Efficient Gaming #7 (Working From Home)

By | 03/27/2020

This chapter in Efficient Gaming comes at a time when many people around the world have had to adapt their lives to the threat of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Like many around the world, I am working-from-home in order to do my part in social distancing. I am, for the most part, an information worker. I am lucky enough to have a job that does not require my physical presence in the office. Working from home comes with benefits and drawbacks, most of which we are not going to cover here except for one – taking breaks. Here at home I can set my own schedule and that includes a bit of gaming in-between work sessions.

That’s what this edition of Efficient Gaming is all about – the games that make perfect companions when stuck inside, trying to do the right thing and keep your distance.

Civilization VI

Home Page:  https://civilization.com/ 
Wiki Link:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilization_VI 
Civilization VI – Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was built in one turn.

If you’ve played any Civilization game before Civilization VI (Civ VI), you know what to expect here: turn based, world building strategy. The popular term used to describe Civ VI (and games similar to it) is 4X strategy. While there are many games in the 4X genre these days, the Civilization series is arguably the most popular and remains so today. Anyone who enjoys 4X strategy probably played at least one of the Civ games in their lifetime.

This isn’t a detailed review so we’ll stick to the basics. Civ VI uses the same basic formula of previous Civ games: The player manages a civilization though diplomacy, production, money, and war. Each turn you must decide what to build/research and take actions with individual units (e.g. workers, prophets, traders, soldiers, tanks). When you signal that your turn is over, the game calculates moves for all the other computer based opponents (assuming single player) and the game continues. There are various win conditions but the point is to build an empire and score one of the victory conditions before the other players (or teams).

Civilization VI makes a few changes over the previous title, Civilization V. First and foremost, each city in your civilization is its own “mini empire” and tasks the player with creating specialty districts around it. Cities are no longer confined to one tile but instead will sprawl out as more districts are created. This is absolutely the most interesting (and controversial) aspect of Civ VI, especially when compared to the predecessor. Second (and perhaps not as obvious), the game streamlines a lot of other aspects of world building and removes some of the more tedious aspects of Civ V. Both of these points are heavily debated in Civilization forums and quite honestly, I’m not sure one game is better than the other. That said, when working-from-home, Civ 6 offers you simple (but interesting), turn based gameplay that you can easily walk away from whenever you need. I highly recommend the single player mode to anyone who is a fan of 4X strategy or wants to try something new (while juggling a conference call in the background). If you’re feeling brave, try the multiplayer.

The Jackbox Party Pack (any edition)

Home Page:  https://jackboxgames.com/ 
Wiki Link:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jackbox_Party_Pack 
Jackbox Party Pack Example – image from jackboxgames.com

I am definitely late to the party when it comes to the Jackbox Party Packs. They never came up on my radar until I was finally introduced to the first Jackbox Party Pack (which came out several years ago) in 2019. A few friends who live across town suggested it, saying that they could share the game visuals via Xbox Mixer while we (my wife and I) used our phones to interact. We had a great time (a lot of laughs) and ended up downloading & exploring the other Jackbox Party Packs. Remember, during this time of social distancing, use Mixer to share your screen!

What exactly are the Jackbox Party Packs? With some minor exceptions, each pack is a collection of social games that are played on a smart phone with the Xbox (or system of choice) managing the “main screen” (e.g. category, question, challenge, shape, etc.). Each pack contains a variety of games (5-6) with each title being either a new edition of a running series (e.g. Quiplash 2) or unique to that pack (Guesspionage). These are all social games, thus no need teach someone how to use a controller. A large portion of the games are trivia based but there are many with unique twists, such as drawing t-shirts, creating ridiculous art, or lying your way to victory. Given that many of us are stuck indoors while we wait for COVID-19 to subside, if you have a house full of teen & adult age people (or use Mixer to share your game screen), these games can help pass the time in a hilarious way. (Caution! A few of the games are probably not child appropriate.)

Tabletop Simulator

Home Page:  https://www.tabletopsimulator.com/ 
Wiki Link:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabletop_Simulator 
Tabletop Simulator – It just works. Image used from tabletopsimulator.com

Tabletop Simulator (TTS) is, at its core, a physics simulator. It just so happens that underneath the physics simulation is everything you need to create your own tabletop experience, and share it online with friends. What to play chess with someone on the other side of the planet? You can do that. How about an entire online campaign of Dungeons & Dragons, with 8 other friends? Included. What about that obscure card game you used to play with your gaming group back home? Yep, you can play that too (assuming you take the time to scan everything in).

TTS is nearly a must-have for anyone that wants to do any kind of remote tabletop/card simulation but lacks a “official” app to do so. The Steam workshop is filled with assets as well, everything from card games to miniatures. User beware though, the Steam workshop packs are not the most ethical or legal way to play board/card/tabletop games you don’t own. You should do as we did – buy the board game for the assets that you are using. All that said, I can’t think of a better way to have a tabletop game session with friends around the world, or simply across the street.

We hope you enjoyed this issue of Efficient Gaming. Be safe out there, especially in these chaotic and strange times. If you have a suggestion, let us know in the comments or on Twitter. Best wishes from GO30.