The Board Game Design Course

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Game Design

How to get your game on Tabletop Simulator without getting angry and flipping the table

If you’re looking to playtest your game remotely with others, as well as playtest some of their games, my #1 recommendation is Tabletop Simulator (TTS). It’s an application that runs on the gaming engine Steam.

You can play classic games like chess and checkers, which have already been made available in TTS, as well as other free games in their workshop and inexpensive downloadable games.

But the best part about TTS is being able to create your own games. You can use existing components available in the program or create your own that you’ve made yourself, and put together any game in a sandbox environment.

I’ve been using TTS a lot lately and found the learning curve is not nearly as big as I expected. Now I wish that I had started using it sooner (and much more frequently)!

Let’s briefly walk through the steps needed to get your game onto Tabletop Simulator.

Install Steam and Tabletop Simulator

First, you’ll need to install Steam, which is absolutely free.

Next, purchase Tabletop Simulator. It normally runs for $19.99, but you can sometimes find it on sale for up to 50% off. It’s a small one-time investment that could actually save you time and money once you’re more familiar with it.

Create your game, upload and test it out

Once you’ve installed Steam and Tabletop Simulator, you can put together your first game. You can always make use of any of the existing components within the program, such as dice of all types, decks of standard cards, and various tokens, cubes, and components. But you will also probably want to use your own cards, boards, and components in your game as well.

Step 1 – Prepare your files

First, you’ll want to save any individual boards or components you want for your game as jpg files.

If you’re using cards, custom dice, or some other very customized components, you’ll need to work with a template.

There are 2 ways to set up your card templates. The first is opening the card template and pasting each individual card into the appropriate slots. The second, which is much faster, is to use the built-in deck builder functionality.

Let’s look at how to use the deck builder.

You can either search on your computer for the location of these templates using Windows Explorer or the equivalent on a Mac or locate them through Steam, going through the following steps:

  • Select Library
  • Right-click on Tabletop Simulator
  • Click Properties
  • Select Local Files
  • Select Browse Local Files
  • Go to Modding folder
  • Go into the Deck Builder folder
  • Open the Deck Builder program
  • Select New Deck
  • Set your deck size (10 x 7 is the default and I suggest leaving it as is)
  • Drag and drop all your individual card images into the window
  • Check to make sure everything looks good
  • Save your file
  • Export your file as a jpg or png file

Helpful tip: Save a shortcut to this folder. It will make it so much easier to locate!

For cards, you’ll save one file with your card fronts, in order, and another file with your card backs, in the same order. If it’s just one deck of cards with the same back, you can have this card back saved as a single jpg file. But if you have different backs, you’ll want to make sure that the fronts and backs are aligned, by using the same number for the front and back files.

When you’re using standard-sized cards, you can fit 69 on one sheet (it’s actually 69 cards plus one that is left blank). If you’re using more than 69 cards, you’ll need another sheet with a corresponding sheet for the card backs.

I found it easier to create one file per deck. Let’s say you have an item deck contains 10 cards. You also have an action deck that contains 30 cards. I’d recommend creating a file with than 10 items displayed in slot 1 through 10 as the item deck fronts. Then, use a single jpg file with the card backs. Do the same with the action deck for the 30 cards needed and one file for the card backs. You’ll upload these separately. You save a lot of time by not needing to split the deck once it is uploaded.

If you’re creating custom dice or any other custom components, replace the appropriate spots in the template using your assets.

Step 2 – Upload your assets to Dropbox or the Internet

For TTS to recognize your images, they must first be uploaded to the Internet or be available through Dropbox, as TTS requires you to supply the URL for their location.

Dropbox is the easiest method and you can get a free account with limited space. But there are other alternatives as well.

If you have a website, you can upload these here. If you use WordPress, select “media” from your left-hand menu and upload any files. Once uploaded, you can click on them to get the URL.

If you don’t have a website, you can upload your images to Imgur or use an alternate program. Just make sure to set your images as public.

Step 3 – Set up your game

Now that you have all your assets ready, it’s time to create your game!

Fire up TTS and click “create”, then “single player”. Close the menu box that opens and you’ll start with an empty table.

From the top menu, click “objects”, then “table”, and choose the table you’d like to use.

Now add anything else you need, such as a board, dice, etc. one at a time by going back into “objects”, and selecting “components”, then choosing the item of your choice. Select any generic items are available that you want. Now we’ll import the custom items you created.

If you have a board created, go into the “board” menu and choose “custom”. Paste the URL for your board here and import this.

Similarly, import custom cards by going to “cards”, then “custom”. Here, you’ll need to paste the URL for the card fronts and the URL for the card backs. If your deck has one unique back, leave “unique backs” unchecked, but if there is more than one different back, make sure to check this box. Also indicate the number of cards in your deck. Keep the width at 10 and height at 7 if you are using the standard template, otherwise, adjust the number of rows and columns here accordingly. Only check “sideways” if your cards are meant to be used sideways. Import the cards and repeat this process for any other decks you have.

Continue to add any custom or generic items you need, and you should be ready to go!

You only need to add one of each unique item. These can then be duplicated or altered.  I will explain this process in just a moment.

Get familiar with the functionality

There are several commands you can use to move around in this environment and do different things. As you play around with TTS more, you’ll become familiar with these.

You can access most of these by right-clicking your mouse over an object and selecting the appropriate action, or by using shortcuts.

Here are some of the most useful commands you’ll want to learn:

Next steps

Next week, we’ll look into how to find players, playtest your game, and communicate with others on Tabletop Simulator.

Any questions about getting your game up and running on Tabletop Simulator? Click the comment button below and let me know!

Did you know you can download my 10 Minute Board Game Design Blueprint for free? It’s the fastest way to get your game started and stay focused on your end goal.

Just click HERE to download the blueprint for free.

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