Zooming through a top ten
Words by Charlie Pettit
Change your background, settle into your most comfortable seat, and prepare to grumble about your internet speed, as we’re reaching the one year anniversary of heading into Lockdown. That makes it the perfect time to consider ten of the best zoomable games. Whilst there’s a ton of ways to play tabletop games online, we’re sticking to ones that need only one copy to play.
1. Herd Mentality
Party games are generally good options for games over video chat, because they encourage conversation and are often components light. Luckily, that’s what Big Potato Games specialise in, and Herd Mentality boldly steps up to the plate. The game asks you to answer simple questions, like “What is the best flavour of crisps?”, or “What’s the best way to cook an egg?”, but instead of necessarily answering honestly, you’ll need to answer the same way your fellow players do, and try not to gain the dreaded pink cow for being the odd one out. Big Potato Games already offer suggestions for minor rules alterations to a number of their games on their website to Zoom-ify them, but this seems to give you the full experience of the game even digitally. Though admittedly, no squeeze of a pink cow.
2. Trails of Tucana
Trails of Tucana is a ‘Flip and Write’ style of game, where you’ll overturn cards that show terrain types. The two terrains discovered represent the links you can make on your score card, so for example, a water and a rock card let you draw a link between a blue and a grey hexagon, and you’ll be trying to match up villages and collect sights along the way. To play this over Zoom, you’ll need to have one person who flips the cards who can either read these out, or have them show on camera, and for those who don’t own the game to print off the player sheets, which are available on BoardGameGeek.
3. Dungeons & Dragons
Or Call of Cthulhu, or Pathfinder, or Tales from the Loop, or Mausritter – you get the idea. RPG’s in general translate over Zoom incredibly well, as a favourable method to play even before the pandemic made it cool/necessary. With a comfortable GM, players will only need pen and paper (if that) to prep a character, and dice (or an online dice roller) to dive right into a whole new world. Plus, there are hundreds of online aids available, so for example a chrome extension exists to link D&D Beyond dice rolls from a character sheet straight into a Roll20 game. That means when asked suspiciously by the GM to “roll for perception”, and the entire group holds their breath, everyone gets to see what the outcome is with the necessary modifiers built in. It might be an obvious answer, but it’s great for a reason.
Once upon a time we only used our Telepathy skills on The Mind, but now we’re levelling up the Wavelength. When in person, you’ll rotate a dial to find a hidden bullseye, that the psychic player knows the location of. They’ll then offer a clue that hints where on the spectrum the bullseye is, between two binaries. For example, if the words were ‘bad actor’ and ‘great actor’, you’d know from the clue Alan Rickman would know the bullseye is closer to the right than the left – but is that what they’re really thinking? For Zoom, one person would need to be in control of moving the dial to play as normal, but there’s also an app you can use.
5. Just One
This cheerful Spiel Des Jahres winner works surprisingly well on Zoom calls. The game is simple, where one player is the guesser. With their eyes closed (or even removed temporarily from the zoom call), the word is shown to the other players, who then must write down a clue. But, if their clues are duplicated, they’re removed entirely, making it tough work for the guesser when they return! You can either set it that the game owner is always a hint giver, so not to ruin the surprise, or you could circulate or generate words for the other players prior to the game beginning. A simple game to play in person and on Zoom.
6. Welcome To
There does feel a little bit of irony in a game that tells us to use Zoom and then to default to pencil and paper, but in the spirit of a roll and write (or again, a flip and write), Welcome To can be played simply by all players having the correct sheets, and one willing owner of the game to flip and share the cards needed. This game is a little more complex than the aforementioned Trails of Tucana, simply by having a little more to it. And for those wanting to really get their brains working in lockdown, there’s the next in the series, Welcome to…New Las Vegas.
7. Master Word
A recent Scorpion Masque game, Master Word is a mixture between the old Mastermind game that echoed around many of our childhoods and 20 questions. You’ll be guessing a word based on a category, and asking three questions each round to narrow it down enough. The gist of the questions will go onto the dry wipe cards, and the guide player awards tokens for the number of them that are correct – but without confirming which. To make it Zoomable, you’d just have to have a camera on the clue cards, and either have it that only the game owner plays as the guide, or the players make up their own words and categories.
8. Wits & Wagers
Moving on from the Zoom Quizzes we’ve all taken part in with varying degrees of enthusiasm, comes an advanced option for trivia, with Wits & Wagers. In it, you’ll scribble down your guess, getting points for being the closest, and being able to place even more bets on your answer and others answers. It’s rarely about what you actually know, and more about what you can guess – for example, how would you answer for how many iPods did Apple sell during the last three months of 2004? The person with the copy of the game will need to be the question master (as it were), but you can easily adapt to play with large groups online.
9. Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
Going digital shouldn’t mean you can’t solve crime in your spare time, and Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is a great place to start. Whilst there’s a lot of components to this one, you can print off the full case from the Thames Murders on the Space Cowboys website, allowing everyone to peruse the same information, working together to uncover the killer.
Card games work relatively well over Zoom, particularly if the quality of your camera can pick up the cards that you’re playing. Then, it generally works as a normal game would, though you may need to vocalise your cards a little more than usual, especially has KeyForge has unique decks to play with. With a ton of starter sets to get you going, this could be a great one to get into, ready for actual play events when the world returns to normal.
This article originally appeared in issue 52 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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