Part One: Setting Your Stage
Shaya slowed as she turned the corner, and she gently placed a hand on the ancient stone wall beside her, carefully crossing the threshold of the corbel arch. Raising her torch, she stifled a gasp as the gentle glow from the fire spread over the rows and rows of ancient texts and dusty piles of forgotten treasure. While she knew the value of her mark, the volume “Draculian Arcana”, a large tome of forgotten knowledge that was said to be made of pure gold, she had not expected the sheer volume of what the library held, and that it all seemed to be untouched. She glanced over at the rest of her party, who were now rounding the corner, and offered them a sly smile, hoping that she might be able to pocket some of the more valuable trinkets without their noticing. And yet… it all seemed too easy. Sure, they had to avoid the traps of noxious gases and poisons, but she could scarcely believe that all this treasure would remain untouched for so many eons.
She was about to say as much, when Dimitri placed gloved finger to his lips, his crossbow aimed past her. And then, she heard it. A strange, faint, slithering sound. She raised the torch higher, her eyes groping into the darkness, searching for the source of the sound. But, it was too late. She felt a sense of dread begin to fill her, as she realized that whoever (or WHATever) was making the noise would surely alerted of their presence by her light.
I look up as a voice from the other end of the table cuts through my thoughts- “Roll for initiative.”
Welcome to Up Your Game: Integrating Technology with Tabletop Gaming. This is the first of a multi-part series that will highlight products, software, and other ideas that may enhance your tabletop gaming experiences. Today’s topic: Setting Your Stage.
Games are a great way to bring people together. Game nights were a staple in my family growing up, and tabletop gaming continues to be one of my passions as an adult. Games break down barriers, bring us closer, and let us connect and learn more about each other (though some may argue that they have experienced love lost after an exceptionally long game of Risk). Games take us out of our day-to-day troubles, and let us experience different worlds and different lives. Games challenge our minds, leading to new ways of thinking, and encourage the use critical problem solving skills. Why not take the extra step and enhance the spaces we play in and immerse ourselves even further into our imaginations by engaging our physical senses?
Recreate the flicker of a torch, the swell of an ocean, or the chaos of a night raid with unique and programmable lighting options! The next evolution of home lighting solutions have arrived, and boy, are they neat! Many bulbs can display a large array of colors, can be controlled remotely, and can even be set to respond to your background music!
The Philips Hue series can be used as a few stand-alone lights in a single room, or as a whole home smart lighting solution. Besides traditional bulbs, they also have strips, blooms, and floods, providing many options for additional accent lighting. Using your wireless network, Philips Hue LEDs can be controlled from your smartphone, or through the Hue Tap switch. They also offer wireless dimming kits, and dimmer switches. In order for the bulbs to work, you will also need to purchase the Hue Bridge, to connect the lights to your home network. Philips Hue is compatible with Apple HomeKit, and there are several third party apps available that will allow you to sync your music to your lights (you can view which Philips Hue products are compatible, here.
Already have Nest, Samsung SmartThings, or Harmony integrated into your smart home? Try LIFX! LIFX connects to your Wi-Fi, and can be controlled remotely through their app, all while boasting an ease of integration with your existing smart home solutions. LIFX offers a music visualization option, and, for the more technically inclined, has HTTP, API, and LAN protocols available, so that you can develop your own controls. LIFX also has some bundle offers if you are purchasing multiple bulbs.
Don’t want to sync your lighting through your wireless network? Ilumi offers a variety of bulb styles, which includes outdoor options, and connects to your Android or Apple device via Bluetooth. Ilumi also offers an option to sink and respond to music.
Set a magical table with Playbulb Candle. You want purple fire? You got it! Offering a family-friendly alternative to traditional candles, the Playbulb Candle’s light source is an LED bulb that can be adjusted to shine in a wide spectrum of colors. The Playbulb Candle features a portable design, and connects to your Apple or Android device via Bluetooth. It also offers a fun and interactive option to turn it on and off- you can blow on it! The Playbulb is available as a single candle, or as a three pack.
Nothing gets you in on the action like a good soundtrack! Besides providing background music for your game night, many board games feature companion soundtracks or story moments to match your game. Some games even have fan made music! We’ll shed more light on companion sound for specific games in a future installment. Today, we will focus on some hardware options.
Whole-Home and Whole-Room Solutions:
Looking to spread the sounds throughout your home, or for a higher-quality whole room experience? Many sound products can pair together with other speakers, or can even be integrated into an existing Home Theater sound system.
Sonos offers a variety of sound solutions varying from a few speakers, to home theater, and even whole-home integration. Sonos connects to your home network, and can be controlled through an app. Sonos can play music from your existing digital music library, and can also connect to a variety of music streaming services. Sonos might also be able to connect to your existing speaker system using Connect and Connect: Amp.
The Bose SoundTouch series can also be used as stand-alone speakers, or be synced to multiple Bose SoundTouch speakers. Bose SoundTouch speakers can connect to both Bluetooth and home wireless networks. Besides connecting to your digital music library and streaming services, the Bose Wave SoundTouch Music System IV can also play CD and CD-R/RW formats.
Definitive Technology’s 2-Way Wireless Speaker series, the W7 and the W9 can not only be controlled from your Android or iOS device, they can also be controlled from your PC. They can access your digital library, streaming services, and radio. This series connects to your home wireless network, and can be set to play different sounds through multiple speakers simultaneously.
For those who love Apple, welcome to your new favorite wireless speakers! Bowers and Wilkin’s a5 series allows you to connect via AirPlay and wirelessly stream music from your favorite iDevice and networked computers. The a5 has been designed with tube-loaded tweeters with rear reflections, and can be adjusted to support your favorite balance profile. If you purchase multiple a5s, they can be synced together, and will wirelessly fill your home with rich sound.
Are you a gamer on the go? You can still provide a great soundtrack to your game, no matter where your group is playing! Here are a few portable sound options that feature wireless connectivity, and rechargeable batteries.
Harman Kardon’s Onyx Studio 2 Bluetooth Wireless Speaker System can not only connect to your mobile devices using Bluetooth to play sounds, it also features a built-in speakerphone, and auxiliary input. You can also sync two together! The lithium-ion battery can support up to 5 hours of playtime between charges.
The Bose Soundlink II is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but can produce a surprising amount of sound. It also features a speakerphone option, so you can pause your game to take a call. The Soundlink II can be charged via the included charging kit, as well as with a charging cradle, and can provide up to 10 hours of play time between charges. Bose also offers soft covers to personalize your speaker.
The UE Megaboom is available in a variety of colors, and features a unique 360 degree output, allowing for versatility in placement. It can connect to two different Bluetooth sources, so you can combine playlists with your friends, and it can sync to another UE Megaboom speaker. The UE Megaboom lasts up to 20 hours on a single charge, and is IPX7-rated water proof. Anyone up for playing a game by the lake?
Did you know that there are candles and wax tarts themed after your favorite genres? Here are what a few online shops have to offer!
Nerdie Nifties offers soy candles and wax tarts inspired by books, video games, and more! Some of my personal favorites include Mage’s Books, Hobbit’s Pipe, and Forbidden Forest. The shop has some promotional offers, if you are purchasing multiple items.
Boonzy Arts has a great collection of scents in their Wheel of Flame series. These candles are inspired by places that you might visit in Dungeons & Dragons, and include metal dice from Norse Foundry that are uncovered as the candles burn. Each candle retails for $22.00, but you can pick up the whole series for a discount.
Frostbeard Studio features both soy candles and wax tarts inspired by your favorite books. With scents linked to places in books, such as Through the Wardrobe and Cliffs of Insanity, you can quickly cover a wide variety of places that you might encounter on your adventures. If you’re not sure what to choose, you can pick up a tea light sample set to try four scents at a lower price.
Are you a fan of tabletop gaming? Do you have ideas of products, services, and applications that have enhanced your tabletop experience? What are some of your favorite games to play? Is there technology that you wish existed, but currently doesn’t? Please feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, and comments down below! I look forward to hearing from you!
Looking for more? Check out Part Two, here!