Welcome to your own boba tea shop!
Boba Mahjong, designed by Ta-Te Wu and published by Sunrise Tornado Game Studio, is a 2-player rummy-style card game with a clever scoring system and beautiful art by fuwa. Each player collects ingredients to make their boba drink and then earns points based on its freshness, smoothness, complexity, and presentation.
This was my first Sunrise Tornado game, and at first glance I thought it would be a simple, toddler-friendly, cute experience: making a few color and number matches, putting them into piles, checking Twitter between turns…
It was not.
The twist in Boba Mahjong is the second-level scoring. The collected sets themselves do not score points. Rather, after creating a set (like a straight or 3-of-a-kind), players choose only one of those cards to keep as an ingredient in their tableau. This will be part of the actual end-round scoring as players craft their tea from the ingredients.
Careful planning is required, and the “best set” on a given turn might not help a player’s score. I was pleasantly surprised with how thinky this game turned out to be. It reminded me two others that start cute, then burn my brain: the Kevin Russ-designed Calico and Emma Larkin‘s Abandon All Artichokes.
Boba Mahjong includes cards of four different color-based suits, along with Topping cards of a fifth color. I could distinguish most of the cards by color, except for Thai Tea (orangey-yellow, I think) and Green Tea (green, unless Ta-Te is a colorblind-hating monster [he’s not]).
Boba Mahjong receives the Colorblind Games Seal of Approval by using triple-coding to distinguish cards: Color, Iconography, and Words! As you can see, each type of tea is a different color, and also a different cup shape, and also the name of the type/suit is included on the top and bottom of the card.
If I had one suggestion, it would be to change the patterns on the cards a little more; switching the diagonal banding on either Thai or Green to vertical or horizontal, or making the stripes narrower, would’ve helped those to be distinguished even more. I like that Strawberry has a dotted pattern on the cup that’s different from the others.
Games are never accessible by accident, and this is the case with Boba Mahjong. Ta-Te shared his approach to accessibility with me:
“Colorblind accessibility is always part of my game design and development process. I make sure every suit has a unique icon and include multiple colors and titles if possible. Also, I am trying to choose specific player colors that will be helpful to colorblind players.”
I found Boba Mahjong quite enjoyable, and a deeper experience than I’d expected based on the small box and cute art. I’m thrilled to recommend it as 100% colorblind-friendly, 2-player game that’s easy to take with you anywhere!
Boba Mahjong will be available on Kickstarter in Summer 2021. Go to the Sunrise Tornado website for details!
Colorblind Games received a complementary pre-production copy of Bob Mahjong for this preview. The components and final art may change in the final published version.