Virtual games that mean you’ll never get on board again! From Scrabble to Monopoly, including cards and chess

One of the hobbies I missed the most in 2020 was getting together with friends to play games. I don’t mean the kind of computer games my kids are obsessed with, like Minecraft and Fortnite – their virtual connection with friends even during school closings.

No, the games I dreamed of are the tactile and aesthetic classics like Scrabble, backgammon or chess.

I’m also a fan of old school multiplayer: I love card games, especially whist and bridge. In a more carefree time, I regularly played special games with some friends. On a group vacation, I would look forward to the rummy. Or, on rainy afternoons, marathon board game sessions.

Patricia Nichol gives her verdict on a selection of games available to play online. Pictured: Anya Taylor-Joy stars as chess prodigy Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit

The game I aspire to the most in these times of physical and social distancing is mah-jong. For the past 15 years, I’ve played it every few months with three college girlfriends. During that 15-year period, there were two marriages, nine births, job changes, plus the equivalent of several weeks spent in gossip and debate. We last performed on March 6th, and God only knows when we can again. Right now, the idea of ​​sitting near three people from different households to pass tiles and then yelling about them sounds fantastic. But also fantastic: bubbling with my husband and my sons, it is the feminine society that I want.

It’s not only the friends that I miss, but also the camaraderie and competitiveness of a game night.

So, could I apply 21st century technology to play old school classics with distant friends?

Like many, I refueled Zoom during the last confinement. But I had also observed how my sons’ awkwardness in front of the camera vanished when they had something to engage, like the dice roll in a Dungeons and Dragons game. Does the same apply to adults? That the common goal of playing a game together would distract from the awkwardness, if not boredom, of a glitchy video interaction? As an added bonus, can playing on the computer improve my game?

I decided to investigate.

All you need is some pretty basic home setup – just wifi and at least one device. But what works best? Let the games begin . . .


Patricia said her group, aged nine to 49, found (pictured) easy to use and loved it

Patricia said her group, aged nine to 49, found (pictured) easy to use and loved it

The easy to use has been a lifeline for card enthusiasts through this time. You can train against the computer, play against strangers or organize a match against friends.

Last week my sons and I reveled in a game of Oh Hell with some friends. The game was on a virtual green felt table, while videos of us players appeared on the right. The site offers classic games including hearts, whist and bridge. After launching a game, players are asked to rate their skill level – mark yourself as a beginner and you are offered prompts on what to bid and place. The website takes care of the trading and scoring. Our group, ages 9 to 49, found the site easy to use. The three kids – and mine usually moan about Zoom calls – loved it.

For novice, rickety, or rusty bridge players like myself, Lockdown also provides an opportunity to hone skills away from table pressure or the potential censorship of a disappointed partner. 5/5


Patricia said child friendly is great, if you think you have a <a class=chess wonder at home” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%” />

Patricia said child friendly is great, if you think you have a chess wonder at home

Inspired by the hit Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit, about a chess prodigy? For centuries, enthusiasts have enjoyed playing the game of kings over sometimes immense geographical distances, corresponding to their travels by mail or fax.

These days there are faster ways to challenge a distant enemy. If you want to maintain the physical feel of the game, set up your board and then connect via a video link (you can do this via your cell phone or via a service like Zoom). Either one of you can perform the moves, or two matching boards can be set up.

Or play online through a popular site like, maybe using video on a split screen, or another device if you’re playing with a friend.

If you think you have a chess prodigy at home, the kid-friendly site is great. 4/5


Patricia said the apps for playing <a class=Scrabble online have brash interfaces and are fancy compared to a classic board” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%” />

Patricia said the apps for playing Scrabble online have brash interfaces and are fancy compared to a classic board

How do you recreate the calm and serious concentration of a game of Scrabble against an opponent, online? Many do, using addictive apps like Scrabble Go or Words With Friends, although I’m not the only one who find their interfaces brash and whimsical compared to the reassuring sobriety of a classic Scrabble board. You should also pay to avoid being inundated with ads.

On the bright side, being able to connect with friends online, message them while in-game, go away, then resume matches or have multiple matches on the go, is a godsend.

If you also want to talk, the easiest solution is to make a voice or video call simultaneously. 3/5


Patricia said the House Party video hookup app has brilliant games for all ages, including Monopoly.

Keeping children talking on video calls can be embarrassing. One solution is to engage them competitively.

The House Party video hookup app may be more associated with teens and twenties, but it has some brilliant games for all ages, including Word Racers and a Uno generator. Last week I borrowed a friend’s eight-year-old daughter for a virtual game, which couldn’t be easier to navigate. Hover over the dice emoji and a list of activities will appear. Lock your room with the padlock symbol so that no one will join you.

Elsewhere, you can play classic board games, including Monopoly, either by playing through their apps (search your phone’s App Store) or by setting up your board in front of a video screen. 4/5


Patricia said that many mahjong apps are just basic tile matching games and garish in design.

Patricia said that many mahjong apps are just basic tile matching games and garish in design.

Mahjong is the game I want to play the most. So far, however, a virtual night on the tiles has proven elusive, despite my extensive research. Many mahjong apps are just basic tile matching games with a garish design.

Some of the best online gambling sites, some require translation from Cantonese, Mandarin, or Japanese, or follow US rules.

For now, launching a game on one of the US sites – a simple looking interface like realmah – seems the best bet.

Like many, I can’t wait to roll a dice on the end of it all by next year.

But in the meantime, I will take advantage of this second confinement to refine my card game and mark a few words of Scrabble zinger. The victory will be ours. 2/5

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