Social distancing isn’t easy, and right now we’re all looking for ways to connect with others. Your kids are probably missing their friends and wishing they could play with them. Maybe you wish you could spend more time with family or friends as well.
Here’s a little out of the box thinking: consider setting up a time to play a board game with someone you’re missing over a video chat. With a little creativity, there are many games you can adapt to play over a video link. It won’t work for every game, but with a little resourcefulness, it’s worth a try to bridge the distance. It’s great outside of quarantine, too – to play with far off friends and relatives, someone stuck in the hospital or recovering, shut in at home or just bored on a rainy day.
When our friends were stationed on the other side of the world, we would schedule a board game double-date whenever we could (it sometimes required an early morning wake up, but it was worth it!). It was a unique way to connect and spend some quality time together!
Grab your favorite video conferencing platform (FaceTime, Zoom, Facebook Messenger video call, Skype, etc) and plan to connect over a game soon. When it’s useful, consider having each household join from two devices: one so you can see each other’s faces and expressions; another (with the sound off) raised up on something high to show the game board.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Board Games to Play on Video Chat
CHESS, CHECKERS or CONNECT FOUR
Chess and checkers are both classics that people have been playing by correspondence for centuries. If you know the basic notation for moves you could even play via text message or email. If you’re craving face to face contact it would probably be more fun to play over a video platform, though. Connect Four is a little simpler for the younger crowd to follow and may be easier to play with grandparents as well.
Number of players: 2
Requirements: Phone, email or video conferencing platform. Only one player needs a board. If you’d prefer, both players can use a board if they carefully mirror each other’s moves.
Tips: Make sure your camera is clearly positioned over the board so that your opponent can describe where to move his/her pieces.
You normally play Battleship sitting across the table from your opponent without touching each other’s pieces, even if you are playing in the same room. There should be no change in the experience over video conference.
Number of players: 2
Requirements: Video conferencing platform. Each player needs the Battleship game (or a printer to print this Battleship game Board – send one to your friend in the mail in advance if they don’t have printer access!)
Tips: Be sure to communicate clearly.
Guess Who works great for smaller players. Similar to Battleship, the game is always played without seeing your opponent’s board, so it’s not too hard to play across any distance. There are a number of Guess Who board versions, so having the same version is key.
Number of players: 2
Requirements: Video conferencing platform. Each player needs the same version of the game.
Tips: Position your camera so that your opponent cannot see your game board, just as you would when playing in person.
TABOO or MAD GAB
Taboo and Mad Gab are both games all about talking and listening. If your audio feed is good, playing over video chat probably wouldn’t be that different of an experience from playing in the same room.
Minimum number of players: 4
Requirements: Phone or video conferencing platform. Only one player needs the game.
Tips: Choose teams carefully so that you have partners on the other side of the screen (they will not be able to see your cards that way). For Taboo, this is necessary so someone in your household can hit the buzzer if you use one of the taboo words in your description.
Clue might take a little more planning to adapt to video chat, but it can happen. It helps if you have one person who sets up the game for you, preparing the envelope with the suspect, room and weapon to be guessed and dealing the cards.
Number of players: 2-6, plus 1 person who doesn’t compete to set up the top secret file (and possibly give clues)
Requirements: Video conferencing platform and a cell phone with texting for each person is helpful.
Tips: Each person playing on the other side of the video chat will have to leave the room while your helper shows them one card from their hand. Alternatively if everyone has a cell phone, a player could text which card they have in their hand to the player making a suggestion instead of showing the card on the screen. If you don’t want to write out your own Clue notepad, you can search for printables online.
It’s not uncommon for people to take trivia cards on road trips, just because they can be answered anywhere and help break up the monotony. Any trivia game you might own can easily be adapted this way: Trivial Pursuit (any version), TriBond (one of our favorites) or any other trivia game with cards.
Number of players: 2 or more
Requirements: Video conferencing platform and one copy of the trivia game
Tips: The game owners will need to host and ask questions to everyone – or select one person as question reader to manage all cards and questions. Teams can be made across households for extra fun.
Compability has sadly become a rare game (now out of print) but it still gets an honorable mention. Every once in a while, we see a copy pop up at a garage sale or thrift store, so keep your eyes open! This is our favorite to play with long-distance adult friends (and a favorite for in-person, too).
Roll a die to select one of the topics from a card (like sadness, business, family, etc). Then you and your partner each secretly choose 2-5 card images that you think best represent the topic (the number of cards depends on where you are on the board). Teams score points by choosing the same cards and earn extra points for ranking cards in the same order.
Number of players: 4 or 6
Requirements: Video conferencing platform. Two copies of the game are helpful (unless you send two decks of Compatibility cards to your friends or leave them on their doorstep to borrow). Each team needs their own matching deck of Compatibility cards (6 sets come in a game).
Tips: During your team’s turn, reveal your cards by holding them in front of the camera. Though we often play as couples, it’s also possible to team up with someone on the other side of the screen if your picture decks are identical.
I’ve listed a number of games that we have in our stacks – but hopefully you’re starting to think of how you can adapt your own games to an online video version! Leave your ideas in the comments!
Resources: More Games to Play
It’s taken me a while to compose this post – and in the meantime, I’ve discovered a few other resources for you!
- Classic Board Games with a Touch of Tech
Catherine Newman does a great job covering classic favorites like Boggle, Yahtzee, Monopoly, Bananagrams and Pictionary (along with tips and recommendations to make them work on phone or video conferencing). She also notes that “there are a number of two-player games that work well as long as you are willing to painstakingly mirror each other’s moves (be sure to use the front camera on your device so you’re both seeing the board the same way). And Mad Libs, while not a game per se, also work beautifully via video.”
- 7 board games you can play online with friends while you’re staying inside
- 5 party games to play online with friends while you’re staying inside
These fun posts from Boston.com have great ideas for online board and party games without the hacks – and for many of them, you don’t even need to own the game. You can specifically purchase an online version!