Author Archives: Risa Petrone

Making Board Games Accessible for Color Blind Players

It is estimated that over 300 million people worldwide live with some form of color blindness. There are various forms, from the most common deuteranomaly and protanomaly (commonly known as red-green color blindness) to tritanomaly, which makes blue shades less distinguishable. As we all are aware, color makes up a huge part of board game mechanics. If we want color blind players to enjoy playing games, it’s up to designers and publishers to make sure they are accessible.

I had a chat with Ruel Gaviola about his personal experiences playing board games while color blind, and it was a truly lovely and enlightening conversation. I thought my experience working colorblind accommodations into my classroom gave me a pretty strong foundation, which it did, but there is nothing quite like personal experience, and I was once again reminded of just how important it is to seek out that expertise.

We didn’t just talk about accommodations both common and uncommon, but also about favorite games, favorite gaming moments, and games that surprised him by being a lot more accessible than expected. Here are some fundamental insights:

Some basic accommodations that most games already use:

-Match each color with a symbol

This one is pretty straightforward: if you divide something by color, each color will have a corresponding symbol. As this is arguably the most popular accommodation, you can see this in tons of games, including Ticket to RideLanterns, and Calliope games such as Everyone Loves a Parade and Ancestree. For games light on theming, or games that incorporate this accommodation directly into their game mechanics, it’s barely noticeable for those who don’t need it, but highly appreciated by those who do. It is a simple but highly beneficial adjustment that ensures no matter how similar your colors are, all players will be able to tell the difference between sets. 

-Make the meeples/pieces different shapes

Similar to the color/symbol accommodation, if you have physical components that are different colors and need to be distinguishable, make them different shapes! You can see this in Tsuro Phoenix Rising with the three lantern colors: each color has a different design both in the drawings and the pieces that go on the board. The Mansky Caper has player standees that have distinct artwork and strike different poses, allowing players to locate their piece with more ease than colored pawns of the same shape.

-Don’t require color distinction in the first place 

This of course won’t work with every game out there, but for certain types of games, particularly party or word-heavy games like Hive Mind, or games that don’t require color grouping/distinguishing like Double Double Dominoes, the easiest accommodation is to make it so one simply isn’t necessary! For ShipShape, the different pieces you can collect (contraband, cannons, treasure) all have different symbols to indicate them, and while they are different colors, that’s simply because cannons are black, treasure is gold etc. You’re not trying to collect a certain amount of red cannons versus green cannons. 

These considerations carry a bonus: they are useful not just for players who are colorblind, but also for players of varying ages, language skills, and learning styles. Everyone benefits from having multiple methods of component distinction. For instance, I play games with my partner all the time, and we are VERY different players. He is a visual learner and immediately looks for pictures and symbols, while I read quickly so I look for words. We both do well with Spymaster because each type of card (Surveillance, Blueprint, Espionage, Dossier) have a corresponding color and symbol (which work for him), and the full card type written on them (which works for me). So what is an effective accommodation for colorblind players is actually a successful type of accommodation for multiple types of players. As game designers and creators, we want to make sure we have the highest amount of accessibility possible. There’s no downside to making these changes.

During my chat with Ruel, he gave three recommendations that were succinct and measurable:

1. Start Early. 

If you’re designing a new board game, it is 1000 times easier to work colorblind adjustments into the design than it is to put them in later. This is especially important when it comes to theming: if you know your game’s theme is going to result in a lot of similar colors, then you’re already aware you will need to do something to incorporate symbols or shapes to help distinguish those colors, and you can make those shapes theme-appropriate as well. 

2. Get Playtesters who are Colorblind.

Even if you’ve worked colorblind considerations into your game, sometimes you miss something, especially if you are not personally colorblind, or have only thought about one specific type of colorblindness. There are apps, websites, and lenses you can use to simulate it, but at the end of the day the people with the most experience are the people who live their lives this way. 

3. Think of it as a Challenge.

This was my favorite piece of advice Ruel had. He told me a story about chatting with a game designer friend of his and saying he basically dared him to put as much colorblind inclusion into the game as possible. Extra points if they feel truly integrated. He said the friend leapt at the challenge. It’s such a great idea! Designers love puzzles, and they love making their minds work! When he told me that, my heart swelled. What a smart idea.

There’s a lot of work to be done as a game designer. But thinking of creating colorblind accessibility as just another task to check off, same as “how does a play win?” and “how do different player numbers affect gameplay?” means that it’s not an extra task. It’s not something to be thought of as, “great if we get to it but if we don’t, that’s fine”. It’s important that we consider accessibility as something vital to gameplay. In order for everyone to feel welcome at the table, we must make everyone feel comfortable at the table.


Ruel Gaviola is a writer, podcaster, live streamer, and voiceover narrator for all things board game related. His name rhymes with Superman’s Kryptonian name. You can check out his blog and his board game geek profile.

Why Everyone Loves A Parade

This is a guest article submitted by Matt Molandes. As Pride Month draws to a close, Calliope would like to extend our thoughts and love to our LGBTQ friends, and our thanks to Matt for so eloquently putting into words why we still march.

Imagine it.  You’re 8 years old, you can see your breath as it escapes your mouth in excitement. The sweat on your palms builds up as the anticipation for the parade grows. And then… the sirens begin. You peek out past the rope and see a cavalcade of beautiful colors and floats moving in the wind. You can faintly hear music as it inches closer to where you’re standing. 

This is it. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for.

Now imagine, you’re 22 years old. You can feel the nerves getting closer. A distant but direct voice announces, “5 minutes to places,” and you can feel the sweat build as you put your costume on. You’re breathing heavy but with each step you find your stride to the upbeat music, and with a loud applause, people are cheering for you as you wave to them with modified sight. You dance to the beat and wave to the kids as you travel down the route pacing your breath. 

This is it. You can accomplish anything.

Now imagine, you’re 28 years old. You can feel the sweat drip on the back of your neck, it’s hot, and although there’s no shade in sight you continue to stand defiantly and quiet. Your other half squeezes your hand as you stare across at the other people standing. It’s silent and solemn and you see a cop car in the distance with sirens but no sound. Suddenly, 49 people with fabric wings flood the street and your heart sinks as you remember all too well just what this parade was for. And just like that, Pride becomes so much more important than before.

This is it. This is why parades matter.

The purpose of my writing is to highlight my time playing Everyone Loves a Parade by Mike Mulvihill, but before I do, I think it’s important for you all to understand why as a board game enthusiast I feel games have the ability to impact and reach people’s memories in ways not necessarily intended. So many emotions came back while playing this positively charismatic board game that to not mention my connection with the event would do its time at my table injustice. 

At the heart of Everyone Loves a Parade is a reminder to let go while still moving forward. It’s a bold stance to take that a game about balloons and streamers could invoke complexity, but don’t let it fool you. There are plenty of opportunities for strategy and heavy scoring, even if at times sometimes the best move is to just let what happens, happen. The game itself is paced perfectly and with each round, just like waiting for a parade, the anticipation builds to take riskier moves in order to score the most points. And appropriately, as the game progresses so does the parade that’s now filled with floats and decorations that stretches as far as the eye can see.

And just like a parade, this game is quickly over and serves as the perfect reminder to cherish those moments with those around the table and remember that everyone truly does love a parade.


Matt Molandes is a board game enthusiast and collector living in Orlando, FL with his fiancé Jon. He has worked in entertainment (including parades) for Walt Disney World, and is currently an escape room designer and store manager for Dare 2 Escape in Kissimmee, FL. You can find him on Instagram @lostmymeeples.

Roll it Forward

Hello Friends,

So, I guess Gen Con is cancelled.  At this point it kind of feels like just another cancellation in the long string of an empty con season. I don’t want to get sad here, and I don’t want you all to get sad either. But I think we’ll all agree this is very disappointing. So many of us live for con season, and even if we know we’re doing this for a good reason, it still stings. Understanding all those truths, it is absolutely the right thing for Gen Con to do. 

Lately we’ve seen a lot of focus on small businesses, and rightfully so. Small businesses have been hit particularly hard by this pandemic, and small businesses make up so very much of our industry. From publishers, to game stores, to independent authors, artists, and more, our entire way of life has been affected. I know it seems hard to believe, but Gen Con is also a small business. This entire event, well known around the globe as “the best 4 days in gaming,” is all organized and orchestrated by a very small group of dedicated individuals. This wonderful organization, and industry leader, without its’ primary source of income is surely in for an uphill battle planning for Gen Con 2021.

We have seen so many of you pay it forward. You #backthecomeback by shouting out and supporting your Favorite Local Game Store. You’ve backed Kickstarters even with limited income. You find the good and bring people together through online cons. You are all amazing and awe-inspiring! This situation we are all in is tough… really tough. However, if you can afford it, we highly recommend that you request Gen Con to roll your deposits for your booths/badges/etc. to next year. If you can’t, they’ll understand… But if you can, we know they will GREATLY appreciate it. 

We’re a fantastic team when we work together. Let’s keep that going and #rollitforward all the way to Gen Con 2021!

Thank you –

Ray Wehrs – Owner
and
Team Calliope

5 Board Games to Pair with Movie Night!

You’ve got board game night. You’ve got movie night. Classic. Both are fun ways to get off your phones and spend time with family. So why not combine them into a Board Game and Movie Night? You can create a fully themed night from the dinner choice, the game, the movie, you can even dress up if you are so inclined! 

I’d like to offer you 5 Calliope games for game night, and a movie (or several) you can watch after/while you play.

1. ShipShape:

Pirates sailing the high seas, stealing treasure and enjoying some casual bidding? What better movie than the original Pirates of the Caribbean! The art on the character cards look like missing characters from the movie, and nothing gets you more pumped up than hearing that iconic soundtrack. I’ve definitely found myself shouting “Stop blowing holes in my ship!” while I’ve played ShipShape. As a bonus alternative if you’re a 90’s kid like me, might I recommend the 1996 classic, Muppet Treasure Island? It’s fun, it’s goofy, and I think we all have a little bit of cabin fever right now. Time to do some sailing for adventure on the big blue wet thing! Or you can try the 1995 Geena Davis classic: Cutthroat Island. Just don’t get too competitive!

2. The Mansky Caper:

There are a couple of different ways you could go with this fun press-your-luck game. You can lean into that heist aspect and go for any of the Ocean’s 11 movies or The Italian Job, or you could focus on that mob boss 1920s/30s feel with something like Dick Tracy. If you don’t mind playing a game while watching a movie about a different game, I recommend Clue. Personally, with the rulebook being styled like a comic book I always think of Batman: The Animated Series; specifically the episodes “It’s Never Too Late,” “The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy,” and “Almost Got ‘Im”. Yes, I’m already breaking my own rule of choosing movies, but I could absolutely see The Mansky Caper as an episode of this show, so it’s worth it.

3. Spymaster:

Similar to ShipShape and Pirates of the Caribbean, having a rocking soundtrack while playing a board game is just the best, and for Spymaster you obviously have to go with Mission: Impossible. This game can definitely make you feel like Ethan Hunt. Other fun spy movies to get you in the mood include Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, SpyThe Flight of the Condor; and Red. Depending on the ages of the players, you could also go with movies like Kingsman for adults, or Spy Kids for families.

4. Tsuro of the Seas:

 

Is it too obvious with this one to say Pacific Rim? Yeah, probably, but I’m going to do it anyway. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a fun popcorn flick that I highly recommend having on in the background while you’re playing to add some more suspense as you roll those dice. If you happen to be playing this back-to-back with ShipShape might I suggest Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest? Daikaiju, Kraken, sounds like a bunch of stuff you want to avoid in the ocean. Choose your path carefully!

5. Dicey Peaks:

This is another one where you can drastically change the theme depending on if you’re playing with adults or kids. If you want to lean into the mountain climbing and you don’t plan on personally climbing Everest any time soon, there’s no shortage of wintery disaster movies like K12127 Hours, and Everest. For more kid-friendly, yeti themes we recommend Abominable, Missing Link, or Small Foot. Or you can just go basic “cold” with Ice Age or Frozen.

Bonus!

Hive Mind:

 

Bee Movie. Sorry not sorry, I just had to. 

What do you think? Do any of these combinations get you more excited to play? Do you have any good dinner recommendations to pair with a particular board game and movie? Or would you like that to be the next blog post?