Essential TableTop Simulator War Games22 Apr 2019 7
Berserk Games, creators of TableTop Simulator, have a pretty succinct description of what the platform is and is intended to do:
Create your own original games, import custom assets, automate games with scripting, set up complete RPG dungeons, manipulate the physics, create hinges & joints, and of course flip the table when you are losing the game. All with an easy to use system integrated with Steam Workshop. You can do anything you want in Tabletop Simulator. The possibilities are endless!
What it gives you is the power to have your own table, your own chits, your own terrain, your own models, all digital, all multiplayer, and available all day every day, in VR if you swing that way. If you’re fond of complex wargames, the kind that you need to leave on the table all weekend while you and your friends bang away at the front lines – this will keep the cat from disrupting your defensive forces. If you’re looking to play some solo wargaming titles, this will be your best friend as you can pull it out whenever you have time to sit down and play and it’ll be there when you come back after your next shift.
Berserk Games have been no chumps when it comes to updates. They’ve gone out aggressively over the past few years and has become significantly more optimized. Some sort of update, often involving the announcement of some new DLC as well as core engine improvements, has been rolling out every couple of weeks. The developers continue to be keen on making the product best of class.
What’s In the Basket?
When I say there is a wide array of content available for TTS, I’m not kidding. As of the writing of this article in mid April 2019, there are 37 pieces of paid DLC available (and that's not counting the excellent free stuff), each one of them representing a full game within TTS, with all the supporting art, a fully designed table, and some mechanical support.
Lock ‘N Load Starter Kit Tabletop Edition
An easy first example: Do you love Lock’n Load hex-based wargames? There is an official but lightly supported module which provides all the tools that you might need to play your favorite LNL game right inside TS.
Twilight Imperium IV
If you’re willing to step off of the domain of the officially licensed, you can play Twilight Imperium 4th Edition with the errata in a virtual space.
Is it sanctioned? No. Is it available? Oh yes. And frankly I can’t think of a better gateway drug to playing complex space wargames on the tabletop than actually getting to play TI4 with other people in a shared space. Plus, you don’t have to shell out all that money for the physical box.
Advanced Squad Leader
Nothing beats the classics – and when we talk about classic tabletop wargames, we absolutely have to talk about what gave rise to Vassal in the first place: The granddaddy of complicated tabletop wargaming, Advanced Squad Leader.
Dice, maps, introductory scenarios – you have everything in the first Starter Kit, and in the description they give a link to where you can buy the actual ASL rules and expansions for yourself.
It is a time of unrest in 1920s Europa. The ashes from the first great war still darken the snow. The capitalistic city-state known simply as “The Factory,” which fueled the war with heavily armored mechs, has closed its doors, drawing the attention of several nearby countries.
In Scythe, each player represents a fallen leader attempting to restore their honor and lead their faction to power in Eastern Europa. Players conquer territory, enlist new recruits, reap resources, gain villagers, build structures, and activate monstrous mechs.
Speaking of tactical hex-based battle with some pretty significant crunch, Scythe brings both of them together at high speed with what I consider to be some of the best art available in official TTS DLC. The fact that you get to use giant stompy mechs in 1920s Europe is just gravy.
The designers say that you can play a game of Scythe in 115 minutes – and that might be true if you have all of the relatively complex mechanics committed to memory and your group likes to use chess timers. For the rest of us, gameplay is going to take a bit longer but on the positive side you are going to enjoy it even as you're frustrated by the actions of other players.
This is another one of those games which is playable solo. If you’re curious about this kind of tabletop tactical/4X game, it’s definitely worth picking up and getting into.
Warfighter is a card game for 1 to 6 players. You play cooperatively with your friends against the system to complete present day squad-level combat missions. At the start of each mission, you each select a soldier, equip him/her with skills, weapons, and combat gear within the mission’s Resource limit.
You then fight your way through hostile territory, engaging hostiles, as you attempt to reach and complete your mission objective. Every mission is a stand-alone game. You build your Soldiers, select your Gear, and then run your mission. Within 30 to 60 minutes you will have succeeded or failed.
Warfighter uses a new combat system that takes into account the fire mode you select for your weapon, range, running out of ammo, suppression, and cover - all in the same dice roll! This system creates an incredibly deep narrative with every attack.
It just wouldn’t do to round this off without talking about some kind of modern combat, and luckily TTS doesn’t leave us hanging. One of the things that the system does extremely well, far better than actual physical games, it is deal with decks of cards. If a game uses a lot of different cards, it can be very difficult to manage them in a box, keep them separated, and clean them up when you’re done.
Not so here.
Warfighter gives you the base game and nine expansions for well under $20 US. Only the host needs to have a copy of the game, so playing with your friends is no great burden; it’s just like buying a new game to play with them. It’s another game that has a solo combat mode, so on those days you can’t get together with them, you can still play.
Fans of games like 5150 and Nuts! will find this sort of thing definitely playing to their particular tastes. Actually getting to play this in VR through TTS would be amazing. Gameplay is extremely complex and while the instructions are right there on the table, they are literally right there on the table modeled as books so reading and referencing while figuring out exactly what you need to do can be a little challenging.
This is probably one of miniature gaming’s great successes, looking at the penetration of the market well beyond the usual grognard tabletop crew. For good reason; X-Wing is a mechanically light, fast-moving game design with an IP that nearly everyone knows.
Being able to throw a game together in short order online is impressive. The models that this DLC comes with are likewise.
Renegade Legion: Interceptor
One of the great things about digital versions of games is that it doesn’t matter if the original game has gone the way of the dodo, as long as someone loves it enough to make the playing pieces available, the game can be played. Old-school tabletop spacemen undoubtedly remember Interceptor as “that game with the weird damage system,” and they are absolutely correct.
Renegade Legion may be a game series which doesn’t have the following it once did, but there’s no reason it couldn’t see a flourishing Renaissance should its community embrace digital play.
Bits and Bobs
But what if there’s nothing out right now for your favourite wargame? What if all you really want to do is throw some terrain on a table, whip out some dice, and play whatever game that you want with your friends, old-school?
You don’t need mechanical support, you don’t need integration, you just want to play a game. Well…
Because the engine provides the ability for you to upload and use your own terrain, your own models, your own maps, you have effectively infinite options for putting your wargaming table together.
You can’t play most games without a good set of dice. Again, the ability to upload your own models means that you (and everybody else) are limited only by your imagination.
Need a 30 sided die with one through three replaced with pictures of giant flaming eyeballs? No problem. There are even tools which will help you create those images and get them onto the model for play.
What does it look like in motion?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been burned by tools in the past. Lots of things have excellent descriptions but when you sit down to use them, they just don’t work, or they work in a way that isn’t comfortable for you or they simply don’t live up to the hype. It happens all the time.
We don’t recommend you buy anything without having seen someone else actually playing it or actually using the tool. You want to know TS works, how it feels, and how it can be part of the experience for wargaming on the digital tabletop.
Luckily, YouTube is surprisingly busy with TS content.
Warhammer 40k - Kill Team
While writing this article, I took a few moments to simply go search the Tube to see what people were playing and streaming, and immediately was struck by a live demo of the new Warhammer 40k — Kill Team skirmish game, and it served as both a demo of TS and exposure to Games Workshop’s new product. That’s a solid win no matter which side of that you’re interested in.
5150: Hammer & Anvil
Video isn’t the only way to see how TS can be used, because we don’t always play wargames with friends. Sometimes the solo experience is really what you want. In those situations, it can be just as helpful or useful to see the digital tabletop used for illustrative purposes as well as the game platform that you use to play the game.
If you’ve ever wanted to blog about your favorite tabletop wargame and really kind of fretted about how you can make the illustrations look good for the audience you’re trying to reach, TS can help you out. It’s easy to make your own tokens and chits, terrain is available everywhere, you can draw your own maps, and if you’re a blogger who’s writing about tabletop wargames a tool that can make it easier to present turn by turn gaming is absolutely invaluable.
Some people have been using an online platform called VASSAL for years to play board and card-based games with their friends online. Using it, you can play both live and via email and it’s both free and open source. You can probably run it on a potato if you gently push the potato downstairs.
However, it is limited by being programmed in a very old style of Java with a user interface to match. It doesn’t do 3D visualization and any terrain that you might put on the table is simply top-down imagery.
TTS is fully 3D with a limited physics engine and playable both on the desktop and via VR. It has models, textures, animation, and a certain level of available scripting (in Lua). While it is necessary that you pay for the core, it’s frequently on sale at significant discounts. You can’t quite run it on a potato but you could probably run it on two potatoes strapped together as long as one pretended to be a graphics card.
Hot or Not
If you’re looking for a game platform that you can play games you already own and don’t mind doing a little work to get the assets in, TTS is your huckleberry. If you’re looking for a platform with a lot of already created games that you don’t have to do any work to start playing, look through the pile of available DLC for TTS and make your decision on that basis. The available game content is great, but the possibility of bringing your own game into the space and inviting other people to play with you is as important if not more so.
Whether you want to play board games, tactical wargames, or even grand strategy games like Twilight Imperium, TTS can provide a shared space for you and your friends to come together around the table and play.
Do you have a favourite game you play on TableTop Simulator with your friends? Tell us about it down below!