Making games look beautiful: Michael Menzel
Emmanuel Aquin
Canada
Mont-Saint-Hilaire
Quebec
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Artists are the unsung heroes of the gaming world. Where game designers are often recognized for their efforts, the painters and graphic artists are usually taken for granted.

Paradoxically, the artist's work is often what will draw a potential customer to the game. The cover work for Cuba and Arkadia made you look at the back of the box? Thank Michael Menzel. Seeing the game board of Stone Age or The Pillars of the Earth made you want to play? Menzel is the man.

So, following my previous geeklist about Miguel Coimbra (another spectacular game artist), let's examine Mr. Menzel's most beautiful contributions to the gaming world...

And you? What is your favorite artwork by Michael Menzel?

(To see more of Menzel's art, you might want to explore his German website: http://www.atelier-krapplack.de/)

(This geeklist is part of a series about game artists. To see them all, click here)
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1. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:117] [Average Rating:7.56 Unranked]
Board Game: Stone Age
Emmanuel Aquin
Canada
Mont-Saint-Hilaire
Quebec
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Quite frankly, the beauty of this game board blew me away. No photo can do it justice. But when you stand before this magnificent piece, you just have to try the game.

Board Game: Stone Age
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2. Board Game: Cuba [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:541]
Board Game: Cuba
Emmanuel Aquin
Canada
Mont-Saint-Hilaire
Quebec
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Seeing this game board, I immediately went to compare it to my Stone Age board. My intuition was right: they were both illustrated by the same talented artist. That's when I learned his name was Michael Menzel.

Board Game: Cuba
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3. Board Game: The Pillars of the Earth [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:299]
Board Game: The Pillars of the Earth
Emmanuel Aquin
Canada
Mont-Saint-Hilaire
Quebec
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Once I knew who Menzel was, I had to see what else he had done. This game board was another spectacular example:

Board Game: The Pillars of the Earth
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4. Board Game: Portobello Market [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:2307]
Board Game: Portobello Market
Emmanuel Aquin
Canada
Mont-Saint-Hilaire
Quebec
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Want another game board from the master? How about this one?

(click on the image to appreciate all its fine details)

Board Game: Portobello Market
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5. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:401] [Average Rating:7.15 Unranked]
Board Game: Catan
Emmanuel Aquin
Canada
Mont-Saint-Hilaire
Quebec
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And now, let's have a look at the incredible redesign of Catan.

Once Mr. Menzel got involved in the new versions of Catan, the game reached a new step of graphic excellence.

(Notice how his mountains always have the "Menzel" touch)

Board Game: Catan


Board Game: Catan


Board Game: Catan
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6. Board Game: Struggle for Catan [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:3167]
Board Game: Struggle for Catan
Emmanuel Aquin
Canada
Mont-Saint-Hilaire
Quebec
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Again, Menzel has added his magic touch to the Catan universe:

Board Game: Struggle for Catan
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7. Board Game: Rivals for Catan [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:841]
Board Game: Rivals for Catan
Emmanuel Aquin
Canada
Mont-Saint-Hilaire
Quebec
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And again!

Board Game: Rivals for Catan
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8. Board Game: Jambo [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:664] [Average Rating:7.01 Unranked]
Board Game: Jambo
Emmanuel Aquin
Canada
Mont-Saint-Hilaire
Quebec
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But there is more to Menzel than Catan, as these cards from Jambo will attest:

Board Game: Jambo
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9. Board Game: Catan Geographies: Germany [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:3010]
Board Game: Catan Geographies: Germany
Emmanuel Aquin
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Mont-Saint-Hilaire
Quebec
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Alas, this photograph doesn't do justice to the superb game board of this underrated game. Yet, one can see its definite "Menzeliness".

Board Game: Catan Geographies: Germany
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10. Board Game: Arkadia [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:1013]
Board Game: Arkadia
Emmanuel Aquin
Canada
Mont-Saint-Hilaire
Quebec
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And what about that cover!

Board Game: Arkadia
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11. Board Game: Relikt [Average Rating:6.00 Overall Rank:7042]
Board Game: Relikt
Andrew Hodkinson
Canada
Owen Sound
Ontario
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I really like this cover and the way the cards transmit the feeling of constant activity:

Board Game: Relikt


Board Game: Relikt



But I find this cover to be the most enticing (this is as large as the image gets).

 




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12. Board Game: A Castle for All Seasons [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:1459]
Board Game: A Castle for All Seasons
Of course we must add...

Board Game: A Castle for All Seasons
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13. Board Game: A Castle for All Seasons [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:1459]
Board Game: A Castle for All Seasons
Reis
United States
Massachusetts
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A two-sided board:
Board Game: A Castle for All Seasons

Board Game: A Castle for All Seasons


A nice photograph:
Board Game: A Castle for All Seasons


My favorite thing about Michael Menzel is how the game board is seamlessly incorporated into the artwork. I love the way buildings in both this game and World Without End fit right onto the board and how the different resource areas flow into each other in Stone Age. It's really excellent.
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14. Board Game: Firenze [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:856]
Board Game: Firenze
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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pic by Henk Rolleman:
Board Game: Firenze

My "artwork detail" pics:
Board Game: Firenze
Board Game: Firenze
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15. Board Game: The Secret of Monte Cristo [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:5120]
Board Game: The Secret of Monte Cristo
Aurelio Agustin
Spain
San Diego
Castellon
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This is a new game illustrated by Michael Menzel.
I wish somebody could post a better picture of the board

Board Game: The Secret of Monte Cristo
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16. Board Game: Eselsbrücke [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:3839]
Board Game: Eselsbrücke
Daniel Danzer
Germany
Stuttgart
southwest
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Here is a more recent one and see, how he is a master of more than his own "typical" style:
Board Game: Eselsbrücke

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17. Board Game: The Speicherstadt [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:803]
Board Game: The Speicherstadt
Tony Bosca
United States
Royal Oak
Michigan
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Board Game: The Speicherstadt
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18. Board Game: World Without End [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:607]
Board Game: World Without End
Jack Francisco
United States
Cumberland
Rhode Island
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How can this one not be on the list? The board is beautiful and the art on the cards is even better. Pillars came before WWE, but this is by far the better game, in my humble opinion. Tragedy, misfortune, and plague await the players as they try to scrape up enough resources to pay their tithes at the end of each chapter while still grabbing VPs when they can. First rate.
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19. Board Game: Shogun [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:198]
Board Game: Shogun
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Board Game: Shogun
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20. Board Game: Thebes [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:509]
Board Game: Thebes
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Board Game: Thebes
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21. Board Game: Maori [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2272]
Board Game: Maori
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Saint Louis
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Board Game: Maori
Board Game: Maori
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22. Board Game: Roma [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:1190] [Average Rating:6.76 Unranked]
Board Game: Roma
Matthew Mesina
United States
Bethel Park
Pennsylvania
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Board Game: Roma


This and the sequel are among my favorite games, if not Menzel pieces...

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23. Board Game: Arena: Roma II [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:1490] [Average Rating:6.89 Unranked]
Board Game: Arena: Roma II
Matthew Mesina
United States
Bethel Park
Pennsylvania
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Board Game: Arena: Roma II


I love these two! My Roma cards are all dark around the edges due to a house fire, so I haven't tried to combine them yet.
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24. Board Game: Livingstone [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:2721]
Board Game: Livingstone
Matthew Mesina
United States
Bethel Park
Pennsylvania
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Board Game: Livingstone


Never played it. It seems that it went under the radar like most PlayRoom stuff seems to. People rate it favorably, however.
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25. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:433]
Board Game: Thurn and Taxis
David Smidt
United States
Littleton
Colorado
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I just realized: This one needs to be on the list! Subtle, but beautifully rendered cities on the maps.
 

...and expansions:
Board Game: Thurn and Taxis: Power and Glory

Board Game: Thurn and Taxis: All Roads Lead to Rome

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