This is a big one folks. Tabletop Simulator is probably the #1 online board game platform. It has the highest number of available games. If you attend an online convention or event, you will almost assuredly need TTS to play the offered games.

TTS is offered through the STEAM platform. You will need to have STEAM to get to TTS. STEAM is free, but once you get to it, TTS will have a cost. At the time of this writing, TTS cost was $19.99, but it can be found at a discounted at different times.

Once you have TTS purchased, you can join in games hosted by other players, or can host games yourself. I have not yet found a game that costs extra once you get into TTS. To find your games, you will need to search the workshop. For the love of all that is holy, BOOKMARK THIS PAGE. You can navigate to it by going to the TTS page, and clicking on the workshop tab, but I can never remember how to find it.

When you search here, a list of games will show up. You may find several versions of the game you are looking for because it is mostly community created content. If you can find one with good reviews, try it first. Otherwise you may have to just try them out and see what you get. You can also try to figure out if there is a version that has been created by the publisher and try that one first. It can be kind of hit and miss. If you find a good version, please make sure to give it a review so others will be able to find the good version.  Once you have found the version you like, click the green “plus” symbol to add it to your TTS account.

To access the game, you will launch TTS by clicking the green “play” button. Once it loads, you will have the choice to JOIN or CREATE a game. If you click JOIN, you will be prompted to find a server. Your game host will give you this information. When you find the server, click on it, and enter the password if your host has required one. The game will then load.

To CREATE a game, you will click CREATE. Then it will ask if you want single player, multiplayer or hotseat. Hotseat is what you will need if you have multiple people playing on one device that they hand back and forth. I won’t go further into hotseat at this time because I have not used it. Most of the time you will be choosing multiplayer.

It will then prompt you to create a server name, choose if you want to play with public, friends, or invite. You will probably want to choose public and give a password. That is the easiest way to have people find it. If you use Friends, you will have to have everyone friended in STEAM, and it doesn’t seem to always recognize them. I haven’t used invite, so refrain from commenting on it. Make sure to click your number of players and then you will click “Create Server” and TTS will open to the game selection page. All the games you have selected recently will show up on the front page. To find games you selected in the “workshop” click “workshop” on the left and those games will show up. Click on the game you want, and it will load. If you click public without a password, anyone can join you, which can be fun if you are looking to meet some new folks.

Once you get in, you will see the table set up. FIRST THING go to Options/Permissions and turn off table flip. Guaranteed, someone will want to see what it does. Hint: it flips the table and you have to start over. It is kind of cool, so let someone flip it at the end of the game.

I’m not going to go into an in-depth tutorial here. Menu/Help will give you most of the controls. Clicking on your name on the top right will give you the option to change your color, if another color is available. The other important feature is the rotation angle at the top. Some games will have pieces that may need to rotate and you can change the angle of rotation here.

Some of my general observations. There is a rules menu, but very rarely have I actually seen the rules there. Most of the time you will see them on the board, and you have to click on them to see them. There isn’t really any consistency on how you view the rules. Some you can right click and go to a page, some you have to hover over them and click “alt” (which works to enlarge almost every game piece on the board and probably one of the most used key commands).  Clicking shift and dragging over objects will select several items at a time. If you have to draw cards, right click and go to the hand icon and choose the number of cards, or click and pull a card quickly. If you go too slow, you’ll pull the whole deck, so right clicking is usally the best option.

The graphics are good, but connectivity can be a problem. In some games, I have glitch problems pulling items out of bags. Not sure why, but bags can kick me out of the game. It’s easy to get back in, but if this happens to you, just have someone else pull your items from you unless you want a great exercise in frustration.

TTS has a chat function, but not voice or video, so you will need another platform of your choice for that. Once you have it all set up, it is a platform that can give you a lot of options and a lot of fun. But it does take some time to set up, so make sure that you are prepared going into a game so that others don’t have to wait on you. To set up STEAM and TTS can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, and it’s really annoying to have to wait for someone to set up when you are ready to game. I’ve never heard anyone grumble, because, let’s face it, we’ve all been there in the last year, but it is frustrating when you are ready to play and have to wait. Especially if you aren’t able to finish the game because of it.

So get it set up and check out the next convention. There are a lot, and most are free. Keep on gaming until we can get back to in person games again!

Video gamers have known about STEAM for quite a while. It was created to make updating games easier. As it has grown it has come to include much more for the gaming community. I first learned about STEAM when I found out about the Jackbox Games (Quiplash in particular). You will need steam for some board games and most commonly for board gamers, for Tabletop Simulator (hereby abbreviated as TTS).

The first step you will need to take is to download STEAM to your device. ( This might take a while, so make sure you do this well ahead of your planned play session. Downloading STEAM itself does not cost anything, but once you get it downloaded, access to most games and TTS have costs associated with them, and everyone playing will be required to have paid access to the game.

Once you have downloaded STEAM, you will set up an account with a username and password. This username and password can also be used online in your browser to navigate the STEAM store and your account settings.

In the STEAM store you can browse the many titles of video games and board games available. You can browse through their “Free to Play” area. I have found most of the free titles to be video games. Searching for “Board Games” will get you a list of games available on the STEAM platform. The “big one” that you’ll want to look for is Tabletop Simulator. I’ll stop there with that, because I will be devoting an entire upcoming post on TTS. I really enjoy playing the Jackbox games through STEAM and highly recommend them. I have also played “Lords of Waterdeep” which seems to run pretty well. As with any online game, your computer system and wireless connection will play a large part in the type of experience you have.

There is a community section where you can find discussions and a marketplace, but again, I have found them to me mostly of use to the video game community, and have not used them at all in my online board game journey.

It is helpful if you are friends with the gamers you expect to be playing with, but I have found connecting with friends a clunky and annoying task. Once done, however, it is easy to connect with them for games.  To connect with a friend, go to your username tab, and click friends. Then click add a friend in the left menu. You will get a code that you can give your friend or you can enter the code that they give you. Sometimes it works, sometimes it takes a couple of tries. There is also a link that you can copy and send to them. Again, I have had mixed experiences with that.

That’s about all I have to say about STEAM itself. As a boardgamer I use it about 90% for TTS, and 10% for Jackbox games and that’s about it.  Your mileage may vary. It is 100% necessary for TTS though, as TTS is only available through STEAM.

Please feel free to comment, discuss and share your experiences with steam in the comments, but please also be nice. There are a lot of people trying to learn these platforms and your help and advice are welcome, but not your scorn or disrespect. I don’t claim to be an expert, and only talk about that which I am familiar with. Thank you.



I’ve discussed one way to play board games virtually, and we’ll get to other options, but today let’s look at Roll20 for virtual RPG gaming. Roll20 is a way for GM’s of many different game systems to host their online games, whether its a single shot game or a campaign. It allows the GM to set up their maps, and have the players create or insert their character sheet and link that sheet to a token (image) on the map, which will keep track of hit points and other often used data.

Roll20 is a free platform, with paid options for those who want to have access to things like dynamic lighting and custom character sheets. It supports D&D 5E and Paizo products as well as many other publishers. It hosts most of the newest D&D Adventurer’s League Modules, which you can purchase right from the marketplace within Roll20, and have all of the tokens, maps and other components necessary to run the event. Also, when you purchase modules, the text of the module goes into the journal sidebar, so you can read right from your screen. I have a little problem with that, because you have to switch between tabs on the sidebar to get to the chat window, to add tokens, and/or to look at the journal. There may be a way around this that I have not yet found. There is inline video and voice chat which works reasonably well. It has a nice feature that is available to all subscription levels called Fog of War, where you can black out a map, and reveal sections of it to your players as they go. You can see through it so you know what you are uncovering, but your players can only see what you uncover. Dice rolls are available in the chat window, so that everyone can see what the rolls are, which is nice. You can do this without much setup by using text prompts in the chat window, or, if your players have built their characters in Roll20 you can use shortcuts. You can also “whisper” to other players in the chat window so that only you and them can see the exchange.

I have had some difficulties using the search engine to find some things in the marketplace, and have had to follow links from outside the program if there is something that I have been notified about. Again, this may be user error. I have run 2 games using Roll20 and have spend some time fiddling around with the interface, but not nearly enough.

Like any RPG GMing scenario, the more time you put into the interface, whether it be pen & paper (drawing maps or building 3D dungeons, finding the right minis and coming up with good NPC’s) or virtual (figuring out how to use all the cool tricks of the interface, and find good e-tokens, upload maps and get your players up to speed) the more time you spend getting set up the easier the game will run. There are some great You Tube videos on how to use all the tricks in Roll20. It’s got a lot to offer if you have the time to spend getting up to speed. I was able to get up and running with a basic set up with only a couple hours of preparation. I didn’t really get the best use out of the character set up for my players, but if you are looking for a basic “Here’s the map, your character is here and moves there”, and let you players keep track of things like hp and spells and such, it’s do-able with a minimal amount of effort. Especially if you purchase a pre-made module within Roll20. We started our first game with pen and paper character sheets and just used Roll20 for chat/maps/character and monster movement. I would highly recommend starting by having your players create their character within the game. It gives you many more options that work automatically down the line.

Roll20 also has a decent amount of community content available. As of this writing, there is no way for someone to create a Roll20 “module” that a GM can import into the system to use. You can import individual pieces easily, and can search for community created tokens (character/monster/dungeon dressing) within the program, or buy them and upload them.  A couple nice ones that I have found are, which has a nice selection of inexpensive tokens and maps, and DM Dave, who has content within Roll20 as well as a Patreon where you can get A LOT of really nice content for a minimal price. He also regularly puts out free content which is well done.

The help feature in Roll20 works reasonably well. I have been able to find answers to my questions fairly rapidly. The Tutorial you take when you first log into a game takes a little time, but is well worth the effort as it explains most of what you need very well. However it IS a LOT to take in when you are just starting, and if you are like me, you’ll forget half of what it taught you by the time the tutorial is finished. I recommend giving your players a virtual “playground” starter screen where they can get in prior to your game time and kick the tires before they start play without messing up your finely crafted map areas.

Overall, you should expect your first several games to take longer than a normal game session as people get used to the interface. I have found this to be the way with most online RPG platforms. I would recommend if you are looking at a 4 hour play slot, that you pick a 2-hour adventure, or plan to split your normal adventure into two sessions. And be prepared to spend game time sharing platform knowledge as well as game information. “You see the giant ahead of you, he hasn’t noticed you yet…” says the GM.  “Hey guys, did you know if you type /gr /w [name] [message] that only you and the GM will see the message…uh…not that I just did that…” responds player A.

Overall, I like Roll20. It can get you up and running quickly, but has a lot of depth that you can explore to make your gaming smooth.

There are many ways to play board games virtually. Today, I am going to discuss my experiences with Tabletopia. You can access Tabletopia at, on Android devices, on ios devices and through STEAM (more on STEAM in a later post). I prefer to access Tabletopia online through the Google Chrome browser. I have found it quite stable and fast. Your mileage may vary. I have friends who say that they prefer other platforms because they have difficulties with the interface.

Once you go to, you will be asked to make an account. You will need an account to play games. There are three options available. The bronze level allows you to host free games, and play in up to two games at once (That means you have the games set up and active, not necessarily actively playing), and play in free and premium games hosted by other people.  The silver level is $4.99/month and allows you to host free games, host premium games for other premium players, and play up to 6 games at once premium or free. The gold level is $9.99/month and allows you full access to all the games, both for hosting and playing, allows you to have guests in your premium games who are not premium members, and have up to 10 games open at one time.

If you were using this at a game convention, this means you could set up the rooms for convention play ahead of time, so that you would just add the players once you got their information. You would probably need the gold level membership, since in a virtual convention setting, you can’t guarantee that the attendees would even have accounts before game time. On a positive note, making a Tabletopia account takes literally seconds and you can dive right in afterwards.

As of this writing (August 25, 2020), Tabletopia offers 1227 games, 50 of which are premium only. Premium games include: Wingspan, Everdell, Tuscany, Scythe and Mage Wars Academy. An interesting note is that they have several very popular games with the base game free, but the expansions premium. Scythe, Terra Mystica, Imperial Settlers, and Champions of Midgard, to name a few. The free offerings are very nice as well, with games like Roll Player, Secret Hitler, Tapestry, Santorini, Viticulture Essential Edition, and Architects of the West Kingdom and many more.

You set up a game by searching for the game or clicking on it’s picture, which takes you to the game’s page. You will see several options on the right hand side. Play Hotseat, Play online and Play Solo (if available). Play Hotseat means that one or more players will be playing on the same device, so your hands or individual player information will be hidden on that device when it is the other player’s turn. Play online is what you use when everyone will be playing on different devices. You can also access the game rules from this page should you need them.

Clicking “Play Online” will start the program creating a “room” for the game. You will see a screen like is shown here. It shows you as the host, and then has a bar where you can select “Invite Players” below that. I haven’t had much luck inviting players that way, but if you copy the code shown in that bar, and tell it to your players, they can search for the code and will show up on this screen. Once everyone is there, you can click the large “Start” button at the top. Note that here is also where you would set it up if you were going to run it at a later time, you just click the box towards the bottom that says “Schedule game for later”. If you click “Visible to other players” the game will show up and allow anyone to join to sees it while browsing for games. You can access the rules from this screen as well.

Once you hit start, you are taken to the game table. Depending on the game, you may be able to choose your seat. If there are characters or Individualized setups, they will probably be already chosen for you randomly. Some games let you change, some don’t. I don’t want to get too deep into this area in this discussion because each game is set up differently and some are better than others. Some have little “quirks” that you will need to figure out.

One of the things I like about Tabletopia is that the rules are easily accessible at any time by pressing a “page” icon at the bottom left of the screen. Right below that is a “help” screen with all the controls that you will need to do things like roll dice or flip cards. I’ll let you explore all that on your own in your favorite game.

If you would like to try out some games, you can go back to the main menu and click “Find & Play”. There will be a list of folks hosting games and looking for players. You can pick one and jump right in. This is where your game will show up if you click the “Visible to other players” button mentioned above.

As far as I can tell (although I could be wrong), Tabletopia does not have audio or video capability within the game rooms, so you will need to use a Discord, Zoom or other audio channel to be able to speak with other players during the game. It does have a text chat for the game that you can use.

With your account you also have the workshop available to you, where you can create your own game to add to their list. I won’t even pretend that I know anything about that.

I have found all the virtual board game interfaces to be a little clunky and slow, and this is no exception to that rule. Because the rules are readily available to all players, I would recommend this platform if you were trying to teach a game and want the players to be able to reference rules. If you don’t want them to have access while you are teaching, don’t tell them where the rules are until after the game has been taught. They still might find them, but can’t really look at the rules and the game board at the same time.

Overall, I have found Tabletopia through my browser to be a very stable platform, easy to use and understand, with a lot of really good games available. I have not purchased any of the premium levels, but have been able to host and play games easily. The interface is fairly intuitive.