Byd Bach

I have recently been enjoying the opportunity afforded by modern technology to play board games at a distance, in two ways.

The first, which I might write about sometime soon, is using a gaming website called to play a variety of games mostly against random people I don’t know (although one of the random people I play against is my friend Andy, who introduced me to the site).

The other, which I’m concentrating on in this post, is using a Java-based gaming engine called Vassal, which provides a virtual gameboard for a number of games (loaded as modules)  and supports realtime play via a server or P2P network or play by email.

So far I’ve been using Vassal exclusively to play one game – Small World (I won’t go into the details of the game, as you can read all about it on Wikipedia).  This is a game that my brother, Wulf, recently discovered IRL and thought would work for online play.  While he was investigating how to make that happen, he came across Vassal and so invited me to join him in a game.

After our first 2-player game we recruited our friend Phil to join us for a 3-player game, as it seems to work better with at least 3 players (although the 2-player version is still quite enjoyable).  We have now just completed our second game and are about to start on a third, as well as inviting a couple of other players (including the aforementioned Andy, who is Phil’s brother) to join us for another (as far as I can remember, 5 players is the maximum).

One of the things that makes the game enjoyable, and highly replayable, is the way that the different race/power combinations (which are selected randomly as the game progresses, although you do have the choice to skip over races in the queue (at a cost of some victory points) in order to get preferable combinations) have quite different strengths and weaknesses and invite quite different tactics to make them work at their best.  The fact that the game is time limited (10 turns, at least in the 2 & 3 player versions) is also good, as it prevents individual games from dragging on for too long.

I anticipate many more good games of Small World, both using Vassal and (hopefully, one day) IRL.

PS in case you were wondering, Byd Bach is Welsh for Small World.