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12 Beautiful And Strategic Board Games For Those Who Love Wingspan

Do not judge a book by its cover, or a board game by its components. Just because a game isn’t visually appealing, it doesn’t mean that it’s bad. After all, it’s the gameplay that matters, not the shell that gameplay comes in, right?

Yet, somehow, it feels better to play a gorgeous board game. To hold the components in hand, bringing them closer to admire the artwork, and to see how the parts and the board come together to become even more beautiful.

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Not only that, it is also much easier to get others to play a game that looks amazing. After all, the visual appearance of the game is the first thing you see. It is very important, especially when a game could last for hours and be played over multiple sessions, to at least not be bored by the things you’ll be staring at for those hours.

With Wingspan, we can clearly see how much of an impact the visual aspect can make. The game, designed by Elizabeth Hargrave with artwork by Natalia Rojas and Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, had so many pre-orders that the publisher, Stonemaier Games, had to issue a public apology for being unable to meet the demand in a timely manner.

Just look at how gorgeous the game is. It screams ‘play me’.

Here are some more board games that have the same visual wow factor in spades. While they vary in terms of complexity and gameplay, they are all attention grabbers that your friends will at least want to try out.

Root

Players: 2 – 4
Play Time: 60 – 90 minutes

Root is an absolutely adorable game where players control different factions of woodland creatures, and vie for control over the wilderness. Despite its charming art, this is a complex game with a lot of strategic depth designed for those who want to try something heavier than the typical family game fare.

It boasts an asymmetric wargaming experience with each faction having their own abilities and victory condition. This is not a fairytale where everyone gets the warm fuzzies. It is war. Think Game of Thrones type of political jostling, but with a huge dose of doe-eyed cuteness to go along with it.

Everdell

Players: 1 – 4
Play Time: 40 – 80 minutes

Everdell has a very eye-catching board. Which is a point in its favour, because one would think that the board in a board game should be a key focus when it comes to aesthetics and table presence.

The Ever Tree focuses players’ attention, overlooking the players. They will play and draw cards, and place their workers, trying to build the most beautiful and magnificent village. The art is also irresistibly cute, which makes playing the cards feel just that bit better.

It is a tableau-building game that is simple to pick up but just complex enough to be engaging for the whole family.

Tokaido

Players: 2 – 5
Play Time: 45 minutes

Tokaido’s artwork is clean, elegant, and classy. The light pastel colours have a comforting, almost meditative quality to them.

Thematically, players are travellers enjoying a scenic and enriching journey down the Tokaido road. They collect a series of interesting experiences such as good meals, new friends, taking in great panoramas, visiting beautiful places, and so on.

While Tokaido is a light game with a non-combative theme, it is a competitive fare. Players do compete to see who ends up as the one with the most varied experience. However, the zen-like artwork makes the game feel less adrenaline-pumping in play, and the game is always a pleasant one to bring to the table.

Kanagawa

Players: 2 – 4
Play Time: 45 minutes

In Kanagawa, players are disciples of the painter Master Hokusai. They will build a panorama of 13 cards, forming a sprawl of Japanese-themed watercolour artwork.

The cards, which not only have multiple functions in the game, are also sets of myrioramas, where they will form a fully connected painting no matter the order of the cards.

It is a light family game that captures the feeling of becoming better in one’s craft, gradually handling more complex work and having the space to make more interesting decisions. By the end, it’s as if the players contributed to the breathtaking artwork that Kanagawa comprises.

Azul

Players: 2 – 4
Play Time: 30 – 45 minutes

In Azul, players take turns drafting beautiful tiles so they can craft the most beautiful bathroom floor for the king.

It is a colourful, simple game to pick up and play. With randomly drawn tiles and players trying to match them to the colours on the board, the joy of Azul doesn’t come from trying to outdo or sabotage other players.

Instead, it is about enjoying the process of making a tile collage, and then seeing what the other players have made. The game may encourage players to score as many points as possible, but simply laying out the tiles in the prettiest way is also a fun and valid way to approach Azul.

Mariposas

Players: 2 – 5
Play Time: 45 – 75 minutes

Mariposas is the second game designed by Elizabeth Hargrave, the designer of Wingspan. Hargrave has a certain design sensibility that makes her games appeal to a very wide audience, evoking a desire to open up the box and try the game.

A set collection game which is played out in three seasons, players have their butterflies head north in the spring, spread out in summer, and go back south in autumn. The educational aspect about the migratory butterflies in Mexico is integrated very naturally into the mechanics and visual design of the game. 

This is a game that is simple and serves as a great gateway game into the wider world of board games.

Era: Medieval Age

Players: 1 – 4
Play Time: 45 – 60 minutes

In many board games, when players have to build cities, those cities tend to be either abstractions that exist only in the imagination, or represented by cards. In Era: Medieval Age, players actually do build three dimensional, solid cities.

Players roll dice, get resources, or end up with disasters befalling them or their opponents. In the end, all players will have their own little city on a peg board, which always makes for a great photo-taking moment.

Era: Medieval Age is a fun, simple game to pick up and play in just minutes.

Succulent

Players: 2 – 4
Play Time – 45 – 60 minutes

In the pandemic, many people picked up horticulture as a hobby. Usually, succulents require delicate pruning and unwavering care. A well cared for garden can not only be breathtaking, but also be a source of pride for the horticulturist.

Succulent replicates the feeling of tending to one’s garden by having players place down flowerbeds, collect cuttings, and collect water droplets, all to make a pretty garden that will be converted into victory points at the end.

It is a colourful tile-laying game where even players without a green thumb can make a garden bloom, and it easily puts smiles on their faces.

Bristol 1350

Players: 1 – 9
Play Time – 20 – 40 minutes

Bristol 1350 comes in a magnetic book box, which gives it a dash of fancy and also mystery. The premise of the game is intriguing. Players are villagers from Bristol trying to escape the plague.

There is a bit of cooperation, social deduction, and strategy. All while each player is selfishly trying to get themselves to safety as soon as possible.

This is quite the unique game, especially given its theme. The way the box fits innocuously on a bookshelf gives it the extra cool factor as well.

PARKS

Players: 1 – 5
Play Time: 30 – 60 minutes

In PARKS, players take on the role of a pair of hikers exploring the different trails over the seasons from 59 US National Parks. An afternoon playing PARKS feels more like flipping through an art album than actually playing a board game where each player is trying to outdo the other.

The art in the game is stunning, taken from posters that were originally used to commemorate the many national parks. This isn’t a game that will be rife with tension and puts players at the edges of their seats. This is a game that relaxes and soothes, perfect for those who are looking to chill with friends and enjoy the gorgeous art that the game offers.

Imaginarium

Players: 2 – 5
Play Time: 90 minutes

Wingspan is known as an engine-building game. Here, Imaginarium takes the engine to be literal. Players collect resources to build machines that produce more resources to build better machines that produce even more resources.

Players try to fight over components, competing to finish projects given out by the design office in order to gain victory points so they can win the game. While a bit more complex than the average family board game, it is definitely an easy game to pick up and start playing without much fuss.

Packaged in a beautiful steampunk aesthetic, this is a game that one feels good playing just to see and enjoy more of the art.

Sagrada

Players: 1 – 4
Play Time: 30 – 45 minutes

In Sagrada, players craft exquisite stained glass windows by drafting dice with different colours into grids. The placement of the dice will be restricted in terms of the number showing on the dice, and the combination of colours allowed. Also, dice of the same number or colour cannot be placed next to each other.

This means that in every game, players will form different mosaics of dice with varying dots and splashes of colours. This is a friendly family game, and while there is a scoring aspect, Sagrada can also be seen as a light arts and craft project that taps a little into the creative side of the players.


These are just a few games that are visually arresting. There will be more for you to find in places such as Amazon. The ones mentioned above are just a sampling of the sheer beauty that board games are capable of delivering. The range, in terms of gameplay and complexity, means there is definitely something for everyone. Maybe one of these games can bring out the hitherto undiscovered board game geek within your friends.


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