Review of Tabletop Simulator

I was handed a key to a product on Steam called Tabletop Simulator yesterday and it looks pretty snazzy so I thought I would have a look at the tool and make myself a little one shot dungeon to play around with.  As far as I can tell this product is only available through Steam and is worth around $15 for a single licence of the game.

The tool itself is designed to simply be a place to play tabletop games.  It is an environment that contains a table and a physics simulator so that things drop on to the table as they would be expected to.  The environment comes with a bunch of tools and games already built in like chess pieces, a dungeon tile set, role playing dice, checkers, backgammon, Chinese checkers, a bunch of different styled tables and the list goes on.  It also supports community made games and once you have the system you can subscribe to work shop mods and these will appear in the system as well.

The RPG Kit

 I started the system up and clicked on the mode to play an RPG.  This brings up a nice sized felted table and an instance each of the creatures available, some dungeon tiles and a few bits of dungeon scenery.  The creatures are animated and there are around 20 or so of them.  The animation is nice and if you move them they start to walk.  Move them fast and the animation of walking speeds up.  Very nice for a game.  The selection contains a Dragon, an Ogre, a Treant and a bunch of other reasonably common critters so they can be used but it is hardly an extensive number of them.  I hope there is some in the workshop as there is no obvious way to include your own easily.

The Dungeon tileset looks good but is very limited.  It has wall pieces, corner pieces and floor pieces.  No curved sections or stairs or anything fancy out of the box.  I am sure with enough trawling around the workshop there will be some more to add to that – maybe.  The pieces though are very small and if you want to cover a large area with tiles it is a very laborious process.  You can’t simply click and drag an area and fill the area with a particular type of piece which is annoying.  Also, there is only one spawning place for you to put new pieces you need and you must lock your tile-set you have in place before spawning or else you will wreck what you have laid down.

There also do not appear to be any animated player pieces.  There are figurines you can use that are fantasy based from a different set but they are not animated at all.  There is also no support for voice and video of your players or even character sheets so there are additional options you need to think about including and other programs you will need open several windows in reality to play a game.

This is a nice tool to play around with and I was initially quite excited about it when I got the key.  But it is a tool that is trying to be a jack of all trades and a master of none.  Most tabletop tools have some kind of adaptive or dynamic lighting and a slow reveal structure.  This one doesn’t.  This ones main strength is the fact that is has 3D environment and some animated pieces.  I guarantee that comes at a cost as I bet you there is a system specification due to the graphics which would chop at least one of my regular players out of the game like Fantasy Grounds did.

Beginning to form the dungeon

It is not all bad and if you have loads of space or multiple screens this may be a good option for you.  I do not deal with anything apart from laptops and so the multiple screens are out and I do not like to juggle windows.  Lack of dynamic lighting or GM controlled reveal is also a problem for me as I can’t set everything up prior to and would need to create on the fly which takes up gaming time.

On their website they state that they are looking at additional RPG kit material which is promising but for me I am more excited about the soon to be delivered Tabletop Connect which at its heart has been designed specifically for RPG’s at the onset.  It enables a player to have a character sheet and allows the GM to build environments quickly and easily.  Sure, the miniatures that will be used have no animation but it is really modelled on a campaign management structure and it looks much more promising and capable than Tabletop Simulator is.

One fun thing you can do with this though is flip the table when you are not doing well!  The physics were a lot of fun and I had a bit of a browse through the workshop.  There are certainly some fun things to do with this product and I encourage you to get it just from the point of view of playing some board games and having a bit of fun with the sandbox modes.  Over time with further development it might become something that will work well for RPG miniature style games.

Wow, he is big…

For games that do not focus on miniatures this would be a great system though.  I can totally see a game of FATE playing out well with the objects in this (mind you there are no FATE dice) or perhaps Savage Worlds.  You can have your poker chips and dice pools all laid out for you.  If you use the system like this and not focus on the visual representation of the characters then it is great.  You have all of the standard polyhedron dice available for use and you can sit around the table rolling when you need and have a Skype session open to allow the play flow.  This would work well.

Tabletop Simulator has promise and would suit some styles of games well.  Unfortunately it lacks too much of the immersive style functions that I want to use.  It is a nice little product for playing cards and tabletop games so I will get some use out of it in that regard but I really do not think that I will be using it for my RPG’s any time soon, unless I run the Demolished Ones or something again in the near future.  Keep rolling!

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