Aesthetics, appeal & artwork, 7 board games that will make you drool

Aesthetics, appeal & artwork, 7 board games that will make you drool

If you’re a board game enthusiast (let’s be honest and call you a fanatic), you’re not just obsessed with playing games but also owning them. You know the most popular and prolific board game designers and you know who has done the artwork for your favorite games. And every time a new game goes into production you’re in an agony of indecision. After poring over the artwork and all the game components, it is no longer about whether you want to pre-order the game but IF you should also buy the expansion and the extras while you’re at it. Players and collectors are not looking only at game replayability or mechanism, they are also keen to get good value for their money and look at the quality of game components, card stock, board design and artwork. 

There is a very specific joy to be had in holding (and playing) a board game that isn’t just a masterpiece of strategic wonder, but is also literally a joy to behold, because it’s just that beautiful. An aesthetically designed board game is especially hard to resist and once you’re THAT collector, who likes to combine utility with beauty, the list of games you must have increased exponentially. A board game designer definitely gets their due with their name splashed on the cover of games, but special mention is also made to the artists who spend time bringing the games to life with their beautiful creations.

Here are, in no particular order, some of the most gorgeous designs in board games featuring great artwork by accomplished artists and where the art has value because of the thematic value it adds to the game. 


Inspired by the majestic stained glass window panes of the Spanish Sagrada Familia, Sagrada is yet another beautiful board game with appealing design and components. A great attention to detail is given to the game components and none of them seem superfluous or unnecessary. The coloured translucent die, favour glass tokens, and the stunning stained glass window panes all combine to make an extremely thematic, immersive game and you can easily imagine you really are a window artisan working to complete Gaudi’s incomplete masterpiece. 


An article on aesthetically pleasing games would cease to be valid if it doesn’t mention Wingspan. Designed by bird enthusiast and nature lover Elizabeth Hargrave with illustrations executed by the very talented Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo and Natalia Rojas.

It would be hard to find a more definitive contender for the title of most beautiful game of all time than the lavishly designed game brought to you by Stonemeier games. The game features a deck of 170 jaw-dropping beautiful cards, each card featuring a bird species that has been painstakingly drawn from several reference images of real birds. There is a European expansion that’s out already with plans to include more feathered friends from different habitats across the world. The cards are stunning; you’re going to want to buy some Wingspan card sleeves to make sure grubby gaming hands don’t despoil these lovely pieces.  

Winner of the prestigious 2019 Kennerspiel des Jahres award, the game enjoyed rather more success and flew off the shelves (pardon the pun) faster than was anticipated with the result that it has been SOLD OUT or perpetually on pre-order as frantic reprint orders were placed. You’d be incredibly lucky to have this one in your arsenal. 

Azul Series

The Portuguese tile laying series Azul, Azul Stained Glass of Sintra and the latest Azul Summer Pavilion are definitely three of the most beautiful games out there. Produced by Plan B Games, the miniature tiles in Azul are beautiful replicas of actual designs from Portugal and there isn’t a gamer who would be able to resist holding the candy-like pieces in their hands. The factory tiles, the game board and even the bag that comes with each game are all beautifully designed components along with the trademark distinctive palette of happy colours on the box that make the game instantly recognizable. 


Blue orange games’ Photosynthesis is a visual wonder, an elegant game set in a vibrant forest. Replacing meeples are gorgeous trees that come in four colours and correspond to the four seasons and are three dimensional pieces that are wonderful components. Designed by Hjalmar Hach and art by Sabrina Miramon, the game manages to marry theme to mechanics in the most striking way possible. Your currency is light and your moves are dependent on the direction of the sun, sounds pretty simple? Yet this cardboard forest manages to not just be pretty but also offer an unending array of plays with variable strategies you can employ to be foliage friendly. A deceptively simple game that is going to impress your friends and family, it’s one worth having. 


A minimalistic marvel, Antoine Bauza’s Tokaido is a game that is zen, both in gameplay and in looks. Inspired by Japan with refreshing artwork the game doesn’t aim to do too much, either in the gameplay or in how it looks. Themed around a holiday, this journey between medieval Edo and Kyoto in Japan has a very light style and a breezy feel that makes the vacation atmospheric. Faintly reminiscent of Anime, the characters and places designed by Artist Naïade tie you in and commit you to the theme of the game. The food cards representing local cuisine, souvenir cards, encounter cards and the brilliant panorama cards you can collect along the way are all exquisitely crafted. With a very precise design, the game takes you on a very calming journey, and that’s saying a lot since essentially this IS a competitive game, yet oddly relaxing.


Sometimes, games are both cute AND beautiful and there isn’t a better example than Takenoko. Wildly different from Tokaido in both gameplay and visual appeal, this game by Antoine Bauza is played in a lush forest full of stackable bamboos, the insanely adorable miniature pandas and the beautifully illustrated garden plots. The game manages to be colorful without being overwhelming and adds thematic elements to the gameplay that ties in with the mechanics. with outstanding components that are great quality and designed with a  lot of thought, Takenoko is a visually stunning game and the credit definitely goes to the artist trio Nicolas Fructus, Picksel & Yuio.


An excellent board game, Root is based in the woodlands and concentrates on the creatures in the forest and their tussle for power rather than the actual foliage. With a well balanced design, the animal characters in Root are beautifully evocative and the board is ornate but legible. The game features some of the most distinctive meeples seen yet and also won the 2018 Golden Geek award for best artwork. Leder games roped in artist Kyle Ferrin to design some of the most superlative and quality components seen in a board game- wooden meeples in distinctive silhouettes and colours, the player boards for different factions, the cardboard components and the many multilayered cards that drive the gameplay have earned the game an award for the Best Thematic Game as well as none of the design elements are superfluous and all are geared towards immersing you in Root’s Woodland. 

A few honorable mentions are some more nature themes board gamesKodama, Arboretum & Bosk, all of which are themed of some kind of trees, forest, trails and experience replying primarily on intricately designed cards to integrate the theme. The simple Fox in the Forest is also an excellent example of a minimalistic trick playing game that’s a step up from the regular deck of cards with its themed design. Die hard fans of Scythe will wax lyrical about both the gameplay and all the elements of the game and you only have to look at a photo of a game setup before you’re tempted to add it to your cart. 

Art is subjective, so there are bound to be many more games that will be added to this incomprehensive list. Till then, feast your eyes on these titles. 

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