Board games have come a long way since they were first played with stones and little pieces of wood. Games today are bursting with color and graphic design that appeal to the eye and draw players in. Many games rely on players having their own individual units to represent their presence on the board, and one of the easiest ways to identify those units is through color.
For this week’s CMON Feature Friday, we are looking at the relationship between board games and color.
If you ask any regular board gamer, they will probably tell you they have a favorite color to play when gaming. Maybe it was the first color they played when they were getting into the hobby. Maybe they’ve had a long-standing relationship with the color in their life. Or, maybe they just like the way it looks on the board. Whatever the reason for the connection, we tend to feel a need to be a certain color in a game.
It can be enough of an issue that if you don’t get to play your normal color, you may have a disadvantage in the game. When you look at the board and try and plan your strategy, you have to constantly remind yourself that you’re not green this game. We form a bond with our colors to the point that they feel like a part of our personality.
However, not every board game will have a standard set of colors for the player units. There can be a wide range of reasons for those decisions.
The colors of the player units in the game can sometimes be decided by the color scheme of the main board. There’s nothing worse than not being able to quickly look at the table and see the board state. More than a few games have been designed where players had to strain to make out what was going on in a given situation. Keeping a stark contrast between the pieces and the playing surface goes a long way for the flow and playability of a game.
If a game is set in a fantasy world, or a balloon factory, or outer space, there is a lot more freedom in the colors that are used. Designers and artists can be generic or creative in their decisions. However, if the setting refers to an actual historic period and involves military forces or civilian groups that actually existed, it often makes sense to base the colors of the units after those groups. For example, war games will often make British forces red to mimic the Red Coats of the 18th-20th centuries, or the South will often be colored grey in Civil War games to mark the Rebel forces.
If you don’t suffer from some form of color blindness, it may never even occur to you that it’s a problem, but for up to 8% of males and 0.5% of females, color blindness can affect their day to day life. In the past, color blindness has not always been taken into consideration when games were designed. But more and more, publishers are trying to make games accessible to everyone. Aside from colors alone, there are a number of different ways that games can differentiate units, such as having different symbols or sculpts. Having an awareness of these issues will lead to graphic designs that work for more people.
These are just some of the factors that may lead designers or publishers to choose a certain color scheme for their game. At the end of the day, what we want as players is a functional game that looks good.
If you’re interested in a completely unscientific explanation of the meaning behind your favorite game color, check these out:
Red: is the color of energy, speed, power, desire, and danger.
Blue: is the color of peace, harmony, unity, trust, and truth.
Green: is the color of nature, environment, health, luck, and renewal.
Yellow: is the color of joy, optimism, imagination, happiness, and idealism.
Purple: is the color of royalty, nobility, mystery, ceremony, and transformation.
Orange: is the color of balance, warmth, vitality, enthusiasm, and expansion.