Another game question for the covid pandemic (old-fashioned edition)
April 12, 2020 8:29 PM   Subscribe

I have looked at the answers to recent game questions. But I haven’t found what I am hoping for. More inside.

Ideally, I would like to find a site that:
* Allows me to play against 1-3 other members of my family (whom I don’t live with). This is the biggest requirement, the only point to doing this.
* Allows online chatting (at least text, if not audio and video).
* Has old-fashioned, basic “traditional” games that we are more likely to already be familiar with (such as Scrabble, canasta, rummy, Parcheesi, etc.). I figure if we have to learn the game plus how to work the site, that will be needless obstacles.
* Is easy to learn.

I am willing to pay a little.

I have seen the Internet Scrabble Club. But I couldn’t figure out how to play with just my family and not random internet people (nothing against random internet people, but I am trying to connect to my family).

Another site would only allow me to invite people through Facebook. I want my dad and sister to just be able to get on to a game with me directly through the site.

In case it matters, we are ages 55-80. None of us play video games. But we play board games or card games once or twice a year and did often while I was growing up.
posted by NotLost to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Would people be playing on computers, mobile devices, or both? That detail will likely change the available answers.

Tabletop Simulator might be the perfect answer, or it might be too complicated. I believe it's computer-only. They often have a 4-pack on sale for $30, but it looks like it's regular price right now, at least, directly from Steam.
posted by stormyteal at 9:10 PM on April 12, 2020

Response by poster: People will be most likely using laptops.
posted by NotLost at 9:17 PM on April 12, 2020

Agreed with above answer. I have a crappy work laptop and yesterday played through Viticulture with 5 other people on Tabletop Simulator (commonly TTS online). People have made free versions of tons of games for TTS, far more than I have ever heard of.

The hurdle, of course, is getting everyone to install Steam and then buy TTS. The intro tutorial is good for getting familiar with the controls. You could always do a Zoom (or equivalent) with screen sharing to show everyone how to get going. Steam also has native voice chat.

Board Game Arena would be another option, but I haven't tried them as they're pretty slammed right now.
posted by booooooze at 9:36 PM on April 12, 2020

Board Game Arena has been adding capacity. Also their heaviest usage appears to be European, so if you’ll be on during eg evenings in California you’d be fine.

I believe they have in their non-premium section lots of public domain games of the sort you are considering.

The interface for actually playing games is very good, but the interface for setting up a table or starting a new game can be a bit opaque.
posted by nat at 12:23 AM on April 13, 2020 [1 favorite] lets you play 20 games at a time for free and it has a membership option so you can play like 100 at a time, it starts at $11 for 3 months. You can play with friends or strangers and they even have tournaments. I don't know if they have any four player games, and I know they have messaging but I don't know if is it allowed in the games themselves.

The games are not required to happen in real time, but most have time limits. You log in and see your turns. It might be nice for people spread across time zones.
posted by soelo at 10:44 AM on April 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you want advice on ISC but you have to both me logged in and one of you can type "Match $USERNAME" and that other person will get an alert that you have challenged them to a game and can click OK and then the game starts. Happy to run a practice game with you if you'd like to try it out.
posted by jessamyn at 10:51 AM on April 13, 2020

Response by poster: These are good suggestions! I am researching to decide between them. Thank you!
posted by NotLost at 9:22 PM on April 13, 2020

I've been trying to solve the same problem, so thanks for this Ask! Today I looked into both of the options that were mentioned here. The official Scrabble available on Steam looks to be single player, or local players, only; there is a user-contributed version but it looks different visually; walking my family through this process looked hard. So I bailed. I also looked into the Internet Scrabble Club, but when I lost my password, they sent it to me in cleartext, which also made it feel like not a good plan for aging family members who I strongly suspect reuse their passwords.

The solution I landed on - "official" internet Scrabble exists on There is a free version. I am a paranoiac with ad blockers, so I signed up for the paid (ad-free) version and played a game against a robot. The interface was intuitive and you don't have to download anything. For my particular version of this problem I'm hoping this will be a winner. I haven't looked to see what else they have, but I think they do have other games.
posted by eirias at 9:29 AM on April 25, 2020

This article has 3 more options listed, including buying the same game on Steam and playing against each other.
posted by soelo at 8:21 AM on April 28, 2020

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