Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Getting Cheapass in Tabletop Simulator

My Monday night online board games night has been one of the triumvirate of touchstones that I build my week around over this quarantine period, along with the weekly staff meeting and the daily crossword-solving conference call. I haven't posted about it for the last few weeks because there hasn't been all that much to say, but I really can't overstate how much I look forward to it and will miss it when we all eventually go back to our normal lives.

This week we tried out in implementation of Veritas that I made a few weeks ago for Tabletop Simulator. Veritas was one of the games that Cheapass Games made when they came out of their hibernation at the start of the 2010's. It was made with the old-school Cheapass gimmick philosophy, that game pieces are pretty much all interchangeable so they're not going to ship them in the box, but came with a slightly higher production value than the earlier entries in the series (colour printing and all). Veritas is a neat little game and it's still available for tenbux at cheapass.com, but it's basically unknown (only just squeezing into the top 10000 games on BGG at the time of writing, and with five plays recorded in the last four years I'm the equal-second-most frequent player of the game that logs their games on the site). I think the reasons for this are that it came during a huge growth period in board games, when Cheapass just didn't have the reach or the brand recognition that they once did, and because the 'standard' pieces that it required were actually a little obscure, as it needed about 40 stackable 20-30mm diameter discs for each player. If the pieces had come in the box and they'd just charged a little more for it, maybe it would have done better. But then it wouldn't have been Cheapass enough, I guess.

A few years back I painted a set of British 2p coins to use as my truth tokens, and though they could do with another coat of paint and then a little varnish to seal them or something and the yellow went a very unappealing greenish colour when it dried, they fit the purpose very well (and make a very satisfying clunk when you drop them on the table). I was expecting to be able to link to the previous post that I've written about that set at this point, but it seems like I've never written a post about it before, just mentioned in passing back in 2016 that I should probably get around to it. Good work, there, Mr. Owl. 

Given the lack of popularity of the game, maybe it's not surprising that there's not already a Tabletop Simulator version of it. A dedicated soul has made TS versions of many of the older Cheapass games here, but since Veritas occupies the ambiguous middle ground between Freetown and Expensiveburg I guess it doesn't fit into that category. My implementation is a little quick and dirty at the moment, but I think I'll go ahead and fired off a request for permission to publish it just in case, and if James Ernest or who whoever owns the right to the game since Cheapass' acquisition by Greater Than Games last year is willing to give permission, spend a little time improving the art assets and as many quality of life changes as I can without having to learn how to do any actual programming before sticking it up on the Steam Workshop for others to hopefully discover and enjoy this unappreciated diamond in the rough.

It's my first attempt at making something for TS, and while it's pretty clear that I haven't quite gotten the physics to work right, I was pretty pleased about how it turned out. We were able to sit down with four players and play out a painless game via screen-share in a little less than an hour, which is a comparable time to playing it in person, the game hit all the usual high notes of a game of Veritas done right, and everyone (winners and abject losers like myself) had a good time, which is always a bit of a relief when I introduce something new to the group. I have a couple of little tweaks to get to after this playtest, but overall I was very pleased with how it turned out. 

Not pleased enough to consider learning lua to actually program some smarts into the implementation, but pleased nevertheless.

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