Trick-taking Week: The Artwork of Sai Beppu (Article by Chris Wray)

This week is about celebrating trick taking games, and today, we’re celebrating a leading artist of trick taking games, Sai Beppu!

Historically, the trick taking game mechanic was packed with dull and drab art, but that has changed in recent years. Today, trick takers are getting the full artistic treatment they deserve. Publishers are investing more in production, which is contributing to the growth in popularity of trick takers.  

Sai Beppu is, by far, the most prolific artist in trick taking games. And not only is she prolific: her artwork is astoundingly good. She has replaced muted colors with vibrant ones. She has excelled at making functional cards. And her covers have made trick taking games the showpiece of game shelves. So as we celebrate trick taking week, I wanted to turn the spotlight on another role in the production of tricksters: the artist and graphic designer, and in particular one exceptional illustrator in particular, Sai Beppu!  

Sai and her husband, Trick Kuma, are fans and advocates of the trick taking genre. If you follow either of them on Twitter, you’ll see that they are deeply involved in (and knowledgeable about) the Japanese and Korean trick taking scenes. I had the joy of having dinner with them last month in Cincinnati, and the dinner was a highlight of the trip for me. Not only did she teach me about the trick taking movements in Japan and Korea, but Sai also told me a bit about her artistic process. 

Her artwork takes time, and it shows: her covers and illustrations are deep and engaging, while her card artwork is functional and striking. She loves to evoke the surreal, blurring the lines between the real and the imagined. She does so with bold, bright hues.

I don’t have time or space to discuss all of Sai Beppu’s games — for that, I recommend her artist page on BoardGameGeek — so I’ll just discuss a few of my favorites here.  

Perhaps my favorite cover of hers is one of her newest titles, the Korean version of Stich-Meister. The game is a classic — one of the ultimate rules variation tricksters — but Sai’s art here really makes the cover pop. As always, it is detailed, vivid, and makes quite an impression.

Do I need to own a third copy of Stich-Meister? No. But I’m still going to buy this, because the art here is a gem, so it will be my preferred way to play (at least until there is an English edition).  I can’t wait to see the cards. Plus, she nicely captures the color green, which is essential for any Friedemann Friese game!  

But one of the great things about Sai’s art is just how varied it can be.  Compare her art here to her illustrations in Nokosu Dice, which are less detailed, but equally as striking. The design is minimalist, but with texture, and she pulls off the impressive trick (pun intended) of making a blue box feel warm!

If you were to compare those two boxes to the cover of Volltreffer, you’d probably be surprised that they were by the same artist! It feels considerably more detailed than the other two, even though it keeps the trademark vibrancy and textures. 

More Americans will be introduced to Sai’s artwork in the next few days, with the release of 535 from Portland Game Collective (which I’m reviewing tomorrow).  

And those are just the covers! Her cards can be remarkably striking as well.  I’m not a great photographer, but check out these cards from Volltreffer, which are at the top of this post.  

The text is clear, but it is also easy to discern the suit, not only because of the color, but because of the caricature, and the accessibility symbol.  These cards are deeply functional. 

As a preview of a card for an upcoming game, Haggis, PGC was kind enough to let me use this image. Here, Sai has married a stained glass image with her trademark whimsical style, and the card is predictably both functional and attractive. 

So as we continue on with trick taking week, let’s celebrate all aspects of these games, including the fact that they contain numerous pieces of artwork that enrich the playing experiences.  Sai Beppu is among the best, and I look forward to seeing her in many games in the future!

Congratulations, Sai, on becoming such a force within the trick-taking community. And thank you for all of your exceptional work on the trick-taking scene!

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1 Response to Trick-taking Week: The Artwork of Sai Beppu (Article by Chris Wray)

  1. Lee says:

    Heck yeah! Nice post Chris! I’ve said this so many times in so many places, but working with Sai while reimagining these PGC games has been a dream and an utter delight. Also that more US publishers (and any other country) need to get on board! She’s timely, very sweet, and has amazing ideas!

    Regarding art I have always said that when I walk into a boardgame store, many times I think about how I can’t believe that each box is done by (likely) different artists. It’s getting slightly better now in modern boardgaming. But with euros of days past?! Yawn. The first time I read through Sai’s credits I was utterly blown away! To think the same artist has so many voices and could fool me into believing during a game of “board-game-art-lineup” each piece was DEFINITELY a different artist?! Just wow! Such a talent. Thank you for featuring her. She deserves it so much!

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