Colorblind Kudos: Dungeon Ball

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As a colorblind gamer, I often start my visit to a Kickstarter board game campaign by asking this question: “Can I even play this?”

Often, the answer is no.

My first look at Dungeon Ball on Kickstarter didn’t go well. The reds and greens were problematic from the start, and I did not see a simple colorblind modification to solve the problem. While I liked the theme and have enjoyed Gabe Barrett’s work, with so many games on the market and a limited gaming budget, I simply wasn’t in the mood to do the extra work.

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Then this happened.

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Gabe and his graphic designer listened to feedback, identified the need, and made a change to their color palette during the middle of the campaign. From Gabe’s Kickstarter Updates:

One thing I realized recently is that Dungeon Ball isn’t particularly colorblind-friendly because of its heavy use of red and green in the play selection process. So, I talked with Drew, the graphic designer, and he’s going to update the colors for the final version of the game to make everything more accessible. Below, you can see where we’re headed.

I want as many people as possible to be able to enjoy the game, and hopefully this will help with that.

It’s a significant improvement over the original version, switching to new versions or red and green that stand out much better from each other while maintaining the feel of the original artistic vision.

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I appreciate Gabe and Drew for their efforts to improve accessibility – especially during the middle of a campaign. See the Dungeon Ball Kickstarter campaign page to back this project!

Gabe Barrett is a long-time supporter of game designers through his podcast and other resources at Board Game Design Lab and on Twitter.

Image Credits: Gabe Barrett

Selling Colorblind Accessibility?

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Today, the latest Board Game Design Lab podcast episode started with the following ad:

“This week’s episode is sponsored by Weird Giraffe Games, whose game Big Easy Busking is on Kickstarter right now!”

It continued with the normal stuff: theme, gameplay, etc.  Then this:

“Big Easy Busking is easy to teach, has vibrant art, and graphic design that is colorblind friendly…”

What? An ad read that includes colorblind accessibility as a selling point? A recognition that a potential backer who is colorblind might see the vibrant art and have concerns about playability? I followed up with Carla Kopp, who shared Weird Giraffe’s approach to color vision deficiency in game design and publishing:

“I try to make all my games colorblind friendly, as it’s super nice for colorblind people, but it’s also great for everyone else… Less ‘not fun times’ should mean the entire experience is more fun.”

This extra effort sold at least one more copy of their game – to me. I’m excited to follow the progress of Big Easy Busking on Kickstarter and play it soon!

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Image Credits: Weird Giraffe Games

Colorblind Review: Sagrada

I get by with a little help from my friends. 

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Short version: Sagrada was impossible for me to play out of the box without colorblind accessibility add-ons and assistance from other players.

The game: Sagrada is a basic dice placement game with a stained glass window theme. If you haven’t played, read or watch a review, then come back.

The colors: I had the most trouble distinguishing the blue and purple dice. Red and green weren’t as problematic, because in the version I played they were pretty much “Crayola Red” and “Crayola Green.” Of course, your experience will vary.

The game board itself was equally tricky, especially for blue and purple.

Help!: The solutions I used were threefold. First, when choosing a game board I self-limited to one with very few blue or purple squares. Second, my friend Chad (follow him at Cast Iron Game Lab and Twitter) created this add-on that made a huge difference. After each roll we simply sorted the dice by color (elapsed time: 3 seconds) and continued from there. That little piece of paper literally changed my Sagrada experience from unplayable to playable.

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Third, I asked other players to remind me what I was looking at on my board. Since I avoided blue and purple at the front end, I didn’t need this help too often. I tried to not purposely avoid those colors during play, but I’m sure I sometimes did so I wouldn’t have to ask for help as often.

After a few friendly games at work, I went “next level” later in the month, playing in a Sagrada tournament at my LFGS, Blue Highway Games. I brought my paper-boxes tool and asked players to support my needs, which they were happy to do. I was a bit more apprehensive to ask about my board throughout each match, but I still requested help as needed.

I did not win the tournament, but I also did not feel out of place. I was proud to participate in a color-based board game event and grateful for the support from the gaming community.

The verdict: Sagrada can be enjoyable with a friendly group of gamers, particularly those who know you and your needs. It could elicit anxiety if you’re uncomfortable sharing your color vision deficiency.  I know sometimes I am.

The fix: This one is a little tricky. Of course, I managed with the dice-color-boxes and help from other players.  If I owned a copy I could change the purple dice’s pips from white to black, write color names on every square, and/or switch blue and purple dice to black and white. These would solve the playability issues, but at the cost of immersion. I think there is an opportunity to design more elegant solutions that support accessible play while maintaining theme.

Image credits. Top: Floodgate Games.  Bottom: Brian Chandler

Colorblind Review: Splendor

Rubies are red, sapphires are blue…

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I recently played Splendor on PC, based on the engine-building board game from Asmodee. The objective is to collect gemstones to purchase developments and lure visiting nobles to earn “prestige.” The game is engaging, and on PC I liked that up to three AI opponents can be configured by type, like balanced and opportunistic.

The gems themselves are distinguishable by both color and shape, and even the red rubies and green emeralds are “ok-ish” for me. The primary problem I had was with the cards. The placement of colored shapes to indicate gemstones is not consistent, so only color distinguishes them. I personally struggled with green and red, in particular.

The bottom-row counter has the same issue, but it’s less problematic because the order stays the same and generally matches the placement of the gemstones: Top-to-Bottom gems equates to Right-to-Left placement on the screen.  However, I did still mistakenly grab rubies instead of emeralds, and vice versa.

As I started brainstorming ideas to work around the problem, I discovered that it’s already been fixed! The updated version of the tabletop game has been modified with gemstone icons next to each circle or square on the cards. It’s an elegant solution that maintains the game’s theme.

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Have you played Splendor yet, and if so have you run into any accessibility issues?

Top Image Credit: Steam          Bottom Image Credit: The Board Game Family

Author’s Intent

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My intention and hope for Colorblind Games is to share stories of color vision deficient gamers, designers, developers and publishers – including my own. Look for colorblind-focused reviews, essays, and interviews, along with after-market ideas to help us play “color-required” games.

 

 

Image Credit: m_hamberg via Board Game Geek. “Through the Desert” published by Z-Man Games