There are often moments on podcasts where the hosts are discussing cards and take 5 minutes to gush over the art on an audio podcast. While that format doesn’t work well with art, I’m happy that the blog format of this site works a lot better. So let me take this time to highlight some of the game’s best artists that have provided art for the player cards and encounter cards over the years. Some of these artists were obvious to pick, but I also reached out to the community and asked them for some more input. Art is subjective after all, so I wanted to share more artists than I would have selected on my own. The following list of artists is not complete though, as there are many that have provided a ton of art, but I couldn’t feature here due to time constraints. I have made a list of recommendations at the end, but I implore you to go to the Hall of Beorn, and just select and artist from the dropdown list and you can look at their amazing portfolio’s.
Let’s start this list with one of the most recognizable artists for this game. Magali is an artist that has provided art for many games before, most notably Magic: the Gathering, but for a few years, she has also provided a lot of art for LOTR LCG. And I do mean A LOT. A total of 24 unique heroes in this game have received art from her, which includes Hobbits like both Baggins sphere Bilbo‘s, Rohan heroes like Tactics Theoden, Tactics Eomer, Tactics Eowyn, and Hama. But her most renowned art is that of the many elves (both Noldor and Silvan) that have been drawn up. Examples are Spirit Glorfindel, Arwen, Elrond, Galadriel, etc. It will be rare to have a 4 player game with nobody bringing any Magali heroes to the table.
Even beyond just the large amount of hero cards, many other player cards have been illustrated by her. Many of these cards are staples in the card pool, including Elven-light, Foe-hammer, Resourceful, Arwen ally, and A Very Good Tale. In truth, I think you can get a Magali art deck going without sacrificing too much in consistency. In fact, there are folks that have done that already: https://ringsdb.com/decklist/view/17612/oopsallmagali-1.0. This doesn’t mean all cards illustrated by her are top-tier, as cards like Spirit Pippin, Trained for War, and ally Denethor are hers as well. But at least those cards are pretty to look at while they are in the binder.
Encounter cards were also done by her, at least during the Hobbit saga, early LOTR saga, NM Core Set scenarios, Dwarrowdelf cycle, and Against the Shadow cycle. This features some stunning pieces like the Arwen objective during Redhorn Gate and even the Balrog art for Shadow and Flame. And if you ever attempt to beat NM Escape from Dol Guldur, you’ll be happy to know that some Magali cards can lead to a swift reset.
In recent years, the contract with FFG has halted, which did mean that less Magali art made it into the card pool. But FFG did save some art pieces for later cycles, including Thranduil, Song of Healing, and the GenCon 2019 playmat of Bilbo and Gollum (yes, the art was reused from a quest card in the Hobbit Saga, but it’s nice to see the mat unobstructed by Riddle mechanics).
Magali also sells quite a lot of her artwork, including some pieces of LOTR LCG art. I myself have bought the Gaining Strength art last year, which now hangs in my kitchen. It is wonderful to see these images outside of the restrictions of card borders, and you can really appreciate the detail in them once you have a large print of your favorite piece! For a link to her webshop, go here.
While Owen hasn’t produced as much art for this game as some other artists, he does deserve some special mention here. He has produced art for this game since the Against the Shadow cycle with cards like Gondorian Shield, up till the end of the Haradrim cycle. He makes nice use of colors for his backgrounds, which can sometimes make a card look like it was just made with black+white+1 color, like the Sailor of Lune.
His art goes beyond just providing for the game, he has also provided art for the community outside of the game. Cardboard of the Rings has made him do two pieces of art for their yearly loot. The first (COTR Loot 2018) was the three-panel piece that depicts Grimbeorn’s stand against the Trolls in Conflict at the Carrock. This was printed on 3 deckboxes by the COTR crew and sits atop my shelf for the game. The year after, Owen did a piece for the COTR staging area mat, depicting the Hobbits returning to the Shire under Sharkey’s rule. I use this mat to this day, so I get to stare at the art a lot.
But that is not all the art from Owen that I own, as I also won a print of his art for the Mithlond Sea-watcher during Con of the Rings 2019. This is now displayed over my dining room table, so that I can appreciate the nice sunset art. I don’t play the ally itself very often (does anyone?) so at least I get to look at the art this way.
Aleksander has been providing art for the game from the Black Riders box onward, but really started to illustrate cards during the Dream-chaser cycle. Since then, he has been a reliable source of amazing art, even providing all the art for the Spirit sphere cards in Fortress of Nurn (yes, this includes Spirit Aragorn, we’ll get to that later). When Caleb Grace, lead designer of the game, worked for 5 years at FFG, he selected Aleksander to do his artwork for the self-portrait in the form of the Thalion ally in Fire in the Night.
Several pieces of his art have also been turned into the art on the promotional cards during the Vengeance of Mordor cycle, so players get a better look at the art. One criticism that did come up during the poll is that his art puts some people off by depicting some characters as more Eastern-European than some might imagine the characters looking like. I personally do not mind this, as these characters are fictional, and so the artist is free to interpret the characters as they want. Some people just have different expectations based on the movies or their own mindset, and that’s fine. But let the artists decide how they envision the characters, and leave it at that.
Everyone with a Core Set has seen Ben’s art, as he has illustrated a ton of the locations and quest cards you will find in that box. Ben does a lot of the location art, not featuring as many characters as the previous artists do. But the ambience in the art makes travelling through Middle Earth a feast for the eyes. He has illustrated some player cards as well, especially those depicting larger environment set pieces, like Strider’s Path, Dawn Take You All, and To the Eyrie.
Most of his art depicts forests, and I love the way that he uses lighting in those pieces to make the locations feel lived in. He has also done some Underground art for the Dwarrowdelf cycle, and even done some of the locations in the Ringmaker cycle. Some of the art pieces have also been featured in Massing at Osgiliath, and even as late as A Storm on Cobas Haven. Those with the promo cards for Escape from Khazad-Dum will also own a more extended piece of his art, which is the final quest card from Into the Pit.
Ilich has been providing art for the game for a very long time. The earliest works were in the Return to Mirkwood AP, with cards like Rumour from the Earth and Support of the Eagles. This has continued all the way to the Shadow in the East Deluxe box, with the Lost in the Dark side-quest. There are some amazing pieces in between these expansions, including the Na’asiyah art for the enemy/objective ally, the Ithilien Lookout (who is properly wearing his mask, good for him!), and Dragon-spell, which conveys a sense of madness that really matches the feeling I got when reading the Hobbit.
My personal favorite is a Nightmare card that really looks like it was taken from a nightmare of someone. Mince them Fine is a card from the Over Hill and Under Hill Nightmare pack, and is one of the cards you really want to avoid when playing that scenario. To match the horrible effects, the art is a really unnerving close up of a Troll eating. I really appreciate this art for some reason, though I do not want to see the treachery it is on pop up too often.
If you have drawn the art for two of the Deluxe boxes, you really deserve a spot on this list, even if you don’t have as long a list of contributed art as some others on this list. Matt has done the box art for the Voice of Isengard and the Lost Realm Deluxe sets, and that art has been used in some cards as well. The Voice of Isengard piece is used for Legacy of Numenor, Grima, and ally Saruman, and the Lost Realm art is reused in a side-quest.
Beyond that, Matt has also done the art for Hero Gandalf, and some various encounter cards during the Dream-chaser and the Wilds of Rhovanion cycles. I have the two Deluxe boxes on display in my game room along with the other boxes. The Gandalf art was also repurposed on a playmat in 2018, so players get to see his art some more like that as well.
I did mention that if you have done more than one of the box covers, you deserve a spot on this list. Well, Chris has done nearly all of them! Really, he is the one that FFG turns to if they need box art for the Saga boxes. Not only has he done all of the art for the Hobbit Saga boxes (both OHaUH and On the Doorstep), but he has also done all of the Saga boxes from the Lord of the Rings Saga except the Treason of Saruman.
Since the art on the box is often reused on cards in the box itself, Chris has also supplied the art for some of the player, quest, and encounter cards. Sterner than Steel and ally Boromir are take from the same art, so people will be using cards with his art a lot. Since four of the box arts have also been used for playmats (OHaUH, On the Doorstep, Black Riders (2014), Flame of the West (2016), players also get to appreciate his art in full while playing. It is almost a shame that we didn’t get more Saga boxes, else we would have gotten more of his art.
This artist has done some stunning pieces for the game, not least the Battle of Helm’s Deep with Gimli and Legolas that was used for both the alt arts for the Tactics version of both heroes, but was also the art featured on the playmat for the Fellowship event of 2015. This wasn’t even his first alt art piece, as he has also made the famous pom-pom Aragorn, who was the first ever alt art hero in the early life of the game. Sebastian has also done the art for other staple heroes like Haldir, Fatty Bolger, and Erkenbrand.
Beyond heroes and playmats, his art can also be found on enemies like Saruman (Road to Isengard), treacheries like Lust For Treasure (NM Lonely Mountain), and on several cards from the Road Darkens Saga box. Ally Galadriel and Ally Bilbo are his as well. There is a lot of quality to be seen in these pieces of art, and they really stand out to me. But I will say that the Helm’s Deep art is still my favorite.
John Howe should be a household name for any LOTR fan, as he has done a lot of illustrations for the Lord of the Rings books and the many other Tolkien works. He has also worked with Alan Lee on both movie adaptations of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and his art really captures what Middle Earth must have looked like. The game only features one piece of art from him, but thanks to cropping that art, it is featured on three different cards. The one that people will run into most will be the Elf Guide event, which also depicts the entire piece of art. The Black Rider is cropped and reused during the Wizard’s Quest, and the tree next to him is reused in The Oath.
We owe a lot to John Howe, and I will recommend you to pick up one of his books to see his art fully featured. I could not help but include him on this list, as he must have been an inspiration for so many other artists that have worked on this game.
While I will leave the list to be this long, it does not mean that there aren’t other artists that you cannot enjoy. There were several recommended to me in the poll, but due to time constraints and me not wanting to say “See this art, it’s good art!” over and over again, I won’t go into depth on the rest. I will briefly mention the other artists in a list, along with some of my favorite art by them. You can check out their entire portfolio for the game using Hall of Beorn, and then selecting the artist.
- Imad Awan: Ulchor’s Revenge, Black Sails, A Perilous Voyage
- Alexander Dainche: Sam, Merry, and Pippin from the Black Riders Saga box
- Ryan Valle: Kahliel, Leadership Eomer, Wainrider Champion
- John Stanko: Leadership Aragorn, Spirit Frodo, Chieftain of the Pit
- Kim Sokol: Eldahir, Defender of Cair Andros, Serpent Guard
- Kamila Szutenberg: Gúthwinë, City Guard, Minas Tirith
- David Nash: Fellowship Aragorn (Mountain of Fire), Pelargir Shipwright, Yazan, Winged Guardian
- Monztre: Quicker than Sight, Raider of the Storm, Jailer of Cirith Gurat
- Lucas Graciano: Core Set Gandalf, Radagast’s Cunning