Ladies and Gentlemen! Please hold your squeals of delight until the end of this article; you might frighten the panda.
Aesthetics are not the most important factor in determining whether or not I will play a game. Powergrid is a personal favorite, and its artwork is not exactly seductive. However, it is nearly impossible for me to turn down a compelling box containing a tastefully designed board and cleverly thought out components. This is because thoughtful and thematic artwork enhances the gaming experience for me by immersing me in the world. A visual can set in motion a series of thoughts and emotions that make the gaming session memorable and forming those fun memories is why many of us started this hobby.
The following games are recommended based on one factor: cuteness. I am a sucker for kittens, puppies, pandas, etc. Heck, even a quick glimpse of a baby snake makes me want to bring it super duper close and hug it so tight it– Okay, I am getting carried away.
Number of Players: 2-5
Playing Time: Unknown
It is no secret that I love cats, so imagine my delight when I discovered Cat Tower. This game allows me to accomplish my life goal: collect as many cats as possible. Fat cats, orange cats, black cats, and many more! Not only that, I can safely stack them on top of each other. Since I can’t do that with my own cats, I’m ready to throw my money at this game now that it is released!
I came across Cat Tower by chance while perusing other games on IDW Publishing’s website. What caught my attention were the giant kitty eyes and that adorably fuzzy face on the box. Cat Tower’s gameplay description alludes to a goofy game that could be fun at a party after a few drinks. Each player is given a handful of cards depicting cats. They roll die that determines how many cats need to be stacked. If you manage to stack all of the cards in your hand, you win. If your stack falls, you take all those cards back and get clawed in the face (just kidding on that last part).
Not only is the artwork incredibly adorable, the game looks very easy to learn. Before Cat Tower was released, the publishers provided an alternative form of entertainment to please you until the game’s release date: a theme song. As mentioned in the song, the game is nearly identical to Jenga but better because it has cats.
Number of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 45 mins
Years ago, the Emperor of China gifted to the Japanese Emperor a giant panda as an offering of peace. It is now the task of the players to tend to the Emperor’s sacred garden of bamboo to keep the panda well fed. To accomplish this, the gardeners must grow and cultivate this bamboo using irrigation techniques with the help of the imperial gardener. However, many factors can limit the progress of your garden. The adorable panda in particular will be your worst enemy because it will eat newly growing bamboo. Though this can be incredibly frustrating and completely ruin the aesthetics of the garden, the players can win victory points by feeding the panda and keeping the emperor happy in addition to tending to the royal garden.
Takenoko is a delightful game with vibrantly colored components and beautiful drawings. Don’t let the lightly colored aesthetics of the game fool you into thinking this game is only intended for kids: Takenoko is also a great game for adults. The mechanics of the game are well-balanced as you find yourself incapable of saying no to that adorable panda destroying the Imperial Gardener’s hard work. The theme and story of the game is definitely a 10 on the cuteness scale. There aren’t many games out there where your main objective is to take care of a panda and said panda’s garden.
Number of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 90 mins
In Dungeons Petz, each player manages a family of imps who breed, raise, show, and sell pets to Dungeon Lords in order to gain reputation. These are no ordinary pets, however; many of the creatures that you will raise in the game will eventually be housed in a dungeon to protect the Dungeon Lord’s riches. As a result, Dungeon Lords desire pets with powerful magical abilities. In Dungeon Petz, you will raise a wide range of dangerous creatures with different needs. The players will feed them, play with them, enhance their environmental enrichment, and even clean up poop, much like owning actual pets. And after your imp family has spent months raising this adorably terrible monster, you can show it off to potential buyers. During the game, you are constantly working through a rollercoaster of emotions: Why won’t he sell?! He keeps pooping, and I can’t keep up with it… He poops double his bodyweight in an hour; how is that even possible? That probably means he’s sick. CRAP! I guess I will just keep him for now. Damn, he is a cutie though. Oh yay! He ate his treat! OH GOD DON’T EAT THE DUNGEON LORD!
To quote a review on Amazon: “the box art looks super cute, but it’s a LIE.” Dungeons Petz’s theme may seem light-hearted but it is far from an entry-level game. I own this game and have not yet convinced anyone to play with me after spending about an hour setting up the game. The rule book is a joy to read, but it’s also 30 pages long. Nonetheless, the goal of this article is to convince you to buy a game based on its aesthetics, and the artwork by David Cochard is stunning. In fact, Vlaada Chvatil, the game designer, specifically states in his rule book that he created this game while keeping the artwork and the artist in mind. And it paid off. Not only do you have a beautifully illustrated game, but you also get a well-designed game created by the genius, Vlaada. Dungeons Petz consistently receives high reviews for its artwork and gameplay. Even though I have not yet had a chance to play the game myself, I highly recommend it.
There are many more options in addition to the ones I mentioned above. Please share some of your ideas and experiences in the comments below!