If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 5th day of #RPGaDay the question is:
Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?
There are so many amazing game covers I contemplated picking, I’ve listed ones I nearly choose below. Since this question has no correct answer, choosing one was quite difficult. I went with:
#RPGaDay 5 Usagi Yojimbo, also the only game I’ve bought simply due to the cover.
Since any RPG using existing intellectual property (IP) brings with it a lot of sentiment, be it: Star Wars, Trek, D.C, Marvel, Middle Earth, Babylon 5, Street Fighter, etc., could be thought of as having a bonus to any dice roll to help capture what the spirit of a game would be; I’d go as far as claiming that it’s an automatic success. This is why I think it puts any RPG cover for such an IP in to a special category. This is not to diminish some of the amazing front covers for any RPG using a big IP setting; I’m just saying that for me I already have an opinion of what the spirit is.
I had no idea what Usagi Yojimbo was when I bought it, so I am ignoring the fact the game used an existing IP; also it’s clearly not as famous as the IPs mentioned above 😉 I vaguely recall thinking it might be a bit like TMNT, but it looked less zany, more serious. Also my first introduction to Greg Stolze, whose varied great work I’ve enjoyed many times over the years.
I almost choose the stunning artwork used for Tales from the Loop. So many are saying it really captures the spirit of the game, but I have not played it yet so I thought in inappropriate to pick. Whilst the game is partly inspired by Stranger Things, but it does not use the title, so I think it is fair to not treat like the big IPs like Star Wars.
Minimalist Front Cover Shout-Outs
It’s hard make a front cover whilst keeping details to a minimum. It makes sense to make epic fantasy/sci-fi pictures for an RPG, since the fan base is usually the sort of people that will plaster their walls with pictures of dragons and spaceships. So it is understandable that the majority of RPGs use an epic scene for their front cover, especially given how important drama is for any RPG.
Two games that deviate from this norm, that I also think use the front cover to capture the spirit of their game are:
- Traveller’s text on a black background somehow works; maybe because it is a gripping short story, atop the black which represents deep space and vulnerability?
- Code and Dagger (Cryptomancer) does a great job of encapsulating that game.
There are so many other front covers that I nearly choose: Cyberpunk 2020, Warhammer 1st Ed, Shadowrun, L5R, Deadlands. Of special note to me is Aberrant, there is a lot going on in the picture that captures the drama of the setting, without it being too busy.
Like many others I have spent too much time on pinterest if you’d like to look at more RPG artwork: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/batjutsu/