Colorblind Preview: Agropolis

Life on the farm.

We received a complementary prototype copy of Agropolis from Buttonshy Games for this preview. Some game elements may change in the final version. Final color correction is not complete, so all comments related to color refer exclusively to the pre-published prototype.

During the day I work as a traffic engineer and transportation planner in Seattle. In my spare time I play tabletop games. Sprawlopolis is a clever combination of my day job and my hobby, asking players to build a new city from the ground up.

I am terrible at Sprawlopolis. And I can’t stop playing it.

Agropolis ruralizes the Sprawlopolis theme, sticks close to the tile-laying puzzle formula, and adds new tweaks and features. I grew up in a small town in Missouri, surrounded by farm culture, so I had high hopes I could leverage my roots for success this time around.

I am equally terrible at Agropolis. I can’t stop playing it.


Buttonshy Games have spent the past few years perfecting 18-card wallet games. From Avignon to Antimony, Turbo Drift to Tussie Mussie, their games offer big fun in a small package. I keep a Buttonshy game in my backpack at all times, ready for a lunch break, airport layover, or other unexpected moment to play.

With such severe design constraints, ensuring accessibility can be challenging. Jason Tagmire shared the company’s efforts to include colorblind players during design and development of all their games. “With 18 cards, everything can be tighter than normal, and color palettes often lean towards thematic over mechanic, but we always have it in mind.”

Sprawlopolis and Agropolis use color to distinguish the zone types. Sprawlopolis introduced the first four zones and their colors: orange Residential, green Parks, blue Commercial, and grey Industrial. Agropolis keeps the same pattern, introducing four new zones (with four associated new colors) to the mix: yellow, red, brown, and purple representing Cornfields, Orchards, Livestock, and Vineyards.

From left to right: Sample cards from Sprawlopolis, Combo Pack, and Agropolis
Slider: left side normal; right side “green-weak” color vision (simulated)

Since color is vital to solving the series’ puzzles, art design is equally important for colorblind gamers to even attempt this game. I struggle to distinguish the eight different colors, so I rely on other clues added to the cards so color is not the only distinguisher: “We usually try to double code as much as possible, and in Agropolois everything is double coded.”

These design choices and Danny Devine‘s artwork provide me the additional information I need to navigate some of the trickiest combinations:

  • Sprawlopolis Parks (green) and Agropolis Livestock (brown) blocks never have a road running through them, which helps distinguish them from Residential (orange) and Orchards (red), among others.
  • All Parks (green) have trees, but no animals. All Livestock (brown) have animals, but no trees.
  • Every Cornfield (yellow) has a silo. Industrial (grey) blocks include smoke stacks.
  • Residential (orange) buildings are squares and rectangles. Commercial (blue) ones are multi-polygonal.
  • Orchards (red) include orthogonally-placed trees. Vineyards show vines planted diagonally.

Jason described it this way: “There are visual non-color elements in each type of block, just like Sprawlopolis. It’s not as fast as the color identification but it’s there.”

This has been my experience. When I play Sprawlopolis or Agropolis with others, I’m the slow player at the table. This might be simple analysis paralysis, but it may also include my brain needing a little extra time to process the current board state. That said, I’m truly enjoying Agropolis and highly recommend it – especially if you already enjoy Sprawlopolis.

Agropolis launches on Kickstarter September 29. The Kickstarter offer of this stand-alone game will include a free combo pack – 6 cards to add if you have both Sprawlopolis and Agropolis for a combo experience.

Agropolis is designed by Steven Aramini and Danny Devine with artwork by Danny Devine. The Combo Pack is designed by Steven Aramini, Danny Devine, and Jason Tagmire with artwork by Danny Devine. Agropolis is published by Buttonshy Games.

Image Credits (top to bottom): Jason Tagmire; Brian Chandler (slider via Pilestone); Brian Chandler.

Colorblind Preview: Cascadia

Eternal Blue. Forever Green.

In Cascadia, players place habitat tiles and wildlife tokens to create their own corner of the Pacific Northwest. Each ecosystem is scored based on each animal’s spatial preferences and the size of contiguous habitats. Cascadia is a quick-to-learn, quick-to-play tile layer that elicits the question, “One more game”?

Board games with natural themes rely on the colors of nature – warm browns, reds, and yellows; cool greens and blues. These real-world hues can be challenging for colorblind gamers, so designers and publishers must take care when bringing the great outdoors to the table.

Cascadia continues a lineage of nature-themed games that handle colorblind accessibility well, and designer Randy Flynn described how he considered this balance during design and development:

“For Cascadia, we wanted the player’s final environment to look like a beautiful section of land. [Beth Sobel‘s] artwork really shines, and we wanted players to see it and imagine an actual landscape. We also wanted to ensure the game was accessible to as many people as possible.”

Cascadia will likely be compared with Flatout Games‘ 2019 hit, Calico. Each is a pick-one-place-one tile layer, and both games elegantly balance art, graphic design, and accessibility. “Like Calico, we were really focused on trying to have an accessible experience while also creating a harmonious color palette,” Shawn Stankewich shared.

While Calico relied on double-coding to help players distinguish colors, Randy described a different approach to balancing Cascadia’s art design with accessibility.

“We didn’t want to use the same solution that Calico used, where it put the button icons on every tile. We felt that would distract from the gorgeous landscape. Instead, we worked with Beth to make sure the patterns for the habitat tile art were unique enough on their own that the different habitats were distinct.”

As the team iterated, Shawn described one more tweak to the tiles. “At one point the wetlands and prairies were too close in texture [for colorblind gamers], so we modified so they would be more easily distinguishable.”

Randy also addressed his approach to the wildlife tokens. “We had a lot of color combinations we needed to work well together. In this case we largely rely on the unique wildlife icons to stand out and be unique.”

The end result is a fantastic game where color supports immersion but is not required for gameplay. You could play Cascadia in black-and-white, which reflects the team’s commitment to colorblind accessibility. But you wouldn’t want to, which is a testament to its beauty. I’ve had a great time playing so far, and I highly recommend getting your hands on Cascadia!

Cascadia launches on Kickstarter September 15.

You can follow Randy Flynn on Twitter at rf_seattle. Reach out to Flatout Games on Twitter, Instagram, or their website.

Note: Colorblind Games received a complementary review copy of Cascadia for this preview. The components and final art may change in the final published version.

Images provided by Flatout Games and Randy Flynn