Farewell to Google Jamboard

Google Jamboard, a virtual whiteboarding solution that the company coupled with an expensive real-world display, is shutting down. Google is turning it off on October 1, 2024.

It never got traction in the virtual or real worlds, but it has a special place in my gaming heart for how we used it with Gamer Working Group (my long-running lunchtime gaming group). When playing theater-of-the-mind style games like the Fast and Generically Furious (powered by GURPS Lite) or Monster of the Week, we used the Jamboard web app to sketch the scene and – inevitably – get goofy with campaign-related artwork.

While GWG started in the real world, we moved online during the pandemic and stayed there afterward. The group was originally based at the college where I work, but since the group began, several folks have gone on to other jobs. They still join us once a week to throw dice, thus necessitating online play.

Jamboard: GURPS Lite

The hallmark of The Fast and Generically Furious campaign was we didn’t care too much about the rules (speaking of the rules, you can grab the free PDF from the Steve Jackson Games website)

We were well-meaning (ok, maybe not “well-meaning”, but we tried not to be actively bad) mercenaries and criminals on the run for crimes we didn’t commit (as well as several that we did).

What we could do in the game was dictated primarily by movie-level physics and logic (with the game starting off around Fast and Furious 1, and probably ending around Fast and Furious 5, in terms of the “ridiculous physics factor”).

No, we never launched a car into orbit. Yes, we did have our own submarine.

Our whiteboards were a mix of practical and funny, though funny tended to win out as the campaign went on.

Jamboard: Monster of the Week

Our Monster of the Week game (check Evil Hat’s website for the game) is set in a small New England town where strange things happen (because its New England, and that’s just the sort of thing that goes on there). The first mystery involved a strange fog, an undead monster, and your typical Alphabet Soup agencies. The second (currently in progress) involves investigating the alleged suicide of a coroner, who had been examining a body in a lab when she died.

The Jamboard for Monster of the Week is much more about riffing on our in-game memes and jokes than it is about actual maps or tactics. It’s been a great way to offset the in-game horror with out-of-game joking.

Replacing Google Jamboard?

Jamboard’s not a great product. It always felt like one of Google’s myriad side projects that never got the love or support it really needed (can you say, Google Wave? Or Google+? ). That said, it facilitated some great gaming moments, and I’d like to find something to replace it.

Google itself recommends three platforms, each of which out-competed the tech giant:

All three have free versions which limit you to three boards/workspaces. I haven’t tried any of them yet, but each looks like it could meet our needs. The thee-board limitation isn’t a big deal – we use one board per campaign, so it’d be years before we hit that limit (and even then, I’m guessing we’d just kill the oldest board and make a new one).

That said, we’re open to alternatives. If you have a virtual whiteboarding solution you like for your campaigns, leave a comment or email me at nuketown@gmail.com.

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One of our Google Jamboards in action. Credit: Gamer Working Group

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