Diary #36 – The Promised Land


In my last diary entry I hoped that the gaming community would migrate online. I didn’t realise that some were already there: they have led the rest of us to new lands, as Moses once did, and we owe them our thanks.

One such person is Simon Milburn (Alley Cat Games, Dranda Games), who has organised virtual meetings of the Birmingham group, given tutorials and uploaded a prototype of Test of Time (formerly Dawn of Gnome) for me. Watching him playtest it was great fun: I could swoop over the board like a virtual bird and take screenshots.

Simon’s prototype: the ziggurats were a nice touch

I now felt ready to create a Tabletop Simulator prototype of my own. I found some icons on game-icons.net, edited them using Inkscape and a spreadsheet, fed the spreadsheet into Nandeck, turned it into cards with the command line, put the cards into the Deckbuilder, hosted the resulting deck on Imgur and saved it as a mod on Steam. Only then did I notice an error in one of the icons.

My prototype: needs more ziggurats

That may sound complicated, but it was actually easier than printing, cutting and gluing. The game can now be edited, set up and put away in the blink of an eye. The big advantage of the move online, however, is is the new community of designers which is connected 24/7 (special mention to Chris Backe’s group).

But is the Internet really the Promised Land? The Birmingham group was set up to connect designers with local playtesters, not the avatars of strangers from around the world. For me the social aspect of the hobby is the biggest casualty: I have a habit of cracking bad jokes during a game, and I can no longer tell if I’m annoying my peers. I also resent the extra time I spend hunched over my laptop (I already felt it had taken over my life). I’ve been pushed into a bubble, and want out.

So in short it’s not all doom and gloom, but I am counting the days. I’ve had time to enter a design competition – more on that later.

How has your gaming hobby been affected? Are there any tools for virtual prototypes you’d recommend? Feel free to leave a comment.

Picture credit: The Prince of Egypt, DreamWorks Pictures

4 thoughts on “Diary #36 – The Promised Land

  1. I’ve been playing more board games during lockdown than ever before – around 4-5 evenings a week (plus one roleplaying) and one morning a week. I’m also doing playtests during the daytime, as well as other board game design and development work most days.


      1. Not a high proportion, no. But more than pre-pandemic. And I think I’ll do most of my playtesting online.


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