Board games can be a great way of escaping from the day-to-day worries, thoughts and general logistics, even if it’s just for a short time. Board games are just one form of escapism, of course. Books, films, arts and crafts, hiking, solving crossword puzzles and many other activities can achieve something very similar for yourself or other people. You have to find what works for you, but in this article, I want to talk about board games and how they are a form of escapism for me.
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.
In the next article in my series about how board games go from an idea to a product, I want to talk about the creative people who are responsible for the graphics and other visual bits that we see when we play games. Very often their work is what we see first and remember vividly afterwards, but very rarely do we remember their names. If done well, the visual elements of a game blend seamlessly and add to the experience but don’t detract from the gameplay.
A hook, as per the dictionary definition, is something that draws you in. In games, a hook can be a number of different things. Often it is something visually exciting, such as beautiful illustrations, amazingly detailed miniatures, realistic resources or some sort of physical component that is integral to gameplay. Hooks can also be an interesting theme, an exciting gameplay mechanism or even the background story behind how a game was made. Certain awards or even the price of a game can be a hook too. Ultimately it’s about finding something that grabs your attention and gets you to take a closer look.
Playing tabletop games is something we all enjoy in this hobby. That’s by definition. Playing harks back to our childhood, and it is said that you learn a lot through play. So when a game reminds us of something from when we were little, it creates some extra magic. However, not everything in our childhood, or other stages of our lives, was positive. So there is some interesting interplay between our experiences and playing games, which I want to investigate a little further.
I’ve been saying it for a while now: Wingspan by Elizabeth Hargrave and Stonemaier Games is an amazingly beautiful game. The great physical table presence created by the dice tower and eggs, the gorgeous illustrations on the player mats and cards, the sheer number of different birds on the cards, all with their latin name and a brief description of what they are, and the high quality of all the components and parts make it very special. The artists, Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, Natalia Rojas and Beth Sobel, have done an amazing job, and Stonemaier Games has ensured that the product meets, if not exceeds, everyone’s expectations. However, the beauty and quality are only one part of what makes this game so outstanding. For me, it is the gameplay that lifts Wignspan to the next level.
Making a tabletop game takes a lot of effort and a lot of people. Everyone will think of game publishers and game designers, maybe even playtesters. There are also rulebook writers and editors, the manufacturers and distributors, as well as the marketing people, and many more. Who are often overlooked are the illustrators, even though it is their work that for many of us will be in our mind when we think about games.