The trite old chestnut goes “you can’t judge a book by its cover” but that applies to hobby board games in a couple of interesting ways. Indeed, some of the most fun and influential games have boring or even bad artwork. Power Grid is a hilarious example. It’s one of the most engrossing, tense, tightly-balanced auction games, but the cover does not tell that story at all. Instead, the cover features a stern, labcoat-ed engineer holding a clipboard and adjusting a dial. The irony is bitter and delicious like black coffee. Eurogames have historically featured bland artwork that can even diminish the excitement for the wonderful puzzles they contain.
On the other side of the spectrum, newer hobby board games often have fantastic art. Colorful, stylish, exciting, and attractive - even to people who don’t know anything about the hobby. Root is a great example, where the stylish cartoon animal people appeal to a very broad audience. However, the game itself is complex and dense, and can easily frighten away hobby newbies that the art attracts.
Here, though, let’s look at another instance of great-art-complex-gameplay: Bosk. The box and pieces feature some beautifully rendered forest scenes, with a broad and well-designed color palette, tantalizing textures, and some stylish typesetting. However, for a board game about growing trees, Bosk is a little more complex than expected.
It’s complicated in a good way, too. For fans of hobby games, and abstract strategy games in specific, Bosk is really interesting. It’s like playing two games of checkers, simultaneously, on the same board. In the first half of each turn, players are placing their trees on a grid, trying to have the highest score along each row, column, and in each territory. In the second half, these trees are shedding their leaves, covering spaces with leaf tokens. Players score points for shrewdly seeing which way the wind blows (literally) and covering the most area with their leaves.
While each of these halves of Bosk would be pretty meager abstract territory games on their own, they interact in a way that presents really interesting puzzles for players who vibe with hobby games. However, for people who abstract games are a strange and foreign country, Bosk isn’t the best one to get started with. However, we do recommend working up to it. Bosk is beautiful and unique, worthy of a hobbyist’s time, and a juicy eventual reward for newbies to work towards.