As I was browsing the images of the Mystical Tarot deck, illustrated by the artist Giuliano Costa, I started thinking that I would very much enjoy to see these mysterious, symbol-laden pictures adorn a fantasy board game. More and more games lately are byproducts of video games or movies, and tend to closely follow the imagery used in the original medium. When it comes to eurogames, we often see 'cartoony realism' being the style of choice. Hardly exciting, at least for me. What I would personally prefer is for artists to push the boundaries of board game illustration, publishers to dare to differ, and games to go beyond what is mainstream and familiar.
Let's have a look at Giuliano Costa's work, then. Here is 'Arzach verso l'Infinito' (2018).
A strong image, isn't it? Wikipedia informs us that Arzach is the name of a comic book stories collection by Jean Giraud (Moebius). The lead character, Arzach, is a silent warrior riding a pterodactyl through a strange, desolate landscape. You can see esoteric symbols almost everywhere: the infinity symbols on the gate, the golden and black-and-white circles standing for unity of the positive and negative forces, the funerary urns on the gate pillars, and the light shining through the opening of the icy castle. The hooded figures on the boat are reminiscent of the 6 of Swords tarot card that signifies moving to a calmer, peaceful place, and the soothening of woes. They seem in fact to be taking a coffin to its depository.
I can imagine an adventure/dungeon crawl board game illustrated in this style. Let's say Darklight: Memento Mori or even... Mage Knight! I would be enthralled to see it happen, as I love hidden meanings, allusions and obscure references. Since dungeon crawlers make us descend in deep, dark places, where best to go down to than the collective unconscious.
Switching on to eurogames. Most of them being about agriculture, commerce and prosperity, how about the vibrant, surreal illustrations of Gonçalo Viana? Why not make the buildings we construct more lively, the people working in the fields more interesting to look at? I often see how delighted people are to discover, for example, 'Easter eggs' hidden on cards and game boards, so why not make our playthings more playful? Viana is apparently quite active in the Portuguese advertising and media scene, and I can easily picture his creations in games like Coimbra and Viticulture.
Frédéric Clément, an author and illustrator of children's books, has made the most striking solar eclipse image I've ever seen. All black and red, with a red river flowing like blood in the middle. Menacing without being gory. This picture is from an unknown to me book by Odile Cail called 'Chevêche: Aussi Rouge que l'Aurore' (1981). If this was a box cover, I would buy it without even checking what game is inside. His Japanese warrior mice are also impressive, and easily rival (and for me, surpass) those of Mice and Mystics and Aftermath. Most of his work looks ominous and unsettling but also very seductive with its muted colours, delicate detail, and light coming almost from the inside.
My final choice is Raymond Lemstra, who I would commission to make more of his techno-primitive drawings. Lemstra is an artist, not an illustrator, but I think he could very well produce work for a game. What kind of game would that be? Something featuring an imaginary tribe, I guess, probably a euro-trash mix featuring a young shaman. I can't think of an existing game that fits this description, and I once wanted to design it myself. It would have rituals, masks, and evil spirits. I don't know if we'll ever see something like that in the market, but if someone makes it, I hope they pay an artist like Lemstra to dive deep into ancient customs and modern dreams.
So, there you have it. It doesn't matter that none of these artists will ever illustrate a board game, but I wanted to share a few that intrigue me. I'm hoping to see more board game artwork that transcends its illustrative purpose. There are themes that invite wild flights of fancy, especially in fantasy and science fiction, and it's a pity to typically see pictures that merely do the job.