People all around the world have always loved competition. Humans have a natural desire to see who is the best at something. This is evident through the popularity of board games. Many games, such as Go and Chess have their origins in the Ancient World. In fact, a Nine Men's Morris board has been found carved into a stone in an Egyptian temple, which was built around 1440 BC.
In the modern world, a new medium for playing these games has come to light, the Internet. There are dozens of sites dedicated to playing board games. There are many reasons why online board games attract people. One reason is that players are no longer limited to their family and friends for opponents; you can play with anyone, anywhere in the world. New games can be learned easily since the sites will not allow illegal moves. Another reason is that you can make a few moves when you have time, or play a game straight through in real time. Of course, the ancient desire to compete can still be fulfilled with online board games.
Some Common Games
Every game site has its own, unique list of games. There are, however, several games that are fairly common among most sites. These games include:
Chess - The classic game of strategy in which the objective is to capture your opponent's king.
Checkers (Draughts) - Another classic game, played on a chess board. Capture all of your opponent's pieces to win.
Line Four - Played on a vertical board; you win by placing four pieces in a row, either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally; pieces may only be placed on the bottom row, or on top of a previous piece.
Go-Moku (Line Five) - Similar to Line Four, but you must place five pieces in a row, either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally; pieces may be placed anywhere on the board. The rules of this game can vary slightly from site to site. Some sites place limitations on where a black piece can be placed during its first and second move.
Salvo (Battleships) - Each player places his pieces, usually ships, on a grid that only he can see; once this is done, the players proceed to 'bomb' each other by stating a specific location on the grid, such as 'B 7'. The winner is the first to destroy all of their opponent's pieces.
Backgammon - A classic game in which you must be the first to get all your pieces home.
Go - An ancient Chinese game where the object is to control the most territory by surrounding sections of the board with your pieces.
Scrabble - Form words using letter tiles with a point value assigned to each letter; win by scoring the most points by the time all the tiles have been used.
Many sites offer variations on these games as well. Some examples are:
Anti-Line Four - Avoid making rows of four.
Give Away Checkers - Be the first to lose all of your pieces.
Anti-Chess - Similar to Give Away Checkers. Be the first to lose all of your pieces.
Commonly Found Features
Most sites offer some sort of a time limit for each move, but some sites offer a time limit for the entire game instead. There are basically two types of time limits: the most common type is that the player who creates the game chooses a time limit from a list of choices. The choices offered are usually between one to 30 days. Other sites have only one time limit, which the players have no control over. When this is the case, the limit is often around 30 days per move. There will often be a 'delete game' button. This is important when playing on a site that limits the amount of games that you can play simultaneously and your opponent never moves.
Some people find that even with a time limit of one day, a game takes too long to play, especially those with a stronger emphasis on strategy than on chance. Many of these players have turned to sites that offer games played in real time. Other players prefer to simply find like-minded players on 'non-real time' sites who are willing to play a game from start to finish without stopping.
Another important feature is the ability of the site to notify you when it's your turn by email. This can help prevent accidental 'time-outs'. It is also important to be able to turn off these reminders if you can check the site regularly and do not want to be flooded with emails.
Many non-real time sites now offer a vacation feature. This allows you to specify days that you will not be able to play. Games cannot time-out during these days. The number of days that can be taken as vacation days vary depending on the site and the type of account you have.
Several sites offer a variety of message boards. Usually there is one board for problems, one for each game, and another for non-game related discussions. These boards offer the opportunity to find new opponents, new strategies, and fixes for problems that you may encounter.
Almost all sites provide a space for messages to your opponent. This space is usually found on the same screen as the game board. An advantage that real time sites have over non-real time sites with this is that they allow for live conversations. This adds to the allure of the board game since many players are interested in meeting people from around the world. Some players are not interested in chatting, however. Regardless, it is considered polite to write good luck (gl) at the game's start, and good game (gg) at the end.
Many sites calculate ratings for players based on wins, losses, and ties. This rating is determined by a formula designed by the site1. Ratings can be helpful when looking for opponents of similar skill. Most sites that offer this feature will also offer a choice to make a game 'unrated' at the time of its creation.
Several sites offer tournaments. There are usually two types of tournaments: one for all players, and one for paying players. Some sites offer prizes in the form of a free membership, while others simply offer the fame of being the winner. Tournaments are popular with players who like fast games because time limits are usually very short.
Choosing a Site
The most important thing to consider when choosing a site is what games you are interested in playing. Once you have found a site that offers those games, you need to look at the layout of the site. Is it easy to navigate? Does it have all of the features that you're looking for? If it does, then the next step is to register. You may be asked to choose between two types of accounts. One will be a free account; the other will be a paid account. In this case, the free account will most likely allow you to play a limited amount of games at one time. You may also have limited access to message boards. The paid account will most likely have few, if any, restrictions. It is strongly advised that you try the free account first to make sure that you would actually use the added features of a paid account. In many cases the answer is no.
Some Game Sites
itsyourturn.com - This site has a good selection of games, as well as both paid and free accounts. Some users have experienced problems lately.
brainking.com - This is one of the best run game sites on the web. It has an excellent variety of games, and also calculates ratings. The site owner is friendly, quick to answer questions, and willing to implement user-requested features. This site also has free and paid accounts.
goldtoken.com - This site has a handful of games and also has free and paid accounts. However, it places strong restrictions on free accounts. Ratings are calculated, but you can only see your own under the free version. This site is often much slower than some of the other game sites.
littlegolem.net - This site has a small number of games available. It is still worth a look though, because some are not available at other sites. There is no paid account option available, nor is there a limit on how many games can be played at the same time. The layout and the time limit system can be a little confusing.
pocket-monkey.com - This is a completely free site. It has a lot of bugs that are being worked on, but nothing too serious. It is one of the only sites that offers Tic-Tac-Toe2. Like Little Golem, this site does not allow you to specify a time limit.
Yahoo! Games - This is another free site with a variety of real time games available. In addition to board games, Yahoo offers several word games, such as crosswords, and Text Twist3. Several arcade style games are also available.
playsite.com - This site provides a few modern board games, such as Monopoly, Scrabble, and Battleships. It also offers several classic games, as well as some card and arcade games. The games are played in real time.
WebDesign's WebChess - This site allows you to play chess in real time against a computer.
The Online Guide to Traditional Board Games - You can't play any games here, but this site does offer a history of several board games.
CD/DVD-Rom Board Games
There are many CD/DVD-Rom versions of board games. If you own a copy of one of these games it is often possible to play network games with other players who own the same CD/DVD-Rom version. There are some advantages to playing games this way. CD/DVD-Rom games usually support much better sound and graphics than those found on sites similar to the ones listed above. Another advantage is that the games are played in real time. In addition to this, you won't have to wait for pages to load. There are disadvantages - namely, you will have to purchase the game in the first place.