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Font Selection

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HandwrittenAnthony's picture
Joined: 12/01/2011
Halfling Heist Font Comparison 1.1

It's time to ask for some feedback! We've reached the pointy end of the graphic design stage with Handwritten's first game, Halfling Heist, and have come to the dreaded discussion of font selection.

(Further details for Halfling Heist can be found here for reference:

I have attached an image with the two basic ideas we have so far for the font to be used on the card copy. One is a no-nonsense sans serif, the other a bouncy handwritten script. These aren't the final choices for the fonts, they're just suggestions in the directions we could go.

The theories of the two options are that the sans serif is best for legibility, whereas the script has more character to it.

The card attached to this post is the most verbose in the entire game. The rest of the decks generally feature no more than three lines at most.

Given the theme and style of the game (casual, humourous, fantasy), which direction do you think would be better pursued? Legibility, or character?

And theory aside, which font do you prefer on the card?

All feedback appreciated!

zipplockbag's picture
Joined: 01/12/2012
Handwritten all the way.

I would argue that the script, hand written typeface, is more legible. At worst it's not worse than the sans-serif and it makes the game feel more personal and, dare I say, cozy. I have to side with the hand written typeface.

Dralius's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
I find them both perfectly

I find them both perfectly legible but like the rounder font on the right.

Joined: 12/12/2011
So I looked at the cards and

So I looked at the cards and read your post afterwards. I was focused on reading what the card did and after seeing they both said the same thing, went back to read the rest of the post. I didn't actually notice they had different fonts.

I'd say that suggests they are both equally legible. (Though apparently my brain has a tendency to hone in on certain details and ignore others)

Looking at them again, the aesthetic of the right font seems to fit better with the rest of the card's name text and images.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
The one on the right!

I love the font on the right, and agree with the others that it fits well with the overall aesthetic. I can't see any reason why the font on the left would be a better choice; it's not more legible, it's not more personal, it's not tied to the game, it's just....a text block without character.

Cogentesque's picture
Joined: 08/17/2011
Anthony, I <3 fonts. A


I <3 fonts.

A "Font-o-phile" if you will. Luckily the people who design boardgames (along with web and graphic designers) are, I think, some of the MOST knowladgeable people about fonts in all the world.

I even used to hang out in font forums Althought, now I have written it, and as my backspace key is broken - I am ashamed of having hung out in font forums Anthony...very ashamed.


1. Your card looks lovely
2. The art made me chuckle
3. I don't really like the four leaf clover as it reminds me of mock-Irishness too much (but I suppose: what else are you going to do? Horseshoe?)
4. I think your game is going to do very well as it seems like (from this card alone) it is a Munchkin-plus type game - which will have a massive fan base already
5. I love the little comical thick-outline dice logo
6. I would suggest some kind of border (you probably have this under control already!)
7. The font on the right bestows a little TOO much humour to the game. It makes it feel like it is poking fun at itself, and as such, I have no way of taking the game seriously as I am instructed (via the font) to laugh with the game, at itself. The images look brilliant and they look like they will bestow exactly the right attitude towards the game, but of course UNDER the images and the flavor text there should be a - good - game that I want to take seriously as a game in its own right. The rules is the important bit. The text IS the rules. Therefore the text is the important bit. You can make the important bit fun, but do not make it mock it - it detracts. And as such, I would reccomend the left one, or seeking out a different semi-serif font with a few cute letters that does itself a world of justice while still being fun. Fun doesn't mean stupid remember. Fun means likeable.

p.s. I read the rules again and it made me laugh again ^^

hope i've helped


Joined: 10/13/2011
Skimming the card

I found myself skimming the card on the left as all of the letters in the font are the same height and very even. It naturally encouraged me to read fast and look for breaks rather than focus on the words. The font on the right has a lot of dips and peaks in the top edge and I found that I immediately read each word on the card.

I found both to be perfectly legible.

The overall card looks very attractive (would love to see more of them!)

Personal preference was for the font on the right.

Good luck with your printing!

Joined: 03/14/2012
My two cents

I choose you, San-serif.

The art is awesome. No doubt. But the one thing I did to look at them was cover up the right one, close my eyes for 5 seconds, and then open them. This allowed me to find out where my eyes "directed" to go on your card. for the one of the left, it was a little above the directions. This allowed me to skim the directions, look up to see a die, the art, "Bucket-Head," and then trace back down. When I covered the left card (with san-serif), closed and open my eyes, I was lead straight to the dice. This is because the only thing bolded on the card is the dice. This lead to a problem, there was no natural way for my eyes to scan the card as I did in the first card with san-serif lettering. I looked at the bolded dice, then ran my eyes across the the dust line, and came back to the dice. I didn't take in the whole card's design. This is probably due to the lack of importance put on the "instructional" text on the bottomhalf. Bold, san-serif sticks out as it greatly differs from the title font. The handwritten font is similar to the title front and therefore balances out the card on top of bottom, just another reason why my eye was forced along a horizantal line along the bolded dice. While I understand the "handwritten" font "fits" in because it's similar to the font of the "Bucket-head" title, I found it not as interesting as a design due to its lack of direction for my eye to follow and take in the entire card to admire its cute art and silly title. Also, while I have no experience printing cards, I was curious as to how well will the final product show up with the incredibly thin lines of the handwritten font. I like the card with san-serif as it gives the eye a direction on the card and distinctly shows that this text is not only different from "Bucket-Head", but its important and allows it to stand out more.

HandwrittenAnthony's picture
Joined: 12/01/2011
Incredible feedback, thanks guys!

Wow, that's incredible feedback - thanks everyone! I'll be taking all of these comments into account when we next tackle the font discussion. I'm pretty on the fence at the moment, but now we have some good feedback for both sides to work with.

Cogentesque: Don't worry, we won't tell anyone about your dirty past lurking in font forums.

And thankyou for the compliments! I cannot take the praise for the art - I have an amazing pencil-gremlin (@deceptikong on Twitter) who I work with.

In regards to border, as we'll be printing digitally, we've opted to not use a border. It does make the cards feel more open, but it also means any shift in cutting alignment won't be nearly so noticeable.

I think your comments on the personality vs. the data of the game are very valid, and have left me with a lot to think about. Thanks again!

Orangebeard: My concern about the sans serif is the skimming you mentioned. I do wonder if that would be solved by going the route of a bouncier sans serif (as suggested by Cogentesque), or even going with a nice traditional serif font that can lead the eyes easier?

As for seeing more cards - if I can engage in some shameless self-promotion for a moment - I have just last week started posting previews for Halfling Heist on our blog. The first post has been replicated here on BGDF, but if you want to see the post roam in its natural habitat, you can take a squizz here:

More of those will be coming soon!

Smartfoot: Great thinking with flash testing the fonts like that. Your results are invaluable!

I really like the play of the script font used in the headings with the traditional sans serif. This really stands out with some of the other cards, where the headings are used in the copy as well. In that respect, having a non-script copy font makes these stand out even further.

(An example is the Sidestep card featured in that blogpost above.)

In terms of the printed product, the current prototype is printed with the script font. It is legible, but it does come across as fairly light. If that was to become the direction we pursue, then we'd definitely look at something a little heavier than that in the example.

JaffetC's picture
Joined: 09/19/2011
dont worry about the border to much...

I wouldn't worry about the borders too much, however I'd say that if you need to make font rather small you may have to use Serif Fonts. Sometimes when you get to 6pt or lower script will just turn into squigles. Serif in the other hand because of its points will let you still read the word, it wont be easy but its better than san-serif (unless you are working with pixel font). Either way. When big use san-serif when small use serifs.

Are the cards going to be standard size? If that means you are working on a 3.25x2.25. I'm not certain how complicated you will make abilities, just remember that sometimes you might have to increase the DPI in order to make sure your font can go small enough and still be legible.

HandwrittenAnthony's picture
Joined: 12/01/2011
That makes a lot of sense,

That makes a lot of sense, thanks JaffetC!

The cards are a little bit bigger than standard - 3.5 x 2.5. Bucket Helmet is the second most complicated card, but has the greatest amount of copy. I figured it would be best to test the fonts on the wordiest card. Most other cards are three/four lines maximum.

HandwrittenAnthony's picture
Joined: 12/01/2011
Final decision!

Time to crack open this old chestnut open again!

We have narrowed down font selection to two candidates. I was pretty adamant regarding a standard serif font up until my graphic designer tested out the following comparison with a very reasonable comic font:

I wasn't completely convinced, but then we quickly laid out a potential rulebook panel:

And I have to admit, not only does the comic font read fine, but it also looks surprisingly uniform and tighter than the serif font. It feels like a great compromise between uniformity, legibility and character. But I am still on the fence.

What is the wisdom of the crowd regarding this final selection? Appreciate all thoughts and feedback.

Cogentesque's picture
Joined: 08/17/2011
Yoyo anthony! For the manual:

Yoyo anthony!

For the manual: Perfect. Fits the game well.

For the card: personally I have to recheck my eyes once I am through a few words. Remember cards are meant to be seen quickly and effectively: basically like a header or a title in a long-form article.

I probably wouldn't use that comic font for a header in a long-form article, and as such I would sway a little more to sticking to something that is just super easy to read.

To sum:
1. Use that fonrt for manual
2. Use a different one for the cards
3. Ignore what I mean to say and go with what you feel is best!

HandwrittenAnthony's picture
Joined: 12/01/2011
Thanks for the feedback again

Thanks for the feedback again Sam, always helpful. =)

My gut feeling is exactly the same as yours about the choice. Is it okay to have the two different fonts across different components of the print? It feels like we should choose one and stick with it for brand uniformity across the whole game, but perhaps I'm just overthinking it.

Cogentesque's picture
Joined: 08/17/2011
No man you are quite right,

No man you are quite right, its good to think about these things.

Well the reason a lot of advice says "stick with one font!" is because its very good to keep a reign on these things. Im sure you've seen the odd website or article with like 5 different fonts, 10 colours, bolding, underlining and italic - so in a way it is 5 fonts, but like 20 faces. The main thing though is to not let the font distract from the content.

Give you an example: even if you use 1 font but you have it as body, small footer text, italic flavor, and bold title - you have 1 font but 4 faces.

Good advice is to keep the font faces down to a minimum. Keep it regimented and make it flow easily.

Thus; going back to my original point from way back, it might serve you well to use a comicy font for perhaps the title/name and a slightly different font for the body - but make sure they match and make sure they go well together.

My test:

Close my eyes, flip the card over and read it instantly. Give myself 1-2 seconds of reading time and see how much of the card I retained. Then do the same with a different font. You can catch yourself out this way, and when your eyes start back tracking and skipping back to the start of the sentences then it might be time to try another font.


Also as an aside I filled out a "contact form" on your website,


zipplockbag's picture
Joined: 01/12/2012
In the creative field they

In the creative field they have a saying, 3 typefaces are too much, 1 is too little.

Fonts are files that computers use to display text in typeface styles. Typically you stay away from sans-serif fonts for bodies of text because serif fonts have been shown to be more legible. Sans serif are very well used for headers where attention needs to be grabbed in short bursts. In this case, either will do.

I have found, personally, handwritten and sans serif to be more readable, but maybe because I have younger eyes than some people. The handwritten, not to be confused with over-used "comic" typefaces, also gives it a more crafted look, especially if its a more custom and obscure handwritten typeface.

I guess the point is, too much consideration could be put into how readable it is, when more should be placed into how pleasing to the eye it looks.

Cogentesque's picture
Joined: 08/17/2011
Good advice from mr zip there

Good advice from mr zip there but I will have to disagree on a few points,
page 330

This is one of the mainstays where we get the notion that "sans serif is more readable than serif" - there is actually very little empirical evidence for this and the notion originally was original borne during the advent of the printing press and was decided as "serif fonts generally are seen to be more legible" back in the 90's (I hasten to add; 20 years ago) in fact, proper scientific study shows that quicker character recognition (see: understanding the words) is actually slightly greater in SAN serif fonts (

This is the reason why zip finds san serif more readable; as do i; as do a lot of others. Think that long form books and articles require a large amount of reading (days / hours) but people arent going to read your card for days - they will look at them to get the message and play the damned game! Hence - the card needs to be quickly recognisable (see: obvious and without all the curly bits on the letters getting in the way!) Thus we see that most of the world (other than books) is written in sans serif: the internet / signs / road markings / magazines etc.

While 2 type faces is a good number to go for (remember: a type face includes "bold" and "underlined" etc x 1000 ) and as such: you already have your first typeface as a title, you only need one for the body - and that one should be a nice, non-offensice, pretty looking font that is easy and quick to read and gives the reader a little bit of a sense into the personality of your game.

Personally, I would head away from hand written type fonts. Because
1. They are not hand written - and it is painfully obvious to see (when someone signs there name or writes an email in "bradley hand" - I always think to myself "Do they know that I know this is not their handwriting?"
2. They always tend to have an element of thinner scrawl-yness to them, making the lines a little more aggresive and jagged - losing the eye.

But zip is quite right, you can totally overthink these things. I'll fix it for you:

Do it in Univers.


love sam

HandwrittenAnthony's picture
Joined: 12/01/2011
Thanks to this comment Sam, I

Thanks to this comment Sam, I spent forty minutes last night reading an article on the history of Univers and Helvetica and what the significance is between them.

I'll never got those forty minutes back.


ziplockbag, thanks for your insight. I agree with what you say about over-analysing it, which is very similar to what someone else has advised on LinkedIn.

My gut is saying a serif font for the cards (although maybe not Garamond, it's not quite right and fails the flash/flip test mentioned in this thread), and that specific comic font for the rulebook.


Done? Done.


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