Whoever said “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” obviously never saw this lot. Box art is the first thing a prospective customer sees on the shelf, so it’s amazing that these examples made it through quality control.

The tragic thing about these artistic abominations is that many of them are actually fine games. Some are even great games. Sadly some shoddy art direction (or complete lack of it) mean most aren’t given a second glance on the shelf. Which might not be a bad thing.

[Thanks goes out to members of The Boardgame Group and /r/boardgames subreddit for their artistic sensibilities and uncompromising, scathing criticism in helping to compile this list.]

20. Great Western Trail (2016 — Stronghold Games)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Great Western Trail

No amount of facial hair, lack of a neck and surrounding steam is going to disguise the fact that two of these cowboys are the same guy. No, not the one on the right — he’s obviously a greying Dr Zaius from the original Planet of the Apes.

A damn fine game, packaged with dead, soulless eyes and a locomotive that defies all the laws of drawing and physics.

19. Guildhall (2012 — Alderac Entertainment Group)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Guildhall

“Meet the wife. I luv ‘er more than any pig, and that’s sayin’ summat.”

Indeed sir. For a pig farmer you appear to be punching way above your weight.

It’s not that the characters are badly rendered (although it does appear that it’s simply photo overpainting at work here), or the inconsistent lighting and flat boring background. It’s just a bizarre motley collection and a piglet with a nose four sizes too big.

18. World in Flames (1985 — ADG)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - World In Flames

There’s nothing wrong with the infantryman, B17 Flying Fortress or the Battleship. Actually scratch the last: the battleship is awful. And the infantryman’s wrist is as thick as his right thigh is long. But the plane looks okay.

That aside, the main rule broken here is: don’t create a piece of art that reminds you of a cock and a pair of balls. End of.

17. Zephyr: Winds of Change (2017 — Portal Dragon)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Zephyr Winds Of Change

More genuinely disturbing portraiture. Similar to Great Western Trail, the old adage applies: if you can’t draw faces, stick to something else. Like clouds. Top job on the taxidermied peregrine falcon though – really captured the essence of it’s dead, stuffed nature there.

16. Caylus (2005 — Ystari Games)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Caylus

I heard this recently described as “an ugly medieval prog-rock album cover” (bravo, Erik). ‘Nuff said. To their credit the publisher changed the box art for a future release to something simply mediocre.

15. The Downfall Of Pompeii (2004 — Mayfair Games)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - The Downfall Of Pompeii

You learn a few basics when you study fine art. One of them is using a vanishing point when constructing a landscape. In an image like this there should be just one. It has about five.

That’s before we even get to why the guy in the centre is carrying a curtain pole, the exorcist neck guy on the left, or the legionnaire directing people back towards danger. There’s a lot going on here, and none of it is right.

14. Plethora (2012 — Garphill Games)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Plethora

Seriously? This looks like some sort of despicable National Socialist propaganda from 1930s Germany. Thankfully Shem Phillips’ recent “North Sea” series features fantastic box art, and not something bordering on the offensive (to sensibilities if nothing else.)

13. Concordia Salsa (2015 — Rio Grande Games)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Concordia Salsa

There’s a fair amount of distaste in the community for the core game box art of Concordia, but in fairness the lady on the front is actually technically okay, if slightly creepy and set against a bland, crap background.

However, in deference to the masses and going against the grain of listing only core game box art rather than expansions, I give you Concordia Salsa. It’s sh*t on so many levels from the composition, to freakish hands, crap anatomy and the foreground figures having essentially the same face.

12. Hansa Teutonica (2009 — Argentum Verlag)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Hansa Teutonica

Where to start? Is it his deformed hands (and what’s going on with the tip of the quill?) The gravity-defying feather of the quill itself? The bizarre collection of identical keys made for no lock known to man? The loaf of… something on the plate? The diffuse shadows…. everywhere?

11. Glory To Rome (2005 — Cambridge Games Factory)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Glory To Rome

When low on budget, shoehorn the set-up image from the back of the box next to the art on the front.

This looks like it was commissioned by the local education board to make Roman History ‘fun and whacky’ on the lowest possible budget, and with the dullest possible font.

This is apparently the “I.V.” edition. I need one after looking at this, preferably drip-feeding me mescaline to make it all better.

(N.B. There is a Black Box edition of this game that is really rather tasteful and shows how it should be done.)

10. Inhabit The Earth (2015 — R&D Games)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Inhabit The Earth

Apparently the aim of this game is to inhabit the Earth with drug-crazed fauna. I don’t know what they’re on, but I want some of it. Especially whatever the panda has scored.

To her credit, the artist has managed to give the lion an eerie, thousand yard stare that’s tricky to pull off. He’s seen some sh*t has that lion. “You weren’t there, man. You weren’t there! You don’t know, man!”

(N.B. Although this cover is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Ravensburger classic Wildlife Adventure, that still doesn’t explain all the junkie animals.)

9. Roll To The South Pole (2012 — Rio Grande Games)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Roll To The South Pole

As Monty Burns regularly said: “Release the hounds!”

Rio Grande have produced some half decent box art, so I don’t know what the hell happened here. It’s awful on so many levels from the rabid man-eaters pulling the sled, to the crazed, beardless Santa on the back.

I’ve no idea why the sled in the foreground is pulled by both giant and midget dogs, any more than I know why it only needs four of them to the other sled’s eight (some of whom appear to have human faces).

However, all that pales into insignificance when you consider the central dog’s FIVE LEGS! (Well spotted Sven!)

8. Incan Gold (2005 — Fred Distribution)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Incan Gold

Robert Redford should sue over being depicted like this, wearing grandad pants up under his armpits , ear-arm grasping at random branches and staring vacantly not at the huge temple in the background, but (perhaps predictably) at the godawful logo, designed by someone with too much access to both Photoshop and hallucinogens.

The less said about the statue fapping its glowing golden penis the better.

7. Europa 1945–2030 (Eurogames)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Europa 1945 2030

Of all the things to fixate on when designing the box art of this game about birth of the European Union, the designers chose the word “birth” (naissance). And not one person during the entire production process stopped them. Shame on you!

Veteran reviewer Tom Vassel actually rates this game pretty highly, so it must have redeeming features beyond the funky jigsaw-like map components. However, a glowing baby looking like it’s crapping stars isn’t one of them.

6. Hamburgum (2007 — Eggertspiele)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Hamburgum

Sh*tburgum, more like. Even his gloves are praying for the artistic butchery to end. The flock of birds is about the most realistic thing in this whole picture, which isn’t saying much.

The church looks like the artist kept getting feedback about making the tower “just a little bit taller. Yeah, just a bit more”. So he kept adding formless greenish blue blobs to the top, (ever so slightly off-centre each time), until he just lost it completely and stuck a big-off unrealistic red flag on top and called it a day.

5. Freya’s Folly (2005 — Sagacity Games)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Freyas Folly

Just slightly edging clear of Hamburgum is this travesty. Apparently the artist was hired solely for his work done on the spear point, after which things went rapidly downhill. Those empty, lidless eyes staring out of that mysteriously unshaded face would give anyone the creeps.

Quite why the artist spent so long rendering that ornate necklace is as much a mystery to me as why it’s floating an inch from her chest. The time would have been far better spent making a half-decent job on the yellow Oompa-Loompas in the background.

4. Seven Sisters (2012 — Wishing Tree Games)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Seven Sisters

Artist: “So how do you want these sisters to look on the box art?”
Client: “Tastelessly slutty and drawn with no anatomical sympathy whatsoever.”
Artist: “That’s a relief. I can’t draw legs for sh*t. They start off fine and then I go and stick a kneecap on the side of their thigh for no reason.”
Client: “In that case best make the rest of the dresses less slutty and more billowing-ball-gown. Or an absurd mix of the two. Or just hide their legs behind a floating chaise longue or something. Or both.”
Artist: “Won’t their legs be visible if it’s floating?”
Client: “Just make them amputees. No one will notice. Oh and add a nice architectural surround.”
Artist: “Sure. In what style?”
Client: “How about a subtle mix of Classical Greek and Indian Restaurant… on a chess board?”
Artist: “Whatever you say. I’ll chuck in a sh*t custom font for free.”

3. Choose Your Crew: Rockband (2014 — The Game Crafter)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Choose Your Crew Rockband

Yeah! Play It Loud! Draw It Crap!

I’m pretty sure the lead singer was the inspiration for the Dancer of the Boreal Valley from Dark Souls. She’s certainly… flexible. And not in a good way. More in a crawl-backwards-down-the-stairs-like-a-spider kind of way.

That’s before we even get to the lead guitarist with his bizarre deformed arm. I pity the poor tattoo artist that had to ink that freakish appendage. Probably the best (comparatively) figure of the lot is the bassist, who looks genuinely embarrassed being there.

2. Roads And Boats (1999 – Splotter Spellen)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Roads and Boats

I think the only reason this art got past quality control is that the rest of the Splotter publishing team were working hard on making the most ludicrous title logo possible.

“But both ‘Roads’ and ‘Boats’ have ‘oa’ in them! There must be some way we can use that!”

Just let it go okay? Let. It. Go.

The only possible explanation for this travesty is that it was done by a child of one of the publishers and they hadn’t got the heart to say no. Still, if you think this is crap, you should see what the kid produced for its expansion, &Cetera.

1. Cannes (2002 — Splotter Spellen)

Worst Board Game Box Art Ever - Cannes

Ah, Splotter, up to your old trick s again eh? This winner of the crown of Crap Box Art is so bad, I almost love you for it.

The little green dice-playing otter is actually a pretty cool little logo. I have no idea why he’s about to be devoured by sharks, any more than I know why Kylie and Jason are making an appearance, or… I mean what the hell is that at the bottom?

If you think the components are any better, guess again. Honestly, don’t look inside the box. All the crimes against art in the world are contained inside. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

Think we’ve missed any howlers? Let us know in the Comments section below!

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19 Responses

  1. Gordon Kennedy

    From being a graphic designer I am horrified at pretty much all of this. I mean…just why? Lol. Haven’t laughed and been in stunned disbelief before but I managed it with this. Nice work on the list. I feel like I should contact them and offer my services pro bono.

    Reply
  2. GBanger

    I actually like the Inhabit The Earth box in a creepy kind of way. But the others, oh my god, Roads and Boats especially.

    Reply
  3. Sprayoncrayon

    I don’t want to be that panda when it wears off. Maybe the lion witnessed the last crash.

    Reply
  4. Nathan

    Never been on your site before so I don’t know if you guys are well known for your art or something, but I don’t quite get the point of thus article. Is it meant to be funny or just mean spirited?

    Do you guys have some examples of your own art to share?

    Reply
    • Guyblin

      Hi Nathan! I’m sorry that you disagree with my opinion and I’m happy that you find these examples more than laughable.

      Here’s some examples from my old anatomy sketchbook for you per your request – these were done between the ages of 17-25. None took more than 5 minutes to complete and most were 1-3 min sketches. I’m not a professional fine artist. Feel free to peruse the rest of my Behance portfolio. All the best!

      https://www.behance.net/gallery/13396999/Sketchbook

      Reply
    • Guyblin

      Glad you enjoyed, Mike! Your response made mine! Do feel free to subscribe for more (mildly) entertaining articles! And/or follow us on FB! 😉

      Reply
  5. rdominick

    And, in first place, exactly what I would put there. “Cannes — featuring art by Timmy’s third-grade class!”

    Reply
  6. Scott

    I really don’t think Concordia Salsa belongs on this list at all. It’s *so* much better than the original, and I actually like the style they picked. I do think the bearded guy (both of the white people are definitely guys btw) in the red fades into the background a bit, but beyond that I think you’re nitpicking. It certainly sticks out like a sore thumb, but only in this list, because it looks about a dozen times better than the rest.

    Reply
    • Guyblin

      It’s technically way worse than the original, particularly with regard to anatomy. If the “guy” in the centre is really a guy, that just serves to help my case 😉

      Reply
    • Guyblin

      This very nearly made the list, but my brother in Oz actually knows the story behind it. The artist basically was taken VERY ill at the last minute, before he had a chance to finish the faces, and the devs had to finish the piece (badly) in Photoshop themselves. That’s actually their faces. Thus i didn’t feel it was exactly fair to blame the artist, who did everything (rather competently) except the faces, which the devs butchered themslves last minute 😉

      Reply
    • Sven

      On #11 you totally missed the fact the one of the sled dogs has five legs! Surely that has to bump it up into the top ten

      Reply
      • Guyblin

        Oh good lord, you’re right! Amazing!! Amendments shall be made… not sure if it will rise higher… we shall see! Thanks! 😉

      • Ori

        No, that’s the back right leg of the right-most wolf.

      • Guyblin

        @Ori – I’m not sure if that just makes it worse, as it would have to be offset from its body by about a foot. It’s like something out of The Thing….

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