Skip to content

The Meeple Guild: Internet allows board gamers to connect

Online play works particularly well for abstract strategy games where it is player versus player; chess, Hive, International Checkers, Abalone, and dozens of others.
Playing face-to-face may be best, but online is a definite option too. (File Photo)

YORKTON - There is no doubt that our connectedness, thanks to the Internet, is far greater than it has ever been.

That immediate access has its flaws, including creating a world of cellphone zombies – those who seem to constantly walk around head stooped like some water bird watching for bugs in the water as they study the last funny cat meme on their mobile device.

But, if you are able to avoid the zombification then access to the web can offer a lot of positives, in particular for hobbyists.

If you were to look through the bookmarks or browser history of anyone with even a slight hobby, you are going to find links to websites which focus on their particular interest from for readers, to for recipes, and to for boardgamers.

Such access allows not just access to information at a keystroke, but interaction with other like-minded hobbyists.

While by nature hobbies tend to be rather individualistic pursuits, a philatelist can spend hours pouring over their stamp collections, being able to at times talk to others who appreciate the often intricate details associated with older stamps. 

Board games of course are not an individual hobby. In fact, it is limited at times by not having others to play with. 

That is where the ‘net can play a big role, in helping find players. Often they are half a world away, but that matters little in the cyber world. 

Online play works particularly well for abstract strategy games where it is player versus player; chess, Hive, International Checkers, Abalone, and dozens of others. 

Of course such games are not exactly new to play at a distance. Chess as an example, has a notational system to track moves, and the spaces on the 1930s release Camelot board are actually numbered to allow for easy tracking of moves. Being able to denote moves based on the board numbers allowed for easy games by mail. A player could write his move in a few national numbers on a postcard, pop it in the mail, and wait for a reply. It was not a fast process, although to be fair everything years ago was slower, but it did allow for play-by-mail experiences.

That process has simply been punched into hyper drive with the Internet. Even if one chooses email play over face-to-face on say Zoom, it is near instantaneous, but it is still a play-by-mail in some sense too.

What the connectedness means, for those who take the plunge into online play, is an opportunity to seek out players of similar skill levels to play particular games with. Want to play Go but no one local is interested, the solution might be a player in Australia or Costa Rica.

It also broadens the base at the top levels of games. For example, there is a major online tournament each year for Hive. The best players need only have access to a computer and the Internet, whereas a face-to-face championship might mean air flights, and hotel rooms and associated costs making it unreasonable for many to attend.

Certainly, the best option remains face-to-face, the chance to talk and get off on the weird tangents friends at a gaming table often do, from the woes of the Toronto Blue Jays pitching staff, to the weather and the potholes on city streets, but online is an option too, which gamer hobbyists should at least look into.