Tabletop Simulator Early Access Review

In this day and age, board games can seem a bit archaic. Gathering a couple friends and sitting around a table with fake money in your hand might not be how you’d envision your evening, but Tabletop Simulator proves that board games are still just as relevant as they were before the widespread use of digital gaming. Berserk Games has created something so entertaining and socially satisfying that it feels like everyone is crowded around the game board eagerly awaiting their turn.

What’s really unique about Tabletop Simulator is that it’s hardly a game at all, by definition of the word. It’s essentially a physics sandbox with some dice, cards, and common board game pieces thrown in. There aren’t any rules being enforced by the simulation; it is entirely up to the players to play. You could say that Tabletop Simulator provides the table, while the players provide the game and the experience. It’s really up to the players to determine how fun the game is because they’re the ones running it.

There are a huge amount of game modes to enjoy in Tabletop Simulator. Seeing as this is still in Early Access, it’s very impressive to see 18 different games available, as well as mod support. There’s the standards such as chess, checkers, and dominoes but there are also more obscure games that I’ve never even heard of. Pachisi? Card Bots? I’m not sure what these are, but if I wanted to play them, there is an in-depth written tutorial in Tabletop Simulator’s menu.

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The moment I read the words “Tabletop Simulator” on Steam, I had one question and one question only. “Can it play tabletop RPGs?” I’ve been dying to find some sort of program or game that really simulated something like Pathfinder or D&D, and much to my surprise, Tabletop Simulator is actually a competent RPG simulator provided you do the calculations. There is an RPG preset, and it includes all the required dice as well as some very nice animated monster figurines, dungeon tilesets, and props. Everything you need to run a campaign is technically here. I’m hoping Berserk Games will add an RPG character sheet in the future, as well as some more props.

I find the multiplayer in Tabletop Simulator to be absolutely hysterical. There’s something that’s just so funny about being able to pick up a piece and throw it off the game board, or knock it into other pieces and watch everything collapse. There is an undo button to prevent accidental mishaps, but it’s just too funny to have all your chess pieces fall over because you accidentally dropped him on the wrong spot. I think that is part of the reason why there is a “Table Flip” button in the corner that flips everything into the void. While flipping the table, you can use the voice chat to express your disgruntled attitude to the other players.

One of the coolest things about Tabletop Simulator is the amount of detail in everything. You might think that Tabletop Simulator can only go so far in terms of detail, but Berserk Games has literally thought of everything you need to do to efficiently play a board game, and mapped it to a key. Need to pick up a card? That’s easy enough, but can you pick up a deck, shuffle it, and then draw a card to each player? Yes, and with only a few mouse clicks. It’s really creative how literally the mouse and a few keys will do everything. There’s even a nice zoom in feature to see hard-to-see pieces up close without actually zooming in. There are also options to change specific game pieces to different materials, such as wooden chess pieces as opposed to metal. The details really are impressive.

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Honestly, I really don’t have any huge complaints about Tabletop Simulator. If Berserk Games released it tomorrow, I wouldn’t even know it wasn’t finished. Yet in the several weeks that I’ve owned the game, there has been a significant content update every week. At this rate, there will be dozens of items and modes added in the coming months. Here’s hoping to see some sort of basic AI so it’d be possible to play chess or checkers solo. I’d also like to see more variety in the RPG pack, such as tilesets and character figurines. However, Tabletop Simulator is planned to have Steam Workshop support, so in time there will be plenty of new props to play around with.

Buy, Try, or Avoid?
Tabletop Simulator is easily one of the most entertaining games I’ve played in 2014. If you’re in the mood to play some board games without actually busting them out of your closet, then Tabletop Simulator is the way to go. Not to mention that it is still in early access, which means it will only get more support from here on out. If you like Tabletop Games and you have friends to play them with, then I highly recommend picking up Tabletop Simulator.

You can find Tabletop Simulator on Steam.