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View Full Version : My experience with a more complex board game



Crispy
05-01-2014, 05:05 PM
I just played a evening of Talisman (a fantasy board game with a lot of cards and counters) in Tabletop Simulator (TTS) with some friends scattered across the country and here are my thoughts:

It worked amazingly well, far better than any other virtual tabletop system I've seen. Talisman is a fairly complex game with lots of cards and tokens and I was able to find fairly decent representations of the tokens in the available in-game pieces. It took a while to get used to the interface and we had to fight some bugs to get going, but once we did, we were able to lose ourselves in the game and it was pretty close the experience of playing the real thing. I've been waiting for something like this for a while and I think it will be great for all kinds of board games once some issues are worked out.

Talisman has a lot of cards and they worked very well once we got the hang of the interface. It was pretty intuitive to draw cards, flip them and place them where we wanted. The physics is great and adds a great feel and immersion to it without making things frustrating. We left the gravity slider at its default setting.

The most frustrating aspect of it was the camera controls. We all re-bound our WASD keys to the Pan left/right/fwd/back to make it easier to move around, and then used the right mouse button to rotate which seems pretty intuitive (same as WoW). Panning left/right are fine, but fwd/back don't move fwd/back: they move "up" & "down" relative to the direction the camera is pointing. A comfortable viewpoint is about 45-degrees looking down at the board, so the "up" key (W) ends up moving you diagonally forward and upwards at a 45-degree angle. I can't imagine why you'd ever want this. It doesn't take very long before you are out-of-range of the scroll wheel's ability to zoom back in, and I'm constantly having to reset the viewpoint (spacebar) and rotate and pan back to where I was trying to look. This could be simply fixed if the Pan keys could be restricted to moving only horizontally, in the same plane as the tabletop.

Another frustration we had was with the precision of the "hand". There are encounters which require placing tokens (we used player pawns) on top of cards and we found this very difficult to do without accidentally picking up the card and knocking things everywhere (we all felt like 3-yr-olds trying to do it). I think this might be because it is sometimes hard to figure out where the active point of the hand is. It's not quite at the finger tip, and when objects are bunched closely together it's difficult to pick up the right thing. Maybe the active part of the hand could be made more obvious and exactly at the finger tip. This might be related to another bug where sometimes when launching, the mouse pointer wasn't registering where it appeared (sometimes up to a couple hundred pixels off). Restarting the program was the only way to fix that and some of us had to restart a bunch of times to get the mouse working reasonably well.

The Talisman gameboard is rectangular and looks squashed in the custom board square. Hopefully the upcoming 3D model import feature will cure that, but an easy interim solution (and actually a nice feature to have anyways) would just be a simple rectangular board with a custom image that scales itself to the correct aspect ratio of the image and you could resize and lock/freeze to the table so it doesn't move. In fact this would enable a lot of different kinds of game tokens (round and hex ones would be nice as well).

As far as what pieces we used: we used red/blue/green player pawns for the strength/craft/life tokens, reversi chips for fate, white checkers for gold (we tried quarters but they flip all over the place when you try to move them), and green triangle blocks for frogs. We picked player pieces from the villain figurines and scaled them down. The new resize feature was great and really made it possible (the cards would have been much too big to fit on the game board otherwise). It would be nice to make resize an admin-only feature though.

One really nice feature is that we didn't need 120 tokens and counters cluttering up our board waiting to be used: I could just copy/paste them as needed (lots of fun). However, there are some rules that state that when the counters run out, it is not possible to do something, so you still need to keep count. (It would be nice to have a list and count of all items on the table and give them names).

I did have some trouble importing the cards: the game is 32-bit and runs out of address space when importing lots of cards. (It can only use 4GB of memory regardless of how much memory you have). Each card import is a 7x10 grid and consumes the space of 70 cards even if if the deck you're importing has only a couple cards. We only played the base game which has about 180 cards in 7 decks, but 3 of those decks only have 4 cards but each still takes up the space of 70 cards. (A deck must have a common back, so decks with different backs must be done as different deck imports). The first time I tried to import the cards at full 300dpi resolution the game went to its 4GB limit and froze. I ended up having to resize the cards to as small as I could and still be readable. This was with the base game: this will be a real issue when trying to import the expansions, or other more complex games. I'm starting to scan in WoW the Adventure Game which has almost 1000 cards, half of which are double-sided, and there will certainly have to be some internal reworking of the card importing memory allocation scheme before it's possible to load them. I sure hope the developer can make it work: part of the great thing about TTS is that the game can really look as gorgeous as its real-life counterpart, and having low-resolution cards detracts from that.

Other minor thoughts:

The current available figurines are all villains: it would be nice to have some generic "good-guy" fantasy figurines too (dwarf/elf/human/warrior/wizard/thief/etc)

One of us (on a Mac) once encountered a bug where the game went really dark all of a sudden (like the lights were turned off). Restarting was the only way of fixing it.

It would be nice when saving over an existing slot, if the name of the existing game was copied automatically into the textfield so we didn't have to always retype it.

The dice seemed to roll a little slowly for how vigorously we tossed them (they had a lot of friction when hitting the tabletop). Probably not good to have them bouncing all over the place, but I think the dice friction could be reduced a bit to avoid having rolls where the dice hardly rolls at all and isn't very random.

It would be nice to have a generic gold coin like the quarter, but doesn't flip when you release it.

It was funny after playing a card to see everybody's hands come over and follow along the words as everyone read it. I don't mind the other players hands getting in the way; I actually like it: it's easy enough to learn to keep your hands out of the way, and it's nice to have the indication of what the other people are doing or where their attention is.

We didn't test out the voice chat: we stuck to Skype which has worked well for us for years.

All in all it was a successful and fun evening like a real boardgame evening should be. I'm looking forward to the improvements that will make our other games possible and close to the real thing.

QQuixotic
05-01-2014, 06:31 PM
A lot of the bugs reported here would be useful as their own bug reports over in the main feedback thread. As for a 'generic non-flipping coin', until one gets implemented I recommend the circle tokens from piecepack.
Thanks for your post.

Knil
05-02-2014, 08:31 AM
Thanks for the feedback! Just to let you know you can use ALT + WASD to move the way you described in the post (FPS style camera).

Crispy
05-02-2014, 06:17 PM
Knil said
Thanks for the feedback! Just to let you know you can use ALT + WASD to move the way you described in the post (FPS style camera).

I just tried but still can't figure it out. ALT-W and ALT-S just seems to move along the camera path which still moves the camera downwards and upwards if I'm looking at the board at a 45 degree angle.

I'd like WASD to pan, but without changing the camera's "altitude". I.e. If I place the camera 1 foot above the table, I want WASD to move the camera fwd/left/back/right along the table, but always staying at 1 foot above the table (even if I'm looking down at the table).

Is there any way to move the camera like that?

QQuixotic
05-03-2014, 03:58 AM
Crispy said

Knil said
Thanks for the feedback! Just to let you know you can use ALT + WASD to move the way you described in the post (FPS style camera).

I just tried but still can't figure it out. ALT-W and ALT-S just seems to move along the camera path which still moves the camera downwards and upwards if I'm looking at the board at a 45 degree angle.

I'd like WASD to pan, but without changing the camera's "altitude". I.e. If I place the camera 1 foot above the table, I want WASD to move the camera fwd/left/back/right along the table, but always staying at 1 foot above the table (even if I'm looking down at the table).

Is there any way to move the camera like that?
There's no camera dedicated to that control scheme, but you can rotate the camera to be facing straight down then it functions that way.

Mark
05-09-2014, 11:45 PM
Crispy said

It was funny after playing a card to see everybody's hands come over and follow along the words as everyone read it. I don't mind the other players hands getting in the way; I actually like it: it's easy enough to learn to keep your hands out of the way, and it's nice to have the indication of what the other people are doing or where their attention is.

If you didn't already know, holding Alt over a card brings it up as a 2D image on your screen. (Scrolling + alt scales image up/down.) Hands getting in the way shouldn't be an issue anyway.

Crispy said

We didn't test out the voice chat: we stuck to Skype which has worked well for us for years.

The voice chat works well. I like to keep to toggle chat though as it's annoying to have to hold down V when having to explain something to someone. This is also great when someone has a bad microphone. In Skype if you have a bad microphone you'll probably damage everyone's ears if you're playing for that amount of time, unless you somehow keybind the mute microphone button for your own version of toggle chat.

If that's not a problem, skype would be the way to go with a group of friends. If the game lags or someone crashes, your conversation won't suffer.