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This Is Not An Art Gallery

Updated: Jul 24

The Problem with American Board Games

My family has a long-standing annual tradition of playing the classic board game Mouse Trap every Halloween evening instead of going trick-or-treating. As exciting as classic Mouse Trap is (with the plastic bathtub, not the toilet), it can be more than a little frustrating when the dice fails to roll in your favor, leaving you without any cheese and even less luck. For decades, Americans have grown used to playing board games with bright, cheerful designs and a lot of randomness and chance (think Monopoly, Candy Land, Trouble, and Sorry). Although these colorful games are simple to learn and attractive to play for children, they can be frustrating for many adults. In an attempt to prevent players from feeling bad if they lose, these games adopt a cartoonish art style and game systems that absolve players of any responsibility for their actions by placing them at the mercy of the roll of the dice and the draw of the card. However, this lack of autonomy and over-saturated artwork can make more mature players feel constricted in their choices and longing for games that are more than surface-deep. Thankfully, this addiction to prolonged board game misery is not a global phenomenon.


A New Style of Board Game

In fact, most of the rest of the developed world tends to play what are defined as "Euro-style" games. You can read about all of the benefits here, but Euro-style games usually rely more upon strategy than luck. It should come as no surprise, then, that my favorite games are all ones that balance strategic thinking with simple game mechanics. In keeping with this more refined approach to gaming, Euro-style games also tend to feature far more mature and immersive artwork than the cartoonish illustrations that feature prominently on American shelves.


The Art of Board Games

The pictures below feature the art of Jakub Rozalski from the board game Scythe, demonstrating just how detailed and lush Euro-games can be. Although this game is set in a steampunk alternative version of the 1920s, I think you will agree that this artwork is subtle and thoughtful enough for an art gallery.

I have placed just a few of the best images below for you to browse. You may click on any one of them to enlarge the image.

This beautiful artwork isn't limited strictly to physical board games. For instance, the popular real-time strategy PC game Frontpunk is an excellent digital game that has a similar look and feel to Scythe.

If you just can't get enough of this type of artwork, I encourage you to check out the thought-provoking and somewhat concerning artwork of Simon Stalenhag. He has published several well-illustrated books, including one, called Tales From the Loop, that was recently made into an Amazon Prime Original Television Series.

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