Feature Excerpt

Go to Jail: The Complicated World of Pirated Board Games

This is an excerpt of a feature from Unwinnable Monthly #110. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

Playing games is a communal experience. It’s one of bonding that combines joy, deceit, competition or cooperation in a safe, consequence-free environment. People have huddled over their boards of Go, Senet, Mahjong and thousands more for millennia. Yet while the games continue on through the ages, our means of interacting with them, of huddling over the boards, has changed.

The digital age brought about videogames, and the internet brought about a globalized shared space within which we can interact with one another. While we can share a love for the classics in digital recreations, what can we do if we want to play new games, like Monopoly, Settlers of Catan or Magic: The Gathering with our friends around the world? That’s where Berserk Games’ Tabletop Simulator comes in. Tabletop answers that question by giving the tools to the fans to import and recreate their favorite games . . . even if that means breaking a few laws to do so.

Tabletop Simulator, in and of itself, is a completely legal product to purchase and own. Available on Steam, the game’s promotional material revels in the game’s ability to “[import] images onto custom boards & tables, create custom decks, import 3D models [and] create scripts” for the intent of creating games from the players’ imaginations. While that is a promising concept and a great boon to the creative among us, it also opens the floodgates to what has become the foundational pillar of the simulator: digital piracy of physical board games.

Part of the power of Tabletop Simulator is its integration with Steam Workshop, a modding community connected directly to Steam. Not having to leave the Steam client to hunt down mods and pirated games creates an ease of browsing. To download them requires just a single press of the ‘Subscribe’ button, which removes much of the stigma and even awareness of piracy. Of course I trust it; it’s on Steam!

From the workshop, I was able to download everything from a perfect recreation of the massive Gloomhaven, a complete collection of the deck-building game Sentinels of the Multiverse and an almost-complete collection of the now-defunct Netrunner card game. Each of these was completely free via the workshop and, if one mod didn’t appeal to me or have everything that I wanted, there were a number of others that I could just as easily try out until I found something to my liking. The selection and simplicity of it all was truly astounding.


Breathe in. Tea, ink, pine. Fog settles, rests, dawn passes. Northern California.

You’ve been reading an excerpt from Unwinnable Monthly Issue 110.

To read the article in its entirety, please purchase the issue from the shop or sign up for a subscription to Unwinnable Monthly!

Ad Free, Excerpt, Feature, Games, Unwinnable Monthly