planet X - Thom Newton

The Search for Planet X is an intriguing cosmological mystery game. The goal of the game is to discover the location of Planet X. There are several different celestial objects that can be found in the skies. Each of them obeys their own set of rules. Each turn, players will be scanning a part of the visible night sky to try and find these celestial bodies.

Every action takes time. The more precise you are in your observations, the longer they take. The player currently in last place on the time track goes next. If you use a lot of time on an observation, you may be giving your opponents time to do a few smaller actions while they catch up.

You can also do research to earn some extra hints about where these bits of space landscape are or aren’t. Once you think you know where a certain astronomical anomaly is lurking, you can submit your thesis. You do this by placing a tile face down on the board in the relevant sector of the sky.

As time passes in the game, this thesis will slide down the track until it is time to peer review it. If you are correct, you earn some points for being first. Anybody else who submitted a correct thesis later will get fewer points. The game ends when one player has successfully located Planet X.

This is all managed by a companion app, which is why it works so well playing over long distance. The app determines where the different objects are. It gives you a unique game code which you can pass to your distant friends for them to use in their own copy of the app. If you treat each other’s pieces the same way you would a robot player in the solo mode, you can play this remotely without having to worry about keeping the game state synchronised, as the app manages it all for you! This is the beauty of alternative gaming.

Quadropolis - Nathan Coombs

Quadropolis is a superb game that ticks all of the necessary boxes for online play: simple set-up, clear pieces and single-player moves. It is a 2-4 player city building and planning game. Days of Wonder have a reputation for quality components and Quadropolis is no exception.

Players take the role of architects competing to claim buildings to develop their city. The game is played over four rounds with four turns in each – so just 16 moves complete the game. For the basic game, each player starts with an area of 16 city blocks, arranged in a 4x4 grid. A shared area contains a number of tiles (up to 25, depending on player count). These are the various city developments on offer that could be claimed. However, the location of these randomly placed tiles (their row or column) will determine where in your new city you may place them. This is also affected by the number of the architect you choose to use. Town planning rules reward how well players have performed. Parks are best near residential areas, industries are best located near the docks etc.

To play this game online will require each player to own a copy of Quadropolis. One player is Quadropolis Master (QM). They are responsible for laying out the available city development tiles, and using a phone or web cam to provide a top-down view of the game. Other players need to mimic this tile setups using their own game so everyone will have up to four player boards laid out.
During play, each gamer need only state which row, column and architect they are using for their turn. This makes it very easy for the QM to co-ordinate. The QM master game will have the final say in how the things are progressing.

Quadropolis is not a new game. Its simple iconography and bold colours makes it suitable for online play. The straightforward rules of piece placement leave no room for doubt as to a player’s decision. For this reason, this is one game that definitely works online in our crazy world of alternative gaming.

Tiny Towns - Rob Wright 

I may have written about Tiny Towns before as a solo game, but it also works surprisingly well as a game via Zoom if everyone has a copy. And that player count can be… pretty darn big.

What makes it very doable is that the random element is very low in this game – resources during the game will be chosen either by players or from a central deck which can be a bit random (people, eh?), but a lot of the game can be synchronised across players from the start.

First off, you both have to have the same buildings in the middle. You could make this fair by taking it in turns to choose which kind of farm, which kind of factory and so forth until you have categories for each of your building types.

You might end up with duplicate special buildings (the other random element), but this won’t harm the game. More than one person could have the Mausoleum card and it wouldn’t affect either player’s way of scoring (I know there are some score cards that depend on player positioning, but you could agree a player order beforehand – it’s no biggie).

The choosing of resources to place on your board would be the same whether you were playing face to face or remotely. If you had multiple groups with multiple boards, you could use the ‘town hall’ method of choosing resources – two resources are chosen from the deck of resources and the third is chosen by the individual players. This method allows for as many players as you like to get involved, so the Sky Baths really are the limit – you could potentially go for the record number of people playing Tiny Towns, but that’s not for me to say.

Just make sure that no-one is playing with cheeky promos or the Fortune expansion… unless you all have the Fortune expansion. Which would be fortunate.

Boss Monster - Carl Yaxley

My suggestion for a game to play over a video call is Boss Monster: The Dungeon Building Card Game. With its 8-bit pixelated art style, and dungeon crawling theme, Boss Monster is a fun homage to classic side-scrolling video games. Released in 2013 by Brotherwise Games, Boss Monster supports 2-4 players, with a play time of around 20 minutes. In a typical dungeon crawling game, you play the hero as they explore, complete quests and battle monsters. Boss Monsters flips that round and makes you the end level dungeon boss.

It isn't an obvious choice for gaming over a video call. However, it's compact enough to make it workable, with only slight changes to gameplay. Every player will need a copy of the game to play Boss Monster in this way. Because of that, in this scenario, I'd suggest approaching this as a two player game.

Position your camera so it can fit at least six cards laid out horizontally. This accounts for your Boss card and your Dungeon (at its maximum size). Ideally your Wounds and Soul piles will also be visible.

To adapt gameplay, you only need to alter the way players select their Boss card. Before starting, choose a start player, they will select a random Boss card from their game. The second player removes the revealed boss from their game, then selects a random one. Easy. Now play proceeds in XP order, highest to lowest.

The game can be now be played normally, with the start player revealing heroes each turn. The other player(s) can simply refer to the start player's screen or pull the same heroes out of their own game. During lockdown, I experimented with a number of games via videocalls, Boss Monster was one of the alternative gaming successes!