Board Game Arena

Stone Age Gameplay

With the current coronavirus outbreak, many of us are looking to find ways to connect with others online and, of course, what could be better than playing boardgames!

There are several ways to play boardgames online. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages. Today we’re going to look at a website called Board Game Arena (www.boardgamearena.com).

It’s one of my favourite sites and is particularly suited for playing Euros. Let me tell you about it…


Games

BGA Games

Board Game Arena (BGA) has about 175 games. They tend to feature Euros, card games, abstract games and party games. If you’re looking for Ameritrash (eg. dudes on a map), adventure games or war games for example, then you need to look elsewhere.

Having said that, they have a great selection of well-regarded games within the categories they feature: classics like 7 Wonders, Carcassonne, Terra Mystica, Stone Age, Takenoko, Kingdomino, Hanabi and Puerto Rico to name a few.

It’s possible to play games in real time (this is how I play), but you can also play turn-based games (where you submit a move and then check back the next day to see if the other players have taken their turns yet).

Interface

Puerto Rico Gameplay

The games are all implemented with a 2D, top-down view, so it feels a little different from playing a real-life boardgame (unlike 3D simulators such as Tabletopia), but it provides one big advantage: the games are scripted.

What does that mean? The interface is very tightly controlled: you can’t just pick up a card whenever you want to. You generally take actions by clicking on cards or action spaces and the interface takes the action for you. If you try to take an illegal action, it simply won’t let you.

This means you don’t need to be too familiar with the rules: the game won’t let you break the rules, even accidentally. This also reduces the likelihood of someone cheating.

The other big advantage of a scripted interface like this is that games can be played very quickly. Decks of cards are shuffled automatically in an instant at the correct time and the mechanics of play generally fly by. You can easily play a game of 7 Wonders in 15 minutes if everyone knows what they’re doing.

7 Wonders Gameplay

Cost

For many people, a key question is, “How much does it cost?” It’s perfectly possible to play on BGA for free. There is a premium membership option though (around £4 / $5 per month). What does this get you?

  • No wait times: Not surprisingly, BGA is very popular at the moment and you may have to wait for a while when logging in due to the server capacity if you don’t have a premium membership.
  • Premium games: Some games (eg. 7 Wonders, Carcassonne – the popular ones) can only be started by a premium member. You can join someone else’s game as a non-premium member, but if you want to play with your friends, one of you needs to be a premium member.
  • Statistics: After you finish a game, premium members get to see an interesting set of statistics for the game such as how long each player took, which actions they took most, how their ranking changed, etc.
  • Play from the same location: BGA restricts players who are playing from the same IP address, but this restriction is lifted for premium members.

With helpful tutorial videos for games you’ve not played before and a well-designed karma system that penalises players who abandom games or take too long on their turn, Board Game Arena is a great, easy-to-play option for many people. I highly recommend it!

Have you tried it? What are your favourite aspects of the site?

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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