Quick & Dirty Guide to BSW  |   Back to Boardgames, Etc.

Note: Brettspielwelt changed their graphics for many of the screens below, but you can still make a lot of sense from this guide.

Added on 3/10/03: BSW in English! I haven't checked this out myself, but announcements were made on the spielfrieks and BSWgamers Yahoo group mailing lists that English language interfaces for Puerto Rico and Princes of Florence are now integrated into BSW (whether you're using the client or web interface). No longer do you need to download & install a software patch from Emerald City. (Though you'll want to check out that cool BSW site anyway!)

From BSWgamers I learned about the Game Partner Center (abbreviated SPV, in German), as well as entering the command "/twindow off", which will cause all chat messages to appear in the main chat window instead of popup windows. In message 244 Boomer tells how to customize your client's prop file for some nice enhancements.

Also, last month there was a nice mention of this web page in Games magazine. Hopefully that has led to some more people having the gumption to try BSW. If you found this website from that article, I'd love to hear from you via email

Added on 1/14/03: There are a few more good online resources for English-speaking BSW gamers. The first is the website for Emerald City (be sure to check out the library of downloadable patches that provide some English language graphics for some games played through the BSW client). The second resource is a mailing list hosted by Yahoo called BSWgamers.

Added on 3/26/02: A very useful command I didn't originally explain is the watchlist. If you enter "/add watch MarkJohnson" you'll be notified whenever I log on and you're already online. Add as many users as you like in this way, replacing my name above with their BSW nickname (case sensitive). Just remember to enter the comment "/save" to save your watchlist so it's active the next time you log onto BSW. If you do, you'll get the added benefit of being notified when you log on if your friends are already there!

Since October 2001 I've been having fun playing my favorite sort of boardgames online, versus live opponents, on a curious game portal called brettspielwelt. As you can guess from the name, it's a German site (meaning: boardgameworld), and figuring out how to use it can be confusing and frustrating for English speakers. Some discussion about the site and how to navigate it has appeared on the spielfrieks mailing list and elsewhere. This page is something I whipped up quickly to give people an idea what to expect.

Since it is such an odd site to navigate, I have to say that the best way to learn is be brave, log on, and find someone there to show you the ropes in realtime. These images sort of do something similar. Pardon the file size...

The first thing you do is go to the site in your web browser. There's also a standalone client you can download, but forget about that for now. I rarely use it. The url is http://www.brettspielwelt.de. Once you go there, this is what you'll see...

In a sec we're going to click the little British flag icon to switch to the (limited) English language pages, but before that I want to point out something. Note that there are 27 people online at bsw at this moment. You can tell because the line underneath the big graphic includes "(27 Spieler online)." That's useful info that for the moment isn't available on the English front page.

Okay, now we click the flag icon. It brings up the following page in your browser.

Pretty much the same thing, isn't it? There's now some English text, but you note a bunch of German remaining. Get used to it. BSW is very much a German site, with limited English support from the site itself (happily, the helpful users are another story). Hey, give 'em a break--the programmers do this for free, near as I can tell, and they welcome English speakers with open arms. It's just a ton of work to make the site really multi-lingual.

Anyway, here you have some choices. What I did on this visit was what I always do, entering my username and password in the fields indicated. That's because I've registered, which you do that through the Community link. It's not necessary to do so, however. Just enter a username of your own choosing, skip the password, and login. Assuming you don't try a username that's already registered (in which case you'll no doubt get some error message in German), you'll get in. I've seen other folks that are just listed as guest (Giest####, where #### is some random number). Maybe you can do that by entering the welt (world) by just clicking the link.

Okay, so since I logged in the system recognizes my registered username. Now I click the "Entrance to the world of board games" link. The fountain image in the center of the graphic also works, and the colored archways correspond to the Cities, Help, etc. links. Nevermind those now.

Okay, this is important. After I clicked the Enter link in the previous step, it brings up a separate window. It doesn't look right, but it is. In the beginning it's just a blank grey window. After a while there's some German text at the top. You get no indication that something good is happening, but sit tight. Even on my modern system with a direct connection to the net, this takes a while. What matters more, I believe, is whether you've been here before. If not, then your computer needs to download all of the Java class files, or whatever that stuff is. The point is to be patient, waiting as much as several minutes for it to load. Takes me less than a minute now, though.

When it finally loads, this is what you'll see. Maybe. Depending on how you logged in, you may arrive in one of BSW's cities (see Englishtown, below). But I believe new folks will arrive here. Lots of things to point out here, so take a deep breath.

Obviously, it's a graphic window. Clicking on the various buildings, tents, etc. will take you someplace, so don't do it by accident. Clearly there's a lot of German text in the chat window, which scrolls. I haven't bothered to learn its translation, but can sort of see things that look like "Welcome to Brettspielwelt, the Online Portal for Boardgames" and "MarkJohnson materializes..."

Below the chat window is a line for entering text. It's like a chat service--whatever you type gets echoed to the welt, though just the part of it you're currently occupying. It also accepts slash commands, which start with a forward slash. For example, to send a chat message to EVERYONE on the welt, use the /shout command. (Do it sparingly, though.) As long as I'm mentioning slash commands, note that this location can always be reached with the "/room 43" command. Why 43? I don't know.

Now notice the toolbar. At the far right end is a little triangle tool that collapses or expands the toolbar, as you like. Clicking on any of the tools removes it from the bar, expanding into something onscreen. In fact, that subwindow with all of those names of games is such a tool, one that defaults to being expanded when you login (for my account, at least). Clicking the little checkmark in the top frame of that subwindow minimizes it onscreen, while clicking the X collapses it back into the toolbar (its icon there is of two people holding hands).

Update! BSW has now substantially updated the tool for finding games & players. It's called the Game Partner Center (abbreviated SPV, in German), and following the link will give you a good tutorial.

Now I've selected one game, Carcassonne. Once I click the name of the game, the subwindow expands in two directions. To the right, it shows me a list of logged-in users that have expressed an interest in the game. The users with asterisks by their names are playing something right now. Not necessarily Carcassonne, though, and maybe nothing more than a solitaire timekiller.

The subwindow also expanded down, showing game "rooms" where Carcassonne may be played. Each game room has the designation C#-#, such as C10-0, called Bet The Farm. This particular room is the most common room for English speakers playing Carcassonne, so it's a good one to visit. (All of the rooms starting with C10 are more likely to have English speakers, since they're linked to the Englishtown city.)

Notice how the subwindow is now too tall to be seen in entirety. None of these windows may be resized, so we're stuck with that. They may be moved around by clicking and dragging the top window frame, though.

What I've done now is click the little box next to Carcassonne. It fills in red, and that indicates MY interest in the game to the rest of the welt. See how my username now shows up on the interest list? You don't need to do this, and it doesn't start any game, but I think it's a good idea anyway to help find a game or other players.

You can highlite your interest in several games at the same time. Now I've clicked Lost Cities as well. The only other person on the lsit for this game right now is stepheng, none other than spielfrieks' Stephen Glenn! :-)

Hey, take a look at the entry for room C10-7, El Dorado. It has two names in parentheses after it. That means those two users are in that game room, probably playing Lost Cities right now. On your first visits to BSW it's a good idea to find those and drop in just to watch a game in progress. No one ever seems to mind such onlookers. To go there you could click the room name in the window, type "/room C10-7" on the chat/command line, or type "/hook Freak" on the same line. (The /hook command takes you to whereever the player you name is, so feel free to try "/hook MarkJohnson" when you log in to find me if I'm online. Note that usernames are case-sensitive.)

One minor nit: I think there's sometimes a lag in the system when it comes to those parenthetical names after the room name. Sometimes I've gone there to find the game finished, having other players, or generally being a little out of sync. No big deal, though.

Here's another useful slash command. Use "/mtell [username] - [message]" to send a private message. By clicking Stephen's username in the subwindow, the welt automatically enters the mtell command and username, so I only need to type the message. In fact, you can click several names to send the same private message to several people.

Now I've just closed that subwindow for game selection. See how it collapsed into my toolbar as the two-people icon at the end? There are other things to click here, but DON'T DO IT! :-) Seriously, some of them are probably helpful, maybe even better ways of getting around BSW that I'm describing, but I don't know about them and my limited experimentation hasn't been encouraging. For example, the next screen shows what happens if you click the image in the top left (with the game screens arranged in a circle).

What's this?! Actually, it's both better and worse than this screen image shows. Better because it allows you to see all of the games and players on BSW in one scrollable list (on the right). I'm sure there must be a way to join or launch games from here, too. But it's worse in that the real screen is actually moving, that circle of games orbiting around so you have to click the game you want on the fly! Too spiffy for me. I used "/hook stepheng" to get out of here and go wherever Stephen Glenn was.

He was playing Web of Power (abbreviated KUK here, which is Kardinal Und Konig). See in the chat window how Stephen already noticed I'd arrived? Now, you don't see any game, right? That's because you need to make one more click, on the game board in the top right. That's a static image that when clicked will load the active game. Again, you need to be patient. It takes a little while (~30 seconds) to bring it up. (Why BSW directs you to this interim location before you load the actual game is a mystery to me.) The other thing I did here was to click the toolbar tool that looks like Cleopatra's head (does to me, anyway). That's a very useful one, bringing up a subwindow with just the names of the users in that room.

Here we go. The game board has loaded, and the subwindow with active players is open. It's a gaggle of spielfrieks! Mike Herms, Stephen Glenn, and Terry Bailey. Plus me, of course, but I'm not playing. Here's your first glimpse of a BSW rendition of your favorite boardgames in action. A number of folks have complained that the screen size isn't as large as they'd like, and I agree, but the accuracy to the actual game components is really wonderful! Of course you see the map, the wooden markers that have been placed, and the two face-up cards. Less like the actual game are the draw pile (it's just above the face-up cards, with a number 6 on it indicating the number of cards left). In the top left is the game info, with points, plus what must be a tally of the unplayed markers for each player. The asterisks around TBailey indicate that it's his turn (a common indicator on BSW).

Okay, now I wanted to go to Englishtown. I thought I could get there with "/room C10", but that didn't work. So instead I clicked the tool that looks like a gold nugget (5th from the left in the above image).

That tool brought up this funky map of the BSW "world." Now, I believe you can enjoy BSW fully without engaging in the "virtualness" of the world and its cities. Just find games and play 'em. But I have to admit that I'm kind of getting into the idea, so I'll show you. Like I said, I thought "/room C10" would work, but this gets there. I clicked that little red & white city location on the world map in the upper left of the continent (think Seattle), and it tells me I've clicked Englishtown. Better yet, there's a tiny "Go" button next to the name of the city, so I click it and there we go.

This is a city. Note from the open subwindow that I'm the only use roaming around here right now. In time this might become the place for English speakers on BSW to hang out while waiting for games, or to just chat. The little buildings mostly correspond to game rooms, and you can tell which is which by hovering your cursor over them. Can't tell if anyone's inside, though. Clicking on the fancy blue compass rose thingie on the right lets you scroll around EnglishTown, finding other locations. There are never any  people walking around or anything, however. There are virtual cities and buildings onscreen, but no onscreen virtual personalities. In this case I clicked on one of the houses in the row that is a Carcassonne game room.

See? Here we are. The "Cleopatra" window shows me that several gamers are here already, and in fact Stephen followed me here (probably with the "/hook MarkJohnson" command). Again I need to click the static game image in the top right corner to load the actual game in progress. Which I did.

So here's Carcassonne in action. Now TBailey has also followed me here, another onlooker. It's a 2-player game between pon12376 and Alberich. Neither of them have any meeples left inhand, or else you'd see them in a row under their names on the right. It is Alberich's turn, and he has that simple straight road tile to use (the arrows above allow you to rotate it). Click on the map to place it, then on the tile again to place a meeple (if you have one!). Of course you can see the meeples already on the map, though it can get pretty small.

Oh, do you see that pon12376 typed  just "t" in the chat window? That's what you do when to test your connection, making sure that you're not locked up (in which case you won't see the t echo back to the screen). I think it's also sort of an unspoken prompt for your opponent to play a little faster, the online equivalent of asking someone to please take their turn. I find play on BSW generally moves at a pretty good clip.

If you DO get locked up, or lose your modem concection (and it will happen someday), don't sweat it. Just close the locked up window or redial the Internet, then reconnect to BSW. Go back to the game where you were playing (I usually just /hook one of my opponents). You'll have to rejoin the game using the circle-i-Spiele tool or /join command, and then you're back in action. The game doesn't have to restart--it just picks up where it left off. Very nice.

When you reappear in the game room, your opponents may write "rehi" in the chat window. It just means "Hi again"! :-)

Now I've reopened the game list tool, trying to find a Lost Cities game. This time I clicked on room C2-1, and was surprised to find someone in there already. (Why wasn't he listed in parentheses behind the room name?)

Here's Lost Cities. The other player already here is called Verleger. Notice the language! He writes "hi" when he enters. (As do many Germans, though others say "hu" or "huuhuu", etc.). I always write "Hello," which broadcasts the fact that I'm an English speaker. It's never been a problem for me. He types "Lust?" which is completely lost on me. I hope it means something innocent enough in German! :-) This time I offer to start the game. That can be done with a slash command, but instead I bring up the start game tool. It's the one in the toolbar that is a circled "i" with Spiele written in red across it. It brings up that little subwindow on the left.

I click join, my opponent does the same (or types "/join"), and I click start. We're off!

Here's the game in progress. The top played cards are easy enough to see. The value of those cards and the ones under it are in small vertical text in the "gutters" between the card piles (see 'em?). Cards in your hand or the discard piles are just those chiclet-sized tiles. There's a draw pile as in Web of Power (KUK). NOTE: Don't press the button on the bottom right that says Zuruck. It means "return" (or "back"?), and causes you to leave the game, heading back to /room 43. Most if not all games have a Zuruck button somewhere.

Oh yeah, notice that I collapsed the toolbar for better visibility. Also you can tell it's my turn because of the asterisks around my name at the top of the screen.

And this was the end of my game. Verleger won. :-)  Normally I'd play Lost Cities a few times in a row, and the game has a Continue function that keeps a running score. There's no special logout, you just close the window or quit your web browser. It's a matter of courtesy to tell everyone goodbye first, however, and wait for their response.