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Maximum Colour/Playing Piece Differentiation?

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I'm producing a board game that (theoretically at least) could be played by hundred's of players. However, the number of players will be limited to the number of different looking playing pieces I can come up with. Clearly I don't want it to be too difficult to tell one player's pieces from anothers. At this point I think I'm going to be using solid coloured plastic playing pieces. I believe that I have come up with close to 12 different colours (plus white, grey and black). However, among the 12 are a couple that look a little too close to each other. So, I narrowed the field of choices to 9 (plus white grey black). I am curious as to other designer's experiences with this kind of thing. Any ideas and thoughts would be appreciated. Also, if you know of any games that have successfully dealt with the problem of producing a large number of unique looking playing pieces, I'd like to hear about them. [/img]

Joined: 06/22/2010
Maximum Colour/Playing Piece Differentiation?

Formula DE can have a large number of players too. The game comes with 10 cars in 5 colors (2 each) with removable spoilers. By choosing the body as a primary color and spoiler as a secondary, you can have up to 25 different combinations using just the 5 colours.

If you have your 9 colours and make a 2 or 3 segment piece, you can have 81 or 729 possible combinations.

Formula DE takes it even farther by selling metal cars that each person can custom paint. I usually play it with 10 people each controlling 2 cars, and about half of them are the metal painted ones.


IngredientX's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
Look out for color-blindness

One problem with using colors to distinguish your pieces is that color-blind people may have a tough time distinguishing them. They may see red-green and green-red pieces as being the same, for example. This is easy to avoid when you have a few tokens, but with the number you're talking about, it might be tricky. If there's any way each token can have a unique feature that doesn't involve colors, try it. At any rate, it's something you may wish to keep in the back of your mind.


Scurra's picture
Joined: 09/11/2008
Maximum Colour/Playing Piece Differentiation?

Yes, the colour-blindness problem is one that is often glossed over by designers (and addressed by some companies better than others.)

A current classic example is with the card-game Magic: the Gathering which has just redesigned its card faces. Now the old faces were so-so but there were enough distinguishing features that the red-green issue wasn't so important. With the new faces I have talked to people (both ftf and on-line) who literally can't distinguish them any more. OTOH at least you can read all the text on the cards now :)

I would agree with the poster who suggested using symbols as well as colours (if you can) on piece markers. A Red piece with a star may have a similar colour to a Purple piece with a fish, but the symbols serve to disambiguate them.


Thanks for the responses. I have considered the problem of colour-blindness (knowing that about 1 in 10 males are affected by it - especially red-green colour-blindness). However, my attitude before I posted this forum was that I would "gloss over" (ie. ignore) the problem. Your posts have got me thinking about this as a real consideration. It has also helped me since I could now, by combining colours with symbols, get a wider range of pieces.

I am not sure (since I am not colour-blind) how those that are colour-blind read different colours. Do red and green just look like a shade of grey? What about purple? Does the red get cancelled out so that all you can see is blue or blue-grey?

As for symbols, I am considering using capital letters from the Greek alphabet, and eliminating ones that look too similar to each other.

The only problems I can see now is that the size of the game pieces will be about 9mm square, and that there will be a lot of them on a big board. That is pretty small for being able to "read" different pieces.

Joined: 12/31/1969
Maximum Colour/Playing Piece Differentiation?

I would think that greek letters would be good (hmm, maybe I will use greek letters in my game). In my experience there aren't that many that look extremely similar, and I would think you could read them if they aren't smaller than 5 mm.

Maximum Colour/Playing Piece Differentiation?

If you want more symbols, look through Wingding and Webding fonts... and there are over 65000 symbols in Unicode if you can find it somewhere...

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