Mariposas (designed by Elizabeth Hargrave, art by Indi Maverick and Matt Paquette, and published by AEG) combines movement and set collection to tell the story of monarch butterflies flying north from Mexico to the U.S. and Canada, reproducing, and offspring returning for the winter. It plays 2-5 in about an hour. I liked it a lot and recommend giving it a try!
Elizabeth a history of identifying colorblind-accessible needs during design and development, including changes to an original set-collection-by-color idea for Wingspan. With that in mind, I was still a little nervous when I first opened Mariposas. I was inundated with colors and concerned I might not be able to play without help. For example, these blue-or-maybe-violet components, map spaces, and card spots are apparently not the same color, nor do they connect directly to one another.
After my initial overwhelm (which is common for colorblind unboxers), I read through the rules, and the component and game board colors clarified quite a bit.
Double Coding. The main Mariposas map does a great job distinguishing the colors using a Morse code-style graphic element. This “stitched outline” is subtle enough that normal-color-vision players might not notice it, while providing enough detail for color identification.
I had not seen this specific type of double-coding before, so I asked Elizabeth to share more about the origin of this elegant feature.
“I requested that we add some texture or something to differentiate other than color, and the graphic designer, Matt Paquette, came up with the borders.”
Enter Matt, whose graphic design credits include Mystic Vale, Tiny Towns, and Ecos: First Continent. I asked him to share more about his approach to accessibility, and specifically about this solution.
“When I am working on games, I am particularly sensitive to vision issues. One reason for that might be because my Mum is nearly blind from macular degeneration. I’m constantly looking for ways to double or triple ‘encode’ information in games so players aren’t just relying on one cue.”
“The dot-dash idea came to me when I was working on an exhibition at a museum. We had to find a way to show the charted courses of several ships without them getting confused with one another. We ended up relying on a similar dot-dash pattern to do this and it worked beautifully.”
Object Permanence. Another aspect of design that helps colorblind gamers is permanence. We often use our memory to mitigate color vision deficiencies. Unlike some games with modular boards or a tile-laying mechanic, the Mariposas map never changes. During my first game, I learned where the orange sections are, which will help in all future games.
Ideas for Enhancement
While Mariposas continues the dot-dash design on Season cards, the hexagons are a lot smaller and lack additional emphasis on the outside stitching. At this size I could not easily distinguish the colors. To address this, I replicated the stitching code along the outside of part of each colored hex. Only 10 cards required this addition, and once completed I was all set!
Flower Power. Without knowing the names of the flowers on each token, we reverted to flower colors for identification, which was problematic for me. The rule book does the same. For example, when defining the East Coast in Mariposas, the rules describe that it, “…runs from the blue space with 2 white flowers…to the green space adjacent to Quebec with 2 purple flowers.”
So I went to the source, and Elizabeth came through again to help me identify each flower, as she shared here.
Overall, I am impressed with the use of color in Mariposas, and I’m grateful that the team took the time to incorporated colorblind-accessible features in the game. I recommend this game for colorblind players, and if you purchase it, consider minor modifications to enhance its accessibility.