3D Virtual Tabletop: Getting Back to the Basics of Table Gaming, With a Mobile Device?

I sit here scratching my head because of how inane it seems at first. But then it slowly starts to dawn on you. Yes, MechWarrior Tactics is a great attempt at bringing the heart and soul of a tabletop wargame to your PC as a videogame the way that Baldur’s Gate did for RPGs. Especially the multiplayer dynamic.

But forget about the well animated sprites and combat, and the voice acting and pretty much everything that screams “VIDEOGAME”. Instead turn it into a medium for crafting your own Friday night gaming sessions on your iPad or smartphone and then having a virtual tabletop with 3D counters, character portraits that everyone in your group can interact with.

3D Virtual Tabletop is a recently-funded Kickstarter project that lets you do just this:

With multiple counter sizes and the ability to import even Megamek or hexed satellite images, instant  BattleTech map

With multiple counter sizes and the ability to import even Megamek or hexed satellite images, instant BattleTech map

Here is a list of features from the program’s website:

  • 3D just like gaming on a real table.
  • View the tabletop from any direction, from top-down to over-the-shoulder or anything in between.
  • Play on your iPad, iPhone or Android including Kindle Fire.
  • Great for pen and paper tabletop RPG gaming like Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), Pathfinder, and other role playing games.
  • Create maps and miniatures from your own images.

A recent Nerdtrek article explains that the Kickstarter is aimed at raising the cash to take on the current Virtual TableTop programs already available on Android and iOS devices, and make it network-based. The ultimate goal is a universal electronic virtual tabletop for mobile devices, PCs and Macs that is also universal for just about any tabletop game from Dungeons and Dragons to BattleTech. I tried the demo, satisfied to see the Unity logo appear as it loaded. Movement of the pieces was fluid and well animated. They are not bound to a grid, so using a hexmap is no trouble at all. Clicking the edge of the counter can turn it for facing, and right click and drag moves your view of the 3D environment. I can see that eventually there will probably be interest in walls and buildings and other interactive structures.

Another crowd-funded project, Deck of Legends, was announced that will allow the use of the deck’s artwork in the Virtual Tabletop’s own library of monster miniatures. I can only imagine the madness you can unleash with a copy of Solaris Skunkwerks and finely cropped Tony Scroggins artwork drafted for duty. Perhaps one day they’ll support 3D miniatures, or open source to allow third-party 3D modeled miniatures; naturally including ‘Mechs.

The Kickstarter has been a big success too. With 22 days left at the time of my writing this, they have raised nearly $18,000 of a $5,000 goal. Talk about the old adage “strength in numbers”.

Well bargained, and done.

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