Welcome back to Tabletop Tastes: My Favorite Flavors in Board Games! Missed the last post? Head over and check out Tabletop Taste #6: Crisp Elegance.
Have you ever seen Wes Anderson’s stop-motion animated masterpiece, Fantastic Mr. Fox? What senses come to mind as you remember it? I’m betting that your brain is painting a scene of rich oranges, intricate landscapes, and detailed animals. Perhaps your ears are gliding along to the tune of Alexandre Desplat’s stylized soundtrack. This is a movie that is not only enjoyable to watch, but it’s also a delight to see and hear. Whenever I reencounter these unique sensations, they never fail to evoke the emotions and memories that the story provides. Furthermore, these sensations always create a sense of longing within me… Longing to be there, to be a part of that whimsical world of mischievous wildlife.
I get the same feelings in the world of Cuphead. This lovingly crafted video game packs so much personality and character into its art direction and soundtrack that I’m naturally drawn to it… despite its relentless efforts to break my will and destroy my soul with its mercilessly punishing challenges. Only the creative genius within Cuphead can cause me to adore someone like Grim Matchstick the Dragon with all my heart and despise him with my whole soul at the same time.
I seriously doubt that Fantastic Mr. Fox would be one of my all time favorite movies and Cuphead would be one of my all time favorite video games if they didn’t have such evocative art. Perhaps the same could be said of some of my favorite board games…
I don’t know how Leder Games did it, but they managed to create the most hypnotic box art of my whole library in their stunning game, Root. For a long time, Root has been one of the few boxes on my bookshelf with its front side entirely on display. It’s not the most efficient way to store a game, but this one demands to be visually basked in, and who am eye to deneye it?!? Whenever I sit in our living room in quiet reflection, I’ll often accidentally catch my eyes wandering in leisurely circles around its four cheeky critters as I soak in the gorgeous colors and charming details. I’m naturally drawn to its cutthroat experience by the entire package of evocative art.
The same can be said for my absolute favorite game, Inis. The thoughtful color scheme and standout art style serve as a perfect seasoning to the delicious gameplay. Even something as simple as the card backs just hit the sweet spot for me.
Scythe is another rather amusing example in our household. My wife does not enjoy playing Scythe. She can’t stand the ploddingly complex strategery. I eventually gave up on convincing her to play it, as I knew she just wouldn’t enjoy herself. So you can imagine my absolute shock when one day she requested that we order prints of Scythe’s gorgeous art to hang on our walls. Despite her negative feelings towards the game, she couldn’t resist the pull of the art.
I submit that evocative art is one of the most powerful tools that a board game publisher can possibly use. Just think of how much effort it takes to muster your desire to play a good game that is gorgeous compared to a good game that is ugly. What makes me hungry to play an unattractive game like El Grande, Castles of Burgundy, or Puerto Rico? I have to stretch and strain my arms of memory as I struggle to grasp at slippery ideas such as clever mechanisms and interesting strategies. Contrast this with Scythe or Inis or Root: I simply have to look at a box on my shelf, or a painting on my wall, or a picture online, and I’m already salivating at the idea of playing them again. Evocative art not only enhances the experience, but it sweetens and strengthens the memories too.
Over the last seven blog posts, we’ve explored my absolute favorite flavors in board games: spicy objective tension, salty player interaction, savory thoughtful production, crunchy meaningful decisions, juicy theme-inspired mechanisms, crisp elegance, and sweet evocative art. Glob them all together, and perhaps you’ll understand the reasoning behind my top 50 games or my most anticipated new-to-me games. Yet, I’m sure that there are even more hidden essential ingredients to be found across an array of games that cause my gaming taste buds to dance with delight.
Thus concludes my series, Tabletop Tastes: My favorite flavors in board games. Thanks for following along! Of course, I’m bound to acquire some more tastes as time passes. So perhaps we’ll have to continue the series some day… UPDATE: It’s your lucky day! The series continues with Episode 8: Fresh Downtime.
LOOKING FOR MORE SWEET GAMES WITH EVOCATIVE ART? WHY NOT INDULGE IN ONE OF THESE:
- Clean, Minimalist Art: Insider, Startups, Onitama
- Functional Art: Mysterium, Dixit, Codenames: Pictures
- Charming Art: Railroad Ink, Takenoko, Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig
- Jaw-Dropping Art: PARKS, Wingspan, Tokaido
- Theme-Inducing Art: Welcome To, Brass: Birmingham, Dinosaur Island
- Bold Box Art: Oceans, Azul, Modern Art
What are your favorite flavors in board games?