As you may know, I’m very active on Yucata.de, a website where you can play over 60 games online with other people around the world on a play-and-pass basis. I also frequent The Crucible Online a fair bit, where I play with my KeyForge decks against others. You can find me as “oliverkinne” on both, so feel free to invite me to a game. I also play a few games against an AI on my smartphone, such as Star Realms and Terra Mystica. I would say I still prefer playing with my friends and family, because I love the face-to-face social element that you just don’t get with online games. However, online games, and I include apps as well as websites in this term, offer a number of advantages that make playing that way more enjoyable in other ways.
The first thing that comes to mind is score keeping. Online games automatically add or subtract points from your score as you play, and they automatically work out end gaming scoring as well. There is never a moment where you wonder whether you moved your score marker up, or down, as you take actions. Nobody will complain that they had forgotten to give themselves points a round or two earlier and that that would have won them the game.
The same is true for all book keeping of course, whether it’s your resources, money, energy, workers or victory points. Nobody has to remember to pay the resources to buy an item, or recycle their energy pool at the end of each round. Players can focus on their game and their next turn, rather than checking whether other players actually paid the money when they bought the sheep. I feel booking is a relatively large burden that’s removed by online games and frees up my thinking to focus on my strategy.
Online games often make it very clear what the options are on your turn, often warning you if you try to do something, when it might be better to do something else first. I’m thinking particularly Star Realms here, which allows you to play your cards in any order, but suggests you play certain cards first to benefit from them. However, all online games that I have tried highlight your options, making it easier to decide what you should do next, and as a visual person myself, it really helps me.
The highlighting of options is based on the fact that online games have the game’s rules built in, which is great, because it removes ambiguity. I think we all know times when we came across an edge case in a game and neither the rules nor FAQs nor BoardGameGeek could clarify the situation. It was up to the player group to decide how they wanted to interpret it. Discussing the possible interpretations and choosing one that is fair and doesn’t affect earlier decisions made by other players takes time and can make someone in the group feel the rule went against them, which isn’t good. Online games remove all of that, saving time and avoiding frustration and discontent.
Online games aren’t all about advantages of course. For example, when you play a game using the play-and-pass method, where players aren’t playing the game “live”, at the same time, but take turns that could be hours, or even days, apart, you will find it harder to remember your strategy or your next turn. On the other hand, this way of playing can allow people with analysis paralysis (AP) to feel less pressured and make the experience more enjoyable, because the other players aren’t there, waiting for you to take your turn.
As already mentioned, the social element disappears in online games, but maybe that’s actually an advantage. Playing online may feel more comfortable for people and can allow them to meet new people that they wouldn’t otherwise. It will depend on what you want to get out of the experience and how comfortable you are in a social environment. So you will have to decide for yourself if you see it as a pro or a con.
For solo players, having an AI, or several, to play against is also great, and online games fill that need pretty well a lot of the time. Mind you, I do know that some AI is lacking and very easy to beat, therefore making the solo mode pointless. So it’s not all perfect, but at least there is an opportunity here that answers to an ever growing need in the community.
So overall I would say that online games fulfil a lot of requirements and definitely have their place in the tabletop games industry. I will continue to enjoy playing them, just as much as I enjoy playing games with friends during our weekly games night, and with family whenever we can. I enjoy all of these things for different reasons of course, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy one more than I enjoy the other.
If you have played games on websites or apps before, what is your experience? How do you feel about playing online versus face-to-face? Have you discovered new games online that you wouldn’t have come across otherwise? Or was it your games group that introduced you to more new games? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.