The Game Kitchen, developers behind action-platformer Blasphemous (2019), launched a Kickstarter last week that promises to let you play any board game in VR. Now, only a week in, the studio has pushed past its initial funding goal and revealed more licensed board games coming to the platform.

Update (July 20th, 2022): All on Board! is officially funded, pushing past its $25,000 funding goal. At the time of this writing the campaign has garnered around $35,000.

TO celebrate, The Game Kitchen announced All On Board! is getting a non-VR Guest Mode, which will include an application for flat-screen devices that users will be able to download for free. Non-VR guests won’t have customizable avatars, however they will have voice chat and be able to see and interact with the game board so you can play along both in VR and out.

The studio also revealed two new licensed games coming to All on Board!: SteamWatchers and Hamlet: The Village Building Game.

Hamlet is a medium-weight competitive village builder for 1-4 players where you are communally turning a Hamlet into a bustling little town. In this tile placing game, players construct buildings that everyone can use to create materials, refine resources, earn money and make important deliveries to construct the Hamlet’s big landmark – the Church.

SteamWatchers, by Mythic Games, is a highly competitive area control game for 2-5 players set in icebound Europa, where rival clans battle to control of heat columns. Danger lurks however, as getting too close to the steam blights the troops with a mysterious illness, the Bane.

There’s still four more games to be revealed. Follow along with the Kickstarter updates here.

Original Article (July 14th, 2022): Called All on Board!, the game presents a unique licensing structure that lets you buy full board games and play them in VR. Only one user needs to have a game license, just like playing a physical version of the game.

For now, the studio has revealed six games that backers can choose from: Nova Aetas Black Rose Wars, Escape the Dark Castle, Rallyman GT, Sword & Sorcery, Infinity Defiance, and Istanbul. There’s also another six games yet to be revealed.

Players will be able to support the project starting from $20, which gives access to the platform, exclusive accessories, and a backer role on the official Discord. By contributing $40, players will be granted access to Backerpass Basic, a tier that includes three licensed board games of their choice. Backers of the Kickstarter campaign can also buy the Complete – Early Bird tier that will grant access to 12 games for $80.

The game, which is slated to support SteamVR and Meta Quest, also boasts a robust modding system so you can make and share a library of user-created board games, playing spaces and accessories. That means you could play essentially anything you or other players are willing to make, which The Game Kitchen says can be done without writing a single line of code.

Image courtesy The Game Kitchen

All on Board! is said to include direct private play, a matchmaking system, and cross-play across all supported platforms. The studio says it will eventually also support other standalone devices such as Pico Neo 3 and upcoming devices like Meta Cambria.

The first beta version of All On Board! is said to arrive this Holiday season, available exclusively for Kickstarter backers. You can check out the Kickstarter here.

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Founded in 2010, The Game Kitchen are known for their point-and-click adventure The Last Door (2013) and critically-acclaimed indie title Blasphemous (2019), both of which were successfully funded through Kickstarter campaigns. As it develops All on Board!, the studio is also working on a sequel to Blasphemous for launch sometime in 2023, as well as “several undisclosed projects” soon to be revealed.

At the time of this writing this studio has already managed to garner $22,000, bringing it close to surpassing its initial $25,000 funding goal.

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  • Christian Schildwaechter

    I don’t want to discredit this particular game, this is more of a general observation: we have this fancy new medium, still in its infancy and rather primitive, in which we can simulate any environment and things that would be impossible in the real world. You could fly, lift a supertanker with one hand, shrink and explore an ant hill, turn into a hippopotamus or move in a completely abstract space filled with morphing 4D wireframe objects. I remember reading about early 90s VR experiments where people used datagloves to map fingers to legs, placed the user in the body of a six legged crab and watched how they learned to intuitively move around using their six finger legs within a few minutes. And things got really weird when experiences created worlds based on the user’s heart and breathing rate.

    That is something that is missing. So far we get mostly copies of reality or variants of pancake games that were more primitive copies of reality. No doubt HL:A is a great experience. But it is still a Half-Life game, a first person shooter that earned its cult status first by how it integrated story telling, and with HL2 by integrating realistic physics. HL:A adapts these with VR mechanics in a brilliant way, but doesn’t introduce groundbreaking new gameplay.

    And no doubt playing card or board games with friends can be fun, and moving this to VR allows doing this even if you are in different locations. But frankly, I’m disappointed in VR in general for its lack of innovation. It was actually better in the early DK1 days, where we saw bizarre experiments like “Dumpy Going Elephants” (world destruction by trunk LSD trip ending in alien abduction), “Sightline” (world changes when you look away) or even “Chicken Walk” (you actually have to peck corn). And the Oculus Share site was a haven for those looking for what VR could do.

    Today’s apps are way more polished and playable, and hardware and software have improved a lot, but conceptually, most games are pretty conventional and rather boring. Again, nothing against “All on board” in particular, it may be a great implementation. And Tetris Effect is still fun despite being the same game it has been for almost 40 years. I just hope that we will see more things that make better use of this incredible medium than reproducing licensed real-world board games.

    • Lhorkan

      I guess you could see it as the market maturing. Developers are not going to sink hundreds of thousands of dollars into creating a gimmick that people most likely expect to be a free demo, of which they will think “oh, that was weird” and move on. Instead, games and applications which have an actual use are being created. Simply having an immersive title, built for VR interactions, is a wholly new experience compared to 2D. Having the ability to play board games together across any distance, but still being there in the room with those people, is a magical experience that was science fiction not long ago. I would say, don’t dismiss these “mundane” experiences just because they’re not bending your brain – they bring value, and if you step back and don’t take VR for granted, are quite amazing.

      • Christian Schildwaechter

        I absolutely understand the need for developers to keep an eye on user acceptance to generate enough sales, which simply works better if the players are familiar with the mechanics. I also don’t mind casual games, I enjoy them myself and am fine with people playing Match 3 games or solitaire and nothing else.

        So I’m not asking for every game to be experimental or the peak of innovation. I’m aware that 95% of everything will always variations of what people already have and know, as most people aren’t really fond of change. And polishing a well established concept over many iterations will lead to a much smoother experience than any experiment could ever be, and new things can evolve from there.

        What I’m asking for is for 1% or 2% to push the conceptual limits a bit more and dare to fail if people don’t like it or don’t get it. I wouldn’t expect to find any of these on the Quest store, but on App Lab, SideQuest or itch. And there are a few that push the boundaries, well beyond the “shoot at something”, “hit on something” or “be in the same room” mechanics that the majority of VR apps stick to.

        I just perceive a huge gap between the unexplored potential of VR and what people are going for. I’ve commented a couple of times on people wanting to use VR to simulate multiple monitors or living in a metaverse with fancy cars taking them to giant malls. Which is sort of a bizarre lack of vision for a medium were documents can simply float in the room, where you can teleport wherever you want or materialize anything anywhere at any time. So why copy the physical limits of reality that we only deal with in our daily lives because we have to?

        There was an infamous AskReddit thread asking “If someone from the 1950s suddenly appeared today, what would be the most difficult thing to explain to them about life today?” The most upvoted answer was “I possess a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get in arguments with strangers.“. That’s a little bit how I feel about the current state of VR.

        • Kenny Thompson

          As other people have mentioned, deving for VR isn’t free. You should save your money for years and then spend it all on an experimental VR game…. instead of a house. Then watch it fail… as most experimental games do. IMO the magic of VR is being a person…. with hands… in a virtual world. Shockingly, even this isn’t done as much as I would expect. Instead you have game after game recreating a 3rd person experience for some reason. There are a couple competent VR hand packages in unity now (the hard / newest part of VR) so maybe this will change.

    • Ad

      This is a long way to say that you don’t understand board games, small group gameplay, or how innovation in media works.

    • Clownworld14

      well its already been done with tabletop simulator on steam. So I dont know why these guys are wasting their time. Tabletop Simulator has a few players too.

      • brandon9271

        This seems like it’s going to be a more polished experience than TTS.. but i can’t say for sure since I’ve never played either. The ability to purchase licensed games will be nice.

        • Clownworld14

          “ability to PURCHASE” – dude you can play them all for free on TTS. I don’t see the need for this, I’ll see what sets it apart when its reviewed.

          • brandon9271

            Free because they’re pirated. This give people an option to legally pay for games

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            Publishers have posted official mods for a ton of games, kickstarters usually have a digital version to try on TTS or tabletopia, and you can play most of those games for free on tabletopia as well where publishers are the ones who opt in and submit the games. Also TTS literally has a lot of DLC licensed games you can buy on steam.

      • Ad

        The VR experience isn’t up to scratch for 90% of VR players, I play it a ton in VR but for most people it’s too janky and too many things don’t work.

    • Billy Jackson

      Your big corp devs rarely have the ability to “innovate” with millions on the line they need a game that they know will give them a return that will fund them enough to last till the next game release… if you look at most popular modern shooter games.. youll see that most of them are some form of MOD that started out in the quake/halflife days and of course have advanced into thier own games which are of course modded more…

      its the community that innovates, and supporting that community should be top priority as you will more than likely find your next big game or the bare bones of it.. starting out as a mod or solo developer (counterstrike, team fortress, minecraft.. etc.. but its the big devs that typically buy out or see those innovations and then put the polish on them for the triple A games..

      why is VR struggling? outside of some of the obvious physical, and mechanical issues, well nearly everything is locked behind some form of paywall and fewer devs are supporting mods so that they can protect their “ip” aka they want to be the only ones making money off their game.

      Its not completely closed off.. but its not like it was back in the day where mods were encouraged and communities embraced it.

      • Christian Schildwaechter

        But we have no big corp devs in VR, most AAA titles are VR versions of existing games and usually not even done by the original developer. Budget and team size wise not even HL:A would necessarily qualify as AAA, and it is the only pure VR title that could. So all the small VR developers face the same problems that pancake game indies face too: they cannot rely on high advertising budgets, they cannot pay for large teams or develop their own high end engines. Instead they have to find their audience by offering something that targets a special interest, is a little bit more edgy, retro or weird to get noticed.

        Jonathan Blow (Braid, The Witness) once mentioned that what makes indies special is that they keep their rough edges instead of having legions of game testers polish out everything to make the experience easily consumable. His games are technically polished, but can be very challenging and frustrating. Other very successful titles like “Getting over it”, “The Stanley Parable”, “Kerbal Space Program” or “Stardew Valley” completely break with traditional AAA game design, and they are better for it. Most came from single developers, and none was a mod that needed an existing AAA title.

        VR has seen new types of games that actually utilize the medium. “Job Simulator” triggered a number of games that are based on physical comedy and can only work in VR, often paired with rude humor like in “Accounting+” or “Virtual Rick-ality”. “Beat Saber” was a very different type of rhythm game compared to e.g. the pancake “Thumper” that also supports VR, and created another VR only genre. “Rez Infinite” is based on an abstract shooter for the Sega Dreamcast, but the VR version with free flow finally really allows to get the synesthetic experience they had aimed for 20 years ago. These were all financially very successful titles, released on multiple open and closed platforms.

        The lack of innovation in VR doesn’t come from AAA return of investment restrictions or locked platforms or technical limits, it comes from a lack of vision and courage to leave the established path. I don’t expect every developer to go that road. But it simply isn’t true that all the VR developers are forced to basically create the same type of game over and over again by any type of external pressure with no creative room to breath.

        There is a very interesting GDC talk from a guy that made his living by releasing nothing but holiday themed Match 3 games for more than a decade, intentionally going very “niche”. If all you can muster is another match 3 game or first person shooter, at least make it different by doing a spooky halloween version or first taking a look at how interesting and completely different an innovative shooter like “Lovely Planet” can be, without requiring a huge budget or team or coming with a huge financial risk. Your chances of getting it published on PSVR2 will be low, but they are close to zero for any small team title anyways, publishing on Steam costs USD 100 (which you can get back), and publishing on itch, App Lab or SideQuest is free.

    • Ad

      Maybe I was snarky at first but the problem with this is that it fails to actually think about the possibilities here. Complain about someone making a virtual mcdonalds in Horizon, not this. Board games are all about face to face communication, physical interaction, and close contact. They’re really immersive in their own way, if you want a game about being a bird eating corn, there is likely a board game about it. This makes as much sense as attacking HL2 for adding physics because physics are more like the real world and thus not taking advantage of what a physics-less virtual world can be. This platform also does not revolve entirely around real world board games, and even if it did there are a lot of board games that are trying to move beyond physical limitations with chips inside components, apps, and other tech that would be much easier and cheaper to design around and deploy in VR. You’re basically saying you think board games are boring and don’t want a game about them, whereas I could say I don’t want a game about being a cat because cats are real and boring.

      • Christian Schildwaechter

        … attacking HL2 for adding physics … you think board games are boring and don’t want a game about them …

        I never did or said any of that, in fact I went out of my way to make clear that this is not about a specific game or genre, but about a lack of medium experimentation in general. You are just twisting my words because I obviously didn’t pay enough respect to something very dear to you.

        I could say I don’t want a game about being a cat because cats are real and boring.

        Given that Stray released to stellar reviews five days before you made that comment, you really could have picked a better example.

        • Ad

          You wrote an entire essay on this article for a reason, don’t play dumb. And lots of of people love stray, people who don’t like cats not as much. It very much leans on a gimmick that people like.

  • Ad

    This could be amazing, or it could be killed off by publishers who want anti consumer nonsense. Tabletopia, the publisher’s favorite digital platform, is atrocious and makes virtually no use of the digital format. I hope they’re able to keep this open, they don’t get attacked by irrational publishers, and they don’t get acquired or cloned by facebook.

  • Billy Jackson

    i just want some D&D dice dang it!!! :P

    • I feel you! I want my D10s for my Exalted/Storyteller games

      • Billy Jackson

        since i played poker stars in VR, ive been wanting D&D dice in the same environment style room… its perfect for pen and paper role playing.

  • Ad

    I’m optimistic, but I still worry facebook’s closed policies or salty publishers will harm this in some way.