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Visual Aspects of Board Game Publishing

Rainer Ahlfors
United States
Provo
Utah
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Aesthetics are very important when it comes to board game publishing. Color and images are tools which are used to invoke emotions, to convey messages and meaning, often in form of symbols, icons, or patterns. We use color to denote player components or to provide separation and add meaning to game boards or the use of certain cards.

There is a lot more to this process than simply creating images or choosing an artistic style that fits the theme of the game.

Gamers everywhere continue to be selective when it comes to the aesthetics and artistic direction of the games they choose to enjoy or purchase, and this is a good thing! There should be a reasonable expectation that a publisher will put some effort into their published works. We expect game play and mechanisms to evolve and modernize, so we should also expect the visual aspects to do the same.

We live in an age where the collective information of our entire species is at our fingertips, where the history of the rise and fall of empires is well documented, readily available for our consumption. Technology and science continue to progress at an unstoppable rate. There is little to no excuse to not have this vast knowledge reflected in board games.

Many designers and publishers put a lot of thought and effort into their creative works, ensuring accuracy or basing their designs on historic facts. Others fall woefully short in this area.

During the development and pre-production process of Teotihuacan: City of Gods, a lot of time was devoted to ensuring the accuracy of the colors and icons used in the game. It was important to use colors that match those used on murals in the ancient city. Every key icon, symbol, or graphic detail was, in one form or another, based on the culture and art that the game is designed to depict. This same effort is put into upcoming games that we are currently working on.

Of course, artwork is always subjective. Not everyone is going to love the visual aspects of every game we create. But at least we can say that we tried, and that we take pride in the respectful and faithful depiction of any historic, fantastic, or futuristic game we decide to publish.

What are your thoughts on the visual aspects of board game publishing?

How important is it, for you, that the artwork and graphic design not only looks good, but also strives to portray with accuracy and in a way fitting the theme of the game?

What are some shining examples of games that "did it right"?

Are there areas where publishers can improve further?
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