Food Lifeline provides the equivalent of 134,000 meals every day, and every dollar we raise provides 5 meals. Our team goal was to raise $1,000, and thanks to your generosity we have already smashed that goal!! Along with an incredible donation was a challenge: “$1000 as a goal is too low. Aim high! We love each other!” So we’ve DOUBLED our goal! Now we want to raise $2,000, or 10,000 meals for Food Lifeline.
All throughout the day we will be playing your favorite Calliope games in a multitude of ways; from Zoom calls to good ol’ fashioned round-the-table gameplay. We are also thrilled to announce that Ruel Gaviola (whom you may remember from the Accommodations for Colorblind Players article) will be playing ShipShape with his family as our special guest. There also may be a super secret playthrough of an upcoming Calliope game that hasn’t even hit Kickstarter yet! If you want to know when it’s live, make sure you’re following us on social media, or sign up for the Kickstarter Preview newsletter in our sidebar –>
And just to sweeten the pot, every person who follows us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), signs up for that Kickstarter newsletter, or donates, is entered in a raffle to win some con-exclusive Calliope swag! We want to give our thanks to you all for joining us for this incredible event. We literally cannot do it without you.
We hope you’ll join us on Sunday, and that you’ll watch, comment, share, enjoy, and if your wallets can afford it, that you give back and make a donation. Remember, $1 provides 5 meals, so truly every little bit helps.
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 Ride, Lanterns, 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.
Over the years, the original Tsuro has become a well-known gateway game, perfect for introducing new audiences to the world of tabletop games. There’s a good reason for that: Tsuro is one of the simplest games anywhere, both to teach and to play. Not much is simpler than “play one of your tiles to the board, move your pawn along the path you created, then draw a new tile…oh, and just try to stay on the board.” That’s a pretty easy game to demonstrate to anyone, from children to grandparents, and everyone in between.
Owing to its simplicity and elegance, Tsuro has been used as a gateway and filler countless times. There are other games that share its tile-placing, route-building aspects, but Tsuro is unique in how it delivers a fun, thoughtful experience in a compact amount of time for a very wide audience. For many, the elegance – the zen nature – of Tsuro is its defining quality, and they embrace the game the way it is, no embellishment or additions required. For others, they want a bit more.
Tsuro of the Seas was created to cater to those looking for a bit more unpredictability in the Tsuro experience. The game transformed the pawns and board into boats and a mystic sea; introduced daikaiju (sea monsters); and added a pair of dice. On top of the familiar Tsuro gameplay, there now existed a layer of chaos and randomness, as the daikaiju would rotate and move in an unpredictable manner, always threatening to chomp your boat if you didn’t watch out! Tsuro of the Seas was the first game we launched via a relatively young crowdfunding service called Kickstarter. It was unfamiliar territory, but became a joyful experience, both because it showed how many original fans wanted MORE TSURO, but also because we learned how the Kickstarter community is a passionate group who are very engaged and helpful with projects they back.
2019 represents the 10th Anniversary of Calliope Games. During 2018, our team had several discussions about how to celebrate this milestone. Throughout those talks, the main idea we kept coming back to was a new Tsuro game. What better way to celebrate our birthday than with a new entry in the line that has defined us for a decade?
Some context is useful here, though. We didn’t start from scratch a year ago to create a new Tsuro game. The core of it has existed since Tsuro was first dreamt up by mathematician Tom McMurchie in the 1970s. In fact, when the original Tsuro (then called “Squiggle”) was shown to Calliope Games co-founder Jordan Weisman back in 2001, Tom developed full second set of tiles shortly thereafter that were strategically set aside for a later release. These alternate tiles had paths that would move through the diagonals of the tile, instead of through the flat edges only. That tileset – which is dubbed the “Crossroads” set – changed the experience of playing, offering a soaring, freewheeling feel that moved your pawn quickly across the board. In 2018 the time had come to put the Crossroads set to use… Calliope Games 10th Anniversary!
We wanted to craft a Tsuro experience that would set apart from both other games in the line. Tsuro is perfect as an accessible gateway/filler. Tsuro of the Seas involves the unpredictability of dice. For the third game, we focused on the tiles themselves, thinking for the first time about how players could physically alter the paths on the board. Perhaps the tiles could rotate…but what if they could do more?
Ray had been working with Bob Oswald, a longtime Calliope Games friend – and very talented CAD artist – on a design for a unique tile tray that would allow players to flip or rotate one tile in a grid without disturbing any of the neighboring tiles. Once the design was finalized, it was patented and ready for use. The new Tsuro game would be the perfect way to introduce the revolutionary new tray to the world, as it would allow the path tiles to be manipulated, creating new options for paths each turn. Ray hit upon the idea of having one side of each tile feature traditional Tsuro paths – entering and exiting on the flat edges, while the flip side would feature Crossroads paths that sent pawns through the diagonal edges of the tiles. Suddenly, players could strategize whole new routes, opening up fresh, speedy movement.
The creation of this game was collaboration in its purest form. The Calliope team – Ray Wehrs, Chris Leder, Zach Weisman, Andy Hepworth, Ken Franklin, along with a team of amazing playtesters – expanded upon the gameplay and tiles created by Tom McMurchie. As the development of the board and tiles progressed, we concentrated on the goal of the game. Survival has always been the winning condition in the Tsuro series: last pawn standing wins. Player elimination – love it or hate it – is a hallmark of the line. We contemplated ways to augment this goal, all the while thinking about the theme of the game. The original Tsuro features dragon stones as the pawns, but the board features a beautiful phoenix. What if we shifted the focus to the phoenix? A bird in flight would make sense given the soaring nature of the Crossroads tiles. Plus, it would allow us to consider a way for leaving the board to not mean the end of the game – after all, the defining trait of the phoenix is its ability to rise from the ashes!
During development, we struck upon the idea that you weren’t just flying around trying to stay on the board, but as a phoenix, you were actively trying to reach specific points on the board. As the testing proceeded and the theme began to solidify, we loved the idea that the things you were trying to reach were glowing, floating, colorful lanterns in the night. That image just seemed so beautiful. And because we wanted to inspire a bit of positivity, we crafted the lore about how the world had been robbed of stars, but as you reached the lanterns, you transformed them into brilliant new stars that created bright constellations to enlighten your own personal path. Instead of last pawn standing being the only victory condition, you could now win by creating a new constellation of seven stars, having brought light to a dark world. It’s an overriding theme of hope and love of life.
Tsuro: Phoenix Rising is a gateway/filler game in the same vein as the original Tsuro, and its predecessor Tsuro of the Seas. One way to look at it: Tsuro is the quintessential zen-like gateway experience, Tsuro of the Seas is an exciting survival gateway game where you play against the board, and Tsuro: Phoenix Rising is a gateway set collection game where the board is a puzzle to solve. Each game has its own level of complexity, but all fit perfectly within a casual game crowd or as a filler in the middle of the game night. Though they are all built upon the same foundation, the experiences they provide are all unique. Which Tsuro game will be your favorite? We love them all!
To usher in our 10th Anniversary in 2019, Calliope Games is thrilled to announce Tsuro: Phoenix Rising, an exhilarating new entry in the legendary Tsuro series.
In the game, each player is a phoenix, soaring across the board in an effort to reach glowing lanterns and transform them into new stars in the night sky. The first player to collect seven star tokens wins the game!
Tsuro: Phoenix Rising builds upon the foundation of classic Tsuro – you must play tiles to extend your path, traverse the board, and be aware of your surroundings – but it adds exciting new features such as double-sided path tiles that can be flipped and rotated to choose your destination, as well as a revolutionary new molded board. As a phoenix, you also have the ability to return to the board once per game, rising from the ashes!
The Tsuroseries, featuring games designed by Tom McMurchie, has been a flagship brand for Calliope Games since our beginnings in 2009. The original Tsuro: The Game of the Path was released by WizKids in 2004 and its follow-up Tsuro of the Seas was released in 2012 after a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Tsuro: Phoenix Rising will launch on Kickstarter on January 10, 2019 at 2pm Eastern.