If you have played even just a small number of board games in your life, you will know that games are very different in their style and design. A lot of time and thought goes behind the visual design of a board game. Whilst some designers hire artists to design the artwork for their game, many game designers choose to create the artwork themselves. However and whoever is in charge of a game's artwork, one thing is for sure - the visual look of a game can make or break it.
Board Games and Art
Part 1: Vibes
In this first part of our board games and art series, we want to discuss how a game's artwork affects the overall feel of a game. When designing a game's artwork, designers are looking to do several things. Firstly, they want the art to visually describe the game in seconds. They want to communicate the type of game (funny, casual, strategy, party-themed, etc.) you are looking at and the complexity of the gameplay (simple, complex). They want to capture the emotion and character of that game.
Essentially, for any game to do well it has to be visually enticing. It has to entice you to actually pick up the game and take a greater interest in what the game is about. If the artwork is poor, un-enticing, or un-original, it is far less likely to draw much attention.
We have chosen three games to demonstrate exactly how much a game's artwork and visual design impacts the overall game.
7 Wonders is a visually beautiful game. But that eye-catching artwork does far more than just look pretty.
This game is very much all about history as told through historical architecture and locations. This is reflected in the type of artwork used in the game. 7 Wonders stays well clear of modern or abstract art - instead the game shows off cards, architecture, and game pieces with detailed, refined, and more old-fashioned artwork. From having the currency look like ancient coins to featuring Roman numerals on the back of the cards, 7 Wonders' artwork takes its inspiration straight from the history books.
Colt Express is all about the story-telling, and a good story-teller knows that the characters in the story are key. Aside from the fun train and carriages pieces and creative game parts, this game really focusses on the characters, as YOU are the characters in this western-themed game. Each character's visual design immediately portrays what they are like, whether they are mean, brutish, sly, etc. Even the weapon choice for each character tells us a little more about what they are like, and this is translated into the gameplay, as each character has their unique perks and benefits.
Even the box art of Colt Express is designed to be inviting and intriguing. With the train nearly bursting through the box lid, it's almost like someone took a screenshot of a western movie in action!
Finally, we couldn't exclude Dixit from this blog. Dixit's artwork is not only stunning, it is also genius.
Dixit is all about imagination. While most game developers rely on the art to define the setting and characters of that game, Dixit has no location setting, characters, or storyline to interact with and guide the gameplay. Most of the gameplay is based on imagination and trying to work out what is running through your friends' minds.
The genius of Dixit's artwork is in the uniqueness and totally bizarreness of each card. Each is obscure enough that it could represent totally different things to each player. However, each card also has enough familiar aspects for players to be able to connect the dots between each other's answers and logic. Not to mention that the artwork is straight up hilarious sometimes!
Again, the box art is brilliant here. The warm orange and red combination is immediately inviting and friendly. The sun positioned just behind the hills is almost symbolic of endless opportunity across the horizon...
We hope you enjoyed this first part of our board games and art series. We had a blast writing it, and look forward to bringing you part 2 next month!