Flying Colors

US_Flag_color_blindWhen I was little, I used to have to ask my friends in school what color crayons I was using.  These weren’t the conveniently labeled Crayola brand, these were the big, thick unlabeled kind that elementary schools seem to multiply almost at will.  And for some reason I didn’t understand at the time, I had trouble telling yellow and green apart.  Same with red and brown, and blue and purple.  So, putting my faith in my fellow students, I’d ask for help.  Which ended up with me turning in a drawing with purple sky and yellow grass.  My teacher was less than amused.

Eventually I found out I was red-green colorblind.  I took those tests where you look at the circles full of dots and are told that yes, most definitely, there’s a number in there.  All I saw were bunches of dots.  Maybe a bit of a curve that could be a 3 or a 6 or who the hell knows what if I squinted really hard. So on top of making sure I could only see things up close, my eyes were conspiring to turn reds and greens into one amorphous shade.  Gred, if you will.

It’s not so bad if the colors are separated.  It’s not like I have no concept of what red and green are; I’m not in danger of getting killed at a traffic light or anything.  But get them too close to each other, and it’s anybody’s ballgame.  So of course, it makes perfect sense that I would choose hobbies that frequently use colors as a way of determining things.

For instance, I used to have to have Hannah stand behind me when I was making characters in City of Heroes because I’d inevitably end up making a British-themed super-hero with a brown and purple Union Jack on his uniform.  “Which row is red?” I’d have to ask, and she’d patiently point it out to me, helpfully explaining the differences between scarlet and crimson and maroon and she might as well have been speaking Urdu or something, because I was have trouble just seeing basic goddamn red.  But it did spare me plenty of sartorial embarrassment once I was running around in tights and a cape.  In the game, that is.

But board games can be their own particular brand of hell.  They just love using colors for everything.  We’ll play 7 Wonders, which has red and brown and blue and purple cards, and I’m constantly having to ask which is which, all while without giving away what cards are in my hand.  It’s a common problem among gamers.  In fact, a common question concerning new games is how colorblind-friendly they are, and many games will use symbols in addition to colors to help us out.  We appreciate it.

Every once in a while, though, some game will decide, “Nah, they’ve had it too easy.  Let’s make them work.”  Which brings me to our game of Village last night.  Village is actually a great concept, a game where you have generations of workers, who can actually die and, unlike most worker placement games, this is not a bad thing, but an actual necessary part of the game.  In order to have your workers do things, you have to remove colored cubes from the board, which are then used to pay the cost for certain actions.  It’s a really clever, elegant system.

But those cubes are where the fun comes in.  Their colors are black, pink (good so far) … brown, orange and green. Fantastic.  And not only that, but since the cubes are made of wood and not heavily painted, the tint of the color changes depending on the grain on the side you’re looking at.  So a cube I had pegged as green might also look orange to me if I turn it over.  On top of all this, the pictures of the cubes printed on the board to show the action costs are completely different shades than the actual cubes.  So my friends were getting frustrated with me constantly asking for clarification on what color I was actually picking up, I was getting frustrated at their frustration, and pretty soon we had three Type A personalities all being short and cranky because genetics decided to come up snake eyes on my whole X chromosome thing.  Fortunately, we’re all mature enough and have known each other long enough that no permanent damage was done, but the fourth player must have thought we were absolute loons.  Sorry, Gail.

After forty-four years, it’s something I’ve learned to cope with, and it’s really little more than an annoyance.  Although people who don’t have this problem do sometimes make me a little brown with envy.


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