Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Cyberboard

Lately, I've been playing around with something I found called Cyberboard. It's a program that facilitates "Play By Email" type of gaming. In other words, you can play board games with other people who aren't sitting right in front of you. I think it was originally intended for war game type of games, but the functionality has expanded over the years to facilitate other types of games. The program is made up of two main programs, a design program that lets you create a "game box" (i.e. virtual representation of the board/card game you want to play), and another to actually play the games. In the design program, you recreate all the pieces you'd need to play, such as board, cards, pawns, dice, and other bits and pieces. It has drawing tools if you want to go that route, or you can scan all your materials and paste in images. Unfortunately, it only takes in bitmaps, which makes the file somewhat large, but in most cases it looks much nicer than anything I would be able to draw. Anyways, once you have created the "game box," you then create "scenario files." In the scenario files, you set up the starting conditions and all of that. Then, the first player makes whatever moves they make and Cyberboard records each move. You save the move file, then email that file to your opponent. They load it up, watch what you did, then do their own moves, save them, and send them back to you. I think you can do games with more than two people, but there might be slightly altered logistics to it that I haven't really looked into.

I have mainly played around with the design portion of it, so I don't know exactly how it plays out in practice. But, it is a pretty nice idea. Some people have posted Cyberboard files up on Boardgamegeek for some of the games. Of course, there are copyright issues with scanning in material and uploading them to the internets for free and such. So, the rule that I have seen around is that you only use it if you own the actual physical board game itself (after the person who made the files got consent from the publishers). Two games in particular that I have seen Cyberboard files up for are Dead of Night, which I posted about a little while ago, and Duel of Ages. As far as the one for Dead of Night goes, that would probably solve some of the gripes I had about it, since I was frustrated with the actual crappy paper bits that I made myself. An electronic version of the game is much nicer. The Dead of Night Cyberboard file posted on BGG is pretty nice looking, has pretty good functionality, but is missing a couple of things and features that I would want. Unfortunately, I can't change the game box itself, so I would either have to bug the guy who made it (he passworded the game box file) or just make my own. The Duel of Ages one is really nice, and includes all expansions for the game. From what I've seen, the publishers have been really supportive of the Cyberboard version, and there are tournaments running on the forums on their site. I'm not sure if you're supposed to own all of them in order to play the Cyberboard version or not. But, maybe I'll try to get up a game with someone sometime.

I've been working on a Cyberboard version for one of my boardgames. I'm not going to post it to BGG or anything, because I don't want to worry about any hassle of getting permission or any of that crap. It's been taking me a bit of time, but I'm liking how it's turning out. If anyone wants to check out Cyberboard and has any requests to play any of the games that I own using it, let me know and I'll see if I can work it up. Or if you want to try out Dead of Night or Duel of Ages with me, I'll point you to the files.

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