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Artificial Intelligence in Board Games, the Good the Bad and the Ugly

Artificial Intellegence has taken the world by storm. It has started to affect the daily lives of people. People are interested in it and have started using it in their daily lives. It can be free and easy to access like ChatGPT or MidJourney. Consumer AI has made for quite the explosion in use and with it tons of questions about legaitly of copyrights and what the AI has trained on. Join me as I dive into the effect AI might have on the board game industry.

Four Player game of Old Salt
AI?

The Good

Artificial Intellegence can be used for good. Just as in many jobs AI can be used as a tool to help acomplish complicated tasks. I work as an IT Network Engineer and there are many uses for AI in my field of work. It can be used as a tool to help sift through large amounts of data. It can also be used to come up with code that would take hours of research. I find AI in my day job to be a very useful tool.


How would this corralate to board games? As I see it there are a few ways it can be used in the board game industry. One way is to augment player counts in games. For example in games that offer solo variants a lot of the time an "AI" deck of cards is used to operate a second or third player. These are interesting and but a lot of the time they are very predictable or really random. They dont emply complex strategies. AI could fill this nich by providing players that have some real s because the AI is trained on the specific game that is being played. Just as in the first article on AI we discussed how AI was trained to play Chess and now Go. This can presumably be deployed to any game, so long as the AI is trained in that specific game.


A great use of AI in the board game industry is in playtesting. Playtesting games for balence and playability are a key part of the design process. This task can objectivly be taken on my Artificial Intelligence. This would be something that the smaller publishers and independent publisher might not be able to take on. There is a lot of cost, overhead, and training that AI needs to get it to make it operational. Larger publishers that produce games in with similar mechanics migh be the first investors in AI to test games.


The Bad

As in our first post on AI we went into how AI needs to train on existing material to "learn". This means feeding the AI software tons of books, images, or whatever else you want to have your AI trained on. Where does this material come from? This brings up the first point of contention in the very dynamic landscape. If a computer program is trained on your material and then is able to output some type of product in your style is that infringement of the copyright? There are law suits going on right now deciding this very topic and it is far from decided. Do AI companies have a right to feed anything they want into their software?


AI right now presents more questions than answers and as it becomes more and more mainstream some of the regulatory questions will become more clear. Regulation has always lagged behind technology.

Do AI companies have a right to feed anything they want into their software?

The Ugly

Companies have been criticized by the board game community for using AI art. Famously, Wizards of the Coast was called out last year and then made a statement saying that they would explicitly not allow AI in its art process by its artists. The use of AI was identified in a recent publication for Dungeons and Dragons because the AI generated art had issues with the character's hands and legs. Other companies like Stronghodl Games (Terraforming Mars) are embracing AI art in their proccess.


AI art is getting more and more sophisticated and perhaps one day soon will be used more in tabletop gaming. For now it can be used as inspiration or as a starting point, the latter is what some publishers are putting a stop to.


My Thoughts

AI is here to stay. Its not some fad thats going to pass. We in the board game community need to figure out what works best for us. Much like any innovation there will be resistance to it at first but I think as time moves forward it will be embraced more and more. The first stage we will see it in prototypes as placehoder art, then as wveryone becomes more and more comfortable it will be everywhere in the tabletop industry. My hope is that it becomes more of a tool as when computers first came to art. You will see more sophisticated companion apps for board games that use AI as a gamemaster or opponnent. Perhaps one day we will see entrie games created by AI.


Example

The following is an example of how easy it is to generate something with AI. This game looks intriguing enough. I assure you that this game is not real and completely AI generated for the purpose of informing you. For the rules I simply put in "create rules for a board game" and the below is what ChatGPT came up with. Then I took the title that ChatGPT came up with and asked hotpot.ai to design a board game box. Now I am ready for a Crowdfunding campaign right?


the board game box for "Quest for the Lost Relic" - hotpot.ai
The board game box for "Quest for the Lost Relic" - hotpot.ai

The following is all AI generated text.


Title: Quest for the Lost Relic


Objective:

Players embark on an adventurous journey to retrieve a legendary relic hidden deep within an ancient temple. The first player to successfully retrieve the relic and make it back to the starting point wins the game.


Components:

1. Game board depicting the temple layout with various rooms and corridors.

2. Player tokens representing each player's character.

3. Dice (standard six-sided).

4. Action cards depicting challenges and rewards.

5. Relic token.

Setup:

1. Place the game board in the center of the table.

2. Each player selects a character token and places it on the starting space.

3. Shuffle the action cards and place them face down on the designated space on the board.

4. Place the relic token on the designated space in the temple.


Gameplay:

1. The youngest player goes first, and play proceeds clockwise.

2. On a player's turn, they roll the dice and move their character token the corresponding number of spaces in any direction (horizontally or vertically) on the game board.

3. When a player lands on a space, they follow the instructions on that space:

a. If it's an empty space, nothing happens.

b. If it's a challenge space, the player draws an action card and follows the instructions. Challenges may include puzzles, traps, or encounters with mythical creatures.

c. If it's a reward space, the player draws an action card and receives a reward, such as gaining an extra turn or moving closer to the relic.

4. Players continue taking turns until one player successfully reaches the relic and retrieves it.

5. Once a player retrieves the relic, they must make their way back to the starting point to win the game.

6. The game ends when a player successfully brings the relic back to the starting point, or if all players fail to retrieve the relic within a predetermined number of rounds.


Winning the Game:

The first player to retrieve the relic and return to the starting point wins the game.


Optional Rules:

1. Players can form alliances and help each other during challenges or hinder their opponents' progress.

2. Additional obstacles or challenges can be added to the game board to increase difficulty.

3. Players can customize their characters with unique abilities or attributes that affect gameplay.

4. Time limits can be imposed on each player's turn to add a sense of urgency to the game.

5. Players can agree on a specific number of rounds to determine the winner if no player retrieves the relic within the standard game duration.




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