Quarantine-Era Rules Can Make Remote Gaming Fun

Quarantine-Era Rules Can Make Remote Gaming Fun

By Charu Sudan Kasturi


Because in these isolating times, it's as close to playing in real life as you can get.

By Charu Sudan Kasturi

It’s Day Whatever of the lockdown where you are. You’re desperate for a semblance of normalcy. A chance to hang out with friends and play your favorite board game would be perfect — there’s only so much Netflix you can binge-watch. Your partner and friends laugh at you: Gaming get-togethers aren’t happening during the quarantine is around, they remind you.

Well, maybe they can.

At a time when we’re told that our lives — from work to our kids’ schooling and our entertainment — must all be online, there’s an alternative worth trying, at least with games. It’s possible to almost replicate real-world board games, sitting at a table or on the carpet — with friends and family sitting a few miles away, or even across the world.

No, I’m not talking about esports or apps that let you play Monopoly, chess or bridge online against remotely located friends. Some virtual gaming platforms — like Houseparty and Trickster Cards — have video options that simulate the effect of all players being in the same room. But even then, you’re not actually moving pieces on a board with your hand.  

You catch their hilarious expressions … and see their baby or dog walk onto the board at a pivotal point in the game.

With a little bit of creativity, rule-tweaking and extra work, you can play popular games — I’m recommending Ticket to Ride, Pictionary and regular chess to start — in their usual physical forms, with family and friends sitting far away, on your computer screen.

Of course, all sets of players need to have the game. And you’ll need to move not just your pieces, but those of your remote friends — they’ll need to do the same for you, on their end. But it’s worth it in these times, to both feel the actual game and see life unfold at the other end of the camera. You catch your friends’ hilarious expressions when you beat them to a move, watch them put on a pot of coffee and see their baby or dog walk onto the board at a pivotal point in the game.

If the combination of those moments plus the game is what you’re missing, here are some tips.

Ticket to Ride

Regular play: You build rail routes connecting major cities across Europe, Asia or America. There are two packs of cards. One has routes, while the other has cards of different colors that you need to build specific routes. Each player picks route cards and colored cards. In each turn, you pick two cards from the remaining pile of colored cards, or from six open cards visible to all. You use the cards in your hand to build the routes you picked. Each route carries points. The person with the most points wins.

OZY’s Quarantine Version: There’s one rule change: You pick colored cards only from the six open ones. One pack of colored cards — yours or your remote friends’ — drives the game, while the other mimics the cards the first one throws up. Each time a player picks two cards from the open set, they’re replaced by the top two cards from the closed pile. The remote players find the same two colored cards from their pack and add them to the open ones, so the six open cards are always identical for all players. Add discarded cards back to the main pack and shuffle when only about a third of the cards remain. You pick route cards from your pack, your friends from theirs. The added twist: In this version, two people could — unbeknownst to each other — get the same route card, making it more fun.


Regular: A game that tests your vocabulary — and that of your teammates — Pictionary involves sketching out words from cards you draw blindly from a pile. Your teammate(s) must guess the word you’re drawing before your time, tracked by a sandglass, runs out. You can’t speak. Each turn, you throw the dice. There are different categories of words on the cards, and the one you must sketch depends on your position on the board.

OZY’s Quarantine Version: There’s only one change — but it’s a major (and fun) one. It’s awkward to sketch on a piece of paper so it’s perfectly visible to someone watching over a camera, all with time running out. So, we replace sketching with acting. It’s Pictionary meets Dumb Charades. You act out the word in front of the camera, and your teammate at the other end needs to guess. Acting instead of sketching also makes the game more dynamic.


Regular: The two-player strategy game needs no introduction. Played on a 64-square board, the game simulates a war between opposing nations. The aim of the game is to corner the opposing king in a way that he has no escape route.

OZY’s Quarantine Version: There’s no rule change. You’ve still got to isolate — yes, I used that word purposely — the opposing king. Just make sure your boards are visible to each other across the camera. As with Ticket to Ride, once the other player has made their move, you replicate it on your board too.

Cumbersome? Possibly. Fun? Totally. If there are other board games you’ve tried out similarly, do let us know.