The Eleven Artists: Ian O’Toole

We’ve reached the seventh post in my Eleven artists series, and this time we’re looking at

image from Kickstarter project for Lisboa

Ian O’Toole is an Australian illustrator who is perhaps best known for his work on the games of Vital Lacerda.  He’s relatively new on the scene, with his first credited art coming from 2013, but he has made an impact in a fairly short time.  Let’s take a look at some of his art.

image by BGG user BrettBrimmer

As far as I can tell, O’Toole’s first illustrated game was Mage Tower, which came out in 2013 from designer Brett Brimmer and published by Super Mega Games.  It’s a tower defense game where you first build a deck, then fight waves of monsters.  The game does not look very interesting to me – the combination between collectible card game mechanisms and tower defense aren’t really appealing – but we’re here to talk about art.

collage of images by BGG user BrettBrimmer

This is a game I knew nothing about prior to putting together this list.  What really strikes me about these cards is just how much they look like Magic cards.  You can see hints of what I consider to be O’Toole’s signature style however – his stuff tends to have a very classic look to it, and you can see that especially with the Harpy and the Knockback cards.  That Skeletal Apprentice looks quite strange to me.

image by BGG user Ianotoole

Fool’s Gold came out in 2015 from designer Joshua Ballin and published jointly by Rock Paper Scissors Games and Passport Game Studios.  The game is set during the California Gold Rush of 1849, and players are trying to find gold in them thar hills.  Prospectors will be going to different locations to find gold – however, the more you find, the less will be available in future rounds.  And of course, there’s Ian O’Toole art:

image by BGG user Ianotoole

I like the old style look of this board.  It gives a sense of the setting and time period without distracting too much from the simple tracks leading to the different locations.  I had heard about this game before, but didn’t really know much about it.  Looks interesting.

image by BGG user newrev

The Gallerist marked the first collaboration between O’Toole and Vital Lacerda.  This 2015 game from Eagle-Gryphon was all about building an art museum.  It’s a worker placement game where players are going around, discovering artists, buying art, selling art, and in general just trying to have the best art gallery.  It’s a Vital Lacerda game, which means it’s very in depth with a lot of moving parts, but we’re here to look at the art:

image by BGG user nunovix

The graphic design on this board is very clean, with the players art galleries in the center and various tracks around the edges.  It’s a pretty cool looking game board that gives you a sense of exactly what kind of game this is.  And I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t have an image showing some of the art in this game about art:

image by BGG user vardamir

Good stuff.

image by BGG user Ianotoole

A Study in Emerald, from Martin Wallace and Treefrog Games, originally came out in 2013 with art by Anne Stokes.  For the 2015 second edition, Ian O’Toole got the job.  The game is based off a Neil Gaiman short story that was kind of a mashup between the Sherlock Holmes stories and the Cthulhu mythos.  Players are on one side or the other – either they want to restore humanity to its former glory, or they are loyal to the Great Old Ones who currently rule the earth.  There are lots of characters and monsters in the game, but let’s take a look at the board:

image by BGG user TheRocketSurgeon

This is a great looking board.  All of the cities have their own spot and illustration, and the board is appropriately surrounded by tentacles.  It’s a very distinct look, something I’ve come to expect from O’Toole art.

image by BGG user stooge

StarFall is a 2016 game from designer Scott Almes and published by IDW.  It’s a set collection game where you’re observing the night sky and trying to collect different groupings of heavenly bodies.  Different things give you different amounts of points.  And of course, it’s got some nice art:

image by BGG user the review board

There aren’t enough games about the night sky, and I love the look of the board here.  The symbols on the tiles are fine, but the real centerpiece is that board.  It’s a good looking game that I didn’t know anything about, but now want to play.

image by BGG user newrev

Vinhos (Vital Lacerda, Eagle-Gryphon Games) originally came out in 2010 from publishers What’s Your Game? and featuring art by Mariano Iannelli.  The Deluxe version came from Eagle-Gryphon in 2016 featuring redone art from Ian O’Toole.  This is a game that is all about making wine.  The game takes place over six years, and during that time, you’ll be cultivating vines, choosing the best varieties, hiring winemakers, going to trade fairs, and in general just trying to make the best wine out there.  Let’s look at the art:

image by BGG user newrev

The board here looks very functional, but there’s not a lot in the way of spectacular art.  It looks nice, but with more of an emphasis on all the tracks than really trying to get a feel for the theme.  At least, that’s the way it seems to me.  I’ve never been terribly interested in playing this one because of the theme, but I do hear good things.

image by BGG user newrev

Lisboa was the 2017 offering from Vital Lacerda and Eagle-Gryphon Games.  It’s all about rebuilding the city of Lisbon, Portugal after a devastating earthquake in 1755.  It’s a very simple game – play a card, then draw a card.  Of course, the card you play has lots of cascading effects that lead to a very deep game, but let’s not talk about those now.  How does the game look?

image by BGG user newrev

Blue.  It looks blue.  That being said, it also has that nice classic look to it that I like so much from Ian O’Toole’s art.  There is a LOT of stuff going on on this board, but everything is cleanly laid out and very well designed graphically, so kudos.

image by BGG user Alan Emrich

Nemo’s War first came out from designer Christ Taylor and publisher Victory Point Games in 2009 with art by Tim Allen.  In 2017, a second edition was released with new art from Ian O’Toole.  Originally a solo game, the second edition makes it a cooperative game for up to four players.  It’s based on the classic Jules Verne novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and follows the Nautilus as it explores the depths.  There are other ships you’ll encounter as you go:

image by BGG user Ianotoole

The level of detail here is pretty amazing.  Every ship has a different illustration.  And it all has that signature classic look from O’Toole.  Victory Point Games is not necessarily known for having great art in their products, but this one looks phenomenal.

image by BGG user Ianotoole

CO₂ is another Vital Lacerda game, this one originally published in 2012 with art by Paula Simonetti and Giacomo Tappainer.  Later this year, CO₂: Second Chance is coming out later this year with new art from Ian O’Toole (because he’s apparently now the go-to guy for your second editions).  The game has a pretty heavy theme – it’s set in a not-to-distant feature where pollution has become too prevalent to ignore anymore, and you’re trying to convert to green technology.  Let’s see how it looks:

image by BGG user newrev

This is a lot brighter and colorful than most of O’Toole’s work, but as it’s a Lacerda game, there’s also lots of tracks and spots on the board.  The original map has more of a modern earth look to it, but this one seems to be leaning more towards emphasizing global warming.  That would be my interpretation, anyway – it’s not one I’ve played.

image by BGG user newrev

Escape Plan is another Vital Lacerda project, one that should be going up on Kickstarter later this month.  The setting is right after a bank heist, where the crooks decide to split up now that the cops are locking down the city.  This game is based on classic heist movies, and I’m not exactly sure how it plays yet.  But there are some images of the game out there:

image by BGG user newrev

I’m seeing a bit of a modular setup, as well as some art that is clearly intended to evoke the same feel as games like Burgle Bros.  I don’t know how final all of this is, but I’m looking forward to seeing more.

image by BGG user bradbard

Victoriana is another game that should be coming out soon.  This one is by Benjamin Bailey and Brad Lawrence, and is to be published by Game’s Afoot.  It’s set in 19th century London, and players are trying to thwart a nefarious plot to destroy the realm.  I haven’t looked into gameplay, but given the setting, Ian O’Toole was a natural choice for the art:

image by BGG user mr40percent

I don’t know a lot about the game.  I know it’s running about a year late from its original August 2017 release date announced on the Kickstarter, and I know it’s very close to being finished.  But I also think it looks pretty cool and it would be something I’d like to check out.


That’s another artist in the books.  You can find out more about Ian O’Toole at his website.  Thanks for reading!

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