Billionaire Banshee (2014) (NSFW) – Accessibility Teardown

Context of Document

This is not a review of this game. You will find the review linked in the introduction.

Meeple Like Us is engaged in mapping out the accessibility landscape of tabletop games. Teardowns like this are data points. Games are not necessarily bad if they are scored poorly in any given section. They are not necessarily good if they score highly. The rating of a game in terms of its accessibility is not an indication as to its quality as a recreational product. These teardowns though however allow those with physical, cognitive and visual accessibility impairments to make an informed decision as to their ability to play.

Not all sections of this document will be relevant to every person. We consider matters of diversity, representation and inclusion to be important accessibility issues. If this offends you, then please stop reading now. This will not be the blog for you, and we have no interest in debating with anyone whether these issues are worthy of discussion. You can check out our common response to common objections.

Teardowns are provided under a CC-BY 4.0 license. However, recommendation grades in teardowns are usually subjective and based primarily on heuristic analysis rather than embodied experience. No guarantee is made as to their correctness. Bear that in mind if adopting them.

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Version Reviewed

English Edition

Introduction

Billionaire Banshee is, I think, a better game than Cards Against Humanity even if it does share a lot of the same flaws.  Juxtaposition of random elements works best when those elements cohere meaningfully in many contexts and when they’re funny in a lot of different situations.   When Billionaire manages that, it’s great.  It doesn’t manage it often enough though to rise above three stars in our review.   The potential is certainly there, but it’s not fully expressed in the box.  But let’s say you’re less of a game snob than I am – would you be able to grab hold of a great big deck and find your soulmate?   Perk – we’re going to find out.  Quirk – but you’ll need to put up with me for a few thousand words as we do.

Colour Blindness

Colour is largely fine – colour palettes on the date and deny cards don’t differentiate greatly for some categories of colour blindness, but they also come with big ‘date’ and ‘deny’ indicators along the top.  Colour in this regard is only a secondary indicator.

Colour blind date cards

Date *then* Deny

The perk and quirk cards have notably different backing colours – bright blue for perks, dark purple for quirks.  As such, even when they’re scattered most people won’t have a difficulty picking them out.  Those dealing with monochromacy will be supported by the fact they also prominently show ‘QUIRK’ and ‘PERK’ on the back of each card.

The back of the cards

This kind of card distribution probably isn’t going to come up

Individual cards on the obverse show ‘quirk’ and ‘perk’ in the top corners, and in any case they’re clearly differentiated for most categories of colour blindness by the palette chosen for the stripe.

Colour blind cards

Cards against sexuality

We strongly recommend Billionaire Banshee in this category.

Visual Accessibility

The retro pixel art used here causes a few problems.   In the best cases, the art used on a card will act as a prompt for the key payload elements of play.  Here, the art is eight-bit and blocky, and even if fully sighted it may not be sufficiently discriminatory to offer a clue as to what the card is.   Card art is decorative though for the most part.   This isn’t actually a proble,  – it’s just more of a missed opportunity to offer additional accessibility with higher resolution in the aesthetic.  Of course, the whole schtick here is that it’s 8 bit style art and as such it’s not appropriate to say ‘your art needs an upgrade, yo’.   To be fair, I’m also not sure when it would ever be appropriate to say that.

View of cards

Let’s talk about sex, baby

The nature of play means that there’s no particular reason a visually impaired player need be the one to read out instructions. All they need to do is listen and select whether they would indeed date, or deny, the indicated individual.   It can be a game where you can fully appreciate your erotic options with your ears alone.   Aural sex, if you like.  Haha, I’m so funny.

Poor contrast

Sometimes you can’t really see the indicator because of colour changes in the striping

It’s good that visual accessibility is, to an extent, optional.  Cards are quite text dense at times.  Both the headline and the explanatory bullet points are in quite a small font.  The ‘quirk’ and ‘perk’ identifiers on the front of cards is often poorly contrasted, and the layout of cards changes in a way that prohibits the use of positional elements as identifiers.   In some games the pattern of elements on a game component is as useful an identifier as any individual part – that’s not the case here.   Even the backs of cards change style depending on the content on the other side.  Unicorns indicate fantastical content, a plain little human represents ‘everyday things’, and someone in a bear suit indicates adult themes.  This carries through to the obverse, where the stripe at the bottom of the card changes accordingly.   A more consistent visual design for perk and quirk would have been more effective in this category.  You can’t even rely on the striping at the bottom, since there are occasionally branding elements used instead.

Branding along the bottom

I think each of these companies owe me money now

I assume this is something relating to the Kickstarter but it’s another element of inconsistency that makes visual accessibility sub-optimal for those actually reading the cards.  Of course, there are likely business considerations here but a happier compromise could have been achieved.

However, as we discussed in the review Billionaire Banshee is a game about conversational prompts.  It’s the discussion that is the game, not the cards themselves.   If a player is happy to listen to another player read out the perks and quirks of their purported partner, even those with total blindness will be able to play fully.  The date and deny cards are largely optional and can easily be replaced with tactile identifiers.   This does depend on there being at least one sighted player in the group to read out the text, but if that can be arranged there should be no impact on game enjoyment.

We strongly recommend Billionaire in this category.  Its aesthetic is not particularly visually accessible (and indeed demonstrates a number of problems) but its game design almost fully redeems that.

Cognitive Accessibility

The only cognitive cost in the game comes in understanding the text on the cards.  A degree of literacy is required here, and that needs to be coupled with a degree of conceptual appreciation.  Leaving aside the fact that some of the cards have fantastical or adult themes, each player has to appreciate what the proposed perks and quirks involve.   For example, ‘they speak only in spoonerisms’ requires a degree of fluency in vocabulary that might be hard to meet for players impacted by issues in this category.   Choosing deny or date should also come with an explanation, and that in itself may require a degree of intellectual flexibility to construct a declaration that articulates the key elements.

Really though, even that doesn’t actually matter.  The comedy in Billionaire Banshee comes in what people say, not how much it makes sense.  Simple, clear answers are just as likely to be comedy gold as more complex ethical gymnastics.

The adult themes may be challenging for certain categories of cognitive accessibility, but it’s important not to fall into the trap of thinking fluid intelligence flexibility is a predictor of emotional maturity.   The relationship between these two elements are complex – so complex that I don’t feel comfortable in saying anything other than ‘you’ll know better than I will whether that kind of thing will be appropriate for the people in your life’.  In any case, you can remove them easily from the deck by checking the symbols indicated on the back.

There are few burdens placed on memory – all the information you need is on the cards in front of you and scoring is largely an afterthought.  The game need not be scored at all to have a good time.

As such, we strongly recommend Billionaire Banshee for those with memory impairments.  We also offer a general recommendation for those with fluid intelligence impairments with the caveat that some cards in the game require a somewhat expanded vocabulary.  If necessary, those cards can be removed before play without any significant impact other than the reduction of variety.

Emotional Accessibility

Once I went to a work ‘away day’ where the first ice-breaker exercise was ‘tell everyone in your group a secret you have never told anyone before’.   I told an obvious lie, and made sure everyone knew it was obvious.  That kind of revelation, I said later, was unlikely to be offered as part of a game player in the company of strangers.  If I wanted people to know a secret like that, I’d tell them at the right time, for the right reasons.

So it is with Billionaire Banshee.  There’s no requirement for you to be honest in your answers but the game presents itself as being about how well people know you.   The answers they give regarding ‘date’ or ‘deny’ might be revelatory about the way they perceive you or how you present yourself.   If there is a mismatch (or indeed, if there is a match between how they perceive you and your secret self) that can be a source of tension.  ‘You honestly think I wouldn’t date someone just because of their breath?’, or ‘Do you really think I’d date a holocaust denier just because they never swear?’,  or ‘You think I’d pass up a great parent just because they have three nipples?  You really think I’d place my own superficial feelings over little Millicent’s wellbeing?  THANKS A LOT, DAD’

This is a game that thrives in the intersections of our public and private personas.  We’re not just reporting on our own feeling, but on how people think of us in the real world.   The dichotomy is potentially troublesome if emotional conditions much be taken into account.  There is a degree of cringe comedy here – great if everyone enjoys that kind of thing, but risky otherwise.

To go with that, the game expects you to support an answer you give and sometimes the answers will devolve into territory a player not be comfortable discussing.   You can remove the adult themes from the deck easily enough, but someone may not be willing to point out they’re uneasy about those elements if everyone else is raring to go.   Would you be keen on the table having a discussion on whether or not you think doing ‘butt stuff’ makes up for the fact a possible partner is often touring in a band?  I hope you are, because that’s what the game is.  Maybe you’re entirely happy in admitting that you are completely fine with golden showers, and that butt stuff clinches the relationship.  That’ll be funny, if you can own that.    Otherwise, you’ll either have to answer in embarrassment or try to lie convincingly.   And then you run the risk of the table laughing and jeering based on how convincing you were.  ‘You couldn’t even make eye contact when you said deny!’.  Even the refusal to discuss an issue, or obvious discomfort when the topic is raised, can be a source of comedy and focus of peer pressure.

Three different options

Shag, marry, kill?

And then there are those cards with dismissive content.   As I mentioned in the review, there are cards that are transphobic or body-shaming.   I made a joke of it in the review, joking, for a joke that I had a tiny penis.  It was of course, a joke that I made for the purposes of a joke.   But let’s say that you genuinely did have body issues and then the entire table is discussing how much of a turn off it is?  What if you’re self-conscious about gender identify and everyone is laughing about the fact someone is weighing up the ‘genitals of the opposite sex’ card?      What if you’re a virgin and you find the table gleefully fetishizing that?  There are a good number of cards that intersect with real world issues and you’ll need to be able to roll with it if playing with them in the deck.  People aren’t talking about you, of course.  They just happen to be using a personal feature of which you may be intensely conscious as a reason for dating, or denying, a relationship.

No big deal, right?  Yeah – Friends got an entire season of content out of that emotional minefield.

That’s really the key element to consider here – nothing else really matters because it’s not so much a game as it is a social activity.   The key aspect of Billionaire Banshee is putting a part of yourself out there and having it collaboratively dissected.   That’s a big ask for anyone likely to be impacted by issues in this category.

As usual it comes down to a judgement call, but on balance we probably wouldn’t recommend Billionaire Banshee in this category.  Ask on a different day and we might offer a tentative recommendation, but for now – be wary.

Physical Accessibility

We get a clean bill of health here – while the game does have some small physical elements (flipping perks and quirks, and laying down date/deny cards) they are neither cumbersome, nor necessary for a physically impaired player to handle personally.   As when we talked about visual accessibility above, this is a game that can be played entirely orally.    The date/deny cards prevent someone changing their guess after they hear what everyone else has selected, but the scoring is such a trivial part of play that I can’t see this being a major issue.  If it were, it’s easy to knock up some accessible way for a player to choose between two courses of action.

We strongly recommend Billionaire Banshee in this category.

Socioeconomic Accessibility

Many of the issues we discussed in the emotional accessibility section come to bear here.  Some cards make fun of sexual preferences, gender identity, and even include a few elements of ableism or comedy at the expense of people with health and body issues.    I understand why these make for a tempting vein of comedy for the cards, but it does mean that it’s not a game you can casually bring out for everyone.  Some of the things considered to be quirks include:

  • Suffering from a rectal prolapse
  • A ten year old’s intelligence level
  • Genitals of the opposite sex (which notes in the text that they won’t get surgery as if they’re being intransigent)
  • Tourette syndrome
  • A loose vagina/tiny penis that makes ‘penetration based sex awful’
  • A voice that sounds like the opposite sex
  • They’re a year underage (with all the connotations of statutory rape that implies)
  • Asexuality (so worthwhile a topic that it’s included twice)
  • Animal allergies
  • Conjoined siblings
  • Three nipples
  • Excessive pubic hair

Again, I understand – this is a rich vein from which to mine material for a game like this.  However, these are real issues that impact on real people and as such it’s necessary to be careful when you consider bringing this out for a mixed group.     This is a game that very much punches down in the quirks, without an awful lot of punching up anywhere to be seen.     Most of these cards are indicated by the symbol on the back of the deck, but not all.  ‘A disco ball sized amount of public hair’ is considered adult and would be indicated as so.  Tourette syndrome on the other hand is just part of the standard deck.  If you want to prune it to something acceptable for your group, it’ll need you to do the work yourself.

To be honest though, while this is a consideration it’s not actually something I would be especially concerned about.   Like sitting down to a game of Cards Against Humanity, you’ll likely know what it is you’re signing up for here.   You’re signing up for a game that has a real potential to become good-naturedly mean-spirited.  I would have been much happier if it had been more equitable in its targeting so that the punching is shared equally.  Really, in these kind of cases, that’s my primary concern – if the pain is spread around equally or whether it’s unfairly concentrated on already disadvantaged groups.   I think Billionaire could do with spreading its fists a bit more liberally than it has.

It does adopt though a largely gender neutral approach to play – cards, where they are gendered, offer a choice of how to interpret the specific provision.   The art-work too is by and large gender neutral although that’s largely because it’s often difficult to make out any particular identifying details.   There’s a little ethnic diversity shown too, but not an awful lot and sometimes in the most unfortunate ways.  A white hand made up of black penises?   A brown person stealing tears from people sleeping? It’s like the artist on occasion picked the worst possible times to broaden the colour palette.  I don’t read any malice into that at all, but it’s still there in the occasional instance.

Billionaire has an RRP of £21, and the good news here is that it is extremely scalable and never really bogs down at larger player counts.  True, the nature of play does put some limits on the kind of people that might want to sit down together (parents probably won’t want to play it with their kids, and children with their prudish parents and so on), but otherwise you can roll on up to ten players without issue.   There probably isn’t a great deal of replayability given the fact there aren’t many truly great combinations, but enough to justify the place it might occupy on your shelf.

We’ll tentatively recommend Billionaire Banshee in this category.    Just bear in mind – it’s not going to be for everyone.

Communication

A considerable degree of literacy is required for play here, and since it’s a conversational game the expectation will be that everyone involved can contribute to the discussion.   That discussion will run a gamut of topics from the mundane to the erotic to the embarrassing and back again.  Justification of the answers you give for decisions made is the key game payload.   That needs a lot of back and forth, joking, and interpretation of jokes.   This isn’t a game that’s likely to work well across language barriers.  Across communication barriers, such as players that are hard of hearing or find it difficult to articulate, the problems are less pronounced.  The sophistication of discussion can find a happy common ground between everyone involved although that point will require more of everyone than it often does in these teardowns.

We’ll tentatively recommend Billionaire Banshee in this category.

Intersectional Accessibility

Players dealing with visual impairment coupled with memory impairments may find the game difficult due to the fact so much of play would be externalised into communication channels.   It’s easy enough to remember what’s going on when you can look at the cards in front of you – that’s harder to do if you must instead recall what everyone said.    If you then layer on an additional hearing difficulty, you may have a combination of conditions that would render the game entirely unplayable.

There are other variants of the game available in the box for those looking for a more explicitly game-like experience.  These aren’t especially complex, but they would dial up the cognitive requirements.  We didn’t consider these during the teardown proper because they are extra modes of play, but ‘finger the match’ for example would create a greater pressure across the board, and ‘eligible singles’ would greatly increase the emotional cost of play as well as the communicative burden.

Game length is ideal, because you simply play until you get bored.    There’s no real cost to a player dropping in and out because the only hidden information in play is your vote.  Unlike Cards Against Humanity, you don’t need multiple players to obscure who was responsible for each answer.  You can play as many hands as you like, for as often as you like, without worrying about how it impacts on an evolving game state,

Conclusion

Billionaire Banshee is a game that is broadly accessible to carefully curated groups of people.   It’s certainly not though a game that I’d say you could casually pick up for game night.  You need to be very sure of the people you’ll be playing with to know if it’s going to be hit.  If that’s not going to be a problem, it’s almost certainly going to be playable.

Colour Blindness A
Visual Impairment A-
Emotiveness D+
Fluid Intelligence B
Memory A
Physical A
Socioeconomic C
Communication C

Games like this are always tricky to discuss in terms of tone and content.   They are opt-in experiences – nobody sits down to CAH thinking they’re about to play a family card game.  They sit down knowing they’re communing with their inner devils.  So it is with Billionaire Banshee – you should know going in that it’s about the many reasons that we might, or might not, be willing to enter into a relationship with other people.  Those things that have turned others off about you will come up, because of course they will.    That’s not necessarily going to help when dealing with emotional triggers, but it’s the reason that we went easy on it in terms of socioeconomic factors.

Radar chart

Billionaire Banshee Radar chart

Billionaire Banshee is fun, in the right circumstances, and uncomplicated in all circumstances.  We gave it three stars, noting that it’s a better game than Cards Against Humanity but suffers from many of the same structural problems.  However, while I don’t think CAH gets better with expansions my belief would be Billionaire Banshee would get stronger with some more attention.   I don’t know if any expansions are forthcoming, but you might find enough to enjoy in the core set regardless of your ability to play.  For my part, if expansions do make their way onto the market I’ll certainly be happy to pick them up and see what occurs.


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