Home Gaming Hasbro’s AI aspirations expand with a novel digital board game platform

Hasbro’s AI aspirations expand with a novel digital board game platform


Hasbro, the publisher of Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and dozens of classic board games, will partner with Xplored, makers of the Teburu digital board game platform. The Rhode Island-based company said Monday in a news release that the collaboration would help it explore “the integration of smart-sensing technology, AI, and dynamic multimedia.”

“We envision a future where technology seamlessly integrates into analog gaming experiences,” said Adam Biehl, senior vice president and general manager of Hasbro Gaming, in the news release. “Working with Xplored enables us to deliver innovative gameplay to our players and fans, limitless digital expansions to physical games, seamless onboarding, and powerful AI-driven game mechanics.”

Xplored leapt onto the tabletop scene in 2022 with its crowdfunding campaign for The Bad Karmas and the Curse of the Zodiac, a miniatures-heavy board game that also included an early version of its novel Teburu platform. Using RFID tags, bluetooth, and smart devices like phones, tablets, and televisions, Xplored successfully proved out its technology in the consumer space. Polygon gave it a test drive last year and was a bit taken aback by how well it worked. From our feature story:

Attached to the game board is a dongle with two antennas — one that connects to the RFID chips and another for Bluetooth. That’s for the dice, two simple six-sided dice just smart enough to know which side is up, and for other Bluetooth-capable devices like speakers, tablets, and smartphones. The most complicated item is a singular, fancier plinth for larger miniatures — call them boss miniatures — that lights up with a multicolored LED light at four points along its edge. That’s it: [several] mildly intelligent, by today’s standards, peripheral devices all connected to the smartphones everyone keeps in their pockets all day anyway.

So what does this digital kit allow you do to? Well, first of all, it allows the game to always know where the players are on the board. That enables developers to program behaviors into enemies, or environments for that matter, that kick off based on where you move your pawn. In my demo […] that meant that each of the four player characters had a unique sound for their footsteps. When my character stepped out over a pit of lava, I could hear the pops and fizzles of the molten rock underneath. Using my smartphone, I was able to select a skill to use from a small hand of cards shown on my screen. Picking up and rolling the dice, I got a six, and that made a unique sound as I succeeded in hitting the boss. That boss’s plinth lit up, indicating that I had dropped its shields on its rear left side. Then play passed to the player on my left, whose turn began with a unique musical flourish.

While everything in our 2022 demo was pre-generated by developers, with the recent rise in popularity of generative AI it’s easy to see how a program like ChatGPT could be used to expand on existing board games. Hasbro could also choose to leverage the technology in other areas, including with its in-development virtual tabletop solution for Dungeons & Dragons. A partnership with Xplored gives Hasbro the hardware and connectivity it needs, as well as the design expertise required to make that next step possible.

It’s also important to note that leaders at both of these companies have deep roots in the world of video games. Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks is a former Microsoft employee, as is the new president of Wizards of the Coast, Cynthia W. Williams. Xplored’s lead game designer, Riccardo Landi, used to design games for Ubisoft. His company’s website boasts more than 25 years of combined experience in the industry.

Xplored still has multiple other board game projects currently in the works, including the Teburu-based Vampire: The Masquerade — Milan Uprising, which is raising funds on Gamefound. Expect to hear more about the partnership at Hasbro’s quarterly earnings call, scheduled for Aug. 3 — the first day of this year’s Gen Con tabletop gaming convention in Indianapolis.

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