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Scoville Review—Does It Pass the Colorblind Test?

Updated on March 18, 2017
Scoville-little wooden peppers of all colors and sizes
Scoville-little wooden peppers of all colors and sizes

My husband and I are board game enthusiasts. Our collection totals more than 120 games. When considering a new game, we prefer that it plays well with two people. It must have a theme and a mechanic that we both enjoy. Because my husband is colorblind, our board game purchases are also guided by how well a game plays for people who are colorblind. The rest of this article will focus on that.

Understanding Colorblindness

For the unfamiliar, colorblindness is more like blurry vision than the ability to not see any color at all (except for a small percentage - monochromacy/achromatopsia). Generally, for those who are nearsighted, a small letter “E” far away is hard to discern, and a giant letter “E” up close is easy to discern. Similarly, someone with red/green deficiency (deuteranopes) may have a hard time discerning a small red swatch far away, but close up it can be clearer. There is a wide spectrum of blurry vision problems, as there is also with color blindness. This review will discuss how colors are used in the game Scoville, and how much colorblindness (deuteranomalous) affects gameplay.

Scoville- A Strategy Board Game

Scoville is a game about planting and harvesting peppers of an array of colors. The color of the peppers is very important to the game play, which could be very problematic for people with colorblindness. The designers tried to minimize colorblind issues by making the wooden peppers different heights to help separate the colors. Peppers come in 4 distinct heights. At each height there are 3 colors.

Small - red, blue, yellow

Medium - orange, lime green, purple

Large - white, black, brown

Extra Large - clear/translucent with glitter

Scoville peppers vary in height
Scoville peppers vary in height

Colors also come into play with the player pawns and screens. These colors are more in the pastel range and could be harder to distinguish. Unless you are playing a six player game, you will probably be able to pick some colors to play with that work.

Scoville is a game for up to six players, each with different colored pawns and screens
Scoville is a game for up to six players, each with different colored pawns and screens

In the game, there is a harvesting action that gives you specific colors of peppers to put behind a screen. To store the peppers, we chose to pair them up to save on space and to make picking them easier. We put these colors together: red+yellow, blue+lime green, purple+orange, white+brown, black+clear. For someone who is colorblind, it is a little easier to find the orange with the purple (Phoenix Suns) than it would be if all the colors were separated.

Sorting the colored peppers into cups makes for easier setup and clean up
Sorting the colored peppers into cups makes for easier setup and clean up

Picking out the peppers doesn’t seem to be really difficult for my husband. The varying heights help to narrow the range of what he is looking for. The main colors he mixes up seem to be orange and lime green. He can usually distinguish the peppers themselves, but there is a secondary issue.

The pepper meeples are represented by small pepper icons on cards in the game. Much of his colorblind issues with board games arise when having to compare a physical piece to an icon representation on a card. Pepper icons are on most of the cards in Scoville in a variety of sizes. Much of the difficulty comes is determining the color of a small pepper icon across the table. We’ll look at the icons smallest to largest.

Recipe Cards

Recipe cards allow you to collect combinations of peppers and trade them in for big points. It’s really really important to know the colors on these, so that you will be collecting the correct peppers throughout the game. You don't want to be stuck with a lime green when you actually needed an orange. If you collected the wrong colors, you won't get the points you were expecting. My husband added a black dot to all of the orange pepper icons on the cards because it was so hard to differentiate between the orange and lime green icons.

The pepper heights are included in the icons on all cards, so it can help to figure out the other hard to see color combos. Sometimes you get a recipe with a clear and some browns. In these cases, colorblind players may need to compare the relative heights or the heights on other cards to figure out exactly which colors are needed. The brown and red icons can be hard to pick out if they are isolated. If they are right next to each other, then the height helps make it easier. The difficulty in regard to the game play is that you don’t want to telegraph your moves to the other players. They may buy the recipe card before you if they know you are going for it.

Scoville recipe cards
Scoville recipe cards

Market Cards

The market cards are used to trade peppers in on the left to get the benefits on the right. The bottom blue level are the starting morning cards, while the top green cards are the afternoon ones that come out later in the game. There are only two colors for the phases, and they don't get shuffled up. The background colors aren’t a difficulty in the game. The difficulty comes in that the icons are separated and there are not many of them. It can be hard to determine if you have to pay a red/brown or receive an orange/lime green. These cards also seem to make it harder for my husband to discern purple/black. It’s the isolation of the icon that makes it hard. The bonuses on the market cards aren't as great as the recipe cards, but you still don't want to telegraph what you want to the other players if they are ahead of you in the turn order.

Scoville market cards
Scoville market cards

Auction Cards

Auction cards are bonuses for going earlier in the turn order bidding. They have the same blue/green background colors for morning/afternoon phases. The icons are the larger here than they are on any of the other cards. In a four player game you will start with 16 recipe cards and 11 market cards. That is a lot of icons to figure out to put a plan together, especially without announcing your plan to other players. The auction cards are different because there is only one per player each round, and they don’t have many icons on them. If you have any questions about colors on the auction cards, you can ask other players without revealing any strategy.

Scoville auction cards
Scoville auction cards

Crossbreeding Peppers

The last component of the game that has pepper icons is the crossbreeding color chart. We marked the orange peppers on one chart with a black dot. After playing the game a few times, the chart might only be needed for the bottom right section. That section doesn’t happen nearly as much as the upper left where red+yellow=orange or blue+yellow=lime green.

Scoville pepper cross breeding chart
Scoville pepper cross breeding chart

Summary

Scoville is a very heavy color game and has lots of icons. The designers tried to make it easier on colorblind players using varying sizes (heights) for the peppers. Without the pepper heights it would be completely unplayable for my husband, and many other colorblind players. With the different heights, there are only a few areas of the game that are made more challenging by colorblindness.

What's your personal relationship to colorblindness?

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