As many of you probably know, I am a very visual person. I love it when rulebooks are well laid out and have helpful photos that show how something works. The graphic design of game and player boards is also something I think is very important. A good choice of clear icons can really help with understanding how a game works and speed up the flow of a turn. Top it all off with beautiful board game art and you have the complete package, if you ask me.
Let me start by saying that in this article I don’t want to ignore people who are blind or who have visual impairments. However, I don’t have any useful experience with vision impairment or blindness. I, like many men, have a type of red-green blindness, but that’s about it. In fact, my colour blindness is quite mild, so I can distinguish between red and green for the most part. So I can’t offer any help to board game publishers about how to make games more accessible.
All I want to say is that it’s easy to assume that you can’t play board games if you don’t have sufficient vision. Yet, most blind people actually still have some level of vision and many people’s vision is somewhere between perfect and fully blind. Also, people’s eyesight naturally degrades with age. So contrast, colour palette, text size and many other graphic design choices are so very important when you want to cater for people who don’t have full vision. Just don’t ask me what those choices should be, because I can’t help with that.
So in this article, I purely want to focus on my experience with the visual elements of board games.
As I said at the beginning, I’m a very visual person. I love games that have beautiful illustrations. The art you see on the game board, player aids, cards, game box, rulebooks and everywhere else is so very important to me. It helps me immerse myself in the world that the game tries to create.
It is amazing to see so many different styles and ways of bringing the games we play to life. I wonder if there is anyone out there who doesn’t collect games from a specific publisher or designer but instead tries to get every game with a specific illustrator. I suppose Beth Sobel is probably the first name that comes to mind here, probably followed by Ian O’Toole. Both of these artists have contributed to such a large number of games that you could easily have a collection dedicated to them.
However, there is a long list of talented artists in our hobby, all with their own amazing style. You can listen to some of them in my podcast series Let me illustrate, which puts the spotlight on the people who make our games look so gorgeous. I strongly recommend you listen to them talk about their approach to art. Everyone even shares something about themselves that isn’t generally known, their own little secret so to speak.
Board Game Art in 3D
There is more than just illustrations of course. Wooden tokens, metal coins and plastic miniatures all play a role as well. The 3D element of board games is often overlooked. Table presence is more than just a good-looking game board. A wooden or cardboard dice tower, a nice selection of models or a heap of wooden resources in custom shapes are all important parts.