5 Games with Super Awesome Artwork
The board game world is a wide and varied place. Each year, more and more games hit the market. Each year, more and more games hit the shelves. What is more, each year, more and more people enter the hobby.
Games need to do more in order to stand out in the market place. Some games do this by reputation alone. A reputation for excellence and awesome mechanics is enough to carry a game to greatness. Some do it with quirky box design, something we are seeing more of in the party game market (with games like Bucket of Doom and Blockbuster). Some do it by what we are going to talk about today – with awesome artwork. Of course, some do it by two of those, all three of those, or completely different aspects entirely.
Where artwork can’t necessarily elevate a bad game to a good position (we have learned that the hard way this year, but more on that story in another article), what it can do is add the cherry on the top of the good game cake. It can finish a good game and make it something incredible.
So, with that in mind, and with that ambiguous thought and mixed metaphor in our heads, I thought this would be a good topic to look at today. We haven’t done a list in a while – so here are 5 games with super awesome artwork. These are 5 board game (well…and card games) that have superb art that helps elevate them to be something truly special.
When we look at board games, it is so easy to praise Scythe. It has it all – great game play, superb minis, well written rules, superb usage of mechanics, and artwork to die for.
The artwork in Scythe was actually one of the things that inspired the game, and it goes without saying that in order to inspire a whole game it is absolutely beautiful to look at.
Scythe‘s art was designed by Polish artist Jakub Rozalski, who uses a mixture of techniques to create his artwork. What it results in is a fantastic distopian image of what Eastern Europe could look like in the world of mechs.
What really makes Scythe special though is how Jamey Stegmaier (the designer of Scythe) and Jakub Rozalski worked together to turn the concepts into a game. The mechs, the plastic pieces in the game, represent the artwork. Encounter cards use the art to help tell a story using the artwork and it’s a really neat merger between the two.
As a game, and at time of writing, Scythe is ranked the 9th best game of all time on Board Game Geek. It is one of our all time favourite games and, where it would probably be one of our favourite games even without the artwork, the art really helps make it into something special.
I think there are a lot of small games that can learn from Skull.
Skull is a small game based around coasters. It includes bluffing and trying to psyche your opponent out in a game that is so deceptively simple that it actually becomes something complex. It can be summarised really easily though – you have four coasters – three have flowers on, one has a skull. You take it in turns to put one down, face down, and at any point (after everyone has placed one) you can bid a number. That number is the number of coasters you are prepared to turn over before hitting a skull. If you turn over a skull, you lose a coaster. Other people can out bid you if they so wish. If you get it wrong, you lose a coaster, if you get two right you win the game.
Yes, it is that simple.
What really makes Skull is two things as a game. The first is how simple it is. It is actually the closest our board game group ever gets to gambling, since it has that risk and gambling feel whilst still being a game. The second thing that makes it though is the artwork by Hervé Marly.
Not only are the coasters physical coasters, which makes them thick and tactile, but Hervé Marly has create a Dia de los Muertos feel with the Skull artwork. Thus it is simple but it is effective, with these stunning designs representing each player in the game. What is even better is each skull has its own personality. Each has their own feel, even though they play identically as tools for the player.
Skull really is beautiful to look at. It is the only game, ever, where we have played our first game at a friend’s house and, whilst still at the table, we ordered our own copy on Amazon. It is definitely worth checking out.
Okay, so, confession time. I am yet to play Root. We bought it at the UK Games Expo in 2019 and…well…we haven’t played it yet. That being said, I have popped out all the components, set it all up, and I can firmly say it is a gorgeous game to look at.
I can’t talk about how the game and the artwork merge together, since I haven’t played it. I can’t tell you how the artwork complements the gameplay, but what I can say is that Root has an art style that feels unique and has a certain homely feel.
If you haven’t seen Root, I suggest you look it up. Again, it is a very highly rated game, currently in at position 42 of highest rated games on BGG. The artwork was done by Kyle Ferrin, who also did the artwork behind Dungeon Mayhem.
What Root does is ooze personality. I’ve had a look and a read around, and each faction in Root has its own feel – its own way of playing (with insane levels of asymmetry). This is partly down to the design of the mechanics, but it is also party down to the actual artwork of the game.
The asymmetry and the artwork are why I bought it as a board game fan, and I really can’t wait to give it a play.
Oh, InBetween. How I adore the feel of this game. The way it plays is interesting, but they way it looks is beyond beautiful. It is something entirely different, and I really like that.
This one may take a bit more of an explanation, since InBetween isn’t as well known as some of the other games on this list. InBetween is a two player game that can kind of be described as Stranger Things meets…something like the Goonies, maybe?
I realise I am writing this, but there was a massive inflection at the end of that sentence.
Essentially, you play as opposing forces – one player a force for Good and one player a force for Bad. The Good player is trying to redeem the town, whilst the Bad player is trying to drag the Good side into their evil domain (bwahahahaha).
Sounds good, right? Well, first thing first, it is a fun game to play; however, more importantly for the sake of what we are talking about today, InBetween is a game with amazing art. What makes it so amazing? Well, not only does it look fantastic, but the art (created by a series of artists actually – Seweryn Borkowski, Tomasz Kalisz, Paweł Niziołek, Rafał Szłapa, and Sebastian Zakrzewski) is self-referential. What this means is that characters who appear on one card, may appear in the background of another, and that is really cool.
I really have a soft sport for self-referential artwork in board games, something that will become apparent with the next choice on this list, and InBetween does it so well. It is a game about a small town, and when the cards kind of reference each other you really get that small town feel.
This is a case where the art and the theme truly and fantastically match, and you have to respect InBetween as a game for doing that.
Need I say more?
Okay, so Keyforge is a game we have talked a fair bit about on this blog. We have analysed it, we have pulled apart specific cards, and we have looked at the culture surrounding the game. Something we have never done however is look at the artwork.
Like with InBetween, Keyforge uses self-referential cards, and that really helps build the world. Each faction is truly unique, with hugely imaginative personalities. Each faction has cards that elevate it to something else, as well as their own mythos, and the artwork helps amplify that to the max.
What the artwork does though, critically in a game like Keyforge, is keep the game interesting to look at. This means you can quite happily invest the time to get good for tournaments (I’ve gone to a few myself) without getting bored of looking at the cards in your hand.
Of course, unlike the other games on this list, Keyforge was made by a massive company, so BGG doesn’t actually list the artists.
So, Keyforge, the last game on this list, and a really quick one to write about. The art performs a function in keeping the game interesting and it does it really well. What is more, it contains loads of Easter Eggs, which make it fun to hunt through the cards to see what references to other cards you can find.
So, there we have it. The first list in a long time today – an interesting list though looking at some fantastic board game artwork. Now, let’s turn it around to you. What are your favourite games for board game art? Which games would you recommend as having super awesome artwork? Let me know in the comments below.