|Name||Welcome To... (2018)|
|Review||Meeple Like Us|
|Complexity||Medium Light [1.89]|
|BGG Rank||226 [7.69]|
|Player Count (recommended)||1-100 (1-10)|
|Buy it!||Amazon Link|
It’s hard really to recommend Welcome To over a bevvy of other games. There’s very little in it to which I object, but that’s too low a bar to set for any of us. We’re living through a golden age of quality and ‘doesn’t make any serious mistakes’ isn’t a selling point any more. We gave it three stars in our review, because it’s fine. It’s a perfectly fine game.
But you know, maybe it’s got more going for it in this part of our analysis? A perfectly fine game that is accessible has a whole bright future of recommendations ahead of it on Meeple Like Us. Let’s get stuck in with our planning permission and see if we might not be able to erect something magnificent.
Welcome To does about as well as we could hope in this section – colour isn’t used as a channel of information. It’s always ornamentation. Numbered cards have large, distinctive digits on the front, special effects are differentiated by unambiguous icons, and the combination of these together presents no issue for players with colour blindness.
The pads you use for writing don’t make use of colour for any reason other than separating out different parts of the scoring and these get a generous allocation of surrounding white space in any case.
We’ll strongly recommend Welcome To in this category. It’s not really obvious to me how it could have done better.
Welcome To is a very solitaire game, and that means that you never really need to worry about what another player is doing. That’s instantly a massive boon in this category because it focuses all key information right in front of you. The only other information needed is the three options available to select from and those are easily verbally described by the table. ‘Choices are a three with a bis, a four with a temp agency and a twelve with a real estate agent’. The sequencing of written numbers in the game too is a useful tool for visual accessibility since it will indicate which side of the pad a player should be examining.
Goal cards are also reasonably easy to describe although somewhat visually inaccessible in and of themselves because of how busy they are.
Some of this support won’t be available in a solo game of course, since in that case a player will need to be responsible for dealing with the deck of opportunities as well as their pad. In those circumstances the game becomes considerably more problematic. Numbers on the cards for example can be lost in the clutter of the background.
Assuming there is some verbal support available, the main inaccessibility comes in with the pad itself and that is something over which players have a fair amount of control. For example, consider the empty lots:
The dots separating lots represent potential locations for fences, and the white lines above are supposed to be filled when an estate has been used as part of a goal – you can’t double-dip these. How visually accessible this ends up being is going to depend at least in part on the colour of the pen or pencil used.
Consider the sheet above for example. Using a black pen means that sometimes the filled in sections blend into the surrounding greenery. It’s not that you can’t see them, but rather it’s easy to miss them when doing a visual scan. Other pen colours can be better, but given the colour scheme there’s a narrower range of high contrast than you might like. That said, there’s nothing to prohibit alternate ways of marking information. There’s also nothing to stop someone developing a much more austere and visually accessible player sheet using nothing more than the table tool in Word. That might be necessary regardless depending on the extent of visual impairment – in the end most of the game is about writing neat(ish) numbers into narrow constraints. The larger and more forgiving these constraints are, the easier the game will be to play. There’s nothing fundamentally in the game that would prevent someone with visual impairments from playing. It will likely involve some bespoke adjustments and may require a little bit of preparatory work with a computer.
For those for whom total blindness must be considered, the game becomes a much more difficult one of memory although it would be possible to play with compensations. For example, a player might place matchsticks in lots to indicate the number contained within. Verbal support from sighted players can also solve a lot of problems. Welcome To wouldn’t necessarily be my first recommendation for a game for a fully blind player though.
We’ll tentatively recommend, just, Welcome To in this category for those with minor to moderate visual impairments but we’d advise more caution for those that are totally blind.
They most important skill used in play is the ability to seriate, but it’s seriation within an uncertainty window. When writing numbers the key thing is to leave yourself room to grow as well as finish off districts with fences when it is most advantageous to do. The order in which a player encounters numbers is going to influence where they should go in a street – having a seven doesn’t mean the smartest thing to do is put it in the centre of a row. It’s a seriation built on an implicit understanding of probability and how the presence of numbers early in the game impacts on choices that will be offered in the future. It’s a complex compound flavour of implicit numeracy.
Scoring is a little more complex than this still although as is often the case it’s something that can be handled by the table. Mostly it’s a done by marking off where you’ve used particular special effects and then adding or subtracting the total at t he end. The real estate agent though lets you change the value of completed estates and this is one of the most effective tools you have for synergising neighbourhood layout, goals and point values. If a goal is looking for four two-house estates you might want to invest a few real estate agents in updating the value of two-house estates. However, that depends on whether you can align your neighbourhood development to the special effects. There’s a push your luck element here that’s worth bearing in mind – going deep on any strategy is going to earn more points, if you pull it off, than going wide. However, mostly you get plenty of chances to score regardless. There’s a coupling between skill and score in other words. Opportunistic rather than strategic play is still going to permit someone a reasonable showing.
Game rules are reasonably straightforward, although some of them have inconsistent logic behind them. A fence can be placed between any two houses, but a pool can only be placed if there was a plan for one in the specific lot that was filled. Landscaping happens on a per street basis, but a bis action can be done anywhere. There are only six special actions that can be taken so it’s not a critical problem but it may require prompting and a degree of flexibility with how strict the table will be with regards to enforcement. Complex synergies are not present, and the game flow is entirely consistent throughout play.
The rules in the game are, to an extent, configurable. There’s a standard game, an advanced game, and an expert game. However, the standard rules still require players to understand the effects and goals so the barrier to play doesn’t get substantially reduced in the game’s simplest form.
Welcome To requires no literacy, but it does come with one of the least useful player aids I’ve ever seen:
Once you internalise the rules it has a weird, perverse logic to it but it certainly doesn’t help anyone that may not remember what the icons are supposed to do. It looks like the dial address of a malfunctioning Stargate.
Players that can remember which numbers have come out and which are likely to still appear are going to do better than those that can’t, but the pad you are given is physical evidence at least until the decks are reshuffled. At that point, players with a good memory are going to have a considerable advantage but usually the game doesn’t have long to run from that point on.
So – a fair amount of arithmetic, some surprisingly complex seriation, and some non-intuitive rules. The saving graces here are that there aren’t a lot of status effects to remember and in most cases they involve checking off one thing or another. Playing well is difficult, but finding the fun doesn’t require especially complex cognitive processing. We’ll recommend, just, Welcome To in both of our categories of cognitive accessibility.
Playing Welcome To is a very solitary experience, and player interaction is almost nil even in the expert mode. You’ve almost always got options – there’s rarely nothing you can do at least until the last few draws of the game. There aren’t even the cruel twists of randomness that usually infest games like this. It’s a curiously zen experience to play Welcome To, although those with a compulsive need for completion will likely find the gaps you have to leave unfilled in the neighbourhood something of a problem. There’s no player elimination, no take-that systems, no ganging up on other players and everyone gets to spend as much time playing as everyone else since it’s done in real-time. Winning to losing differentials can be large but not especially often – when they’re significant it’s normally because someone has been extremely unfortunate or because another has been extremely fortunate. It’s easy to chalk this up to luck, because that’s usually what it is.
However, with this one also has to bear in mind the Karuba effect – technically the only thing that differs here is player skill because everyone has all of the same options all the way through the game. It’s entirely possible for two players to follow the exact same strategy and end up with the exact same score, which suggests luck isn’t quite the determinator I’ve indicated above. That might be an issue for some players, but it’s not so much ‘luck of the draw’ as it is ‘luck of circumstances’. Where you place your first few numbers is going to be significant, and as soon as you differ substantially from someone else the outcome is impossible to predict.
We’ll strongly recommend Welcome To in this category.
Those with gross motor control impairments that don’t impact on hand control are going to be fine. Those with more fine-grained motor control issues are likely to find this an awkward game to play. Most of the game is about writing numbers in reasonably small sections of a pad. Legibility of those numbers doesn’t need to be high but it does need to be unambiguous.
Fences, and estates used up for scoring, also require lines to be blocked out, and occasionally very small markers for score need to be ticked off. Due to their small size and close proximity it’s very easy to overshoot and mark off multiple sections at once.
There’s some drawing of cards and some shuffling once the decks run out, but that is a responsibility of the table rather than any individual player. Provided it’s not a solo game that’s unlikely to be a particular issue.
Verbalisation is reasonably straight forward, at least after a few numbers have been written into the streets. These form natural landmarks and points of interest in the pad and permit for easy referencing. ‘Two along from my seven’ or ‘Bis my six on the first street’. It’s entirely feasible for someone to act entirely on behalf of another in Welcome To since it involves at most marking two things off of a sheet during a turn. Bingo veterans will be familiar with the ease of this.
On that basis we’ll recommend Welcome To in this category.
I’m a little conflicted on the representation. The game adopts a kind of kitsch 50s aesthetic and then swaps the stereotypical gender roles. The box shows the woman in the position of authority with the man struggling in a ‘bumbling assistant’ capacity.
The charming backs of the player mats likewise show men in the ‘little wife’ role that you might have otherwise expected. Consider for example this image of Meeple War where the husband (presumably) is busying himself with serving tea while his wife and daughter engage in the serious business of play.
While this is definitely better than the alternative, it still strikes me as a bit off-key. It’s better I think to invert the stereotype than it is to play into it, but it’s also better I think to subvert or side-step it entirely. I’m prepared to concede I might be overthinking it. All this does though is highlight for me is a tone of ‘Oh ho, aren’t we progressive’. It doesn’t convince me especially since the manual still defaults to masculinity which undercuts the point pretty aggressively. ‘Haha, we’re showing women playing games but we’re still going to talk as if they don’t’.
In terms of RRP, I can’t really fault much – it costs around £24 and it scales incredibly well. It’s easily learned, easily played, and I can see it being a hit with very large groups of all levels of ability. Its cost per player value essentially trends towards zero. It’s short enough to let you fit in a game during even busy days, and while it’s not the greatest game in the world it is perfectly competent.
We’ll strongly recommend Welcome To in this category, with a little black mark for the defaulting to masculinity in the manual. I’m prepared to accept the rest of the subtext says more about me than it does about the game.
There’s no need for communication, and no reading level required for play. We’ll strongly recommend Welcome To in this category.
For those where colour blindness intersects with a visual impairment there are a couple of special effects that can be confused because of the similarity of their silhouettes and their dependency on orientation. For example, the pool and real estate agent for those with Protanopia. This is only really going to be an issue in a solo game though.
For those with visual impairments and memory impairments, we’d be inclined to recommend they avoid Welcome To. It puts a lot of pressure on memory to deal with the visual information and while there’s not a huge amount of state it would need to be regularly referenced and that would be unsatisfying.
An intersection of physical and communicative impairments will have an impact on verbalisation, but it’s still possible to play through exhaustive indication of options.
Welcome To plays in about twenty or thirty minutes barring accessibility considerations, and its limited sprawl means that it can be an appropriate choice in a whole range of circumstances. It’s also played mostly simultaneously which means that there’s no down-time to speak of – it scales really well to large player counts and smoothly supports dropping out because nobody has the ability to impact on anyone else. That makes it a very flexible game for lots of circumstances, including those where modulating symptoms must be taken into account.
Well, this is a strong performance from Welcome To – it might not have gotten as much (admittedly conflictted) love as Ganz Schon Clever in its review but it certainly rose to the occasion of an accessibility analysis. That has a value that goes beyond our curmudgeonly complaining about a perfectly fine game.
Even in the visual accessibility section there’s a lot that could be done if someone is serious about playing. An hour with a spreadsheet or a word processor could result in a far more accessible, stripped down version of the game pad. Had something like that existed on the back side of the sheets in the pad you’re provided, I’d be inclined to be a great deal more generous in that section.
We gave Welcome To three stars in our review – decent enough as a game but that’s too low a bar in this day and age. What’s not too low a bar though is ‘a game that is accessible for lots of people’, and especially not ‘a game that could be accessible for everyone’. If you want a roll and write, kinda, that you don’t need to stress over bringing out for friends with complex interaction needs this is one you might want to consider for your collection.
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.