6 Ways to Play Games with Friends while Social Distancing

6 Ways to Play Games with Friends while Social Distancing

So this wasn't the original plan for today's post. I was going to post about more Renaissance Faires happening this month, but with everything going on, I knew it was time for a sharp adjustment. Personally, I've been under stay at home orders for a few weeks now, but that doesn't mean I haven't craved interaction with my friends. I figured others might be in the same boat, so here are 5 ways you can still play games with friends while maintaining social distancing.


A drawing of the Discord interface on multiple devices

So if you already have a D&D or TTRPG game going, the easiest way to play is Discord. Originally used for video games, Discord is a chat application that supports both voice and video calls. As long as you have a web camera, you can start a call and see everyone you're playing with. Additionally, you could have a separate camera trained on a dedicated playing surface so everyone can see what's going on. I'd suggest your DM maintain the board for ease.

We've been playing our current campaign with a friend who lives overseas, and this has worked super well for us. It's a little low-fi, but if you're comfortable with this set-up, I'd absolutely recommend it!

Roll 20

An example of a Roll20 board being played with text descriptions of each component. The text reads "Drag & Drop Monsters, Characters, & NPCS", "Dynamic Lighting", "Click-to-roll Dice" "Video & Voice Chat" and "Interactive Character Sheets"
If you want a platform that's even more tuned for tabletop play, Roll20 is a great solution. Essentially, your DM will select the system you're going to play and create your map. You can then join in and create your character. Once that's done, there's virtual dice rolling and a virtual token that represents your character. They even have built in video chat that you can use. I highly recommend digging into this crash course if you plan on running a game yourself.
If you don't already have a group you're playing with, you have the option to find a group within Roll20. Just choose the game system you want to play and other parameters that fit what you're looking for.

Fantasy Grounds

A screenshot of fantasy grounds showcasing how the program works. On the left side is the history of turns, the center of the image shows the stats of a troll, and on the right are various tokens like NPC or Map. Underneath those screen you can see a grided map.
I wanted to add Fantasy Grounds as an alternative to Roll 20. Similar to Roll 20, this offers an online way to play your favorite Tabletop RPG. While you can use it for free, Fantasy Grounds really shines when you upgrade. You're able to use rulesets, premade battlemaps, and various tokens like characters and monsters. I especially love the dice rolling! While I haven't personally used Fantasy Grounds for a game, Matt Colville has a great video that goes into depth on how to use it.

Tabletop Simulator

A simulated version of Settlers of Catan in Tabletop Simulator viewed from the side

Tabletop Simulator is a Steam game that does exactly what it says, it simulates a tabletop game. This is definitely more for board game fans, although I'm sure there is a TTRPG equivalent. How it works is each person playing needs a copy of the game. For one it's $19.99 and for 4 copies it's currently $59.99 (although, it's on sale a lot, so keep an eye out!). Once everyone has a copy, only the host needs to purchase the game you play. There are official games you can buy through Tabletop Simulator that range from $4.99 to $14.99. You then play as if it was a physical board game.

However, where Tabletop Simulator really shines is the extensive number of Mods people have created. These are free to play, and the range is extensive. So if you have a favorite game you like to play, this is a great way to do it. You can even play games that you may have wanted to try, but never got around to it. Although, if you really love a modded game, I suggest supporting the original creator and buying a copy!

Jackbox Games

A black board game cover that says "Trivia Murder Party" in colorful lettering next to a video capture of the game.

Jackbox Games is a series of party games that you can play using a variety of platforms. Essentially, if you have a device, you can play these games. One person will host the game, and then the others will be able to play along with their phones. I recommend having someone stream the game. Luckily, Jackbox has provided a fantastic guide in how to do just that!

Some of my favorites are Trivia Murder Party, a trivia game where you answer questions and try not to die (don't worry, you can come back!). Quiplash, where the point is to answer questions and try make each other laugh as much as possible. And there's Split the Room where you fill in questions to try and split all the answers. There are tons of other options, and most of these games are relatively quick to play. 

Animal Crossing

A wallpaper for Animal Crossing New Horizons featuring two human characters in the center surrounded by various animal companions. Behind then you can See Tom Nook and Timmy and Tommy Nook. Everyone is on an island that has waterfalls, trees, and flowers.

This suggestion is a bit different than the others, but is the one I've been doing the most the last few weeks. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a life simulator on the Nintendo Switch where you build a home on a deserted island and invite animal characters to live there with you. Each day you have something a little different to do, but there's no wrong way to play!

But what's really great about this is you can visit the islands of your friends. Nintendo has even included a companion phone app that you can use for regular chat or voice chat. A friend of mine hosted a birthday party on his island, and people brought him in-game gifts and showered him with party poppers. While not as good as the real thing, it was definitely super memorable and fun!

Here's hoping one of these options will help you play with friends and family and get you through the next weeks. I definitely recommend having a weekly day and time to play so you have something to look forward to and plan for.

Tags: For Fun, Tabletop