Board games have evolved to almost be an art form of their own. There are so many different kinds of games, and each has their own illustration style to enhance game play. Likewise, games come out with new mechanics every day that challenge gamers to learn to play with new strategies and considerations. People frequently ask me what I consider more when deciding whether to purchase a game. While both aesthetics and mechanics are important to me in creating a well rounded game, some may be surprised to hear that I pay more attention to aesthetics when first deciding whether to purchase a game or not.
I think that there are multiple reasons for my focus on how a game looks and feels, but I also wanted to touch on why mechanics are not as big of an issue for me. I am the kind of person who will try games with any kind of mechanic at least once, and there are very few kinds of mechanics I do not like in a game. The vast majority of a time, when I try a new game I find mechanics that I like in the game play. That is not to say that I will love all mechanics within the game, but at least a few will make the game enjoyable.
However, on the other hand the same is not true for aesthetics. Art has the capability to deter me from games in a way that mechanics do not. When purchasing games I am often drawn in by art that captures my imagination or makes me want to look twice at the box on the shelf. Mechanics will sweeten the deal, but the art style can ensure that I buy a game. Recently I acquired games like Muse, Dream Catchers and Wonderland simply because I was intrigued with their art style. That being said, art will not keep me from playing a game. If I do not enjoy an art style though, I will likely want to try it before I purchase it.
There are of course exceptions to this rule. Recently I added Fantasy Realms to my collection before trying it, which does not stand out visually in any way. However, mechanically it is quickly becoming a favorite filler, despite the mediocre art style. I would love to see it redone with striking art to match the game play, but it will be played consistently. However there are plenty of games on my shelf that have interesting mechanics and mediocre aesthetics, but their game play is not strong enough to make it to the table enough. I think it is crucial for new designers to spend some extra time and money to find and artist fitting of their project an ideas. It can really make or break whether I pick a game up.
This may seem like backwards thinking, because after all we play the game to enjoy the mechanics, but I tend to appreciate the artistic side of things in a way that makes games with a focus on visual appeal stand out. With so many new games coming out every month, I do not feel terrible focusing on purchasing ones that appeal to my creative side first. I can find things I enjoy in almost every game, however if I don’t enjoy looking at it, or do not get excited when I see it, I know it will sit on my shelf and seldom be played. While each game is worth at least one try, I do find that I will more frequently purchase games without trying them first if I enjoy how they look. What about you? Do you focus more on mechanics first or do you buy based on looks as well?