Physically Distant – Socially Close

In Ireland it is almost the exception not to have a close friend or family member that lives in some far flung land. In this age of physical distancing, one of the major upsides has been how much more contact we have had with those loved ones; contact we perhaps took for granted when they were only a couple of hours on a cheap flight away.

Zoom appears to have been the big winner out of this. A platform which I’d never heard of until a few weeks ago is now ubiquitous. This surge in popularity has exposed some problems with Zoom (listen here; We Live On Zoom Now – And That Might Be a Problem, for an interesting discussion on this), which is worth keeping in mind. Other software exists, but during this crises the easy to use, fast, and most importantly free nature of Zoom has catapulted it into most of our homes.

Last night we played 30 Seconds with some of our besties in London. This would not have happened without the intrusion of covid19 into all of our lives, and I am sad about that. I hope that we get to keep in contact like this when this thing eventually dissipates!

Below are a few games we’d recommend playing with your personal diaspora.

30 Seconds – €29

One of the things we loved about this last night was watching our English and Scotish competitors tackle the very Irish clues! If you don’t know it already, 30 Seconds is the Irish designed quick thinking, fast talking game which has you describe a list of words to your teammates in 30 seconds. The more you get right the further you move on the track; minus some movement based on the roll of two terribly irritating dice. We set up a three way conversation between a laptop in london, a laptop in our living room and a phone balanced on a tripod and some books which we pointed down at the board/cards for the other team to read. It worked very perfectly. We lost despite the home field advantage.

Playing with some younger gamers? There is a junior version which is just as much fun (and currently on sale at €25!)

Codenames – €22 (currently out of stock, expect it back in next week)

This will be the next game we tackle remotely, hopefully this week. In codenames two teams face off attempting to locate a certain number of spies (cards) in a grid. Each card has a word, and each team assigns a spymaster that is given a special card which tells them where their team’s spies are hidden. The spymasters give their team-mates clues, a single word, and a number, which tells the team how many words in the grid the clue refers to. It is very easy to pick up, although I personally struggle with being the spymaster!  To play remotely, simply set up a camera designated specifically to look at the grid of words. For the code cards, the spymasters need to be looking at the same codecard. One way of doing this is to set up a message group (for example Whatsapp) in advance, and dump a number of photographs of different cards into that. Roll some dice and use the photograph which matches that number! Easy(ish…)

Just One – €27

Another word game, but this time you will get to work together with those people that you like so much! In Just One, which won the prestigious Game of the Year award at Essen Spiel in 2019, players work together to uncover as many of the mystery words as they can. Each round there is a guesser that does not get to see the word. All the other players write clues and share their clues, with any duplicates being discarded. You need your clue to be relevant enough for the guesser to find their way to the answer, but original enough that it will not be eliminated! This game is very easily adapted to play via webcam, as the guesser simply needs to close their eyes or look away while their teammates select a word and compare clues. We highly recommend!

There are lots of other ways to play remotely. Many of the best games now have app versions, Star Realms and Onitama stand out as excellent implementations which I have played, but there are many more. I know a lot of people playing on BoardgameArena if that is your thing.

Almost any cooperative games, like Pandemic, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, or House of Danger (the later two should also be back in stock next week) should be workable. Watch out for companies releasing resources to help with this, for example downloadable pdfs released recently for Sherlock Holmes CD.

For me, the joy of gaming is still very much in connecting with people. I find the physicality of board and card games helps with this (- don’t get me wrong, one of the highlights of my week these past few weeks has been playing Mario Kart with a friend online, but that is a different thing). Using paper and cardboard, even through a webcam, helps maintain that feeling of connection I enjoy.

Whatever way you play, the most important thing as always, is to have fun.

Stay safe, stay home, and play games.

Thank you


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