*Does not require 6 iPads to play

Tabletopia arrives in beta form on the App Store

iPad, PC/Mac •

Back in 2015 Tabletopia begged for money on Kickstarter and we all [by “all”, Dave means “himself” -ed.] obliged by throwing money at the project. What wasn’t to like? Tabletopia promised the ability to create any tabletop game you could dream up and turn it into an online gaming experience. Not only that, but the graphics would be all 3D and look just like their physical counterparts. It would be just like sitting around the table with friends!

The finished product landed on Steam shortly thereafter and, yep, there are hundreds of board games you can play on your laptop. Today, there are six games you can play on your iPad as Tabletopia has made the jump to the App Store and is currently in an open beta state.

Tabletopia promised the moon and pretty much delivered. You can log onto the game on your laptop and find, literally, hundreds of board games to play, from obscure junk to the latest hotness. Publishers have been using the platform (and its lookalike cousin, Tabletop Simulator) to promote and playtest games before launch. Logging in, you’ll find the board games just as they look on your table at home with the ability to play online against friends. It’s pretty amazing, and yet I haven’t exactly fallen in love with it.

I admit I haven’t given Tabletopia enough time to win me over, but that’s because the presentation has simply turned me off. Sure, it’s a 3D replica of the tabletop game, but figuring out how to manipulate cards and pieces with a mouse seemed unintuitive. In fact, it seemed like playing it on a touchscreen would be the perfect solution, manipulating pieces with your fingers seemed like it would just make more sense. Now we can see if that’s truly the case.

The iPad version of Tabletopia is a beta version and currently only offers six games to try: Sub Terra, Hansa Teutonica, The Shipwreck Arcana, Burgle Bros., Mint Works, and Champions of Midgard. The rest of their catalog will be arriving at some point in the future, I’m guessing after some mobile bugs are ironed out.

You’ll notice that Burgle Bros. in that list and, yet, there’s an already existing Burgle Bros. app on the App Store. That’s the difference with Tabletopia. Where the app has some clever visuals and enforces the rules, Tabletopia is literally just like playing on the table. There’s no one to say if you’ve done something wrong and no one to tell you how the game works via a tutorial. Thus, sitting down with friends to a game you’ve never played before can be a bit intimidating, especially when you’re friend who always teaches games at game night is trying to do so now via text messages and VOIP.

I don’t want it to sound like I’m knocking Tabletopia. It’s an incredible tool for getting board games into your hand so you can play them with friends around the world. The current iPad beta, however, only has solo or pass-and-play capabilities with online play coming soon. It’s also an amazing tool for creating your own board games or bringing your favorite game to life because you know no one else ever will. For example, I love Splotter games but know they’ll never be created in app form. With Tabletopia, I can make my own version of Food Chain Magnate or Indonesia and play it with my friends.

Of course, it’s not free. Well, it is, kind of. The Steam version of Tabletopia has a subscription plan in three tiers: Bronze, Silver, and something else that I can’t remember…oh, right, Gold. The Bronze subscription is completely free, but limits you to two simultaneous game sessions and the ability to create one game for yourself. Not bad, but if you really want to get into making your own games you’ll have to sign up for the Silver or Gold levels which give you the ability to create more games and have more storage for all your bits and pieces. They also unlock “premium” games which sounds like you’ll only get to play checkers and parcheesi without spending coin, but that’s not the case. Only 36 games are listed as “Premium” right now with many of them being expansions. On top of the subscription model, it appears that some (many?) games need to be purchased before you can play them. Want to play Scythe? It’s a $5 DLC, and the expansions are “Premium” content so you’ll need a subscription.

It’s unclear how the subscription model will affect the iPad version, but I think it’s safe to assume it will remain intact regardless of platform. If you’re a hardcore user, $5/month or $10/month isn’t the end of the world. Especially since that $10/month for the gold tier can be split amongst your game group.

So, check out the iPad version of Tabletopia. See if the controls and play feel more natural on an iPad. If they manage to do this right, this might be a turning point in tabletop gaming on mobile. Or, we could all just keep playing Through the Ages via the official app and realize we all want the visual doodads and rules enforcement. Time will tell.

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Notable Replies

  1. I love the concept, but this doesn't sound like it is for me. For starters, I hate subscriptions. I can get past that if the product is something essential, but I'm not sure this is that product. One of the reasons I often buy board game apps is to test a game I've never played, and it helps when the game enforces rules. A virtual tabletop isn't going to be teaching me much that I wouldn't learn from downloading a rules PDF.

  2. that seems to suggest that async is possible?
    on the other hand playing two simultaneous real-time online games might help to shorten the downtimes, which are especially nasty if not sitting together at a table with chat, cheers and mockings.

  3. Free form games like that aren’t really my thing. Rather buy scythe when it eventually releases for ios

  4. afaik Scythe won't be async. so very limited usability.

  5. Ugh. Did you hear that somewhere or just make an assumption based on their past games? Because that would crush my hopes and dreams.

  6. i have read it.
    but i must say that it would make no sense at all. who could play a 2-3 hours taking game in one piece online?
    and even if so, think on all the downtime :flushed:

  7. Last time I talked with Asmodee they were still up in the air about asynchronous for Scythe, but sounded like they were leaning toward it.

    Still nothing definitive, though, and I'm worried @JammaTal might be correct. :frowning:

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