Today I’m going to be looking at tabletop games that limit physical contact during the games. Games where players don’t share or touch the same pieces and where players can sit far apart. I am also going to share board game hacks to help make some games playable with less physical contact.
Limiting physical interaction is a great way to still be able to enjoy playing games while making sure to avoid the potential spread of illness.
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With most board games everyone touches everything.
Until you sit down and think about it you may not realize how unsanitary the average board game is. In most tabletop games there are a lot of components and most of those components are touched by and passed around by all of the people playing.
Think about how many hands touch a single card in a game of Euchre, or how often that wood has been traded for sheep. We pass the dice to the next player after our turn. A player asks another player to move his meeple due to it being on the far side of the board, only to move it themselves a couple of turns later. How often has that Monopoly Money on Free Parking been handled?
Now I’m not trying to gross anyone out here, but it is something that I think people should try to be aware of. Making sure everyone is practising good hygiene with diligent hand washing should mitigate any problems caused by sharing game components.
Here are some great board games where physical interaction is limited or eliminated.
Passing things around and everyone using shared resources while common isn’t ubiquitous in board gaming. Here are some games that either eliminate it entirely or where physical interaction is very limited or can be easily reduced.
Magic the Gathering – In Magic, each player has their own deck of cards and only interacts with their own deck of cards. Yes, there are a few cards that allow you to take cards from your opponent or give cards to them and I suggest if you are trying to limit contact you just play without these. If using tokens or counters be sure to have a separate supply for each player. Magic the Gathering also has the advantage of not requiring players to even be in close proximity. There’s no reason you can’t sit two meters apart and play though you may need to read off more of your cards than usual to your opponent.
Other Dueling Card Games – I specifically called out Magic the Gathering because it is the most popular collectable card game but pretty much any of the two-player duelling deck-construction games would work. You just need to make sure that each player has their own copy of any additional components. For example, each player should have their own coin to flip and damage tokens in Pokemon or make sure each player has their own set of dice in Ashes Dawn of the Phoenixborn.
Sorcerer – This is another card game where players have their own deck of cards built before the game starts. While there is a central playing area used by both players, there is no reason one player can’t track the damage and start of the three locations being battled over and move both players pawns at the start of each round. Each player should have their own set of omen tokens and dice, that way nothing needs to be shared while playing. White Wizard Games does sell things like the Sorcerer: Dice Set separately but having two core sets is probably the safest way to play so that even when building decks you aren’t pulling from the same set.
Werewolf/Mafia – These social deduction games only require players to talk to one another and they don’t even have to be all that close together to do so. You just need enough room to fit your players so that they aren’t cramped together. The one problem with these games is the initial setting of roles. This is usually done from a shared deck of cards, while contact is limited it is still there. There are some apps out there that can handle the role selection for you.
Robo Rally – This programmed movement game requires a few tweaks, but can involve very little shared resources. Now this applies only to the newest version of the game where each player has their own deck of programming cards. There are two things you need to do to play low contact Robo Rally. First, you need to make each player a pool of resources. The upgrade deck and cubes should be split evenly between all of the players. The same thing with the various damage cards. Then when a player gains something they take it from their own personal pool. The other change is that one player is in charge of the board and moving all of the pieces on it.
Concept – If you can find a volunteer to play moderator you can play Concept with only one player touching any of the game’s components. The same player can be the clue giver for the entire game round with the rest of the players guessing. The problem here is keeping players from being crowded together trying to see the board. It may be worth splitting into teams so only part of the group needs to see the board at once. Another suggestion is to pick up the Concept XL play mat which features a much larger board.
For the Queen – This hybrid RPG/Card Game has players improvising creating characters and their relationships with each other and their Queen while on a journey to a foreign country. Normally to play you pass the deck around player to player as you ask questions but there is no reason one player couldn’t do all of the question asking. The only other shared component is an X card, which can be replaced by using a hand signal. Players don’t even have to be in the same location to play this one with today’s videoconference and messaging software, or if in the same place there’s no need to be in close contact.
Legacy of Dragonholt – This adventure game uses mechanics from the old which way style books that many of us grew up with. Books like the Fighting Fantasy series or Way of the Tiger (my personal favourite). Normally the game requires players to pass the books around and has each player making die rolls during the game to determine outcomes but there’s no reason one person couldn’t do all of this while the other players still get input into which decisions are made.
Choose Your Own Adventure House of Danger – I’m talking about the modern board game and not the classic book, though the one is based on the other. This is on the list for the exact same reason as Legacy of Dragonholt. There is no reason that one player can’t do all of the reading, rolling and tracking required to play through this mystery.
Trivial Pursuit – If you have someone willing to bite the bullet and play moderator, Trivial Pursuit games can be played with players sitting a good distance apart with only one player having contact with the game components. The moderator reads out all of the clues and also interacts with the board and all of the other game components. While I chose Trivial Pursuit specifically as it’s one of the most well known trivia games, this hack will work with most guessing games.
Gloomhaven – This one is on the list at my wife’s suggestion. As long as you make one player in charge of setting everything up and moving everything on the board, all an individual player needs to touch are their own cards and components. If you decide to go this route I suggest getting and using the excellent Gloomhaven Helper app we used for our Gloomhaven Live streams and give the job of managing that to another player who can run it on their phone or a tablet.
The Duke – In this chess-like abstract game, players each have their own bag of playing pieces. Normally when playing you end up touching both your own and your opponent’s tiles but all you need to do is ask your opponent to pick up a piece you are going to capture and then there’s no reason you need to touch each other’s components. This, of course, works best if you each own your own copy of the game. Note this hack will work just as well for Chess itself as well as War Chest another favourite of mine.
Star Wars Destiny – This combination of dice game and card game has all of the isolation benefits of a trading card game. Players can construct their decks and select their dice in private before getting together and then when it’s time to play they just need to make sure that everyone has their own resource and damage counters. This is another one where players don’t really need to be together to play either, but that only works well if both players know the cards by sight.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective – You can play this mystery game with one player doing all the component manipulation while the other players help with the deduction part. Even better, you can split the duties. Have one person hold the newspaper, one with the telephone registry, and another person taking notes. You can all stare at the map from a distance or take pictures of it on your mobile devices.
While most games require players to touch and interact and be in contact with many bits and bobs not every game requires this level of sharing. These are just some of the games that can be played that greatly reduce the amount of contact required while playing. Have you thought of any others? Let us know in the comments!