I can now finally tell you about one of the more exciting meetings that I had while in Essen this year – a joint presentation between Amazon and Days of Wonder.
After a lengthy period of development, there is now an Alexa skill which will teach you and moderate your games of Ticket to Ride and Ticket to Ride: Europe! https://amzn.to/2qfTTyD
The skill can also be used to get you started with your first game. When you first use the skill (though the intro/tutorial can be skipped), Alexa will take you through the set up and rules, everything from removing the shrinkwrap, counting out the right number of trains, explaining the boards , tickets, routes, etc.
Then, if you do not have a full complement of players – Alexa will even offer to join in the game with you! After a short bit of setup, mostly reading Alexa’s tickets to her so she knows where she is going; the game gets started. All the human players draw cards from the usual display while Alexa has her own virtual deck that she draws from.
As you play a route, Alexa will first confirm that you are playing the right sorts of cards and playing the right number of trains to the board (this double-check is only done once at the start of each game to make sure that beginners are doing it correctly). Then, she will remember which routes are filled. If you try to make an incorrect route, try to take a double route which you cannot or take a route already claimed by someone else; she will let you know that your play is invalid. All the while, she also will keep track of your scores – no more having to go back and recount all the routes to make sure that you haven’t made an error!
Alexa also knows how many trains have been played by each player and you’ll get a little bit of warning as the game draws to a close. At the end of the game, you’ll read off all your tickets to Alexa, and she’ll already know whether you have completed the route or not and will score points accordingly. Alexa will also be able to tell you who has the longest route and apply the right bonus.
For a newbie to the game, I think this could be an invaluable gateway skill – no longer will players have to read the rules themselves and then figure out how to play; Alexa essentially acts as a guide to both show you the rules as well as guide you through the game, making sure that you don’t make any inadvertant mistakes while you play. For veterans, it’s a fun skill to use, it’s nice to have someone keep score for you, and frankly, it’s a fairly decent opponent for solo play.
Sure, it’s not quite the same as playing a real opponent. You don’t get to see the cards that Alexa draws, and you always know which routes that she has (she has to share the physical route card deck to make sure that there are no duplicates); despite that, it’s still fun to set up the game and play with your Alexa device.
Props to Joshua Balvin for being one of the leads in bringing this project to life. For those who don’t know him, he is a fairly accomplished game designer himself, notably desiging Oktoberfest a few years back.
Best of all, the skill is free! https://amzn.to/2qfTTyD If you have an Alexa device, I’d certainly recommend giving it a whirl.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor