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Nemesis board game creator says AI art has not replaced artists

After controversy cropped up online about its new game, Grimcoven, board game developer Awaken Realms has discussed its use of AI art.

AI Art - a bunch of monster hunters

On Friday, board game developer Awaken Realms put out a statement about the use of AI art in one of its upcoming games, the miniature-filled boss battler Grimcoven, which is expected to come to crowdfunding platform Gamefound later this year.

According to that statement, the company does use AI art in its projects, ranging from “built-in Photoshop capabilities” to “Internal Stable Diffusion models, MJ models, pixel correction, scaling solutions and so on”.

However, the Awaken Realms, responsible for board games such as Tainted Grail and horror board game Nemesis, denies that this is to reduce costs or “replace artists”.

It counters this suggestion by saying Awaken Realms has actually increased its artist count and wages every year, going on to reveal that it has a team of 15 in-house artists “just in the board games division” and works with numerous art contractors.

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Awaken Realms also states that “every single piece of art” in its final products “will be worked on by human artists”.

This statement comes about a month and a half after online controversy began surrounding the developer – and Grimcoven’s art. Multiple YouTubers and social media users pointed out artwork from the grimdark game that seemed to be the product of AI art generation tools.

Around this time, fans critical of AI art were also pointing the finger at another of Awaken Games’ projects, Puerto Rico, prompting it to take down promotional images. On March 2, 2024, BoardGameWire revealed that Puerto Rico’s licensor Ravensburger had stepped in, and also reinforced that generative AI must not be used in the final version of the game.

A big grim coven miniature mock-up

In its recent post about Grimcoven, Awaken Realms says the devs “don’t really like to get into hot topics” that can distract from their primary goal of making games. But, apparently, they decided to make an official statement here for the sake of transparency.

This is also intended to be Awaken Realms’ last word on the matter. It adds that “we will not go further into the discussion on this topic”.

For more on the debate on AI art, a hot button issue in tabletop gaming, we interviewed Gloomhaven’s creator about why “it feels like theft”. And here’s why getting pissy at Wizards of the Coast isn’t going to be enough to keep AI out of your favorite games.