Coloretto (2003) – Accessibility Teardown

Game Details
NameColoretto (2003)
ReviewMeeple Like Us
ComplexityLight [1.29]
BGG Rank496 [6.97]
Player Count2-5
Designer(s)Michael Schacht
Artist(s)Guido Favaro, Michael Schacht and Oksana Svistun
Buy it!Amazon Link

Version Reviewed

German 2012 Edition

Introduction

Coloretto is a nice, clean game of nice, clean fun – unfortunately it’s hard to get very enthusiastic about anything in the box because all the decisions you make feel ephemeral. Nothing has much heft. We gave it two and a half stars in our review. Not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but you really do need to stretch that same imagination to find anything exciting about it.

Our view as to the fun doesn’t matter though – you’re hear to find out if the game is accessible. Let’s start collecting sets and see how many penalties we wrack up.

Colour Blindness

There’s good news here for those that may have gone into this teardown thinking ‘A game of collecting coloured sets? Oh, you better believe that’s a paddlin‘. Each of the cards has a different textured background so while colour is used as the primary channel of information it isn’t used as the only channel:

Coloretto cards with colour blindness filter

Colour colour colour colour colour chameleon

Those colours most likely to demonstrate the largest degree of colour overlap are also the ones where the background is most distinctively different – consider the second and fourth cards for those with Protanoia, or the second and fifth for those with Tritanopia. The fact sets are coloured is largely irrelevant in this respect – you can match based on background pattern alone.

Colour Blindness cards in rows

Coloretto Cards in Situ

Pleasingly then for a game called Coloretto we’re able to strongly recommend it in this category.

Visual Accessibility

The visual sprawl of the game is quite limited – there will be a row for each player, and only three cards at most will be present in each row. With the standard rules you’ll be choosing between drawing a card, playing it in one of at most five rows, and evaluating the merit of at most fifteen cards. While this is quite a lot, the game also yields itself well to play with narration because there isn’t any spatial explicitness in the rows.

Rows in Coloretto

Coloretrows

Consider here – choices can be phrased as ‘You can get a grey, red and yellow or a pink, red and two points’. Even your own scoring context can be easily expressed and without being exhaustive. ‘Red, pink and yellow are your biggest sets with four, five and five cards. Your next biggest is grey with two. Everything else has one’. It’s important to be able to make decisions in line with what other players may be doing with their sets – you don’t want to make a row too rich to resist for someone. That though is also possible to assess with verbalisation by having people narrate their own collections of cards. You could relatively easily condense this into a more accessible form too – the cards themselves aren’t possible to differentiate by touch but written or tactile replacements could be used for cards when they enter your own scoring area.

Collected cards

What’s mine is mine

It’s not that it’s necessarily easy to hold all this information in mind – there’s still a lot of state data that needs to be evaluated if visual cues are not present. However, it falls into the ‘feasible’ category of compensation for those with total blindness. For those with less severe visual impairments, the only thing you need to know of a card is its colour or pattern. If that can be ascertained, perhaps with the use of an assistive aid, the game is likely to be fully playable with some support from the table.

We’ll recommend Coloretto in this category.

Cognitive Accessibility

There’s quite a lot of calculation involved in a game of Coloretto but it’s also possible to play reasonably well by focusing only on a handful of simple heuristics. Numeracy is required for play but it can be substituted relatively easily for something simpler, or the arithmetic can be handled by an abled player. You don’t need to work out scores in order to make decisions, you just need to know ‘aim for three sets big, make other sets as small as possible’. Calculating the odds in the sense we discussed in the review is important for playing well and building mastery in the game systems, but I don’t think it’s needed too much to have fun with Coloretto.

Game flow is malleable, at least to the extent that once you select a row you stop participating in the round. A visual and physical reminder of that is provided as a row card – if you have one of those in front of you play will skip your turn. That’s a nice cognitive accessibility aid even if I’m sure that’s not actually the intention behind it.

Skillful play is dependent to an extent on being able to calculate the probabilities of the draw deck but that doesn’t have a major impact on whether or not the game can be played and enjoyed. All you can do with that information is decide which cards are most likely to come out of the deck and by its very nature that’s almost always going to be wrong a certain percentage of the time. At the point the odds become fully transparent you won’t be able to change the sets you have collected particularly quickly anyway.

Placing a card is ideally done in terms of making it so that you’re devaluing a row for everyone else around the table – pairing their top colour with their fourth colour, for example. However, the effect of this is minimal in most cases – the way the scoring and randomness works means it’s quite rare that you can actually really do this in a way that feels impactful.

The most a player will be doing in any turn is choosing between one and six possibilities, depending on the number of players. Either ‘take a row’ or ‘place the next card in row one, two, three, four or five’. As cards are claimed the number of possible options decay until you are left with only one single possibility. As the game goes on, the decision tree gets smaller and more tractable simply because fewer options are presented to you.

In essence, Coloretto is a game that is likely playable and enjoyable by those with cognitive impairments, and the elements of the game that require cognitively expensive play don’t necessarily have a major impact on enjoyment in any case.

We’ll recommend Coloretto in both of our categories of cognitive accessibility.

Physical Accessibility

There’s no hidden information in the game save for the deck. All your sets are played out in front of you, and your action on a turn is either ‘collect a row’ or ‘play a card’. Both of those actions are perfectly verbalizable.

Otherwise the only physical actions are drawing a card, playing a card to a row, and collecting up a row of cards. None of those have any feature that would prevent someone from lending a hand if the tasks required an unreasonable amount of physical interaction.

We’ll recommend Coloretto in this category.

Emotional Accessibility

There’s contention over cards, and other players will perpetually be trying to reduce the value of a row by forcing you to take bad cards along with the good. The impact of this is almost always going to be trivial – a few points in most cases. Score disparity can be high but there’s so much randomness in round order and card draw that it ends up being difficult to take that as an indicator of player competence. The only issue that might really sting here is that Coloretto also tends to suffer from a seat order problem – the player upstream of the weakest player is almost always at an advantage.

We’ll recommend Coloretto in this category.

Socioeconomic Accessibility

The manual defaults to masculinity in much of its text, but aside from that there is no gender bias. The only character, if that’s the right term, is the chameleon that dominates pretty much every part of the game. This is only a contrivance in any case – Coloretto is an intensely abstract experience.

Coloretto box

No actual lizards inside

Cost wise there’s nothing really to fault – it comes in at under £9 and plays up to five players. It’s simple enough to be something you can play with anyone, including committed non-gamers. It plays very much like the kind of thing you’d set up with a standard deck of playing cards. As such it feels a good deal more intuitive in its design than many of the games we look at here.

We’ll recommended Coloretto in this category,

Communication

There’s no need for literacy, no requirement for communication in the game, and no need for us to complain about anything as a result.

We’ll strongly recommend Coloretto in this category.

Intersectional Accessibility

The only significant intersectional issue is the combination of visual and cognitive impairment. Much of the section on visual accessibility is predicated on narration standing in for or heavily supporting appreciation of game state. That’s cognitively expensive to do, and as such we’d be inclined to suggest that Coloretto is not a game likely to be compatible with that particular scenario. Those for whom colour blindness compounds with another kind of visual impairment will likely find the game more difficult to play, but only to the extent it would make our recommendations tentative.

Coloretto supports players dropping in and out as a consequence of the round system – when a player drops out at the end of a round their cards can be seeded back into the deck (or not) and the game can be set up with a smaller player count for the next round. This may not be completely clean in all circumstances (a two player game works slightly differently to a game involving three or more players) but house-rules can almost certainly be put in place to permit a transition. However, a full game of Coloretto only lasts around half an hour and it’s not particularly intense at any point. It’s unlikely to exacerbate issues of distress or discomfort.

Conclusion

It’s a very strong performance here from Coloretto – it’s a game that we’d recommend across the board and with relatively few caveats. True, part of that is a consequence of the simplicity of the design but we’ve seen often enough that ‘ease of play’ doesn’t necessarily translate into accessibility.

Coloretto, Meeple Like Us, [CC-BY 4.0]
Colour BlindnessA
Visual AccessibilityB
Fluid IntelligenceB
MemoryB
Physical AccessibilityB
Emotional AccessibilityB
Socioeconomic AccessibilityB
CommunicationA

Coloretto may be the first game we’ve encountered where we can realistically say ‘There is nothing genuinely new in here’ – its design is too sparse and its components are too few to really give us a lot to talk about that is unique. When I look at almost every other game on my shelves, at least those still to be reviewed, I don’t see this being a feat that is likely to be repeated any time soon. I hope not, anyway! Part of the reason this topic is so addictive to me is that every game presents its own unique nuance that needs considered.

While we were reasonably cool on Coloretto in our two and half star review, that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of your attention. The strength of its accessibility profile alone is reason enough to give it a chance. It may not be the most accessible game we’ve looked at on Meeple Like Us, but it certainly won’t look stupid when it’s added to our accessible game library guide at the end of the year.


A word 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.