Great art doesn’t make up for mediocre game play, but it can make a good game into a great overall experience. Yesterday I listed games that are beautiful on the outside, but there are other ways publishers can show off the work of their amazing artists. Games that use cards provide plenty of opportunities for showing off beautiful work, and all of the games on this list have grabbed that chance & run with it.
#5 – Kodama: The Tree Spirits
In this Daniel Solis title, the sum is admittedly more than its parts. Kwanchai Moriya’s art looks gorgeous when just flipping through the decks of cards, but once a game gets going and you see how the cards look combined together to make mystic-looking trees, that’s when it truly shines. His tree spirits are adorable, the colours are rich, and the game as a result, looks stunning on the table.
#4 – Lotus
This garden-building game from Mandy & Jordan Goddard has to be one of the most beautiful games to be published in 2016. The cards are themselves the petals of the various flowers you’re growing & picking throughout the game. The only downside is that the minute a flower is completed, then it’s picked and the cards go to a scoring pile, removing Chris Ostrowski’s gorgeous art from the tabletop.
#3 – Hocus
Grant Rodiek’s take on wizarding poker features art just as magical as the game itself. Tiffany Turrill has illustrated different magic users to represent each suit, and choosing a favourite from among them seems impossible. The clean graphic design work keeps the art a focus, making for a beautiful experience.
#2 – Circus Flohcati
This one is controversial – when it comes to the Grail Games edition of this Reiner Knizia game, people have really strong reactions to the art style. I personally adore Heiko Günther’s work on this game, but I know many who detest these adorable vintage fleas, decked out to perform.
#1 – Sky Tango
I love this game, particularly at two players, and one of the things I love about it, is the way the art on consecutive cards lines up seamlessly so that every card you play into your tableau helps create a scene in front of you. The art by Johann Rüttinger is minimal and bold, and incredibly well done; it’s guaranteed to grab people’s attention and has garnered many comments when we’ve played the game at our local pub.
Honourable Mention – Herbaceous
Beth Sobel’s beautiful work on Herbaceous is simply stunning, and was one of the major reasons why I backed the game on Kickstarter. But as the game won’t actually show up until next year, I couldn’t in good conscience rank it on this list.