I Have a Board Game Idea – Now What? Digital Prototyping Warfare – Tabletopia vs Tabletop Simulator

The Hackers Guild setup on Tabletopia

Welcome back everyone! A while back one of the Facebook groups I belong to had a thread discussing the comparison of Tabletopia vs Tabletop Simulator. While there are some really great resources and thoughts that have already been published on the subject, I thought I would add my two cents now that I have had a chance to use them both for digitizing The Hackers Guild.

Ever since I started listening to The Cardboard Architects, I knew that I wanted to make digital versions of The Hackers Guild available to help facilitate play testing. One of my original posts was dedicated to the options available to designers wanting to digitize their games.

Choosing the platform

I started by looking at VASSAL which is one of the free alternatives out there, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t the right option for me. The next platform that I looked at was Tabletopia, but because it is still in beta there wasn’t an obvious way to get an account to add The Hackers Guild to the platform. After some more research, I decided on Tabletop Simulator and purchased the licence so I could get started on the process of creating The Hackers Guild on their system.

Creating the game – Tabletop Simulator

The process of creating The Hackers Guild on Tabletop Simulator was relatively painless, once I got a better understanding of how the engine works. The tutorials were really helpful and helped point me in the right direction.

Most of everything you would need can be found in the chest. However, I was a little disappointed that basic wood pieces weren’t included in the base components, but a quick mod search found lots of different options.

The basic process of creating the individual custom components involves uploading your component art to a image hosting site such as imgur.com or ultraimg.com. You will need to ensure you have the direct image link, as the sites will often give you a different link by default. You will then need to specify the url to the image when you go to create the custom component. Boards only require one url, where cards and tokens will need two – one for each side (use the same url if both sides are the same).

Dialogue for specifying art for custom table.

Dialogue for specifying art for custom table.

Custom rectangle table with the board image uploaded.

Custom rectangle table with the board image uploaded.

One of the nice things about Tabletop Simulator is the deck editor. The deck editor is a stand alone program that lets you create decks of up to 59 cards all at once out of one image. You just add the images to the individual cards into the program, then export the whole deck as one image. You will then upload this image to your image hosting site and use its url when creating your decks of cards. This process can also be used to create decks or tiles or player mats.

Dialogue box for creating custom deck, including the front and back images, and the size parameters of the deck.

Dialogue box for creating custom deck, including the front and back images, and the size parameters of the deck.


Dialogue box for creating custom tiles including shape, front and back images, thickness, whether they are stackable (think poker chips) and whether the tile with stretch to the size of the artwork

Dialogue box for creating custom tiles including shape, front and back images, thickness, whether they are stackable (think poker chips) and whether the tile will stretch to the size of the artwork.

Tabletop simulator also has the capability of creating custom 3d figurines which is really neat. As there weren’t any in The Hackers Guild I don’t have any first hand experience with them, but there is a tutorial on the subject.

Creating the game – Tabletopia

After it appeared that I wouldn’t be able to put The Hackers Guild up on Tabletopia, I learned that Tabletopia was available from Early Access via Steam. Once ordered, you need to login to the Tabletopia interface using your Steam credentials. You will want to use Internet Explorer when using Tabletopia to upload your game content as it works best in IE.

The basic flow for creating your game in Tabletopia looks like the following:
  • Prepare your game graphics.
  • Create your game page and setup page in Workshop.
  • Create groups for objects, upload your graphics and publish objects in the game group. If needed, add standard objects from Favorites.
  • Place and arrange objects in the setup editor, then publish one or more setups.
  • Test and check your game, create play zones if needed and publish it.

There is an excellent FAQ and video tutorial that will walk you through the process.

One of the biggest differences I found with Tabletopia is that I had to upload each card of each deck separately, and then manually group them into their corresponding decks which was a little frustrating and time consuming. Tabletopia did offer the ability to update all instances of an object from withing the setup designer which was a nice touch.

The idea of creating game setups was also unique to Tabletopia. It offered some advantages over Tabletop Simulator, like being able to create decks of cards that load preshuffed, or being able to assign each player a random character. While some of this could likely be accomplished in TTS, it would involve some advanced scripting that didn’t look very easy to learn. More details are found in the third tutorial on the tutorial page.

I wanted to go a little more in depth and include some screenshots, but I was unable to log into my Tabletopia account for some reason while writing this post. I will have to do a follow up post once I get back into my account.

The verdict

So now that I have had a chance to work with both systems, do I have a preference? The short answer is no. It really is going to come down to personal preference, as each as pros and cons when compared to the other. For example, TTS requires all players to have the game, where only the host of the game needs a Tabletopia account. Tabletopia is cross platform than TTS, but TTS is obviously more developed and has more options. The mods in TTS are more permanent that the game setups in Tabletopia. Some of the controls in Tabletopia are a little more intuitive than in TTS. You can read more about the differences, and what they might mean to you, in this blog post.

I don’t think this is one argument that is going to have a definite winner for quite some time, but I would love to hear what others have to say about the debate! That is everything for this post. Until next time, happy designing.

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