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!