Playing games online brings the opportunity to find more opponents and more times available for more Dragon Dice game play. Currently, the three best options for online play are the SFR On-Line Games Forums, Webcam play, and games over Tabletop Simulator. Today we’re going to learn how to play live over webcam.
The hardest part of playing over webcam is getting the hardware and setting up the webcam to see the game board well. Chances are, you already have sufficient hardware to play over webcam, setting it up is the challenge. A smartphone (especially if you have a spare old one) or the webcam that comes with your laptop are two likely options most players have readily available.
To start with, though, I’ll discuss a more ideal webcam setup, and then look into these alternatives and how to best make them work. Here is what you’ll need, with links to what I am using for reference:

  • Dragon Dice! – You can’t play Dragon Dice without Dragon Dice.
  • Table or flat playing surface – large enough for your entire play area and where you roll.
  • Play Mat or Army cards to clearly separate your armies, DUA, BUA, summoning pool, and reserves.
  • Dice tray – Recommended to contain the area where your dice roll. Big enough to roll but small enough to fit in the webcam view.
  • Webcam – Logitech C920 (with or without security cover) is one of the most reputable webcams out there, but on a budget almost any webcam will do just fine. Even using a smartphone with a camera or a camera built in to a laptop. Just be aware that webcams built into a laptop can get noisy with the laptop fans running.
  • Microphone – One built in to your webcam or laptop is fine, but one built into a laptop can carry additional white noise.
  • Headphones – without headphones, you risk a feedback loop or echo. Basically, any sound from your opponent coming out of your speakers and back in the the mic.
  • Tripod – The one linked makes supporting the webcam down-facing easier.
    Light – This can be easily overlooked, but if your room is poorly lit, then the picture will be even darker for your opponent. If you’re not sure, just test out your webcam ahead of time. You may need brighter light bulbs or to use a different room.
  • Communication app such as Google Hangouts, Skype, or Facebook Messenger. The one requirement is that both users are using the same program.
  • Computer to plug your webcam into and run the communication app.

With all the right tools and equipment, setting up your play environment gets to be pretty easy. Place your Play Mat or Army Cards on your play area. Put your dice tray next to the mat or cards, and place your army in the appropriate positions.

Play area set up with Army Cards (2 sets)
Play area set up with Army Cards (2 sets)
Play area set up with an army play mat
Play area set up with an army play mat

You’ll see above in the second picture that I added the terrains my opponent is using. I find this is easier for me to follow the game if I have a copy of all of the terrain dice in front of my armies. I would recommend having your extra terrain dice nearby so you can grab a copy of whichever terrain your opponent is using. And if you don’t have the same terrain, you can always ‘proxy’ it with a similar die. Just remember that basic terrain (white ink) have the same sides for a given color (i.e. all Coastlands are the same). But special terrains (gold ink) have the same sides for a given 8th face type (i.e. all Castles are the same).

Next, set up your tripod. Attach the webcam to the tripod and position the camera facing down over the play area, covering as much of the play mat and rolling space as possible.

Webcam mounted on a tripod over the game area.
Webcam mounted on a tripod over the game area.
View of the play area from the webcam. Take note, sometimes you have to move pieces around!
View of the play area from the webcam.

Now using whichever communication tool you desire, configure it to use your webcam as the camera and also to use your webcam, or an external mic if you have one, as your microphone. If you are using a laptop, the microphone that’s included with the webcam will be really noisy with laptop fans. This can all take some time to setup, and potentially troubleshoot if anything goes wrong, so make sure you start setting up before you’re scheduled to play.

Alternatives to a webcam + tripod

Now, we will look at alternatives if you don’t have an ideal setup and would rather drop extra money on more dice instead of all of this equipment. I don’t blame you. I’m ready for more dice myself!

Laptop Webcam

I expect most users who want to play webcam games have a laptop, and most laptops come installed with a webcam above the screen in the middle. If you put your laptop across from you on the other side of your play area, you can tilt the screen down to see the dice.

Play area with a tilted laptop screen to view the play area.
Tilting your laptop screen to see the play area.
Your view of the screen to see the other player will be a challenge.
This is your point of view of the laptop. It’s going to be difficult for you to see the screen!
The laptop's view of your army, with good lighting, is really good for your opponent!
Laptop’s webcam view of the play area.

As you can see from the pictures above, setting this up is really easy, and uses what most people probably already have. The only challenge is you are going to have a hard time seeing your laptop screen. If you have an extra monitor, or a screen casting tool like Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick, or some other way to display to another screen, that will get you around this issue. Otherwise, adjusting your laptop screen up for you to see the battlefield, and then down for your opponent to see your end of the battlefield, works pretty well without being too distracting.
You will also see that my dice tray is slid back towards me more than usual. That’s because the field of view of the webcam is more of a trapezoid, so if my play area was a rectangle, then my dice tray would be cut in half in the camera. Moving the tray away from the camera puts it back into view.

Webcam without a tripod

Maybe you have a webcam, or buy a cheap webcam, and want to try using it. Different webcams have different ways of adjusting them. The one I had allowed enough control to tilt the webcam itself to look down, much like how I tilted my laptop screen down, without compromising my view of the laptop screen.

View from an external webcam sitting on my laptop, fully open. Only the webcam is tilted downward.
View from an external webcam sitting on my laptop, fully open. Only the webcam is tilted downward.

Phone as a Webcam

Lastly, you can use your phone as a webcam. You can either run your communication tool over your phone, or install an app that turns your phone into an IP Webcam (search the app store for IP Webcam). I have personally used this as a video capture device on my computer, but I haven’t not successfully connected it as a webcam to Skype with somebody else. If I figure out how, I will update this section later. You can also see from the picture below that the view is not ideal and has an awkward orientation.

View from a phone being used as a webcam.
View from a phone being used as a webcam.

Well there you have it. Several possible ways to start playing games over webcam. There have been some discussion over the Discord channel about interest in starting a league for webcam games, so I recommend giving webcam play a chance! Keep in mind time zones when you try to schedule. You don’t want to schedule a 6 PM game and show up 3 hours late because your opponent is 3 hours in the future!

If you have any other suggestions or ideas for playing webcam games, please share in the comment section!