What Designers and Publishers need to know.
Color blindness is a large problem in the board game community. Numbers are not clear but people have claimed up to 15% of the board game community have some form of color blindness. I believe the numbers are closer to 8% but the point is that it is a large segment of the gaming population.
Color blind is due to either the complete lack of, or an incorrect ratio of cones in the eyes. This is a hidden attribute and most people who are color blind you meet will never bring it up to you or mention it. They might not even realize that they are color blind themselves.
There are many types of color blind and different types effect vision in different ways. Being accessible for one group very well may make it inaccessible to another group. There is no perfect solution and you are going to leave someone out for certain.
1. If it can have an icon, USE AN ICON
The easiest way to make sure that you are color blind friendly is to include icons on everything, not just color. The best icons to use are always going to be thematic but this isn’t always going to be possible.
When you are designing an abstract game there is no clear solution to what icons you should use. There is no standard here, take Ticket to Ride’s random mish-mash of icons.
One idea is to use icons that are famous for being the color that they are such as using water for blue, a plant for green, and a heart for red.
Chip Beauvais and his wife Sara used these for Chroma Cubes from 5th Street Games
2. If it can’t have an icon, use different shapes.
When designing your components if you have different resources(or whatever) using a different shape in addition to different colors is a great way to stretch your pallet. The most recent example I am aware of where they thought about this during the design process was Scoville from TMG.
Notice also they avoided a couple dangers with their color choices…
- Yellow, orange and brown are separate sizes.
- Blue, purple and black are separate sizes.
- Red and green are separate sizes.
3. If it can’t use different shapes or different icons avoid the danger combos.
Sometimes meeples, player markers and other things will be just too confusing or prohibitively expensive to have different shapes. Sometimes though you don’t have a choice and need to select some colors.
Here is one selection of ‘more friendly’ colors from Ian Hamilton.
As you can see, different kinds of color blindness react differently. These are the 3 most common types but there are more types.
If you are in this situation the BEST that you can really hope for is a combination of 6 different colors that will be distinguishable fairly consistently.
More reasonably you’re going to be looking at 4 to 5 color combinations that you can dofairly safely. No combination will work with all types of color blindness all of the time.
Here is where I would like some help from the color blind community. I would like to have some examples here that have RGB values that can easily be used by designers. Please e-mail me at Richard@64ouncegames.com if you can help. I would like to have multiple examples for 4, 5, and 6 color combinations.
You can almost always add 2 more colors if you remember to include black and white as options. This is often forgotten.
Here are some color combinations that seem ok to me with the simulator with their RBG values. I would like them confirmed.
Here are some danger combos to avoid and then I’m going to tell you they aren’t automatically dangerous.
- Red and green
- Blue, purple, and black
- Yellow, oranges, and browns
- Orange and red.
These combinations are bad for a variety of different types of color-blindness but the saturation and brightness also have a huge factor in it. Just like non-color blind people can easily tell the difference between lots of different shades of red there are shade combinations that work perfectly well for a lot of color blind people. You can see in my examples I used some of those combos.
And then there is the flip side of this. Some colors are perfectly fine normally but depending on the lighting can suddenly become utterly indistinguishable.
4. Learn more about color blindness and test whatever your colors you finalize with a color-blind simulator
Gearbox on color-blind for Borderlands
Daltonize your image
Simulator for your computer
Simulator for your android phone
Play with different color options at paletton.