Board game design, at least within the hobby, is considered an art form. Mechanics in harmony create a well-oiled machine that is wonderful to take part in. But there are some games that go the extra mile, and beyond being beautiful mechanically are beautiful to behold. What game best falls into this category for you? Answer in the comments!
It’s hard to choose just one…so I’ll choose two. The first is Fresco, which is a fairly obvious choice. The components in this game are astounding, and even the insert is beautiful. The artwork throughout captures the feel of master painters fulfilling their commission. A game about master painters that wasn’t beautiful would lose all street cred, so Fresco seems like an obvious choice.
Next to Fresco, the next most beautiful game I can think of is Troyes. I love the artwork style in this game. While the theme is bland, the artwork more than makes up for it, drawing the player back in time to the Middle Ages. The subdued art and color coding make it a game that’s easy to stare at.
The choice for me is obvious: Twilight Imperium. Fantasy Flight Games, with their commonly hefty rulesets and lengthy playtimes may not appeal to everyone, but one thing is certain: they consistently go the distance with art, design, and the inclusion of fancy bits. Twilight Imperium is no exception. All the pieces and bits are excellent quality, with lots of color. It all feels very space-y, with art for each race that fits well within the theme, and the ships! Oh, all the tiny little plastic mini ships. Fleets of them! Fleets of these finely detailed constructions, all in one box. This game is a delight to unpack, and it has one of the finest looking boards (once assembled) I’ve ever seen.
Takenoko is a fairly recent acquisition, but it too carries the banner of beauty. With vibrant colors, solidly crafted stackable wooden bamboo pieces, and painted minis, Takenoko is definitely easy on the eyes.
Honorable mentions: Battlestar Galactica, and Small World. I seem to have a lot of beautiful games because I could go on.
The game that usually comes to mind when someone mentions games that look beautiful is The Pillars of the Earth. Pillars is one of my favorite examples of a game board that is both extremely functional and beautiful.
Some people might knock it down a couple notches because of the bits (wooden cubes for goods, etc) but I think the incredible board and neat Cathedral as a turn indicator more than makes up for it.
I think the artist of Stone Age is the same as Pillars of the Earth – I like SA on Yucata and I’ve heard the physical board game is just as pretty.
As for in our own collection – definitely Cyclades! Fantastic art, slick design, and separate molds for each player’s army and navy set!!