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Open source online board game engine with over 1,000 modules
December 7, 2011 1:31 AM   Subscribe

Here is VASSAL, an open-source engine for playing board games online, by email, on forums or on a single machine. Which board games? These. (Requires Java.)
posted by JHarris (41 comments total) 122 users marked this as a favorite

 
Some particular modules of the 1,000+ available:
Acquire, Arkham Horror, Axis & Allies, Carcassonne, Die Macher, Diplomacy, Dominion, Dune, El Grande, HeroQuest, Illuminati: New World Order, Monopoly, Memoir '44, Othello, Puerto Rico, Race For The Galaxy, Small World, Stratego, The Legend of Zelda what?, Twilight Struggle.
posted by JHarris at 1:57 AM on December 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Vassal's been around for years. I've played Advanced Squad Leader online via the engine.
posted by Chuffy at 2:06 AM on December 7, 2011


They don't have Chess. Imagine if you could play Chess online.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:11 AM on December 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


oh my gosh this is so fucking cool
posted by p3on at 2:14 AM on December 7, 2011


I refuse to play Squad Leader if I can't sneeze on my opponent and blow away a fuck-ton of Nazis.
posted by bardic at 2:24 AM on December 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hooooly crap. My husband and I were just pining away for the only 100€ copy of Star Trek: Fleet Captains available at our local board game boutique uh I mean something that doesn't involve pining away for something to do with Star Trek. Monopoly. Yeah. That's the one. (THANK YOU SO MUCH)
posted by Mooseli at 2:26 AM on December 7, 2011


There's even Warhammer :3
posted by p3on at 2:32 AM on December 7, 2011


p3on, but not on the VASSAL site. Games Workshop appears to have had every GW property removed from there. Probably because if people could play this over the internet, even if they've bought the rulebooks and assorted material, they wouldn't be shelling out the hundreds bucks for Official Citadel Miniatures.
posted by JHarris at 2:35 AM on December 7, 2011


However, if you want to get your miniatures game on, Privateer Press are fine with the (pretty polished) Warmachine\Hordes module. There's also one for Malifaux in the works, which looks fantastic but appears to be held up while (as rumour has it) the game's creators are adding some of their own input to it.
posted by emmtee at 2:58 AM on December 7, 2011


Huh... for some reason I thought VASSAL was only for wargames. (Of course games like Memoir 44 have been blurring the line between wargames and other board games for a while.)
posted by kmz at 3:13 AM on December 7, 2011


If anyone is interested, I found myself playing a lot of games with stand-up models - you know, lead/plastic minatures. However, since I like changing armies and have zero interest in painting I did a simple program to quickly make cut-out-and-staple stand-up models in paper/card by taking an image and making a model or row of models with it. CounterMaker (quick webpage as well.) Windows only.
posted by alasdair at 3:20 AM on December 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ooo... supports DBMM and DBA from Wargames Research (The module for DBA is called De Bellis Vassalus), probably the most fun miniature-based game ever ... hey! WGR finally has a website! It looks very modern, too.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:05 AM on December 7, 2011


A friend and I have been trying to set up a Combat Commander session over Vassal for some days now, and apart from Vassal being horribly resource-demanding (I had to give up trying to play on my netbook and instead bring my work laptop home with me) what struck me is the awful interface. I realize this is mostly not Vassal's fault but a shortcoming of the various module designers, but damn.

On the same Ubuntu netbook I can easily run Windows XP inside a Virtualbox and fire up Cyberboard which, while not FOSS, just works So. Much. Better. for PBEM. You can either play entirely within Cyberboard or use a website like ACTS to keep a nice log and, as a nice bonus, eliminate the possibility of cheating with the dice rolls.

Anybody up for a game of Here I Stand? It'll only take a year, but I promise it'll be fun :)
posted by brokkr at 4:25 AM on December 7, 2011


I discovered Vassal not so long ago and tried out a few modules, but playing board games in this manner just doesn't do it for me. I like my board games as tactile as possible. I like to look at the minis, tokens and cards, pour over the manuals and frankly, for me, one of the biggest joys is breaking into a game.

A computer program just can't replicate the experiences for me.

That and I swear things seem to become ridiculously complicated for even fairly simple games like Pandemic.
posted by DuchessProzac at 4:48 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Vassal is fantastic, especially for my long-distance relationship.

I thoroughly enjoy destroying my boyfriend in a game of Ascension.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:10 AM on December 7, 2011


Oh no, I can't afford to get sucked into a game of Empires in Arms right now. I've got enough time sinks for three lifetimes already.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:14 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've made a VASSAL module for the Dice Game spinoff of Ra. It took some cleverness to represent the important game elements within the framework, but the result was a totally playable online version of an obscure game that my fiancé and I both enjoy. Best of all, it only took a couple evenings of hacking!
posted by blue t-shirt at 5:50 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Arguably, the brilliant bit of insight underscoring VASSAL is the notion that the players know the rules. When I'm making a module, I don't have to tell the system what each symbol means or provide detailed directions about how they interact. As a result, the cost involved in developing a module drops by an order of magnitude, at least.

The inevitable flip side, of course, being that the players really do need to know the rules, which is less of a problem with conventional online games that implement detailed object semantics.
posted by blue t-shirt at 5:53 AM on December 7, 2011


...they wouldn't be shelling out the hundreds bucks for Official Citadel Miniatures.

You and I, sir, we know very different sorts of 40K players.
posted by griphus at 6:53 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


No support for Candy Land?
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:02 AM on December 7, 2011


Very easy for anyone with a bit of programming background to make their own modules as well. Sharing them openly is subject to the whims of the copyright holders, however.

There are a ton of older GW games that do have excellent modules made for them but which nobody seems to play. Battlefleet Gothic in particular has a very well-polished module but there's little interest that I've seen in playing it online. Maybe the chilling effect of the GW IP department has closed that door for good.
posted by sudasana at 7:05 AM on December 7, 2011


No support for Candy Land?

There is, but as soon as you try to play it, every Eurogame and old Avalon Hill game you own spontaneously combusts and then a pink C gets burned into your forehead.
posted by kmz at 7:09 AM on December 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was really hoping for a MAD Magazine Game module.
posted by namewithoutwords at 7:21 AM on December 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


They have Acquire? I may need to figure out how this thing works (and probably re-enable Java in my browser).

Maybe I'll start with Candyland to get the hang of it.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:27 AM on December 7, 2011


blue t-shirt: "Arguably, the brilliant bit of insight underscoring VASSAL is the notion that the players know the rules. When I'm making a module, I don't have to tell the system what each symbol means or provide detailed directions about how they interact. As a result, the cost involved in developing a module drops by an order of magnitude, at least.

The inevitable flip side, of course, being that the players really do need to know the rules, which is less of a problem with conventional online games that implement detailed object semantics.
"

The corollary to that flip side is that you can't build an effective AI without implementing the rules in software, as it's a player and must know the rules.

I think it would be fairly easy with a proper DSL for many games. However, games like Magic: The Gathering have one minor problem: you have to translate every card into that DSL. While fortunately, there are text sources for the cards in various languages, math is not one of those languages. So systems like Apprentice32 model the physical attributes and let you play against other players but require online opponents.

In contrast, it seems that in the process of developing the first computer game with AI they realized the "batch" system wasn't easily modelled and was replaced with the "stack" in Sixth Edition. They were able to remove the special category of Interrupts needed just for counterspells.

The part that makes me feel old though, is that apparently they changed the rules again in 2009. Oh nice. They got rid of mana burn. My brother's friend had some crazy artifact manaburn deck that kicked my ass (unless I broke out the infinite mana hack deck). Damage on the stack is sad, there goes the mog fanatic trick. I think I'll put off fully comprehending the new combat until someone demands I play the game, which is hopefully never again.
posted by pwnguin at 7:39 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


They have Acquire? I may need to figure out how this thing works (and probably re-enable Java in my browser).

VASSAL is a local Java program. Your browser doesn't need to run Java to use it. Three times now I've had malware infections due to ad banners on sites using a Java exploit to install, so I think you'd do very well to disable Java on your browser if you can.
posted by JHarris at 8:11 AM on December 7, 2011


Games Workshop appears to have had every GW property removed from there.

God DAMMIT why must every opportunity to play Necromunda on the computer be taken from me..
posted by FatherDagon at 8:12 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has anyone played both VASSAL and BrettspielWelt? Particularly Pandemic? BrettspielWelt has a good implementation of Dominion, but I could certainly stand to have a smoother Pandemic.
posted by ignignokt at 8:20 AM on December 7, 2011


For online Dominion, there's also dominion.isotropic.org, which is so well implemented that even the designer of the game himself use it to test new expansions (in his own inaccessible area of the site, unfortunately).
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:29 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well heck. One of my long-standing "will probably never have the time or the chops to actually code it" pet projects was a pluggable board game engine... not sure what rock I've been hiding under that I've never heard of VASSAL before. Thanks JHarris!
posted by usonian at 8:36 AM on December 7, 2011


VASSAL is a local Java program.

Oh. Well, I'm glad to keep Java disabled in my browser (I think NoScript does it for me).

I can poke around the site, but maybe someone here who knows how this work can point me the right way.

Tech-savvy me wants to play Acquire with tech-savvy brother, non-tech-savvy sister and even-less-tech-savvy father, all of us living very far away.

- Do we all have to install (Java + Vassal) on our own machines?

- Or does one of us install (Java + Vassal) as a server (I get this idea from them calling it an 'engine'), and others access it via, what, email?

- Or do we all join some forum that somehow lets us access the game?

[I know programming and client-server architecture, but don't know about gaming other than with actual physical dice.]
posted by benito.strauss at 8:42 AM on December 7, 2011


Have people used the engine to prototype original projects?
posted by codacorolla at 8:43 AM on December 7, 2011


One of the ABSOLUTE BEST ways of playing Warhammer 40,000 on a budget of pennies.

Just be ready to encounter the cheesiest armies fielded by the most easily upset 'comp' players.
posted by Slackermagee at 8:50 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have people used the engine to prototype original projects?

I have, but unless you're making a strictly-digital thing, when you're doing board game prototyping you should be doing it with bits of board and paper and all of that in the physical world. You get a much better feel for things that way. Generally quicker than mucking about with software, too.

benito.strauss: been awhile since I've messed with it, but you all need Java + VASSAL. I think one person just hosts and there's no need for an extra server to be running, but could be wrong about that. I don't know if there is play-by-email support. There is no need to join a forum.
posted by curious nu at 8:54 AM on December 7, 2011


According to the documentation, it supports play by email and by forum.
posted by JHarris at 8:55 AM on December 7, 2011


I own over 300 board games. I managed a game store for nearly a decade. I hang out on boardgamegeek.com. I've bought at least one new game a week for the last year. Couple weeks ago, my girlfriend oohed and aahed over "Campaign Manager 2008" so I bought it for her as an early Xmas present and we played it. I am in for a half-dozen Kickstarter board game projects (I want my Rolling Freight. Hurry up.)

I can't believe I'd never heard about this. My life is over. You've killed me, JHarris. You've killed me.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 9:15 AM on December 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


No. Wait. What.. Revolt on Antares?!? I actually had that game! We played the hell out of it. I never thought I'd play it again! Well. It doesn't look like I'm leaving the house much anymore, and from the looks of the number of titles that there are available, perhaps ever.
posted by Zack_Replica at 9:36 AM on December 7, 2011


benito.strauss: "Tech-savvy me wants to play Acquire with tech-savvy brother, non-tech-savvy sister and even-less-tech-savvy father, all of us living very far away.

- Do we all have to install (Java + Vassal) on our own machines?

- Or does one of us install (Java + Vassal) as a server (I get this idea from them calling it an 'engine'), and others access it via, what, email?

- Or do we all join some forum that somehow lets us access the game?
"
If you all run Windows, download the installation exe and doubleclick it. Nothing else is needed. One of you can choose to run your own server, or you can just play via the Vassal server. No registration needed.
posted by brokkr at 11:16 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


But do they have OGRE? *checks* HOLY FUUU . . . ..! THEY HAVE OGRE!
posted by KingEdRa at 11:38 AM on December 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


This could not have come at a better time. A friend of mine and I have been hashing out how we would design a board game version of The Wire. Thank you so much for this.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:27 PM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


omfg

thank you
posted by omegar at 3:43 PM on December 7, 2011


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