ver·dant /ˈvərdnt/ adjective Of the bright green color of lush grass. Leafy. Flourishing.
Like nature itself, games based on the great outdoors can sometimes be difficult for colorblind gamers to navigate. As a reviewer focused on color vision, and colorblind myself, I approach a game like Verdant with caution.
However, the Flatout Games crew has a history making colorful games accessible. From Calico to Cascadia, Point Salad to Truffle Shuffle, the design team, graphic artists, and illustrators consistently produce colorblind-friendly experiences. Verdant continues this pattern.
Designed by Molly, Aaron, Robert, Kevin, and Shawn, with illustrations by Beth Sobel, Verdant puts players in the role of interior decorator, collecting and arranging houseplants and other objects to create the coziest home.
Players select a combination of a card (plant or room) and token, then use those components to build a tableau of cards representing their house. Matching light conditions and using items like fertilizer allow players to grow and pot their plants for end-game victory points. Furniture and pets added to the rooms provide more scoring opportunities.
In a now-classic Flatout Games style, Verdant provides several ways to score, leading to interesting, brain-burning decisions. In limited play so far, I’ve enjoyed solo mode the most; I can study the table as long as I want each turn without holding up others. In multi-player games, analysis paralysis could be an issue for some gamers, slowing down play.
The graphic design of Verdant leans on double-coding (and sometimes triple-coding) to help players easily distinguish game components. There is a question I ask to assess color vision accessibility: “Could I technically play this game in black-and-white?” While a greyscale version of Verdant might be less than ideal, even for colorblind players, it would be playable. This earns Verdant the Colorblind Games Seal of Approval (copyright pending).1
PLANT & ROOM CARDS
The designers and graphics artists use a vibrant 5-color palette to tell the story of Verdant, with each color representing a different type of plant and room color:
- Pink Succulent
- Dark Blue Foliage
- Light Blue Vining
- Red Unusual
- Yellow Flowering
I was able to distinguish the colors clearly, though this might not be the case for all colorblind players. This is where double-coding comes in. Each plant type has an icon to support the color, and each room reinforces the message with that same icon and a unique background design. The art reminds me of the styles used in two other colorful and colorblind-friendly games: Tussie Mussie and Calico.
Additionally, Light Condition (an important element in scoring) is handled by a set of easy-to-understand icons for Full Sun, Semi-Shade, and Shade.
Accessibility continues to the game components.
- Item Token backgrounds match the color and pattern of each room type.
- Verdancy Tokens are wooden leaves in two sizes: small, light green for 1 verdancy point; and larger, dark green for 3 verdancy points.
- Plant Pot Tokens come in four types, each a different color and shape. Additionally, three pots have a points icon on the back, so players can choose to place the pots with either the number-side (my preference) or the plain side face up.
- Nuture Items (Fertilizer, Hand Trowel, Watering Can) help grow plants during the game. This item type has a unique color, pattern, and art to distinguish it from the Item Tokens.
- Thumbs, representing a gardener’s “green thumb,” provide bonuses. The designers use several skin tones, which I love. But it also introduces potential confusion: non-identical components have the same value and use. I needed to double-check the rules to confirm how Thumbs worked.
It’s Not Easy Being Green. I had one more nitpick regarding the use of verdancy icons on the cards, scoring sheet, and player aids. Each of these uses the dark green leaf to represent a single verdancy point, even though that dark green token is associated with 3 verdancy points (see example below).
Like the thumbs, this issue is clearly explained in the rulebook, but it still bugged me, so I asked Shawn Stankewich about it. He described the team’s decision-making process and the competing needs they faced on this issue.
Yes, this was a lengthy debate among the Flatout Games team. Some argued the case that folks may get confused by the iconography, as you described. But the issue with using lighter green is that many spots include a white number on top of the verdancy icon (like on the plant cards), so using light green could introduce legibility issues.
We also decided that changing the icon for only these scoring elements could be confusing, since we’d chosen to stick with dark green on the cards. Since the rulebook clarifies the scoring, we think it’s safe from people playing incorrectly if they read the rules.
We also considered swapping light and dark, but it seemed to us that the more verdant something is, the darker green it would be, so that change didn’t fit the theme.
I found it interesting how one seemingly simple change can affect so many other parts of a game.
Having played the entire Flatout Games games library, Verdant might be my favorite. It’s a fun and beautiful continuation of the team’s light-to-medium weight, thinky tableau builders, and it is 100% colorblind friendly. Highly recommended.
Verdant will be available on Kickstarter in Fall 2021, and you can keep up with the team’s progress at the Flatout Games website.
Colorblind Games received a complementary pre-production copy of Verdant for this preview. The components and final art may change in the published version.
Image Credits: Flatout Games (first and last). Brian Chandler (all others).
1 Not really a thing.