For the past year and change, I’ve been playing a lot of physical games online. By that, I mean I’ve been playing a lot of online games that were originally intended to be played in person. Sometimes these are games by Jackbox, which while mediated by a computer are definitely enhanced by being able to see and hear the other people you’re playing with. More often, though, I’ve been playing digital adaption of games.
The website BoardGameArena has mediated a lot of these. I’ve played a lot of games there with friends, perhaps my favorite of which is 6 Nimmt, a German card game that’s all about playing numbers and taking some calculated risks. Playing a digital version of the game is convenient, as your played cards are automatically put where they belong and any points lost are calculated for you (so you don’t have to count). Combined with a voice chat via Discord, there’s all the room for the yelling, swearing, and maniacal laughter that befits the game.
I bought myself a copy of the game, a real physical edition of it with actual cards and everything. With my friends getting vaccinated and the threat of Covid fading to a simmer in New York, I’ve been able to engage in the truly decadent activity of Hanging Out With People In The Flesh. At one of these such gatherings, I broke out 6 Nimmt to collective delight and anger. Despite having played this game many times with each other, we actually hadn’t played it together, at least not in person. But play we did.
And it’s different, not the least because we actually had to figure out for ourselves where each card went in numerical order and count and keep score by hand. Playing games online — or at least digitally mediated — streamlines a lot of the mechanical aspects of games. That said, doing things by ourselves allowed for its own bits of fun. The scores became a lot more exciting because we didn’t have a tally available to all of us it meant that gameplay would occasionally be broken up for a great Reading Of The Scores, with all the appropriate pomp and circumstance. Playing cards manually occasionally meant that someone would count themselves spared before we realized someone else’s card would negate their imagined security, leading to roars of surprise around the table. Most importantly, though, there was the simple pleasure of looking someone in the eye as your revealed card sent their hopes dashing to the ground.
I love online games, and I’m forever grateful for how they allowed for my friends and me to still spend time together throughout these trying last fifteen-odd months. But I do always love playing games around a table with others, as it’s something that can’t quite be captured just yet. Maybe someday we’ll get there, with virtual spaces reaching the point where it’s not just the thing of science fiction. But in the meantime, I treasure the time I get to play games with people in person.
On that note, anyone up for some 6 Nimmt?