To say it’s rare that I play online games is an understatement. My favorite games are tabletop games that I play in person with people (even if in person means over Google Hangouts with margaritas) or puzzlers that I play on my iPad. Speaking of which, when is Black Box going to add levels? Love that game.
Every once in awhile, though, there is an online game that knocks my socks off. When writing a post earlier I was reminded of GeoGuessr.
GeoGuessr: A Geographic Mystery Great For All Ages
GeoGuessr is simple in premise: You are dropped somewhere in the world (you can pick from the scope of the map) and find yourself there in Google Streetview. From there you can wander around with the goal being to figure out where the hell you are and place a pin as close to your original location as possible.
You can play as a single player or challenge friends, both of which give the game a different feel.
For me, I like to play single and take time to really think about what I’m being shown. What do street signs tell me? Are they written in English or another language? Is the alphabet different from the one I use? Can I deduce the language and therefore narrow down to a specific region or maybe set of countries? It’s amazing how much you have to think about when plopped in the middle of nowhere.
Sometimes I’m way off and other times I’m scarily close. Either way, it’s a great way to take a quick break. Go ahead, try it out now and let us know how you do in the comments!
I love a writing prompt. I also love maps. When visiting Iain Kelly’s blog today I saw that his post was based on a very cool prompt using Google maps.
Using Google Maps To Focus On Setting
What Pegman Saw posts a new prompt each Friday using a location in Google maps. Writers then wander, grab a screenshot and write a piece of flash fiction. Considering that setting is an often overlooked element of fiction this is a great way to be reminded to consider how it can influence a story and even become a character in itself.
I’m going to add this to my pile of prompts and wonder if you will, too.
Speaking of Google Maps
If you haven’t played this game, you should try it out and can yell at me later for the time you’ve wasted. It’s fascinating!
Pandemic is a favorite game in our household. This is obvious to anyone who follows me on Instagram.
The Pandemic board is a regular feature on Instagram for good reason, though. It is a great game that requires all the things I like to use: my brain, strategy, and smart people. Kris and I were introduced to this game by our friend, S, and used to play almost every Friday night at her place (except for when we played Elder Sign). I can’t count how many hours I have sat around this board with Kris and a parade of other people. And for that I’m really thankful.
But eventually S moved back to the DC are and we moved back to Vermont. And now S is spending a few months abroad and Kris and I haven’t found people here who love Pandemic as much as we do. So while we’ve joked about playing Pandemic over Google Hangouts we finally did it. And let me tell you, it’s well worth the set up and logistics.
How To Play Pandemic When Your Best Friend Is As Far Away From You As Possible Without Her Being An Astronaut Or Deep Sea Diver
There’s a little bit that goes into finding a seamless way to play, so I’ve put together a list to help you.
Leading up to game night…
Learn how to quickly calculate the time difference. I can’t count past four so I’m lucky that Suzanne is only 16 hours ahead of us. I just quickly figure out 12 hours (doesn’t require math) and then add 4. I’m getting very good at this.
Find a time when it’s acceptable for both sides of the board to drink. With the 16 hour difference we chose to play on a Saturday night. This way it was Sunday afternoon for S & J, and they could drink and call it brunch.
Decide what you will drink. Sounds silly but we had J send us his margarita recipe and we had a blast knowing that we were drinking the same thing. Well, except that ours was bright pink since I ran out of limes and also used two lemons, an orange, and a blood orange.
On game night (or day)…
Set up a Google Hangout with 3 computers. It took us a while to figure this out but the best thing is to have one side have one computer and the other have two, each with a wireless headset. With one computer trained on them and the other trained on the board it is easy to get a view of the board by just having that person speak.
Decide which side of the board will be in charge of player cards and which will be in charge of infection cards. There are a lot of was you can do this that include setting your decks up identically but since only four of us were playing we decided to make it simple. It’s not like tournament play.
The team with the infection cards should shuffle and place them on the board. They should then take the player cards and separate them out by color and event.
When passing out roles, have each side place the role cards of the players on the other side of the board (in our case the other side of the world). Kris and I had S’s cards on the left where she was on our computer screen and J’s on the right, where he was.
Both sides should infect the board based when those in charge of infection cards infect. You want matching boards in order to make gameplay truly easy and collaborative.
Both sides should keep updated hands for all players. S & J were in charge of player cards but Kris and I had ours sorted so when J pulled something we did too and set it up either in front of us or with their role cards. This enabled us to know what everyone had in their hands at all times for trading and moving purposes. This was the most complicated part of playing Pandemic — but because it is a collaborative game it’s important.
Play as normal but with both sides keeping the board and hands up to date.
Tips and Tricks
We learned a few things as we went that helped keep things organized. The first game we got way off and the second game we were off by one cube at one point. That’s not bad for the first time doing this. Here’s what to keep in mind and how to make life easier:
Be clear when you are thinking about a move vs. making a move. Since it’s a collaborative game everyone spends time saying, “Well, I could go to Lima and remove two cubes and then fly to London to meet Joe.” If the other side doesn’t realize you’re just thinking it through it can get confusing and cubes can get removed when they shouldn’t.
When making a turn, talk it out as you do it. Instead of just saying you’re going to go to London and take 2 cubes from New York on the way, be specific. “I’m in Washington. I’m going one to New York, two and three clear 2 cubes from New York, and 4 to London.”
It helps to say, at the end of the turn, how many cubes are now on the cities in the route.
Have only one side do outbreaks and just tell the other how to do it after. Here’s why: everyone has their own method for outbreaking and it can be very confusing. Then, at the end, just go through the region and how many cubes are where.
Have a designated time to run through all the cubes on the board. When we pulled an epidemic and while I was shuffling infection cards I would read through the number of cubes in each city. It’s quicker than you think and helped us tremendously.
We played two games in the amount of time it would usually take to play two games with four people (with time for laughter, drinks, taking care of a bbq, and taking dogs out to pee). And the next day we were all champing at the bit to play again.
Have you played Pandemic remotely? What are your tips? If you haven’t, would you try now that you’ve read this? The next time we play we’ll be sure to get some screenshots and will post an update.