How To Playtest? #1: Tabletop Simulator

Given the recent popularity of playtesting interest, the upcoming Unpub 6, and the near release of Tabletopia, now seems like a great time to explore the various ways we playtest and prototype our games.  I’m going to choose a new focus every week and really try to hone in on why it might be a good candidate for playtesting your games.  The first target I’m aiming for is Tabletop Simulator by Berserk Games (Steam Link).

The TL:DR

Tabletop Simulator is a digital tabletop available for purchase on Steam.  It is a fully functioning tabletop designed to play board games, card games, RPG’s and custom creations via the Steam Workshop.

The Ups

Tabletop Simulator is great for playtesting your game due to the ease with which you can set up games with groups of playtesters.  The discussion threads on the Workshop page also give you a good place to gather feedback and direct your testing.  Everyone always has the latest version you post and updating the game is simply a matter of adjusting the components on the tabletop.

It is also worth mentioning that there is a relatively small barrier to entry with Tabletop Simulator for you as a creator.  Being only $19.99 USD, this is one of the cheaper options for digital prototyping given its robust feature list.  Tabletop Simulator also has no licensing fees of any kind, meaning you have unlimited usage of the program when you buy it.

The Downs

Tabletop Simulator’s custom deck building kit (the workshop component I am most familiar with) requires some tutorials and tinkering with Java settings depending on your computer setup.  The customization it offers is somewhat offset by the sizing requirements of certain components.

Also, while the price may be an advantage to you as a creator, it certainly comes to the detriment of your testing base.  Every user of Tabletop Simulator needs to pay that $19.99 USD for the program.

The Final Word

Tabletop Simulator’s robust feature list and pay to own model make it an attractive option in a world with a growing list of paid services.  While it can be somewhat finicky, the sheer utility and built in community is worth the purchase price in my opinion.

The Verdict: 4 Table Flips out of 5

I hope you enjoy this look into Tabletop Simulator and the features if offers to content creators and game designers.  Next week I’ll dive into Tabletopia and see how it stacks up.  I leave you with this question: what features do you look for in digital prototyping software?

Until Next Time,

Charles Weigand

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