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Digital Gaming vs Tabletop: The Future? Pt I

Published on 08/04/2015

  • Digital Gaming vs Tabletop: The Future? Pt I

Greetings friends! Richi P back again for another discussion. This topic is all about Digital War Gaming and just what effects may this have on our hobby. With hope this will span 3 entries covering the negatives of the Digital medium, the positives and where the two can compliment each other.

In recent years, we've seen a lot of video games released that cover franchises we are more than familiar with from the tabletop experience ranging from the insanely popular Dawn of War 2, to the recently released Warmachine: Tactics.

Every single time one of these games is released for a franchise that is currently available (unlike the InDevelopment Mordheim available for early access on Steam) there is always someone who screams that "the hobby is dead" or other variations of the sky is falling.

But what has history shown us?

Let's look back, not too far, to 1995 when Mindscape developed Shadow of the Horned Rat, a digital take on the Games Workshop game Warhammer Fantasy Battle. This game was at the time one of the only ways of playing a Games Workshop title on your computer (or 1 year later on Playstation) but here we are 20 years later still playing Warhammer on the tabletop.

Let's move forward a few years to 1998 and Bioware release Baldur's Gate; possibly the most popular Dungeons&Dragons PC title to date. But did it stop people playing DnD? Of course not!

DnD came under the digital spotlight again with DnD-Online and more recently with Neverwinter, both of which for a variety of reasons were never able to overtake the popularity of the tabletop game.

In 2008 Mythic attempted something similar with Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) but its popularity paled in comparison to the tabletop itself despite offering players of Warhammer an experience unlike anything they had ever experienced within the Warhammer World.

So what is the reason?

Why is that at every attempt to create a digital version of a tabletop game, it never draws in the number of players that you would expect when you combine video gaming audiences with tabletop gaming audiences?

Of course the quality of game needs to be taken into account; if the game itself is a big pair of pants then the consumer will see through to that and while initial purchases may be high it will quickly flatline as was seen with games like Warhammer Online, but I would argue that this is not the main reasons: Choice and Artistic Pull.


When you play a tabletop game online you are often in a state of limited choice.

Take Dawn of War 2 for example. It doesn't allow your games to go beyond the small skirmish size. If you want to play a full sized army game then this game does not give you the choice.

A lot of the time a lot of the complexities of a game such as equipment or gear is streamlined to make unit control on the fly a smoother transition. So if you happen to have a Barbarian Warlord with a certain load out in your games, there is a good chance that at least something from your loadout will not be present.

Let's look at RPGs! I love these games in both tabletop format (either miniature or mind's eye) and digital. When I play a game such as Warcraft: The Pen & Paper RPG, one moment my character is dancing on a tavern's table to a merry jig of my choosing, the next he is swinging on a chandelier to avoid the bar room brawl that just broke out. When I boot up my latest level 100 on World of Warcraft however, at least part of that situation is impossible.

It's quite simple; a video game is limited by the imaginations and technical capabilities of it's programmers. A tabletop game is limited only by the imaginations of those currently playing.

Artistic Pull:

This is something that to me is much more important than choice. I got into tabletop gaming not to wage epic battles on the tabletop but to play with little toy soldiers. With a video game you can not do this.

It's as simple as that! If you have an itch for miniatures including the painting of them, the modeling, the basing; even if it's just the weight of them in your hands. Then it doesn't matter how many pixels are included in a render, or how photorealistic the textures are, your itch will not be scratched!

So this means that tabletop is better than digital, right? After all I just spent countless paragraphs going out of my way to prove just that.

Well let's put a pin in that and I'll see you back here next time where we look at the other side of the coin and where digital interpretations will always outshine the tabletop!

Until then; stay safe and be excellent to each other!

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