PR Modernist Boards: Part I


I'm working on another aesthetic that fascinates me greatly. Yes, I very well know most probably a turnoff to most as the thinking is far beyond most individual's threasholds. Not so much a proposal of what should have been than where I think we should evolve eventually. The conventional thought is that game art needs to be evocative of the theme's period in every savory detail to be appropriate – to "get one into the theme". My sense is that while this is certainly fine (Tikal for instance), it is not a mandate. Indeed, boardgames are abstractions of our real word and period events. The thing that we admire so much about Knizia and German games in general is the modernist reductivist approach given to design. Purity is the virtue. Chrome only acceptable in great moderation. So then, I suppose the thinking is that the art must "make up" for the lack of atmosphere built into the mechanics. I would propose that if game art references period details, it has as much license to retranslate the theme into a new playing expression as does the game mechanics. Much as contemporary game design seeks to revolutionize gameplay, graphics can rethink the expected visual expression. Honestly how many times must we look at sepia maps with torn edges and faux aged look. Yes, I'm fine with it when it is well done – indeed my previous PR boards were heavily inspired by such a look. However, I look for the allowance to break tradition in the way our great designers have.

Above, is a first pass, that I'll be working on in the coming weeks and developing. As you can see, integrated within the boards are period details but in done a fresh new way. I believe this equally appropriate for the highly reductive gaming experience, that we admire. The landscapes are rendered in hot colors which pop out of a black field. I want to change the proportions of the boards to be more horizontal for more drama and unique feel. I'm also looking to work on the period details on the boards and develop the pieces to go on the boards.

I always get a kick out of the themed product shots that sometimes pop up on the box backs. PR has one such shot. This being the shot with burlap, palm branches and the occasional telescope. As if I will feel transported into this environment when playing. Yes in PR, perhaps one does feel transported as the mechanics fit very snug around the theme. There's, nothing wrong with such photos, but I do imagine a certain sense of let down when we get to playing our games. Indeed, it does take quite a bit of imagination to feel the theme for the most part. Perhaps this why discussions boards seem obsesssed with theme theories. We want a theme to take us somewhere. We want to believe we are somehow reinacting or taking part in the lives and livelihoods of those long gone. Yet we are unwilling to pallette the chrome that inevitably is necessary for thematic detailing to really take us to that place. So in comes the artist to dress up the playing atmosphere. Now we really feel transported, right? For the most part, I think not. As such, games fall into visual sameyness. Very little stands out and very little ultimately satisfies our desire for a really emersive period or thematic experience.

– Mike