Sunday, January 10, 2021

Gaming Online: Vassal and TTS!

So, it's been a great month for most of us, huh? This social distancing thing has been FANTASTIC, as I certainly love being unable to see my friends, go outside often, and especially unable to play spaceships in person.  Luckily, the Armada community has ways around this.  Welcome... to the internet!
Look, I need games alright? Internet or nothing, this extrovert needs opponents and human contact
Even when this pandemic ends, there will still be places and people who don't have easy to get to real life games.  Work might be on weird hours, or it might be across the entire city, or you might be unable to get a community together.  Neither of these is a replacement for a real game; there's sighting and maneuvering and spacial awareness that you just don't get in a computer game, nor do you get the perfection you can get online IRL.  That being said, it's a game and it's usually against good opponents OR opponents you can't normally play.  I've had 2 games against my friend Justin in Iowa so far, and that's a bit of a drive for me, social distancing or no social distancing.  Hence, the internet!
I've worn that outfit....
Of the two programs, the most important thing to know is that you want to play where you can get games.  If everyone you know on the internet or in real life is playing on system 1, it's not necessarily smart to hop onto system 2.  That being said, everyone is stuck in this same boat, so finding games hasn't been hard to do recently.
Everything is fine for that SSD.  Just believe harder!
The first and more well known program is Vassal (sample image above).  Karneck has made videos about how to download the program and run it (while you're there, hit that like and subscribe for him).  Most of the image examples Eric and I use in our articles are from Vassal, as it provides an easier top-down view that fully sketches out the point we're trying to make or show you.  It's a bit clunky (let's be honest, they both kinda are), but the perfection you can get with placement and arrangement is mighty nice.  It also boasts THE premier online tournament for Star Wars Armada, which will definitely impress your mom/girlfriend/teddy bear (Biggs you owe me a quarter for promoting this).  I jumped on Vassal for 2 reasons.  First, I've been using it for a while for pictures, so the hotkeys and jumping off points aren't actually that BAD for me.  It's still kinda clunky, but it's a clunky I'm half familiar with.  Secondly, it's where my friends are at.  So it's where I'm gonna play.  I'll deal with clunkiness if I can challenge Jamie in Atlanta, the aforementioned Justin, or Matt/Truthi in DC (who are too afraid of Leia to face me; why yes I AM using the blog to challenge my friends, why do you ask?)  Vassal is free to download, and that is another point in its favor.  Easy to get into something if I don't have to pay to do so, right?

The easiest thing to describe Vassal is that a lot of the Old Guard play on Vassal, which has both its ups and downs.  Let that influence your decision making?
Stolen roughly 45 seconds from before I posted this article.  It's so fancy-looking, look at those graphics!
The other more recent program is Table Top Simulator, or TTS.  I know TTS has the benefit of looking much more like the real game (pic above as well), even if it's the 16 bit SNES version as compared to the Vassal NES.  I asked my friend Irishmadcat who's been active on both which he prefers, and he gave me this list of pros and cons (his text in green below):

TTS Advantages
  • More visually appealing. It looks better even if the models need work.
  • More like playing the real game. You need to flip your tokens and upgrades back like you would in real space. 
  • Easier to save lists. (Pro-tip Save the cards with the spawn buttons. Do not save the models). However this is only if you discount shrimpbot for vassal on discord.
  • Squad movement tools are better. No need to clone the squads to move them around. They have a widget that sits where your base was and shows your option. 
  • Voice chat is in-built. (This is only relevant if you're not using discord.)
  • Since TTS looks more like the actual game, it's easier to teach new people, which may or may not be important to you.
  • It moves faster than Vassal if you know what you're doing with it.
  • The Legion mod for TTS is amazing and really easy to learn how to play on there. 
TTS also has several other games you can play with friends, which helps if you have a regular board game group that's been interrupted by this all.  I know a few friends of mine have paid the $10 for TTS, and I can understand.  As for the downsides?

TTS disadvantages
  • No log for dice rolling and the lack of log to look back on. You can also mess up TTS dice rolling. (Highlight your group of dice and spam R).
  • You have to really be focused on the right area of the table at the right time. 
  • Set up of ships and removal is more finicky. Once you set shields its locked in and tricky to fix.
  • Lack of a "set" button. This is a problem if you play without voice. Also the fact the chat log hides itself. (I presume you might be able to fix this with messing around in the settings.)
  • Lack of the shrimpbot list builder. Vassal has this on Discord. It takes a plain text list and builds you a vassal file. Makes putting those pieces in place easier.
  • TTS locks the tool when you're choosing your clicks, which is terrible for competitive play. As compared to Vassal where you can choose the "place maneuver template" versus the "lock in maneuver template" TTS locks it in automatically, so you know right away if you'll complete the maneuver without any guess work.
Both systems are decent for what you want them to do, which is "play games on the internet with people."  It may take some time to get back into regular speed shape, but I encourage you to play several games, see which system you like better.  There's merits to both, and I know that NYC and Italy have a strong presence in TTS, which, uh, "Buon giorno" to both of you! The main thing though is playing what works for you with people who are willing to play with you.  The benefit of the Armada community is that it's filled with great and helpful people who want everyone to have fun and learn how to use their ships.  Grab an internet combat simulator and get to playing!
You know, I meant one of the two I listed, but if this is keeping you sane, go for it


  1. I've been following your blog since... five-ever... and I had a question:

    How do I get the categories to display on the side, like you have? I started a blog recently on blogspot because I liked how you did that and thought it would be easy to do, and I somehow can't seem to make it work on my (admittedly) as yet feeble attempt.

    1. Use the Layout function of Blogger to set up how you want your page to display. That's the core of it. We've got a pages gadget set up to display our various pages, which are the links we have to the various types of articles. It requires a bit of manual maintenance to keep the hyperlinks in the pages updates as we add new articles but it's not too bad.