Socially Distanced

Hey! I’m Max Seidman, the newest member of the Green Mountain Gamers board.

Like many of us, I come to tabletop gaming for the in-person interactions with my friends and soon-to-be friends. And while I have been playing some tabletop games online, it’s just not the same. Instead, I’ve been trying to find games to safely in person.

I look for 3 traits in a game that can be played socially distanced in person: it must be able to be played outdoors, it must be able to be played 6 feet away (while wearing masks), and ideally it should be able to be played with only one player touching the components. Here are my top three!

#3: The Chameleon

The Chameleon is a social deduction game where all players know an answer from a card, except for one player: The Chameleon. Each player says a short phrase to try to prove that they know the answer, without giving it away to The Chameleon, while The Chameleon tries to say a vague enough phrase that they blend in. It’s easily played distanced, and outdoors (you may have to weigh down the central key card), since the core of the game is just talking to other players. It’s not perfect, though, because at the start of each round you do have to shuffle and pass the role cards around. Also the high player count means maybe this isn’t the best solution to socially distanced games.

#2: Insider

Insider by Oink Games is another social deduction game. At the start of the game, the Master looks at an answer card, and then all players close their eyes while the secret Insider player also looks at the card. Then the players have 5 minutes to play 20 questions with the Master to identify the answer. The trick is, the Insider only wins if the players identify the answer, and they don’t give themselves away. Meanwhile, the other players only win if they identify the answer AND the Insider. So the Insider has to try to subtly help the others find the answer, without giving themselves away. This game has a similar setup to The Chameleon, except that there are no intricate role cards to pass around. In The Chameleon, each role card must be scrutinized because it helps you identify the answer during the game. But in Insider,  you could have the Master simply flash players’ role cards at them from across the table, while the others keep their eyes closed. Since the core of the game, like The Chameleon, is just talking, Insider hits all 3 of my criteria for a safe in-person game.

#1: Wavelength

My number 1 socially distance-able board game is Wavelength, and it passes my tests with flying colors. Wavelength is a 2-team game of reading your ally’s mind. It centers around this cool plastic contraption that stands up in the box. Each round, one team flips a card with a spectrum on it, like “Round to Pointy.” One player on the team randomly spins a dial on the contraption, and peeks at where on the hemisphere the “target zone” is. Then they give a single phrase as a clue to their teammates. Their teammates must move a needle to point to the area on the spectrum where the target is. Once they’ve made their guess, they open a window on the contraption to see if their needle lines up with the target. This game is great for socially distanced gameplay because it’s extremely easy for one player to control all the components for everyone else; when it’s time for the main player to look at the target, everyone else closes their eyes, and the owner of the game points the contraption at them and opens the window. When it’s time for the players to move the needle, they simply say “a little more” or “a little less” until they’re happy with its position! In addition, there are no small components that are hard to see from 6 feet away. I highly recommend picking up Wavelength to play outside while the weather is still okay!

Those are my choices for socially distanced games! You’ll notice that all my choices are party games. It’s just hard to find strategy games with components that won’t blow away and aren’t handed between players. I’d love to hear your suggestions for socially distance-able games (strategy, party, or any)!

Until we meet again!

Max

Lemonade

Hi! I’m Chuck Burkins, the treasurer of the Green Mountain Gamers, one of the original founders of GMG, and the guy who usually runs the Summer Game Day! Here’s my COVID-19 gaming story:

Do you know that moment at the game day where you open the box of a game you’ve never played before, and try to figure out whether you want to go through the work of figuring out how to play it? I hate that moment, even when I’ve got a friend trying to help me puzzle out the rules. We often find, after we’ve been playing for an hour that we have a major rule wrong, and when that rule is set right the game balance we’ve been missing returns.

What does that have to do with gaming during COVID-19? A fair amount. A friend and I missed our gaming sessions at the New Haven Library Game Night, and he introduced me to Board Game Arena. Now BGA is great for playing games you know; but it’s brilliant for learning new games! Why? It enforces the rules. This is critical for me when learning a new thing. My normal way of learning a game is to read the rules and then try various things. When you’ve got someone who knows the game at the table, all is well, because when I do something illegal, he or she slaps my hand. But when no one at the table has played before, you’re reduced to constantly looking through the rules because something just seems like it should or shouldn’t be allowed. Since BGA enforces the rules, the learning process goes something like this: Read the rules; Talk to my opponent while we’re doing the things in the game about why some of the things are allowed, discuss what’s being disallowed, often digressing into how the user interface is working. But essentially BGA is taking the place of that rarest of things, the game runner who’s not actually playing the game but is actually paying attention. I find that a “learning game” takes much less time on BGA.

So during my time not being able to go to board gaming events, I’ve been learning new games. Making the proverbial lemonade from the Covid lemons.

Games I’ve discovered on Board Game Arena so far? Polis: Fight for Hegemony, Marco Polo, Jaipur, Hanabi, Downforce, Clans of Caledonia. In addition, I’ve played and enjoyed games I was already familiar with like Penny Press, Terra Mystica, Race for the Galaxy, and Incan Gold.

A premium membership is $4/month but only one person in a gaming group has to pay, and you don’t even need that premium membership to play most of their games.

So I’d recommend taking a look on boardgamearena.com and seeing if maybe there’s a game there that you’ve always wanted to learn to play. I hope we’ll all be around a table again soon!

Gaming Away From Computers

Hi everyone, I am Robert Dijkman, but I believe that most of you know me better as “The Dutchman” (or “that bleeping Dutchman”). Like everyone else, I have been sitting at home for most of this year, and while some Kickstarters have been arriving, my gaming has been pretty much non-existent.

One of the things that makes the Green Mountain Gamers so much fun for me is that I get to see a lot of people at our events that I don’t otherwise see, many of whom have become good friends. I love going to GMG events, I don’t think I’ve missed more than 2 or 3 these past 5 years.

As I am sure you are all very aware of, this has now come to a complete stop. We had to cancel the Mega Spring Meltdown at Lake Morey this spring, and we have cancelled every event since. Sure, there are some good online alternatives to in-person boardgaming. The problem for me personally with those is that, while they replace the board games perfectly, they really don’t replace the personal interaction, and the older I get, the more I game just for that interaction. Also, in my dayjob I sit behind a screen all day, so I really prefer my gaming to be away from computers.

What is left? Well, while we can’t go gaming in large groups, I do occasionally go gaming with a few friends (always the same ones, of course) so I get at least some gaming done. And then there’s painting miniatures, which, while not gaming, is at least gaming related. I’ve been painting through a ton of minis in my evening and weekend hours. I am getting quite good, and my wife wants the dining room table back…

For GMG we are discussing a few plans for next year. Unfortunately, there won’t be a 2021 Spring Mega Meltdown, as we don’t think that is going to be safe, and we needed to make the decision now. But the Green Mountain Gamers are not gone, nor are we going anywhere. We are committed to bringing 4 game days per year to Vermont as soon as it is again safe to do so.

We care about gaming, we just care more about gamers.

Robert

While We Wait

While we wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to allow us to gather in person and play board games once again, the Green Mountain Gamers will be writing about their experiences playing tabletop games safely over the past six months. Whether socially distanced in person, or online, there are still plenty of great ways to game. Check back soon for some tips!