Virtual Board Game Nights at the ISAW Library

By Gabriel McKee

Among the many events disrupted by COVID-19 was the conference that the ISAW Library had planned for this past March, “Re-Rolling the Past: Representations and Reinterpretations of Antiquity in Analog and Digital Games.” We’ve recast this conference as a virtual event, which will be held over three days on November 11-13. (Save the date, and stay tuned for further details.) Less formally, we’d also intended to have more ISAW Library Game Nights, and thanks to some innovative advances in virtual tabletop gaming, those plans were able to proceed, albeit with slight modifications.

There are several virtual gaming platforms available. For our Virtual Game Nights, we’ve used Board Game Arena, an international, community-based platform with an intuitive interface, built-in videoconferencing, an AI system that incorporates game rules into gameplay, and a library of over 200 games. (The only thing it’s missing is snacks.) For our first virtual game night in May, we played 7 Wonders, a city-building game set in the Hellenistic era that we’ve played several times at past in-person game nights. A great time was had by all, and the ease and speed of play enabled us to run through two rounds of the game. Earlier this month, we met up again for a virtual game of In the Year of the Dragon, a resource-management game set in Medieval China. Other games we’re hoping to try out in coming months include Assyria, Stone Age, and Amyitis

There are other virtual gaming platforms available as well, and later this year we may host game nights on Tabletopia, Boite à Jeux, and Yucata. Though it’s been a difficult year, these virtual game meet-ups have offered a great opportunity to reconnect with our ISAW colleagues, experience gamified history, and have some fun.