This week I spent no time at the game table. That’s right. Not once did I sit down and play a game with friends around the table. I think our Extra Life event, which I talked about last week, wiped everyone out. I know it took it’s toll on me.
Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t get in any gaming at all. I did manage to finish up a few games on Board Game Arena.
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Since Eric Franklin introduced me to Board Game Arena (BGA) earlier this year I’ve been using it pretty regularly. I’ve always got a few games going on there. At first, it was only two at a time, but as of right now I currently have seven games going. So again I have to thank Eric for introducing me to this platform. Without it, I would have nothing to talk about today.
So this week I’m looking at some games that finished in the past week specifically talking about the BGA versions of these games. Most of these are games I’ve talked about in the past but there’s one newcomer.
The game I’ve played the most on Board Game Arena so far is 7 Wonders. This was the first game I was invited to play and we started with four players. We are now up to 6 players and whenever one game ends we just start up a rematch and play again.
At this point, we are just using the base game rules. It doesn’t look like BGA has the expansions available which I find a bit surprising.
This implementation of 7 Wonders is fantastic. Besides looking great all of the information you need is right there, easy to read and very clear. When you mouse over a card you get the full rules. I have no complaints at all about how 7 Wonders plays on BGA. I actually find it easier to play here than in person because I can better see what all of the other players are doing.
One of the best things about Tokaido is how good it plays at various player counts. So I often have multiple tables going at once. We have a big 5 player game going. Then I’ve got a two-player game going just with my wife. While Sean, my podcast co-host, has set up a three player game where we are walking the path backward. All of the game modes work and work well.
I’ve noted many times that Board Game Arena is not the best place to learn a new game. My experience with Tokaido, specifically Crossroads is part of this. While some of the information you want is easy to find, and there are some good pop up tips on a mouseover, you really need to read the full rules and know what the various board locations do and what the card effects are to fully enjoy this game.
Unlike 7 Wonders, I would much rather be playing my physical copy of Tokaido.
Up next is Race for the Galaxy. I currently have two games going of this.
Similar to Tokaido, we started off with just the base rules but have since added The Gathering Storm expansion. This is a good thing. I think Gathering Storm is a required expansion and Race isn’t half the game without it.
One thing Board Game Arena shines at here is how modular it is in regards to the expansion. You can play with just the new cards. You can use the new drafting variant. You can play with the goal tiles or without. Or you can mix and match all of these options.
We’ve been mixing up the rules we are using. After trying it a few times, I don’t actually recommend the drafting variant when playing online. It just takes too long to get through the entire deck of cards with players who are not all playing at the same time. I think our first round, it took 5 days just to draft our cards. That’s 5 days for game set up.
Overall the BGA implementation of Race for the Galaxy is decent. It’s not perfect. I would say it falls in between Tokaido and 7 Wonders. It’s definitely not a good way to learn Race for the Galaxy but it’s a good way to play it if you already know the rules.
And now something new: Dice Forge.
I went looking to see if I could play Dice Forge on Board Game Arena after finding a fantastic deal on the game through Tabletop Gaming Deals. My board game budget isn’t what it used to be, so I’m now a bit more cautious about buying games blind. In this case, I really wanted to try before I bought. I was very happy to see that Dice Forge is in fact on BGA. So D and I tried it out.
Our first game we messed up setting it up and invited a full table of strangers to play. This was a bit embarrassing as this was another example of BGA not being a good place to learn a game. Playing with strangers made this worse as we couldn’t just fumble around and click things to see what happened. It wasn’t a great experience.
Then we figured out how to start up a two player game and have since finished three of those. The game is interesting. I know a lot of people talk about how unique and brilliant it is, but I think those people must have missed the classic Rio Grande Game Rattlebones.
Both Dice Forge and Rattlebones are dice building games. Games where you all start off with the same dice, you roll them to generate resources and then spend those resources to improve your dice. Actually, that’s all Rattlebones is. You just keep improving your dice, buying new faces every round and hoping to turn good rolls into victory points while moving around a track. It’s very simple and very well done. Each roll is a separate event and there’s nothing to track between rounds besides one resource: stars.
Dice Forge is quite a bit more complicated than Rattlebones. You have four different resources to track. Three of which are tracked on a player board and the last being victory points that just keep adding up. Players only start with so much storage space for the other resources and resources not spent carry over from turn to turn. This alone makes the game feel very different from its predecessor. Added to that, only part of the game is about upgrading your dice, I’ve found over our plays that buying cards is almost as important as making sure that you have the right faces on your dice.
Overall Dice Forge is more in-depth and has more strategy and tactics than Rattlebones. I would actually consider it a great next step game from Rattlebones. Except for the fact that no one seems to own or have heard of Rattlebones.
As for playing on BGA, the implementation seems good. It’s definitely got to be easier to swap die faces on BGA instead of fiddling with plastic dice and chits. Having all the scoring and resource management taken care of is nice as well. Though I do feel I’m losing out not actually getting to hold the dice in my hand and roll them.
The important question is: did playing on BGA convince me to buy the game? Almost. I was convinced but it took us a couple of days to figure it out and by that time the sale I had found had ended. If I ever see the game that cheap again I will definitely pick it up. As time goes on I may be willing to pay a bit more than that, but not yet.
The last game I’ve been playing regularly on Board Game Arena is Terra Mystica.
I haven’t gotten as many games of Terra Mystica in as the other games and that’s solely because it’s a bigger, more complex, longer game. We are only playing three player but all of us play when we can. There are a lot of little things that affect other players and require them to take actions in the middle of another player’s turn, that actually make this pretty horrible for playing turn-based like this online. For example, every time you build and another player has the option of giving up XP for power points, you have to pause your turn and wait for them to make that decision.
Now in this specific case, BGA knows this is a problem and you can actually set a threshold for how much XP you are willing to spend by default. This works great at the beginning of the game but I’ve found once I’ve burned some power, I need to more closely track it and want to actually see the board state every time I have the option.
Besides how long it takes and how often you are waiting for another player to do something, Terra Mystica is done very well on BGA. There are a lot of moving parts and ways to score points in this game and it’s great to have a computer keep track of everything. A few times I’ve (unintentionally) tried to make an illegal move and BGA has stopped me. This is one of the benefits of playing games this way. No eXtreme version here.
Overall I’m really digging playing Terra Mystica on Board Game Arena. It’s given me a chance to try out way more races than I ever did with my physical copy. Again I wouldn’t suggest trying to learn the game through BGA, but it’s great for trying out new strategies and just playing around with the various factions.
That’s if for last week. This week I’m really hoping that I actually get to sit down and play some games in person. While I love having the option to play online, I definitely miss the social aspects of playing in person.