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Attempting to play a physical game of Ticket to Ride (USA) with Alexa

Sara Bear
United States
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I'll update this blog post throughout the evening, assuming I get farther.

She asked how many players, and I said one. She then said Woohoo! and looks like it's just me and her, or something like that.

She asked at some point, Do I know how to play, and I responded yes. Oh, first thing she asked was if I was playing USA or Europe, and informed about the two different versions.

She asked if I wanted setup instructions (I think), and I said yes, so off we went. But short as the first instruction was, I think it was tickets and train cars, or tickets and train cards . . . I am realizing that hearing brief instructions, is falling into the same I forget it almost immediately zone of my fibro brain fog, as taking a pill does (I usually forget within 10 seconds if I've just taken one).

I asked her to repeat that last, and she just repeated her last sentence, which was something like, tell her Alexa, next, when I'd done what she'd said. So then I asked her to repeat the last instructions, and I still got the same response. I tried repeat the first instructions, start over with setup instructions, and got nothing different, although eventually she was saying when you are done with setup, say next.

I don't know if there's any setup different for playing just one person vs. her, so I then tried to start the whole skill over, didn't work. Tried to exit the skill in a variety of ways; Exit skill, use a (different skill, any one would do, but she wouldn't), Stop, End, whatever the most obvious things were, she just kept saying say next when done with setup. We were about to unplug and reboot her, when I said, Alexa, Shut Up! And that had her exiting the skill, so them's the magic words, I guess.

They really need to have in there commands for repeating the last step, the first step, or the step about "insert a couple words here that'll be just specific enough for her to know which step you are talking about". This is the kind of functionality I am used to. Starting over the instructions at minimum, I can see my third, "step about x" one might be too much programming, who knows, but repeat last instruction, etc, is stupid they don't have that in there.

So, about to go try this again. With the magic words, ALEXA, SHUT UP! ready at hand. I hope she doesn't put me where I last was, with no option to start the instructions over (though putting you back where you were WITH an option to repeat instruction, if you haven't started the game yet, would be cool.)

Will report back in later with how it's going. Or not.


I'm back. This thing has multiple issues. Most of the game was played from 8pm to 8:30pm my time, with several questions, probably 4 or 5 in that time, practically all of them needing reworded for her to answer at all, and there was one she wouldn't answer at all no matter how I asked it, and another that need 5 attempts or so before hitting on the "right" way.

I had to look up myself, whether or not locomotives drawn in your first draw, off the top of the deck, let you draw another card or not. They do, but that was one of those details I couldn't remember as it's been a while since last I played. I asked it so many different ways my husband in the room was getting annoyed with it and her. I was probably around 8-10 different asks, so I just looked in the physical rules at that point. I tried to word it the most obvious way possible, and asked from different directions of looking at it.

Next time, maybe I'll keep notes on specifics, but after the locomotive top deck draw question, the game felt like it was flowing fairly smoothly for being figuring out the Alexa thing, for figuring out how to ask certain questions.

Oh, another thing, is before gameplay even started, she got stuck in a loop, twice, that went on for 3-5 iterations before we managed to say something that had her move forward; I don't know if this is because we'd been trying to play the game three times and had shut up'd out of it three times, or what. So there's a problem. It's not always clear she's waiting for info from you during the pre-gameplay stuff, but it's hard to say for sure as she was looping and so it's hard to pin that issue down.

Several times during this experience, she exited the skill without us requesting and no notice. There wasn't any train music anymore. There was one time she thought I wanted to end the game, and asked about jumping to the end of the game and warning me that meant I couldn't take turns anymore or something. I said no to that and we continued. But the skill just turning off, so I had to restart . . .she did remember where we were, and usually or always mentioned what the last move she'd made was.

OH. That brings to mind, after asking her a number of questions, or usually one question but multiple attempts (occasionally her reply clued me in to how I could better ask it, but mostly I had to figure it out myself) I would forget who had gone last. I asked her, and she'd mention the last move she'd made, but would not say whether she or I had had the last turn. I tried asking multiple ways and it was clear this isn't programmed in. It needs to be. The one time my husband couldn't remember either, I just took a turn, because I was annoyed the function wasn't in there, so I wasn't going to give the turn to Alexa if I didn't know.

Still, I was having pretty good fun for the last half hour of the game, despite some of the issues that cropped up. I learned to tell her Alexa, Go (I don't remember her saying that was how to tell her to take a turn until a little bit into the game, so I'd been saying, Alexa, Your Turn; my fibro brain fog could be an issue here, or it could have been in the loops where she was talking over herself some or so close to it it seemed like it). I learned to get her to go much faster, as she'll do some effects after you claim a route, and such. I do wish after I claimed a route, she'd take her turn ten to 15 seconds later without having to tell her, or that there was an option in the program to have her auto take turns after claiming a route. But then I suppose that might have you forget to trigger her turn other times . . . OH.

You know what I wish, there's these buttons you can buy to tap and play games with alexa. It'd be SO handy if I had one of those, and could just hit it for her to go. Not that saying Alexa, go, is hard.

I tried tracking score myself early game to compare to how she was scoring it but I got off with her 1/4 of the way through, so I just let her do it.

Trying to ask her how drawing tickets works, took a number of times to hit on the right way.

I did my first turn of the game wrong (I'd like to say it was on purpose, but I'd just been looking at locomotives, and my foggy brain had it, hey, use the color you need plus something else, which is what I did.) She checked the first three to four routes claimed of the game or so by me, if I had the color needed (she didn't mention wild locomotives, though, and didn't mention them in a relevant question I was asking something, but did mention it later in something else.) to claim the route , on non-grey routes, to reinforce that.

I did tell her early on I knew the game (it's apparently been longer than I thought, though, but that was good for testing it I suppose.)

I had fun, despite the frustrations, but she left the skill slightly more than halfway through scoring, which was frustrating, but as she scores herself first, and we'd gotten a couple tickets into me, I had her score all done and just needed to do mine. It was annoying scoring when I had thought I wouldn't have to, and the third ticket I was scoring of mine with her, she kept not understanding what the names were so then she asked how many points I think, and she dropped out of the skill right after that.

She scored 117, and never asked to draw any more routes even though it looked like she was just going for the longest routes she could do at some point after she'd done as much on her routes as she could. I scored 112, and lost because I took two routes late game, and didn't finish one of them, though I did get longest route, partly because of a block I did on her mid-game.

I did find I drew off the top of the deck most of the time, whereas in multiplayer I probably only do that a third of the time for at least one of the cards (if I didn't pick a faceup locomotive.). She's using her own virtual train deck, so the card display only refreshes when you pull from it.

I quite enjoyed the play, despite the technical issues. Also, I need to note that being on the autism/asperger's spectrum, one of my things is my language processes brain differently (okay, as soon as I saw that's how it was coming out of my brain fogged brain, I finished it that way because it's funny, but you know what I meant to say). So it may be that perhaps I wasn't asking the ways others would, but I've had Alexa on a Kindle fire tablet (before the port broke earlier this year) and used to that, and then we've had a DOT for maybe a year now or a bit more, and a Fire TV Stick for several months. (Though the stick . . . either it's faulty, or I don't know what . . . but that's another story.)

So I'm pretty used to what to say, but I've never used a skill nearly as extensively as this one, a skill nearly as complex as this one. Usually I have her play music of some time, set reminders, remember appointments, tell me jokes, rarely look on Amazon for a product, play relaxing sounds from nature, stuff like that. Because a lot of skills I've tried are just shallow pieces of barely programmed, and not worth the time or effort.

This one, I am impressed with the amount of work that must have gone into it, but I am less than impressed that repeating instructions isn't in there. I also wonder how poorly or well the game will go for people learning it. I found when asking the questions I did, that some of the time, you had to have a degree of knowing something about what you'd forgotten, that was higher than I thought you should have to know about what you'd forgotten. Like it felt like you had to know close to the answer to your question, in order to ask the right way/thing. I do get that in a game, you kind of have to have an idea of what part of the rules to go to find what you are looking for, and you have to kind of know hey I've forgotten something about the way drawing locomotives works, or drawing new tickets, or whatever.

I'm just saying there were a couple instances where it felt like I almost had to know the answer, in order to get the information out of her.

Still, after the first big hiccups, that took me probably half an hour to get through, I played the rest of the game in half an hour, and then scoring took ten minutes because I did half of it myself. With only one live player, it might take 5 minutes if you have a lot of tickets. I had 7 or 8 I think, and you have to report each.

I'd give them a c+ to hard b-. I do expect that ones I know better what to expect from her on it, that I won't be bumping up against issues as much, and I did like that in help mode (you have to say Alexa, help, if you want to ask a question) you could get out of it by saying Alexa, nevermind. Or, if she answers your question (she always asks if what she answered was helpful) and you answer yes to her was it helpful query, she goes back to game mode on her own. There was one instance where I said yes she was helpful, where she wasn't, because it was clear by that point I wasn't going to get what I was looking for and that was easier than saying no, and then saying Alexa, nevermind.

Other people might not be as generous with how they'd rate the skill or her performance doing the skill as high as a hard B-, but I've had enough experience with Alexa to know there were a lot of things going right.

Before I played, I wondered if she would have levels of difficulty that she could play on, easy, medium, hard but now I can see they have way too much work to do before they could even do that, even if they were inclined.

I had a good time though, despite the hiccups and bigger issues, so take that as you will. On a BGG scale of 1-10 of the experience, I'd probably give it a 6. Needs some work, but there's some good stuff there too.

I'd like to thank the people who worked on it because it was a really neat experience (despite the glitches) in my opinion.

It's funny, because just last week I was reading a short story anthology called Robot Uprisings (I highly recommend it, but the Velveteen story, and the last story, are quite grim.)

[Hey, Alexa, did I successfully fool the human populace into thinking you aren't . . AGGAEEGAJGOAG!]

- no humans were harmed in the production of this blog post.

Edit: Sara answers more questions here: Comment
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