Hello good readers!
This latest post is yet another Special Guest Post and marks the return of Michael Power, UK Midlands Fall WKO Winner (read his re-cap post HERE)
In this post Mike walks us through using online interactive solutions to get games of Dice Masters in when its a struggle to meet up face-to-face for a game. He describes the three main methods that he uses and gives some guidance on how to get started.
I don’t know about you but with family life and mates who live a long way away I find it difficult to get out to game face-to-face. The answer? To play online, and I’ve found a few solutions to be able to play games online to “scratch the itch” and keep me involved in Dice Masters. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that without the ability to play online I would not be investing in Dice Masters today because I wouldn’t be able to practice for WKOs and play against my mates regularly.
I’m often asked what software we use when I meet fellow gamers at events so I figure it’s time to put some notes down and see if we can get even more people in to this awesome game. There are three main ways (that I’m aware of at least) to play online and all have their various benefits and flaws: Webcam; VASSAL; and Tabletop Simulator. I’ll do my best to describe how to set them up, usage and my view of the benefits and flaws. The main thing I would say is if you can be comfortable using all three it will mean more of us can play each other 🙂
For all games, I’m using Skype to talk to my opponents.
I have used Facebook audio and Google hangouts in the past which worked well so just use whatever works best for you and your opponents.
For this you will need to be using Skype or some other video messaging service ideally on a computer/laptop so that you can attach a webcam. Set up a tripod or some other mechanism to get your webcam pointing down at your desk. Ideally you want your mat in front of your monitor as close as possible so it looks like your mats are facing off against each other. If you are really keen you can invert your cameras so that it really looks like you are sitting opposite each other. Then it’s just a case of rolling dice.
- You get to roll real dice!
- Get to use your own cards and mat
- Get a feel for how the game plays for real
- Doesn’t require too much space if you have the right set up
- What more can I say? You get to play for real J
- Effects which require you to move dice from one side to the other are not possible (unless you have corresponding dice of course which I imagine for most players is quite likely)
- Dice rolling and dice bag may be off camera at times. Clearly, we all trust each other by default but for ‘online tournament’ play might be a consideration
- Can be impossible if you just don’t have desk space or a set up suitable for a tripod
Some might say this is the closest thing to playing someone remotely as you are rolling your mat and cards out and throwing dice. My desk set up does not really allow me to do this right now but I would like to work out my setup to support this mode of play in the future.
VASSAL is a piece of software that allow you to play any number of games found in their module archive. Some games developers support this to great effect (check out Wyrd’s Malifaux module) building a player base who learn the game before they meet up to play for real. WizKids, like many others, don’t appear to recognise or agree with this approach.
Fortunately, some clever fellows created a nice little module which got many of my friends into the game (buying many cards and dice so we could play when we met up at events). Unfortunately, the authors had to stop supporting it and VASSAL had to remove the download from their site. However, it is still out there if you can find other players.
- First off you need to install VASSAL
- Get the modules from someone and put them somewhere on your computer (in the VASSAL modules folder would be my advice)
- Then open VASSAL and go File > Open Module and open the DiceMasters.vmod file in the module folder you saved in step 2
- In future Dice Masters will be in your list so you can just double click it to start
- Start an online game
- You will need to create a new game room first in the network panel on the right
- Then select File > New Game
- You can open a play area and the card picker and start dropping cards and dice on to the game table
- You can save teams and games to come back to them when you have time
- Works on PC and Mac (best with 24” or bigger monitor to maximise the game play experience but perfectly usable on smaller screens and laptops)
- Supports 3 and 4 player (doubles) games
- Supports observers
- Does not require any diskspace other than your computer or laptop
- Once you are familiar with the interface it is very quick to play and good for rattling through games for tournament practice
- Good for solo practice
- Dice rolling and bag randomisation is managed by the computer and reported in the control panel (comes in handy when its late and you have forgotten if you rerolled your dice yet)
- It has a transition area!
- Not supported by WizKids nor actively developed by the original authors
- Not all decks are present (unless you know how to add your own)
- VASSAL can present a bit of a learning curve but once you get the hand of it it’s the fastest mode of play
- Adding your cards to VASSAL is an even bigger learning curve but perfectly possible for non-developers to learn
- Few players online
VASSAL Dice Masters is best likened to the experience you get from playing chess online on a two-dimensional board. You get all the mechanics, game play and social experience but loose the tactile element of rolling dice. It’s fast to use and has good card support if you can find someone who is still actively adding cards. Unfortunately, there are very few players online so getting a random game is a massive challenge these days.
Have you ever wanted to play games in virtual reality? Do you like beautifully rendered three-dimensional game pieces with physics, lighting, and collision effects? Well you are in luck: Tabletop Simulator has all this and more.
Like VASSAL it is a game ‘environment’ which keen types can create and share their own games in. It does have its own quirks but once you ‘get it’ it is a really nice system to use. TTS has a very active online community making new modules for games all the time.
Where it differs from VASSAL is all the three-dimensional wizardry. This does make it a bit slower to use but it’s very tactile (well as tactile as a computer can be). The movement and rolling of pieces is very visual and allows each player to see everything that’s going on.
- Get on over to Steam and get a copy (often on 50% sale)
- Look in the workshop for “Marvel Dice Masters” and subscribe
- Now open TTS and go straight into settings to turn off the music
- Choose multiplayer and host a server (or single player if just testing things out)
- Close the game windows and select Menu > Workshop
- Chose Marvel Dice Masters from the list and wait for the game environment to load
- You will find most of the modules in there but some you need to subscribe separately to quite a few. Load them up in the workshop and right click on the cards and dice bags to save them to your chest. Then fire up the main module and import the missing sets from your saved items in your chest.
- Drag the cards and dice from the bags (using the search feature can be handy) on the side tables
- Once you have set up right click to roll dice or subscribe to one of the many dice rollers if you prefer
- Looks stunning
- Loads of game support from the community
- Online servers do seem to have Dice Masters playing fairly regularly so clearly some people are using it
- TTS has a Transition area too!
- Bit of a learning curve to get all your decks in one place but once done it’s easy enough to get set up pretty quickly
- Due to all the 3D-ness it’s slower than VASSAL
- It costs money to buy TTS (£15). Not a lot but I felt worth mentioning
- Not all decks are present although support seems to be more active than for VASSAL
Did I mention it looks stunning? This really does feel like a small window into the future of online table top gaming. The user interface is a bit clunky at times with icons on the screen I have no idea what they do and daren’t touch for fear of creating a parallel universe. Other dimensions aside just sticking to what I know and right clicking if in doubt I have found this to be a really nice little product.
I like getting face to face to play Dice Masters but, hey, life just doesn’t let that happen very often so I am a massive fan of online gaming. I can’t wait to be able to play games online with mates with full VR, gesture tracking, haptics, etc but until then I’ll be waiting for Vive to drop in price a bit before I jump on the VR bandwagon. In the meantime, I’m resigned to my lowly two-dimensional displays.
Tabletop Simulator is a big step towards three-dimensional immersion and really is a work of art… A bit buggy at times and has crashed out occasionally, but a work of art none the less. It’s a bit slow for my liking for Dice Masters but it is growing on me and I really like it for board games.
My desk setup does not really support webcam play as mentioned above but even if it did I’m still a big fan of VASSAL just because it’s so fast to use and has none of the downsides of webcam play. I like tournament play and learning the mechanics and game play in a quick virtual environment suits that style of play perfectly. You still see the cards and are talking to your opponent on Skype so overall I get the game play and the social aspects I want from gaming. Add the logging and rewind features and you can really hyper analyse your games and strategies.
Ultimately, I know the more people I play online the more likely I am to meet these people for real at WKOs and other events so I buy product to be able to play in real life. If I couldn’t play these games online, I most likely wouldn’t be buying into these games at all because playing a handful of times a year is not worth the investment.
Thanks Mike for yet another top notch guest post. It’s a super useful read and it will be great to see some of you readers getting started on Online play using Mike’s guide.
We’d also love to hear about your Online experiences; so please do comment below and let us know how your online games have been going, any of your top tips for online play, or just in search of an introduction for a game.