Wibbell++ (2017) – 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.

A review copy of Wibbell++ was provided by Behrooz Shahriari in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Version Reviewed

English first edition

Introduction

If the nature of Wibbell++ caused me some problems in the review, it’s nothing compared to what its nature does to the teardown.   I’ve been mulling this over for a fair bit, trying to work out how to make this structure apply to a game that isn’t a game, and a game system that can be almost anything.   If it were a more heavily component based game this would be an easier task but really it’s a deck of cards with a variety of different play variants within.  The games too – they’re good – three and a half stars worth in our review.  The thing is though that they’re all very different and it’s not really possible to tear them down in any meaningful sense and still arrive at a worthwhile recommendation for a single game.  I don’t have the time to do six separate teardowns of this, so something more sustainable as an approach is needed.

So here’s the deal – we’re going to do this a little differently to how we normally do it.   We can talk about the card design and the like, but as to individual recommendations I’m going to base it on the game that is most accessible in that category.   That’s very much going to skew the recommendations upwards, and in a way that is not nuanced as to how accessibility issues are likely to intersect across categories.  It seems though like the only fair way of doing this.  After all, this is a card game system, not a card game in itself.  As such it is entirely possible that games released in the future will be designed around particular categories of accessibility especially given the designer’s particular interest in the topic.

That’s enough preamble, let’s get to it.   Tonight, on a very special accessibility teardown…

Colour Blindness

We get an absolute clean bill of health here – there is some colour on the back of each of the cards, but it’s neither impactful in terms of gameplay (at least, yet) nor used to convey any information.  Everything else is straightforward black and white with no colours used to convey any element of game state.

Colour blind cards

A perfect performance

We strongly recommend Wibbell++ in this category.

Visual Accessibility

Here at least we can deal with some of the key accessibility elements that are germane to every game that will follow.   The first of these is that the text on the cards is both well contrasted and in a large font – that’s great.  However, cards also come with distinctive borders that for some games convey important information.   These are well differentiated but a few of them have a slight design overlap that in severe situations of visual impairment might not be obvious at a distance, or when assessed at speed.  I think this is likely to be true only in the most extreme scenarios.

Card borders

Repel borders!

Some of the letters too, because the font is slightly ornamented, are a little difficult to tell apart when viewed by players with low visual acuity.  The O and the C, because of how nearly the C creates a closed circle, can be mistaken for each other in some game modes.  Grabell for example will have cards lying on top of other cards, or semi obscured.     The G and the C similarly have a very similar profile and for players with visual impairments they might not be especially easy to make out.

O, G, C cards

O.G. Yo

The number on the bottom of the card is used to indicate deck composition – it refers to the number of times the bottom letter set appears in the deck.  As of yet this isn’t especially key gameplay information and the numbers that would be most likely to cause visual accessibility issues (3 and 8  or 6 and 9 for example) don’t clash because the higher numbers aren’t used on the cards.

So, some small visual accessibility issues but nothing that is particularly likely to cause significant or ongoing problems when an appropriate game is chosen.  However, since Wibbell++ is a card game with no tactile identifiers that can be used to differentiate cards it’s going to be all but completely inaccessible to those with total blindness – at least, for most games.

However, it’s the ‘appropriate game system’ part that acts as the main multiplier on this.   Real time game modes (Grabell, as an example) will suffer most from visual accessibility issues where as more sedate games such as Alphabetickell would be more appropriate if players can make out the individual letters with inspection.   That though also depends on players being able to make a sensible choice as to whether to pass a sub-optimal card on to an opponent, or use it to deny them an opportunity.   Other game modes such as Phrasell are real-time games but with very small sets of information that need to be held in mind.   A subject, decided by the judge, and four letters which are used to make up initials for a slogan.   The issue there is that in examining the cards (or having their letters narrated) other players get a bit of a head start when it comes to making up their slogan for scoring.  That’s only going to be an issue of course if people are intensely competitive.

Of the game modes, I think Faybell is probably the one most likely to be visually accessible because the cards in that case are largely prompts for subjects that have been defined earlier in the game.   The story element a player has to work with is based on a single letter which is used to start a story, and another letter used to provide a prompt word for the next player.    Nothing in Faybell requires players to work at speed, or even visually interpret information – that’s one I could even imagine working for players for whom total blindness must be considered.

On the basis of the Faybell game mode, we’ll recommend Wibbell++ in this category.

Cognitive Accessibility

The use of individual cards to stand in for occasional game elements adds a considerable degree of cognitive cost to some game modes – Faybell for example makes use of five cards as subjects, and the table collaboratively agrees on what they mean.   EP might be Exploding Possum or Elemental Parka or Everyday Person.  It’s easy enough to write this information down so nobody has to remember, but it’s also going to put a burden on memory for players to remember how the story progressed to date and how they’re trying to continue it from where the last player left off.    Check out our Once Upon a Time teardown for some notes on why this kind of collaborative story-telling is mechanically simple but cognitively expensive.   Real-time elements too (such as in Grabell or Phrasell or Wibbell) stress cognitive processes under duress.    However, Grabell differs from Dobble in this respect in that the amount of cognitive processing needed is greatly reduced because of the relatively smaller pool of possible matches.    In this respect, it sits between a simple game of Snap and a less costly game of Dobble in terms of cognitive cost.

The only other game mode that’s likely to offer a significant amount of cognitive accessibility here is Alphabetickell since that requires only an understanding of an alphabet.  Admittedly, the level of understanding required of the alphabet is considerable and benefits from being able to parse it forwards and backwards – but still, it’s the second most cognitively accessible of the games provided.

However, again it’s important to stress here that there will be more game modes that appear over time, and you can absolutely house rule your own cognitively accessible games without too much difficulty.  You could play snap with border styles or letters, or make use of some of the early stage games available on the website.  A quick look at Mina1-Match-Ell as an example suggests a game that would be cognitively accessible when fully fleshed out, and similarly for Lindz1-wordact-ell.  I can’t give a recommendation based on what might be here, but from the game modes available I’d recommend Wibbell++ in both our categories of cognitive accessibility primarily on the basis of Grabell.  My expectation is that with time that grade could be revisited with the recommendation becoming somewhat stronger as new, simpler game modes are brought into full maturity.

Physical Accessibility

Several game modes (Grabell being the most obvious one) are likely to be fundamentally physically inaccessible if any degree of restriction in hand or arm movement is considered.   Grabell doesn’t lend itself well to verbalisation either since it’s fundamentally a real time activity of collecting cards at speed.   However, most of the other game modes require only the ability to manipulate individual cards at most, and sometimes no physical interaction is required at all.  Wibbell, Phrasell and Faybell could all be played without anyone touching a card, and as long as players can place a card to one side or the other of a chain then Alphabetickell would also be an appropriate choice.   For that latter game, verbalisation is also an appropriate compensatory strategy.

We’ll strongly recommend Wibbell++ in this category.

Emotional Accessibility

None of the game modes are particularly pointed in their competition, and some of them are collaborative and collegiate in their mechanisms.  Both Faybell (in the pack) and Coupell (on the site) stress collaborative play aimed at achieving goals as opposed to besting an opponent.

However, one of the features I mentioned in the review has a bearing here, and that is that while every game works and works well, they don’t always work optimally because the specific distribution of cards isn’t uniquely tailored to the game mode.  That occasionally, but not regularly, creates issues where a game’s difficulty is higher than might be expected, or the skill burden is distributed unevenly across players.    Luck is often a powerful factor in the competitive game modes.  This is not an endemic issue by any stretch of the imagination but it has a low level impact on every game mode in the deck.

The provision though of collaborative modes and the generally genial, good natured model of competition means we can offer a strong recommendation for Wibbell++ in this category.

Communication

Some game modes (Phrasell, Wibbell and Faybell) stress the ability of players to be linguistically creative and often within tight constraints.   Working a story around five elements derived from two letter initials can be challenging both in terms of articulation and in terms of command of the language.   Phrasell and Wibbell both stress precise articulation of words within a time limit set by other players around the table, and both also benefit from a command of the language commensurate with that of the competition.

However, Alphabetickell has a much lower expectation of literacy and no formal need for communication, and Grabell requires neither literacy nor communication during play.   Given how Wibbell++ is largely a letter-based system it’s unsurprising that many of the game modes stress language skills – they don’t all though and as such it gets a strong recommendation in this category.

Socioeconomic Accessibility

There is no gendered art, no assumption of gender in the instructions, and generally no need to worry about issues of representation.   Wibbell++ gets a fully clean bill of health there.

Wibbell box

I have one of these growing in my garden

As to its value, well – it’s a deck of cards that comes in at £12 on Bez’s shopfront.  For that you get game modes that support two players (with some solo modes being work-shopped on the site) and others that go up to as many as fifteen.    With five games in the box, a sixth on the site, and more being added by the community it’s also fair to say that you won’t tire of what’s in the box for a good long while.  Much as with the purchase of a standard deck of cards, you’re going to get a lot of varied and repeated use out of this.   However, it’s important to realise here that if accessibility considerations must be taken into account you will only be getting a subset of playable games.  We’ll talk more about that in the next section, but it’s something to bear in mind here because it has an implication for the value proposition.

We recommend Wibbell++ in this category.

Intersectional Accessibility

The grades for Wibbell++ skew high here because every category is being assessed not on the average, but on the best performing game in the box.  It’s not an entirely accurate picture of the whole.   As such, intersectionality is very difficult to assess but that’s the primary issue that needs to be addressed here.  When considering Wibbell++ from an accessibility perspective, you have to understand that what you’re getting here is only a fraction of the games that are available.  Those with physical or visual accessibility issues won’t find much joy in Grabell.  Those with cognitive or communicative accessibility concerns likely won’t be able to enjoy Wibbell, Phrasell or Faybell particularly easily.  A major part of assessing whether Wibbell++ is for you is to work out, based on the discussions given here, what subset of the games available now and available in the future, are likely to work for your specific interaction needs.

Given the scope of that task (six core games across the eight categories of accessibility we cover) we can’t really address intersectional issues in depth in this section.   The best thing to do is consider which games are mentioned in particular accessibility categories as being the most accessible variants, and see where they are also recommended in other accessibility categories.   There is almost certainly a game mode in there that works for everyone, but the more sophisticated the interaction of conditions the less likely that many game modes will work for someone.

That has an impact too on the other issues we tend to discuss here – game play time is highly dependent on game mode and available game modes are going to depend on accessibility profile.  A game like Grabell is very quick – a few minutes at most.  Other games may last thirty or so minutes.  None are especially long though, and so none are especially likely to exacerbate issues of discomfort or distress.  Game mode too is the key thing that is going to determine whether or not it’s possible for players to drop in and out of play – most of them though offer that to some degree provided the minimum player count is still accommodated.

The other important impact here is that if you are in a group where players may have multiple different accessibility considerations it might become very difficult to find a game mode that works for everyone.  Unusually here we can’t say ‘Oh, Wibbell++ will work for everyone’ even though that’s what the grades suggest.   In complex scenarios of multiple players with different impairments, it might potentially not work for anyone.

Conclusion

It may look very much like this accessibility teardown is stacking the deck (hehe) because it assesses the system according to its own most favourable game modes.  That’s true, but it’s important to consider here that given the price point I would consider almost any individual game mode in here to be worth the asking price.   Imagine in this respect I’m looking at each of the games as the one game you’ll be able to play in Wibbell – I think if you can find one here that you like the sound of you won’t have cause to regret the purchase.

Colour Blindness 14 A
Visual Impairment 11 B
Fluid Intelligence 11 B
Memory 11 B
Physical 14 A
Emotiveness 14 A
Socioeconomic 11 B
Communication 14 A

As you can see, this approach results in a very strong performance across the board, even if it isn’t really reflective of the true state of affairs.  For most games a profile like this would be ‘We can recommend this without worrying to most players’.  In Wibbell++’s case, it’s ‘if you have one player with an accessibility consideration, there will be a game they can play in here.  If you have something more specific than that to consider well… it’s complicated’.   Wibbell++ really is an unusual system to discuss in an analysis like this. Short of doing six teardowns for one game (a workload which is too much to bear) the best I can do is this especially given how other game modes will be added and tested as time goes by.   I would hugely appreciate player comments here that might help explore some of the more complex interaction and accessibility scenarios that people have discovered!

We liked Wibbell++ to the tune of three and a half stars and I expect with time that rating could increase.   While I can’t guarantee game groups with complex multi-player interaction requirements will find a game they can play in here, I can all but guarantee that any one player can almost certainly find something worth their time and effort in this interesting little deck.

A review copy of Wibbell++ was provided by Behrooz Shahriari in exchange for a fair and honest review.


If you like what we're doing with Meeple Like Us, please consider liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, and sharing our content. If you want to support us financially, you could make use of our Amazon affiliate link to send a bit of cash our way - it doesn't cost you a penny! Drop us a comment too in the discussion section below! We appreciate every thing you do to help us get the word out!