Like for many others, the pandemic has been a bit of a struggle. Due to preconditions, I’m very cautious and really try not to get this virus. While I usually don’t mind staying at home and this XKCD comic rings true for me, I do miss my friends and our gaming get togethers. While it was warm, we could at least meet in the garden, but this is no longer possible. So I started to look for other options. I already have a virtual RPG group using Discord, which was started before the pandemic because I wanted to play with friends living far away. I also run a play-by-email Kriegsspiel which is great fun and possibly one of my best gaming experiences ever (more on this some other time).
Listening to the TooFatLardies Oddcast, I heard them talking about Virtual Lard, an event where Lardy games are played over the internet. I wanted to try this out and got my chance to participate in a game of Sharp Practice at Virtual Lard III. The game, entitled “Bridge over the Tormes”, was set during the Napoleonic Wars in the Spanish Pensinula and was run by Bob Connor. Bob had a lovely table and three cameras, two static and one moveable. I played together with Wil from the US against Francis from Edinburgh and the Lord of Lard himself, Richard Clarke. We commanded the French Forces and were tasked to take a bridge which, as we were told, was only lightly defended by some Spanish militia. Of course the nasty British turned up, who’d have thought?
The game started with Wil and me struggling to get our men forward. Some interesting mishaps tormented my Voltigeurs, among them my main Leader being knocked out by a musket ball early on and some riled up bees attacking my line troops. All the while, the Allied forces peppered us and for a time, it seemed as if we would be unable to get a hold on the situation, let alone secure the bridge. However, I managed to work my skirmishers around the Allied right flank and Wil finally got his Grenadiers going, delivering a devastating charge right into the British line. This turned the game and in the end, Wil snatched victory from the jaws of my clumsiness.
The game was a large one (at least compared to the games I ususally play), but it moved along at a brisk pace. We did play for four hours, although it didn’t feel that long. I guess that Bob must have been quite exhausted, as he had to run around the table, move the figures and keep the game going. But it worked exceedingly well. Bob drew the chits out of the bag and anounced which Leader was activated, we gave our commands and rolled our own dice. Dice rolling is a good way to keep the players involved and give them at least a bit of the haptic experience of tabletop gaming. Of course it’s not the same as standing around the table, but it still feels like a miniature wargame and not a computer game. Banter is a bit more difficult on Zoom, but we still laughed a lot.
All in all, it was a great experience I very much want to repeat. I’ve ordered a webcam two weeks ago, so I think about setting up a game for my friends and, after I have some practice, maybe even one for Virtual Lard – Richard Clarke told me that they want to continue with this format, as it is more than just a substitute for face-to-face gaming. And I agree that gaming with people from all over the world adds another quality. I’m still looking forward to seeing my friends at the table, but virtual gaming is also a fun and rewarding experience.