Carta Impera Victoria (2018) – Accessibility Teardown

Game Details
NameCIV: Carta Impera Victoria (2018)
ReviewMeeple Like Us
ComplexityMedium Light [2.13]
BGG Rank4603 [6.25]
Player Count2-4
Designer(s)Rémi Amy
Artist(s)Christopher Matt and Ian Parovel
Buy it!Amazon Link (Commisions earned)

Version Reviewed

English edition

Introduction

Carta Impera Victoria (CIV) is a game that has almost no hints in its external design as to the kind of game it actually is. It looks like a race when it’s really a bitterly pointed tug-of-war where every player must violently get in the way of every other player while someone comes out ahead in every exchange. We gave it three stars in our review, but if it were to be reviewed based on first impressions the chances are high that Monopoly would have had some company in the single star club for the blog. CIV is a game that benefits intensely from repeated plays.

Enough of that though – we talked all that stuff through in the review. Here we don’t need to worry about whether the game is good or under what circumstances it transmutes from lead into gold. Here we have other concerns. So let’s get started and dig into the accessibility of CIV.

Colour Blindness

The dominant palette used for each dominion isn’t ideal, but it doesn’t have a major impact on the game. Each card comes with its own distinctive art (in three flavours) and an icon prominently shown in both upper corners of the cards.

CIV colour blindness cards

Aside from the reference card which is likewise marked up with art and icons (and written headers) these are the only components in the game where colour is employed as a channel of information.

We’ll strongly recommend CIV in this category.

Visual Accessibility

Since the only game components that impact on game state are the cards, that’s the only thing we really need to consider here. Let’s start with the bad news.

The need to hold a secret hand of between three and seven cards is going to make the game all but unplayable (without support) for those with total blindness. It’s possible to play the game with open cards but it would have a massively deleterious impact on play. Special powers depend on the uncertainty of an opponents hand. When you discard a religion card to take an opponent’s hand off of them you have to return an equivalent number back. As such, it’s supposed to be a risk – you go for the player that you think has what you want. Or, perhaps, that you believe has a dangerously large number of cards that they want. All the risk of that disappears if you know the cards they possess. Likewise people need not fear you working towards a victory in a domain if they know you don’t have any suitable cards. The game would simply break if open hands were used. That extends too to a single player having situational access to the hidden hand of another.

That’s a shame, because otherwise this is a game with a lot to offer. There’s a lot of information about which a player needs to be aware (particularly with regards to tableau composition) but given the consistency of what cards do it’s easy to verbalise a player’s standing or even summarise the key elements for the entire game. ‘Everyone has three religion cards except Michael who has four’. There are only six passive powers and five discard powers that need to be remembered and the whole game state can, I suspect, be committed to memory reasonably well for most people. Narration of turns would also help in that regard.

For a player with less severe visual impairments, the cards themselves are amenable to close inspection. Their specific effect is always in the upper corners (although orientation will be relevant here) but more importantly each card has large, full bleed art that makes use of distinctive colour palettes that have a single dominant main colour. Military cards are red, economy yellow, science green, religion white and culture blue. As such, if a player can make out even blurs of colour the need for a hidden hand of cards need not be an obstacle to play.

We’ll recommend CIV for those with minor to severe impairments provided there’s at least some degree of ability to differentiate blurs of colour. For those with total blindness, we’d advise players to stay away unless they have access to someone that can sit out and narrate their hand contents. Let’s average it out to a B-.

Cognitive Accessibility

The simple game of CIV is exactly that – simple. To a fault. But familiarity will open up a game that has an awful lot of complexity within its straightforward rule-set. The optimal way to employ each of your discards and powers is a product of the table; of each individual tableau; of what you believe each person has in their hand (at least in rough forms); and what flexibility they have to draw cards into their possession. Some of the powers to which you will have access are situationally malleable – specifically the culture power that can be used to trigger the passive power of another player. Chaining these together well is an important part of accomplishing game goals. For example, you might want to cycle through many cards, do a hand exchange with another player, and then make use of a double science power to play down two cards in a domain followed by a culture power to repeat the same feat. Or you may want to use your opportunities to make sure someone else can’t do the same. Balancing attack versus defense is a big and important deal.

This leads to a certain complexity of the game state that is contradictory to the game design. The difference between someone having four and five cards in a domain can be immense because it is what moves from having a tier-1 power to a tier-2 power. On the other hand, the difference between five and six cards is distance to a victory condition. But also – those are cards that can be discarded over successive turns. Sometimes they’re a bluff to convince people you’re looking to win in a domain where you really don’t intend to devote attention. Applying those powers well, at the right time, and aimed at the right targets and domains is critical. That requires a lot of deep thinking, strategizing and reacting to the actions of other people.

There’s no need for literacy during play, and very little need for numeracy other than being able to count and compare numerical tokens. Scoring is straightforward because essentially there’s only one win condition – the first player to lay down the requisite number of cards in a domain wins. There’s an extent to which a player’s outcomes are decoupled from their instant action too, which adds a cognitive cost. Your capacity to act at speed is dependent on which cards you have laid down in domains.

For those with memory impairments only, the key memory burden is keeping track of deck composition. Reminders of the number of cards available at each age are on each reference card but that won’t help keeping track of what has been discarded, or swapped between hands. The discard pile though can be freely inspected at any time. Pleasingly the manual is explicit about this. That helps with some of the memory burden but it doesn’t help when a player’s cards are swapped about by another.

We don’t recommend CIV for those with fluid intelligence impairments, but we can tentatively recommend it for those with memory impairments alone.

Emotional Accessibility

CIV is likely to be a frustrating game for those with emotional control conditions. Much of the game works on a ‘one step forward, two step back’ model where you make some advancement towards your goals and then the actions of other players pull you backwards. You may play down a religion card for example, then someone discards a military card to make everyone else discard a card in the religion domain. On the upside, your ability as a player to perform actions can dramatically outstrip even concentrated actions from opponents. With six domains and eleven possible powers there’s a lot you can get done in a turn. Still – when an attack knocks you down from a tier-2 power to a tier-1 power, or from a tier-1 to no power… that can be angering.

There are some explicitly targeted PvP actions too. The military action is likely to have asymmetrical impact – if someone wants everyone to discard in a domain where only you have a card it’s obvious who they’re trying to hurt. It’s interesting that the military card is the most explicitly general though – it impacts on everyone, including the person discarding it. Other powers require an individual target. This makes it possible, and sometimes even optimal, to gang up on a single player. Several players acting in concert for example can work to completely lock down a player from ever getting a card they want to play while chipping away at the progress they have made. It’s actually very mean spirited.

That said there are some positive aspects in the game design too. The science cards allow for a redistribution of previously committed cards, which means that if a player locks themselves into a bad tableau there are ways they can compensate that become increasingly powerful as time goes by. It’s unlikely that anyone will ever be locked out of accomplishing an action on their turn. In fact, it’s more likely that a player will have more powers than they have reasons for using them. Not everyone will have an equal chance to play the game but everyone will have plenty to do on their turn except in the most egregious examples of focused bullying.

Score disparities are basically binary – you win, or you don’t. It’s certainly possible though for players to lose more obviously than others but given the nature of the game and the agility permitted by certain cards there’s often a way to rationalise it. ‘Oh, I was just about to cycle two cards from the discard pile and then use my science card to flip out those two religion cards so I could win the game’. A loss doesn’t need to feel painful.

We’ll very tentatively recommend CIV in this category.

Physical Accessibility

We have good news here. The first is that since the game is entirely card based, there aren’t any complicated boards or pieces to manipulate. The cards all have equal effect within their domain, and there’s no need to disambiguiate between earlier ages and later ages. Players will hold between three and eleven (at the absolute maximum) cards and these compress well into a card holder because only their symbol has game effect and this is present on both upper corners of the card.

If play with verbalisation is necessary, this too is straightforward because there are only six possible domains. Each possible action in the game is handled by the combination of the domain, and an indication as to whether passive or discard powers are intended. The only wrinkle there is likely to be in instructions such as ‘Play the third card from my holder. Discard a religion card’. This requires the player to take all the cards from another and select the ones they want to keep before returning the rest. That’s going to be the most cumbersome aspect if playing with verbalisation but it’s still completely feasible to do this without physical interaction. The impacted player would collect up the two hands, display the result to another, and that player could indicate the number of each the cards they wish to keep.

We’ll recommend CIV in this category.

Socioeconomic Accessibility

The cards make an effort to show both men and women across each of the domains and across each of the ages, but it’s done imperfectly. Each age has its own associated art and there’s a definite trend of women losing prominence as the game goes on. The age one military card for example shows a prominent example of a woman warrior. Age two shows a male warrior. Fine. Then age three shows what looks very much like another male warrior with dozens of other male warriors behind. I confess this may be projection though – it’s hard to determine gender of an armoured Roman-esque soldier in a skirt. Your mileage may vary here. The manual though makes use of the second person perspective throughout and doesn’t default to masculinity.

War cards

Price wise it’s difficult to complain – the game has an RRP of about £15 and supports up to four players. It is though an example of egregious over-stuffing of a box. It contains 104 cards (which, you may be aware, has the roman symbol CIV), a few reference boards and a metal coin. It’s a lovely package but it takes up way more space than it needs to and in an annoyingly irregular box form. I guess the costs aren’t really passed on to the consumer – I’ve certainly paid more for less. And I do love me metal coins in my games. Still – it feels wasteful when this could have been in a much more tightly contained box.

We’ll still recommend CIV in this category.

Communication

There’s no need for literacy, and no formal need for communication.

We’ll strongly recommend CIV in this category.

Intersectional Accessibility

Colour blindness intersecting with a visual impairment would be a massive problem for the compensatory regimes we outlined above and in those circumstances we’d advise players avoid the game. Communication impairments related to vocalisation are likely to be a problem if they intersect with physical impairments, but only when it comes to exchanging hands of cards. I wouldn’t go so far as to rescind our recommendations in that circumstance but rather point out it’s going to be a somewhat more cumbersome and time consuming task. It would be possible to do it through exhaustive indication of options for example but it’s possible that involves a lot of cards and undoing of choices.

CIV plays really quickly in most circumstances – I’d say about five minutes per player barring accessibility considerations. It’s also a game that reasonably easily supports players dropping out – their tableau remains in place but they cease to perform any actions or draw any cards. The specific victory conditions of the game changes depending on player count, as does the point at which special powers take effect. It’s straightforward to negotiate a point at which that should happen, such as ‘At the end of this age’.

Conclusion

Tentative though some of them may be, we’ve recommended Carta Impera Victoria across the board for every category except fluid intelligence. It’s a shame though some of these are so tentative because it would have made a great candidate for our list of accessible games on a budget if the performance were just a touch stronger in some of these areas.

Carta Impera Victoria, Meeple Like Us, [CC-BY 4.0]
CategoryGrade
Colour BlindnessA
Visual AccessibilityB-
Fluid IntelligenceD
MemoryC
Physical AccessibilityB+
Emotional AccessibilityC-
Socioeconomic AccessibilityB
CommunicationA

It’s not that there are accessibility blunders here – the problems mainly relate to the inevitable consequences of the game design – but it’s a little frustrating to see a game come so close to the list and not make it. That said, I’m not entirely sure what I’d do myself to fix the emotional and memory issues we’ve outlined. Perhaps the metal coin that is currently used to indicate the use of a culture power could be joined by another that acts as a shield preventing repeated acts of aggression against the same target. That’s not present in this edition of the game, but who knows what the future will bring.

We gave CIV three stars in our review. A solid game that doesn’t seem solid when you first play it. Maybe even more plays would build a greater affection than we were able to muster after the half-dozen or so sessions we managed. Certainly others have been more enthusiastically supportive of the game. It’s a reasonable competent performer in its accessibility profile too. If it seems like it’s a game that you could play, perhaps it’s worth giving it a try.


A Disclaimer About Teardowns

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 this will not be the blog for you. We will not debate 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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