Sunday, 5 April 2020

Gaming with Tabletop Simulator

So, you've joined the NoBoG discord, you've picked up Tabletop Simulator for Steam, and now you're ready to play games !

What do you mean you've done none of that ? Details on how to join the NoBoG discord can be found on the handy dandy guide here on the blog -

In Tabletop Simulator you're either going to be hosting a game, or joining a game. If you just wanna join someone elses game, that's very straight forward, wait for the invite, pick your player colour, and that is pretty much it. Hosting a game is a bit more tricky, but here you get total freedom of finding games you want to play, and seeing if you can entice other people to play with you. We'll go over both how to host and how to join here.

Hosting a Game

If you are not planning on hosting a game, and just want to join others games, then you can skip this and go find the Joining a Game guide below. But at some point you'll likely get the itch to setup your own game. . . .

As well as purchasable DLC for Tabletop Simulator, there is an enormous library of board games available as a "mod" through the workshop. The chances are if the game has been around for more than a month, you're going to be able to find it on Tabletop Simulator - copyright strikes not withstanding.

If you've already hosted a game on TTS before, and have downloaded it already, you don't need to find it again - it will be saved locally for you - you can skip to the Creating A Hosted Game part if you need a reminder on how to do that. If however, you are thinking of a cool game to host and want to see if it's available then you need to search the workshop.

Finding A Game You're Interested In

We'll go through an example here at every stage. I want to host a game of Archipelago. Let's see if we can find that in the workshop for TTS. In our game library within Steam we make sure Tabletop Simulator is selected which should show us a page like this :
Screenshot 1

 Circled in red in the screenshot is the link for the Workshop where we will be able to find all the games available in TTS. Clicking on Workshop will take us to the Workshop screen. If your screen doesn't look like this, you can't see a Workshop link and instead has three dots like this :

Then the navigation bar is simply a bit compressed. Click on the three dots to open a drop down menu and select Workshop.

Within the TTS workshop page there is a search facility. The screen should look like this, the red circle shows where the search is.

So in our case, we want to go looking for Archipelago. Is it available within TTS ? We type in Archipelago and hit return. . .
What do you know, there are in fact many versions of Archipelago that people have uploaded. There is even one with the expansion ( War and Peace ) included. So we'll take a look at that one. Click on the item takes us to its workshop page.

We can scroll about on this page and check out the comments and the like to see what people have to say about it, but, to grab this for ourselves we simply click on the Subscribe button.

Once we've subscribed we are done in the workshop, now we fire up Tabletop Simulator ( the big green Play button in Screenshot 1 ).

Creating a hosted game 

When TTS has loaded, hit the Create button and select Multiplayer :

We get to name our table, possibly add a password and set the max number of players ( if you'd like people to spectate, note that max players will limit *all* players including spectators ).
Hit the Create Server button ( not the big Create button ), and you'll be taken to a screen which allows you to choose what game you want to host. Here you can pick from "classic" games which as a hardened board gamer you probably wont be interested in, DLC that you might have bought, or, for us, as we grabbed something from the workshop, a workshop mod. In this screenshot you can see that Archipelago is now visible as we subscribed to it.
Clicking on Archipelago will fire up the game with the mod. If it is the first time you've done this, content will now be downloaded from the workshop ( very quickly ), and the game setup.
Hooray. Archipelago is now loaded for us ! Right mouse button rotates our camera, W,A,S,D will move it about, and mouse scroll wheel will zoom in and out.

To get playing this fine game you're gonna need to pick a Colour. At the top right of the screen will be your name, clicking on this will reveal a menu to Change Color or Change Team. By selecting Change Color you will get to pick from being a spectator or one of the players. Lets click on it.

TTS is now asking us to Choose Color. We do this by clicking on one of the colour circles scattered around the tabletop. Player colours here are Green, Yellow, Purple, Red and Blue, whilst spectator colours are Grey. Lets pick Red by clicking on the red circle.
And that's it. It has now played our name as the Red player, and we get access to the red secret area. Note that in TTS some areas are coloured in your player colour - this means anything you place in there is hidden from other players, so you can flip your cards or the like and they wont be able to see them. You might also in some games have a similar area for a hand of cards where people will be able to see how many cards you have, but not what they are.

All you need now at this point is people to play with ! People can either join by finding your server, or you can invite them in . . . At the top right of the screen there is a plus icon. Clicking on this will open a Steam window allowing you to invite people from your friends list.
Clicking on the invite button by a players name will send a Steam invite to that player to come play your game. If they accept they will join your game and automatically download the game you're playing from you. No need for setup !

And that's it. You're ready to play your hosted game in TTS !

Joining A Game

So you wanna join a TTS game that someone else is hosting. You can do this in a few ways.


The easy lazy way is to get them to invite you into the game. And this is pretty much how you probably want to join a TTS game. In order to do this however you need to be a Steam Friend. Assuming that is the case ( and if it's not check out elsewhere how to add a Steam friend ), you can receive an invite from them. If you're already inside TTS it will look something like :

Here it is telling us we've been invited to a game and to "check steam overlay". The steam overlay can be accessed by pressing SHIFT + TAB to make it appear / disappear. If we hit SHIFT + TAB we see -

Clicking on play game will join us into the server ready to play the game. Note that it's not required you already have TTS running for this - Steam will also fire up the game for you if it's not running, and you won't have to muck about with the "Steam Overlay" either. After joining the game, you'll get a download progress bar and eventually join their game :
... and we'll be prompted to pick a player colour. Click on one of the coloured circles to do that.

Join via Steam Friends Join Game

If someone is playing TTS on your friends list - and for some inexplicable reason they haven't thrown you an invite - , you can invite yourself to join their game ( assuming enough space... ) !Right click on their name in the Steam Friends overlay and then click on Join Game
Good etiquette would obviously state that you have permission or otherwise of the person with the game.

Join via Server Search

Another way you can join is via finding their game on the main search from TTS. Click on the JOIN button inside TTS where it will ( slowly ) download a list of all available tables. This is a slower clunkier way to join games, but useful where you either don't know the person at all, or they are not on your friends list. Eventually you'll find the server you're looking for. You can filter this by name, or by friends to help sort the chaff from the wheat !
Here we can see a server called "Hello Bork." hosted by Weird ( Lewis ! ). Selecting this and clicking Connect would allow us to join the game. ( Note that there are a massive 2825 gaming tables currently being played on !! )

The (very) basics of Interaction

There are many tips and tricks you can use inside TTS to help play the game. But for the most basic of interactions. . .

Picking something up

You can pick up a game piece, card, pretty much anything, by left clicking on it and holding down before moving your mouse. To release the item, let go of the mouse button. On decks of cards, a short hold of mouse button before moving will take one card from the deck. If you hold the mouse button down for a longer period you will take the entire deck.
Picking up a pawn in Colonists. Note the shadow beneath indicating where
it will land if you drop it.
You can also select ( and then pickup ) many things at once by drag clicking a selection box :
And to move all those things, once again left click and hold down.
Moving lots of things at once !

Right Click

Whilst many hot keys and shortcuts exist, by and large you can explore the full range of interactions with something by simply right clicking on it to pop up a context menu. Here we right click on a deck of cards to show us what we can do here.

Shuffling is a very common action when it comes to a deck of cards, and you can do that from the popup menu. More veteran users of TTS may shuffle a deck by picking it up and "shaking" it. An example of one of many such UI tricks in TTS. Search is also another useful command for a deck of cards - showing you the whole deck at once and allowing you to quickly pull a card out of it.

Between the left click and right click interactions you should pretty much be able to master most of what the TTS UI has to offer.

Player Area

A special area will exist in front of a player where you can place cards into your "hand". This area allows you to flip cards without anyone else seeing them, and also places cards at the bottom of the screen for ease of viewing. Hovering over any of these cards and pressing ALT will zoom the card up. You can place items into your own area by simply picking them up and dragging them into the highlighted box. For cards you can also deal yourself cards from the right context menu, or hovering over a deck and hitting a number on the keyboard indicating how many cards you want to deal yourself. These will go straight into your hand.

A single card in my hand. Note that it appears on the tabletop
as well as fixed at the bottom of the screen.

To check out all the keys available to you in the game, click on the Menu, Configuration and Controls Tab.
The F Key is your best friend

That's it ! All of the above should get you well on your way to successfully gaming in TTS.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

One Old NoBoGers Experience Getting Set Up With BoardGameArena for a NoBoG Virtual Tuesday.

I’m a long-time boardgamer who loves being at a table with other gamers, moving wooden pieces around on gaudily-printed cardboard mats.  The lockdown has stopped all this, but hasn’t stopped me gaming!  I’ve never been much of an online player; the last PC games I finished were Castle Wolfenstein and Prince of Persia 1 (yes, the originals, when they came out).  So I thought I’d share my experience of getting set up to play a game this week at Virtual NoBoG, in case it helps anyone else who’s also missing our gaming gatherings.   This post describes Board Game Arena (BGA for short), there are several other ways to play at NoBoG which will be covered in other posts.
On Tuesday at NoBoG I played Puerto Rica on BGA:

Board Game Arena is a free-to-join&play online boardgame site where all you need is a browser: it works with PC / Mac, iOS and Android tablets, smartphones, Wii U, Playstation, Xbox One, ....  You don’t need to install anything on your PC.  When you open the site you’ll see this:
Scroll down……and further down..… all the way to the bottom of the page, and you’ll find where to join.  Chose a player name (it will tell you if you’ve picked one that’s already taken).   This is the name that others will see when you play.  Once you’ve got a player name, enter your email and make up a password, and it will send you an email for confirmation.  You don’t need to wait for this email to arrive, you can start in straight away.

You can chose some games that you know to add to your profile, or you can skip to the game tutorial step….

Here you can get a game tutorial.  I suggest you give it a try, to get the feel of how the controls work.  You could skip this, but it’s quite useful and very friendly to newcomers.

Once you are done with the tutorial you get to the main site.  Since you are new to the site it will point you to a few of the home page controls (it’s only 4 steps, and is useful info):

Welcome to online boardgaming.  By now you should have received the email they sent you;

Click on the link in the email.   If it asks, confirm you’re not a robot, and you’re in!

Now you’re all ready to join Virtual NoBoG on a Monday or Tuesday (via Discord) and get into a game.  Bork’s excellent & easy-to-read post on on getting started with Virtual NoBoG has covered Discord for beginners and beyond, and there are NoBoGlins out there who will help you get set up if you’re having problems, just post on the Facebook page to ask.

To get back on BGA the login button is on the top right:

At NoBoG Tuesday in the Virtual Brewhouse various gaming options were discussed.  Me, Stu, Sam and Tim decided to play Puerto Rico by Andreas Seyfarth.
In this game  players take the roles of colonial governors on the island of Puerto Rico, getting victory points by shipping goods and constructing buildings on Caribbean islands.  Each player uses a separate small board with spaces for city buildings, plantations, and resources. Shared between the players are ships, a trading house, and a supply of resources and doubloons.

First we had to “friend” each other on BGA, via the Community page:

Stu has played Puerto Rico online a lot, so he did the teach session.  I had played the real game, Sam and Tim hadn’t.  The teach was OK, although doing it online took a bit longer than in real life.

The interface to the game is pretty intuitive and doesn’t take long to get the hang of.  If needed you can start a game for the teach, play a learning round or two, then if everyone agrees to “abandon game” there are no lost reputation points and you can start afresh.  We played a no-pressure, long time-per-turn game, but if you like speed boardgames that can also be done.   We continued to talk on Discord so could ask Stu questions and have some table chat as the game played.  It worked well and was fun.

Here’s the final board, a win for Stu with a close game, just 5pts between 1st and 4th:

With all the games on BGA you can watch videos and get online tutorials, and there are plenty of game review and teaching channels on YouTube.  On a NoBoG night don’t worry if you don’t know a game that others are suggesting, tell people and they will be happy to have a chat about whether this game is something you might enjoy, and will do a teaching session first.

You can also find NoBoG on BGA: the group is called "Norwich Board Gamers".  You don't have to join the group, but it will make it easier for other NoBoGlins to find you and invite you into a game.

One note about premium membership of BGA.  There are many games you can set up and play free, and you can play at tables of all of the games on BGA without premium membership, but many of the more complex eurogames require premium membership if you want to start your own table and invite your friends to play.  Here’s the message you get:
Plenty of NoBoGlins have BGA premium, so they will be setting up the games.  If you want to go premium you can join for just one month (£3.90) or for a year (£22.80).  BGA is not pushy about this at all, but premium does give you some cool extras like game stats, ability to chose your colour, and hotseat play (all playing on the same PC).

The BGA site is seeing heavy traffic at the moment, and the admins are doing a great job of increasing capacity daily, but there are limits so it may be frustrating to get logged on sometimes (USA evenings mainly).  Don’t give up too quickly, you’ll most likely get through in 5 mins and they’ve sorted it out so that once you’re playing a game it usually runs OK (if it seems to freeze in-game just refresh the browser - F5 on a PC - and it should catch up).  It’s a site run by gamers for gamers and they’re doing a great job of keeping people playing.

I hope this helps you get into the new Virtual NoBoG.  I look forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

NoBoG Rebooted

The Machines Have Rebelled !

NoBoG has gone virtual - gaming online on Mondays and Tuesdays 7.30pm ish on a virtual board gaming platform of your choice.

Join us on Discord for the usual pre game chatter and board game arranging !

Discord link -

NoBoG - down, but never out, gaming in a socially distancing brave new world.

( btw this is NOT an April Fools post ! )