Years ago, in the heyday of home video, I played a boardgames that used VHS tapes and electronic parts to help spur the action along. From Candy Land VCR to Captain Power, game makers were doing the best they could with a new technology. Now, thanks to Alexa, they can try something even cooler – board games that talk back.

The first company to try this is Sensible Object. Their new game, When In Rome, is a family board game that pits two teams against each other in a race to travel the world. The game itself consists of a board and a few colored pieces and the real magic comes from Alexa. You start the game by enabling the When In Rome skill and then you start the game. Alexa then prompts you with questions as you tool around the board.

The rules are simple because Alexa does most of the work. The game describes how to set up the board and gets you started and then you just trigger with your voice it as you play.

The company’s first game, Beasts of Balance, was another clever hybrid of AR and real life board game action. Both games are a bit gimmicky and a bit high tech – you won’t be able to play these in a cozy beach house without Internet, for example – but it’s a fun departure from the norm.

Like the VCR games of yore, When In Rome depends on a new technology to find a new way to have fun. It’s a clever addition to the standard board game fare and our family had a good time playing it. While it’s not as timeless as a bit of Connect 4 or Risk, it’s a great addition to the boardgames shelf and a cool use of voice technology in gaming.

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