Today, board games are more popular than ever. Now, board games are gaining a new dimension with the introduction of Amazon’s Alexa.
If you’re into board games, you might still be geeking over Gloomhaven. It’s basically IRL Dungeons and Dragons, but it comes with a hefty price tag.
Most of us board gamers remain content with perennial favorites like Settlers of Catan, Resistance, or games like Slap 45 or Codenames.
Board games come in all shapes and sizes, from basic 4×4 boards with accessible rules to massively complicated tabletop strategies that take days to complete.
While some games like Night of the Werewolf come with companion apps, other companies are taking their games one step further to incorporate Amazon Alexa.
When on the Board, Do as the Amazonian Romans do
U.S. board game sales grew 28% in 2016 alone, reports NPD Group. After all, investing in something you can enjoy many times with lots of people makes sense, right?
One of the impediments to enjoying these new board games involves the often overly-complicated setup and actually learning how to play.
Take the game Mysterium for example: it is so fun and has fantastic art in it. But my friends and I tried to play it once, and the setup alone took well over an hour. Once we got the gist of the rules, however, it was just like Clue in reverse, which is obviously exactly what every boardgame should be.
So, in order to take another approach to the increasingly complicated nature of board games, UK company Sensible Object stepped up to the already crowded podium.
The company has developed an entire line of board games that incorporate Alexa in a variety of roles. The virtual assistant performs as a scorekeeper, rule teacher, and game master in all of these games.
You can see the first title in the series above called When in Rome. It’s a trivia game where two teams answer questions about locations around the world. Naturally, the team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
So, how does playing a game work with a virtual assistant?
Get Ready to Give out Lots of Voice Commands
As with anything involving a virtual assistant, you rely heavily on voice commands.
For When in Rome, you might start by saying “Fly me to Budapest.” You’d then move your little jet plane piece and person to that location. As you do this, Alexa will play a jet noise then introduce a local character.
These characters all have unique personalities and accents. That means it won’t just be a robotic Alexa playing every single role, which is nice. You might encounter some accessibility issues per Nicole Lee’s review of the game from Engadget.
But overall, this plays into the new smart home vision many companies have for the future. Sensible Objects founder and CEO, Alex Fleetwood, commented about the shift toward inclusivity, accessibility, and using technology in board games:
“Our viewpoint is that consumers and players are often offered this binary choice between either the tactile and social face-to-face fun of board games, or everything that’s immersive and engaging about a digital play experience.
So we thought, why not have both.”
Fleetwood also believes that board games like this will increase accessibility overall. He attributes the success of games like Monopoly to their ease of access and simplicity.
By combining accessibility, technology, and fun, Fleetwood hopes that Alexa could one day even host a roleplaying game, too.
When in Rome is on sale on Amazon for around $29.99 USD if you’d like to see Alexa in action for yourself. Other board games in the Voice Originals series will cost the same price. But Sensible Objects might introduce additional content packs, as well.