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!

Slide Blast
FoxMind Games, 2016

Attention “serious” gamers. Before you look at this game and say “nah, too light” or “kid’s game”, give it one try. Despite the 7+ age recommendation, I promise it’ll be worth your time.

In Slide Blast, you are creating waterslides at a waterpark. Your goal is to make the longest slide possible. You create your slide by playing tiles, adding them to the end of your slide and attempting to connect to unclaimed areas before your opponents can. You begin the game with one tile in your “hand”, each turn you will draw a tile, and then place one of the two in your hand. After placing your tile, you move to the end of your slide. For those of you who have played “Tsuro” this mechanic will be familiar.

There is an initial inclination to try to direct your slide away from other players. But after some game play, you will find that interaction with other players is key if you wish to connect your slide to other slide pieces being created as the board takes shape. If you place a tile, and happen to move another player’s pawn as well, you will get bonus tiles that give you extra points at the end of the game. Strategic tile placement may also head your opponent away from sections they may be trying to capture.

Although easy to learn, this game may take some time to master, but is still accessible to younger players. Younger players will tend to focus solely on adding to their own slide, without taking advantage of tiles placed by other players. I have found this game to be fun for both adults and kids in a way that few other games seem to manage.

Additional large tiles and tunnels make give a little bit of luck to an otherwise very strategic game, as well as adding some fun theme features. The theme and gameplay interweave very well in this game, and complement each other to create a very immersive experience. A real life slide created with lots of twists and turns is more fun than a straight one. In the game, a slide with lots of twists and turns will also tend to get you more points.

The artwork is eye-catching and fun. I recently ran a demo of this, and had people of all ages asking about it as we played. Everyone, from a young boy, to older adults enjoyed the game and when we finished, I had people asking to borrow it to play again. I had never heard of this game before I received this copy to demo, but rest assured I will be bringing it out often, to all different types of groups. This could be a great gateway game if you are looking for something to play with your non-gamer friends and family. Oh, and it has AWESOME meeples!

Highly recommended to EVERYONE…. Really!







Castle Panic, 2009
Munchkin Panic, 2014
Star Trek Panic, 2016
Fireside Games, USAopoly

Don’t Panic! It’s just a game, or game(s). In this series of games, (which includes “Dead Panic” and lots of expansions which I do not own,), you must defend your castle/ship from invading armies of bad guys. The basic premise of the panic games is that you have a tower/ship in the center of the board. Castle and Munchkin Panic have a set of walls to protect the tower while in Star Trek Panic, you have cool acrylic blue shields to protect the Enterprise. The board consists of concentric rings spreading out from the center tower/ship, and is divided into six sections. Enemies will come onto the board in the outermost ring in a section determined by a roll of the die. The enemies will move closer and closer, eventually taking out the walls/shields and towers/ship unless they are killed first. To win the game, you must destroy all your enemies before they destroy your castle/ship.

Players have a hand of cards (the number of cards depends on the game and/or the number of players). These cards will be used to attack enemies, repair walls/shields, or other game effects. The order of play for each person’s turn is mostly the same for every panic game. Draw up to your full hand, discard one card and re-draw (optional), some sort of traiding or “charity” (Munchkin), play cards, move enemies, and place new enemies on the board.

I won’t go into too much more detail about the game mechanics since each game has it’s own fiddly bits that would take too long to go into here. If you are trying to determine which Panic is right for you, I’d recommend basing it on the theme of the game. The game play isn’t different enough, in my opinion, to pick one over the other based on the rule set. Munchkin has treasure cards and a charity phase, which will only make a difference to someone who plays Munchkin. Star Trek Panic has the players go on missions while they are fighting, which plays a little differently, but if you don’t like Star Trek, you probably won’t care. I haven’t yet played Dead Panic, but as the title suggests, its theme is the Zombie Apocalypse. If this is your thing, I can with some surety say that you probably won’t go wrong picking up Dead Panic with, or instead of one of the other versions.

The Panic series also can be played in several modes, cooperatively, competitvely and solo. So there is a way for almost anyone to enjoy these games. We will generally play the games cooperatively. They all seem to be well balanced so that you won’t always win, and the tension can run pretty high when you’re down to a few last monsters, but only a couple of tower/wall/shield/ship points.

Monsters are placed with a random die roll. This can be good and bad. I have lost games based solely on the fact that we couldn’t roll anything but a 4 on the die, so all the mosters came in on one side, and we couldn’t get enough cards to take them out. Most of the time, we get a fairly even distribution. This can make the game really tense when you get an area that is starting to get more enemies than another.

The Panic games aren’t terribly strategic, mostly based on luck and die rolls, but savvy play can make the difference between a win and a loss. They are filled with humor and fun thematic bits.

If you like games like Forbidden Desert or Forbidden Island or are looking for a good cooperative game that is a little lighter than Pandemic or Dead of Winter, then pick up a version of Panic and give it a try. It’s a good family game. They are recommended for 10+, but in cooperative mode, I believe that younger children could easily enjoy them as well.

Terraforming Mars
Stronghold Games, 2016

In Terraforming Mars, you take on the role of a corporation working to make Mars habitable for humans, while competing with other corporations to make the most money (mega credits) doing so. To do this, you must manage your resources (mega credits, steel, titanium, plants, energy and heat.)

You will use your resources to raise the temperature and increase the oxygen on the planet, and to place ocean, greenery, city and special tiles on the board. You will also play project cards, which you must purchase each round. These cards do a variety of things. Some cards will give you continuing benefits, some will give you a temporary boost, and others may hurt your opponents. Some cards have requirements, like being above a certain temperature, that you must meet before the card may be played. You need to keep tabs on what your opponents are doing as well to make sure that you don’t give them something they need.

You may also claim milestones or fund awards. These tracks will give you additional victory points at the end of the game. To claim a milestone, you must be the first to reach and pay for those points. Only the first person to claim the milestone will get the points, and only three of the five available may be claimed. There is a lot of strategy to get to these, and they can be easy to forget, but very important at the end of the game. When you fund an award, you guarantee that points will be counted for that award at the end of the game, but only the first and second place players will receive the points, regardless of who funded the award.

Although there is a lot to manage in this game, it all flows very well and is fairly intuitive. There are many different strategies and all are valid ways to win. The cards are easy to understand and though the game tends to start a little slow, once the momentum gets going it’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement.

I have been lucky enough to play every game with the insert from the Broken Token. I HIGHLY recommend getting an insert for this game, especially one with player trays. I would hate to have to keep track of all the different cubes on my player mat without them. With many of the board game inserts, I am ambivalent as to their necessity, but with Terraforming Mars, I believe you will find them a huge asset to game play.

This game has had a lot of hype, and it is all well-deserved. It is a strategic, exciting game, sure to give you many hours of enjoyment, and doesn’t seem to lose its luster with repeated game play.

On to Mars! Recommended.