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Letterpress Board Game Review

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Short Cut to Remote Gaming Forum (29 Aug 2020)

Since remote gaming has now become a significant part of how we play board games, we have added a short cut to this forum in the menu on the left.

The Importance of Visual Appeal in Board Games

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04 Aug 2020 00:00 #312778 by oliverkinne
I am ashamed to say though, that I can't name...

As many of you probably already know, I'm a very visual person. So it's no surprise that I am drawn in by great board game art, sculpts, luxurious components and overall visual appeal. Don't get me wrong, visual appeal alone doesn't make me want to buy a game, but when good gameplay and great art come together, a game really zings for me.

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04 Aug 2020 11:18 - 04 Aug 2020 11:23 #312779 by Sagrilarus
I'll be just a shade contrary. Though I think you're correct regarding end-users not appreciating the level of effort spent on the visual presentation, I think the result of that effort is often over-appreciated.

Given that many modern games are purchased and played perhaps two or three times prior to retirement I think a lot of collectors are focused on the visual appeal more than the gameplay. I suppose this is true of all products, not just board games.

That's fine, because there's plenty to choose from. But the art of Scythe was being fawned over long before Scythe was available to any customer. It was (and in my opinion still is) a major part of the purchase decision, perhaps the biggest part.

Given that Scythe is a critically acclaimed game it can get away with it. But I've played more than a few turds with a high-gloss lacquer applied. That's how sales and marketing works, I suppose.
Last edit: 04 Aug 2020 11:23 by Sagrilarus.
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04 Aug 2020 11:23 #312780 by Shellhead
I agree. The first game I thought of while reading this article title was Scythe, for all the same reasons. In our current zeitgeist, a visually appealing game is easier to get on the table, especially when everybody brings a stack of games to play. But people who play their games more than 2 or 3 times will eventually notice which games are genuinely better, independent of the visuals.
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04 Aug 2020 12:07 - 04 Aug 2020 12:11 #312782 by Jexik
People care a lot about art and component quality. I use Plaid Hat a lot in examples because I saw them change from the relatively close sidelines.

When Summoner Wars was released originally, it came with a white and black paper mat which Robert Florence (I believe) compared to a 16 year old's bed sheet... in an otherwise glowingly positive review!

The same artist came back for Mice and Mystics, but people seem to like his anthropomorphic creations more than his humanoids. The modular board for that game were all nicely illustrated, and that game took off even harder, despite likely being a less solid game mechanically.

I don't think Dead of Winter (or Ashes) would have been nearly as popular without Fernanda Suarez's illustrations.
Last edit: 04 Aug 2020 12:11 by Jexik.
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04 Aug 2020 13:44 #312786 by southernman
I'm someone who really likes a good visual presentation of a game setup, and I wonder if that's because I'm a person who plays a game more for the experience and immersion where other people play for the challenge of the game system itself (I know my euro group are definitely hard in the latter grouping). While it won't make sense to many people, I will enjoy a game less that has sparse components on a table even though the actual gameplay may be superior - probably why I never really got into rpgs the very few times I tried them.
And I do exactly like Oliver describes - the box front draws me in and then the display of the game setup on the back will get me reading the rules and any reviews I can find.
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04 Aug 2020 14:43 #312789 by the_jake_1973
The artwork on the box draws me in to an otherwise unknown game on the shelf. My first board game purchases were Blood Bowl and Blood Royale, both with engaging artwork. As an aside, it has been cool to see Chris Achilleos', Christos at the time, art style evolve from that Blood Royale box art. I can't think of any game purchases that weren't judged by the artwork as a major component of future enjoyment. That personal restriction does mean I will miss out on some very good games, Cave Evil probably topping the list, where I don't cotton to the art direction.

There are some exceptions to that, C&C: Ancients, where I like the system. Since I cut my teeth on AH games, hex and counter games get a romanticized pass.

Plus I'm a Libra/Virgo cusp and we like pretty things. LOL

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05 Aug 2020 07:55 #312802 by jason10mm
I'm curious to hear if there are some basic standards to game art design that have evolved over time. Things like; make sure your token designs can be distinguished apart from 6 feet away, ensure the color choice doesn't hinder the large portion of men with color blindness, text legibility at a respectable distance.

I've seen games that fail at all of these because it doesn't look like they ever took the final product and demoed it for real. I especially dislike it when important game text is put in some gothic script, printed in a tiny 6 point font, and then thematically written on aged parchment splattered with blood for the thematic presentation. Hey man, I gotta actually READ that stuff!!

This is probably an aside from art design, but layout itself is critical. I hate it when there isn't a flow to the layout. This is particularly important with cards or tokens covered in stats. List the stats in an order than makes it easy to see what they are and when they are used. Arkham Horror 2ed was the worst for this, the cards were covered in numbers and symbols but it was an almost random distribution across the card, making it hard to know which numbers were used for what. Wargames have a similar problem when the token is littered with numbers.

Symbology is another side tangent. I know publishers want language universal game components but I think I'd rather learn some french or german for a game than try to deal with arcane symbols replacing what could just be a few simple words.

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05 Aug 2020 08:44 #312803 by Andi Lennon
Art and theme are huge for me. I kick-started Cryptic Explorers on the strength of the art alone. Escape the Dark Castle, Sea Evil and Dungeon Degenerates initially sang to me for the same reasons. These are perhaps outliers but hit me with a singular vision that speaks to me and i'll happily support that kind of aesthetic and theme even as an object d'art. It helps that all of those games so far have been totally badass. In this instance it's less about 'professional gloss and competence' and more about personality and intent. Having said that-i also have Shadows of Malice on the way and that's as plain jane as any wallflower at the ball. I guess a strong singular vision can manifest itself in all kinds of ways but art married with intent are often a strong indicator that there's something i'll appreciate about 'the experience' that extends beyond the pure mechanics of play.
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05 Aug 2020 14:52 #312815 by southernman

Andi Lennon wrote: ... on the strength of the art alone. Escape the Dark Castle, Sea Evil and Dungeon Degenerates initially sang to me for the same reasons. These are perhaps outliers but hit me with a singular vision that speaks to me ....


Picked up EtDC and DD after being attracted for the same reason, hopefully that's a niche part of gaming that can be supported and stay.
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05 Aug 2020 22:43 #312825 by Andi Lennon
Absolutely. There's definitely a passionate minority starved for this kind of thing so hopefully we continue to see the efforts of these developers rewarded. There's certainly a healthy underground movement sustaining it in the RPG space but the associated production costs of board game may cause publishers to shy away from such bold statements in favour of something more universally palatable (read:bland).

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