Michael A. Shelley's

Board Game Info for the Color-Blind

In an effort to make life easier for color-blind gamers, of which I am one, I've compiled a list of games which I either own or have played, and indicated whether or not I had any color-related problems with them. There is no guarantee that someone else won't have trouble with these games, but it's better than nothing.

For reference, I appear to be a red-insensitive dichromat, which means that the red cones in my eyes respond to green light. I can usually distinguish between red and green provided the brightness (saturation?) of the shades are relatively distinct (for example, a dark red and a light green.) Browns are difficult to tell from either red or green, as are some dark purples from blues. For some reason, I also have some small trouble with light green and yellow.

Estimates vary, but it seems that somewhere between 9% and 12% of the male Caucasian population has some degree of colorblindness. It's very rare in pretty much everyone else.

General tips: Make sure there is adequate lighting, and position yourself at the table so that you can see well. Note that colors will appear different under incandescent light than under fluorescent. If you own a copy of a game, marking or repainting pieces is a possibility. (I'll be doing this with both Web of Power and Carcassonne as soon as I get around to it.)

Separating pieces of similar colors in an area can sometimes be done, depending on the game. (This is a viable option in El Grande, for example.) And if possible, try it before you buy it.

Please note that all data below are taken from my own experience only. Unless otherwise noted, the usual problem is red-green confusion. And I've quit adding games that I don't have trouble with.

Title Publisher Good/Fair/Bad Notes
Citadels/Ohne Furcht und Adel Hans im Glueck good Color combined with text - hurrah!
Cosmic Encounter Eon good Depending on what colors you have in the set. Metallics are good.
Landlord (1st ed) Rio Grande good Black and white version only.
Maka Bana Tilsit good Has red/green and blue/purple tokens, but different shades work well enough.
Tyros Kosmos? good Black/white/grey/red ships and tokens.
Zero Berliner Spielkarten good Color-based, but really bright.
Arena Maximus Fantasy Flight Games fair Only problem is matching chariot color to hazard color; otherwise can use symbols instead of colors.
Ausbrecher AG Ravensberger fair Possible token confusion - red, brown, dark green, light green, orange. OK for me in good lighting.
Balloon Cup Kosmos fair Yellow and green cards too similar. Different patterns, but subtle.
Carcassonne Rio Grande fair Red and green meeples, possible tile problems.
Carolus Magnus Venice Connection fair I can't recall the specifics.
Heimlich & Co Ravensburger fair Card and token colors don't match, important in this game.
Ticket to Ride Days of Wonder fair I find the Red/Brown, Green/Yellow, and Blue/Purple cards can be a bit confusing. Green/Brown/Red routes are also borderline bad. Cards have different symbols on them, which helps. (A color vs. card symbol chart on the board would help.)
Vino Goldsieber/RGG fair Clear discs on a pastel board get sort of lost, but otherwise okay.
Web of Power Rio Grande fair Possible map problems, but uses text. Possible token problems.
Alles im Eimer Kosmos bad Red and grey (!) buckets and cards too similar.
Cosmic Encounter Mayfair bad dk blue and purple tokens and cards too similar.
Durch die Wuste Rio Grande bad Cute pastel camels are all clones. Better in strong light.
El Grande Rio Grande bad Token colors are Yellow, Blue, Brown, Brown, Brown.
Lost Cities Kosmos/Rio Grande bad Green and yellow cards too similar. Use the pictures instead.
Magna Grecia Rio Grande bad Red, orange, yellow, and brown bits. City tile colors especially hard to discern.
Mamma Mia Rio Grande bad Cards are colored, but it's easily worked around.
Muscat Die Sternspieler bad Three of the tile colors (purple, blue, and turquoise?) are indistinguishable.
Pompeii Adlung Spiele bad Seven? background colors on cards, of which I can distinguish maybe three.
Nicht die Bohne Amigo bad Card suits are differentiated by color only.
Rage Amigo? bad Green and orange cards too similar.
Santa Fe Rails GMT bad Red/brown and green/orange confusion (see below).
Serenissima Descartes bad Commodity tokens and port dots confusing. Flags are good, though.
Settlers of Catan Mayfair bad Tile colors poor, but token colors okay.
Sticheln Amigo bad Red, green, and brown in an otherwise good color-based card game.
Supergang Ludodelire bad Red and green tokens and markers.
Vernissage TM Spiele bad Artist cards and token colors don't match.
Vinci (1st ed) Descartes bad Map, tokens both pretty horrible.

GMT's Santa Fe Rails has some color issues, but they are restricted to the short lines, which don't appear until midgame. So it isn't really much of a problem. On a more opinionated note, why the heck is the UP red? It should be Armour Yellow. I may have to custom-paint a set with the SP pieces in Daylight colors and the ATSF in Warbonnets. Still a good game.

Here are some additional links on color perception:

other general

a test

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Last updated 7 September 2004