In this post, I want to give you my opinion about using the Tabletop Simulator for miniature wargames.
With the current Corvid-19 pandemic still going strong, I was faced with an unknown problem: I can’t play with my mates because of all those lockdown stuff. Sure, the Tabletop Simulator is out for years, but with my gaming mates nearby I never had a reason to give it a try. Until now. But is it worth the hassle? Let’s find out!
What’s this all about?
Tabletop Simulator (TTS) is a physics sandbox that allows the players to create and play tabletop games over the web. In other words, imagine a video game, but without any rules, winning conditions or models. Consequently, the players are free to do or create whatever they want to do. Only the laws of physics will limit their creativity. That’s how Tabletop Simulator works.
The installation is pretty easy thanks to Steam. Right after the installation, you could play some free games like Chess or Poker. But the app really shines through its feature to import new assets. Therefore, you can build mods for a specific set of rules. Most importantly, the players are free to share their stuff via the Steam Workshop. And that is the important part for us wargamers because this offers us the opportunity to play miniature wargames!
Which games can I play?
After taking the plunge, I still had no clue which games I should play with my mates. Again I did some research and honestly, I was very pleased with the amount of stuff I found.
|Bolt Action||Even on TTS Bolt Action seems to be very popular. You can find gaming tables, armies and all the other stuff you need to play.|
|Chain of Command||One of my personal highlights is Operation Martlet, the pint-sized campaign.|
|Field of Glory: Renaissance||Includes a gaming table, terrain and two armies for the 1550 – 1570 AD European Religious War period.|
|Field of Glory: Rise of Rome||Includes a gaming table and two armies (Macedonians and early Romans)|
|Lion Rampant||Includes a gaming table, 6 full armies with rosters, some terrain, tokens and references by Wargames Illustrated.|
|Star Wars Legion||Includes a gaming table, terrain, miniatures, cards and tokens.|
|Warhammer: Age of Sigmar||For AoS there is a hell lot of stuff available for TTS.|
|What a Tanker!||Includes dashboards and tokens for What a Tanker! by TooFatLardies.|
Obviously, this is only a small amount of the stuff which is available out there. But I hope this still could prove useful as a guideline. In short, just use Google and you will find stuff for almost any ruleset.
One word of advice: in some of the workshop files you will find rules and cards which are protected by copyright. So please keep in mind, this post is about playing miniature wargames during the pandemic, not saving money. If you like a game, buy the rules and support the authors. It’s just the decent thing to do.
How does it work?
I am new to playing miniature wargames with the Tabletop Simulator, so I am by no means in the position to teach you how to set up your first game. However, the video below will give you an overview of the possibilities.
Of course, the video shows by no means every nuance of the app. But I guess you got an impression.
Is it any good?
Honestly, starting Tabletop Simulator for the first time was quite overwhelming. But after using it for two hours, I get used to the mechanics pretty well. And the quality of the support files for some games is really outstanding. Others on the other hand are not so great. In other words, the quality of the assets for your games can be very different.
You will also run into several issues using TTS. For example, I had the problem more than once, that files were missing in an asset. Especially, if the asset used stuff from another asset. Honestly, while some assets are very professional, others are more makeshift. This can be very annoying. But in most cases, the app is very stable and the usability is solid.
And the gaming experience? Well, there is no black and white again. I tested several mods, but in all honesty, for miniature wargames in a traditional sense, TTS is not for me. Tasks like moving your miniatures or measuring are way too cumbersome in my opinion. At first, I had the impression, that you need much more time to set up and play using TTS. But after some time, I came to the conclusion, that I might be wrong. Timewise the difference isn’t that big, but it is way more cumbersome and stressful.
In other words, I would not use TTS for Chain of Command or Bolt Action. However, for games with only a hand full of miniatures, things are slightly different.
For example, I played two games of Core Space with a mate. With a very small amount of miniatures on the table and a really superb mod we had a great time.
On the plus side, TTS offers the possibility to play against people everywhere. And yes, that is a big plus in my book, because playing with a mixed group of players from around the world can be a great experience. For most of us, this wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Another advantage is the possibility to play a new army before you buy the models. While I can understand the argument, for me this isn’t really a thing I would do. In most cases, reading the rules gives me a good enough impression of how a faction will play out, so I don’t need to test it. But to have that option is nice whatsoever.
Testing a new set of rules using the TTS on the other hand is a no-go for me. Maybe I am a bit old fashioned, but this is a task best carried out in person on a real table. Things just tend to be much clearer there and there is also no fiddling around with the functions of a simulator.
So is it any good? Well, it depends. If you give the app a try, you should be open-minded. The Tabletop Simulator is by no means a replacement for a real gaming table. Meeting in person with a buddy and moving around your own minis on a beautiful table is by far better. The whole feeling is totally different and no virtual simulation will ever be able to replace that.
But using the Tabletop Simulator has its own strengths. For example, you can play with people, who are simply way too far away to meet up in person. Another big advantage is the possibility to save a game and resume to play it later, without blocking your gaming table.
In conclusion, the Tabletop Simulator is more suitable for board games or very small skirmish games. I had a lot of fun using the app. But honestly, it isn’t for me. The feel just isn’t there. It is like a mix of a video game and a miniature wargame. A Jack of all trades. Not really bad, but neither really good in particular.
But I didn’t regret buying the app nonetheless. It was an interesting experience. And most importantly, it made me really think about playing a game on a real gaming table using webcams with people from other locations. Obviously, this is a challenge for the game host, but also a fun experience and a good way to play with people from all over the world.
Have you any experience using the Tabletop Simulator for miniature wargames? Let me know in the comments. Stay safe and happy wargaming!