Hey Robot, the immensely clever board game from designer Frank Lantz’s Everybody House Games, now has a free digital version on the web for anyone to play. Lantz says he and his collaborators, which include his wife Hilary and his son and daughter-in-law, threw together a “quick & dirty online version of Hey Robot for people to play during quarantine.” It’s available here.
The game is played much like classic Taboo, except with digital assistants and smart speakers. You’re given a word, and you have to try to get Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, or Google Assistant to say it aloud without you saying it first. (Probably best to stick with Amazon or Google on the assistant side, for good measure).
“The game works because the devices don’t work that great.”
For consistency, each two uses the same digital assistant, and the digital version asks that you crank the volume and have players make their requests through the video chat app of your choice.
The tricky part: you only get one question to pose to the assistant. If it fails, you lose out on the specified points for that word, which can range from one for easy cards like “Anthony Hopkins” and up to three for harder ones like “mortality.” The game proves surprisingly difficult because smart assistants just aren’t all that smart.
“The game works because the devices don’t work that great,” Lantz told The Verge back when Hey Robot was announced as a physical board game with a Kickstarter campaign last October. “It’s very funny. You think, ‘Oh this is going to be easy. How hard can this be?’ But that’s the thing. It actually can be very challenging, and it plays with how janky these things are.” The web version also has a co-op mode where you and however many other players try to reach a high score.
Hey Robot’s physical edition is still in production and slated to ship to backers by June. Through the website, you can now preorder a copy.