What is the easiest solution for implementing a board game online?
June 3, 2021 4:55 AM   Subscribe

As a science outreach project, my colleagues and I designed a board game to illustrate some general principles of genome evolution. What's the easiest way to turn this into a browser-based online game?

The physical version of the game requires hexagonal game tiles with custom graphics, a customised deck of cards, and a pair of standard 6-sided dice. Thanks to my board game geek lab members, this game is i) actually kind of fun ii) deeply flawed (the boss always loses, clearly something is wrong).

Things being what they are, we'd like to implement an online version of this game. At the most basic level, I'm looking for a way to build the pieces, and allow the player to move them. I expect in the long-term we'd have to program the rules of the game in, but for the moment I'd be happy with the basics. (I'm aware that I'll also have to tackle hosting eventually, too.)

The tutorials I've found are complex and require several different tools cobbled together to get what I need, including custom code. I can code, I even like it, but don't have infinite time to spend on this. Most drag-and-drop software seems focused on video game creation. Do y'all know of any simple/easier/faster way to implement this game?

Any advice gratefully received.
posted by texasrulz to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you looked into Tabletop Simulator on Steam? I’m pretty sure this is exactly what it’s for.

Disclaimer: not browser-based and I’m not sure how much coding is required to implement your own game.
posted by mekily at 6:18 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]

https://playingcards.io/ is a website that gives participants a shared view of game pieces and that they can all move around on screen either by drag and drop or with other control widgets. It won't enforce any rules but you can create custom cards and customize other aspects fairly easily. You can create custom game pieces and boards, and while I don't think it does dice it does come with spinners that would likely work for your needs.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:12 AM on June 3

Tabletopia is a browser-based board game simulator, which works on a freemium model: many games are free to play, but users pay to play others. They have help pages that cover how to make your own boardgame playable on their platform.

My understanding is that tabletop simulator can do more work for your players -- enforcing rules, calculating scores, etc -- while tabletopia just gives your players the stuff you've created (boards, cards, etc) and relies on them following the rules and moving stuff around as if they were playing a physical boardgame.

I haven't used tabletop simulator, but I've played a bunch of games in tabletopia and it works pretty well.
posted by metaBugs at 7:32 AM on June 3

I've seen indy designers make their game on board game arena very easily. It depends on how complex your game is, but it could be worth checking out.
posted by bbqturtle at 7:33 AM on June 3

Based on my experience, Tabletop Simulator can do what you want, but the downsides (which may not matter in your situation) are that (A) each user has to buy it separately and (B) it is a system resource hog—like, the gaming laptop I bought less than a year ago can't run TTS and basically anything else simultaneously, not even a browser window, without the fans singing ominously.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 8:17 AM on June 3

I'll just mention you could find a developer to build it for you using upwork.com. of course you'd have to pay them, and you'd be swapping development effort for management effort, but i think it'd be easier.
posted by askmehow at 9:06 AM on June 3

Best answer: I’ve played with most of these. Comparison:

Boardgamearena essentially requires programming your game. It’s more intense than you describe.

Tabletop Simulator is a basic physics simulator set up for board games. It’s probably the easiest to get started, but requires all players to have the software.

Tabletopia is a browser based physics simulator set up for board games. It’s a bit harder to implement games, but not unreasonable. It is my first suggestion.

Playingcards.io set up for card games but works for all board games. It has an interface for the casual user that many find more intuitive. Depending on your game, the capabilities of the tool may be limiting and require workarounds, or not. It would be my close second suggestion.
posted by meinvt at 4:45 PM on June 3

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who answered! I've marked meinvt's comprehensive reply as best answer, but I'm grateful to the rest of you too.
(And oh lord yes, I'd be happy to turn this into a management problem, if only there were money to throw at it.)
posted by texasrulz at 10:00 AM on June 7

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