Tabletop games are intrinsically tied to their visual components, requiring players to manipulate pieces and reference text on cards or boards to carry out their turns. But what about those with visual impairments? How are they supposed to follow the rules printed on a Dominion card if they have trouble seeing it? Should they just be excluded from our wonderful hobby?
The idea behind the project is simple. Blind or impaired gamers shouldn’t have to feel left out or discouraged from enjoying our favorite tabletop games. After all, if our hobby strives to be as inclusive and open as possible, why shouldn’t we devise methods to welcome folks that have a physical barrier of entry to the gaming world? This is exactly the driving philosophy of Richard and Emily and their crowdfunding campaign. The money is being raised to purchase a braille embosser, as the costs and logistics of working with an outside company proved to be fruitless. This way, the duo will be able to print braille embossed card sleeves and dice on demand, creating a much more affordable and manageable business model.
The project grew out of Emily and Richard’s longtime friendships and associations with the blind. Growing up, Emily had a blind friend that she still maintains a relationship with today. Her passions always involved teaching others to read, and after working at a camp for blind children one year, she realized that utilizing braille is no different than reading. Her and Richard have continued to study braille and volunteer at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, all while Emily pursued her masters in Teaching Blind Students.
The two made several friends with visual impairments and found it difficult to share their love for tabletop gaming with them.
“I have always been interested in gaming and when you’re a gamer you want to share your games with the people you’re around,” Richard told me. “If you’re around blind people, you want to share [games] with them.”
The initial idea for blind accessible games focused around Richard’s original game designs that he worked on. However, the issue suddenly became whether the business would center around the development of new blind-friendly games, or creating accessories for existing games. One would have to take priority for the newly formed company, and Richard and Emily made the decision to enhance existing properties and revisit Richard’s game concepts at a later time. However, as Richard pointed out to me, there are plenty of existing Kickstarters for new tabletop games which have an established template to follow, but successfully pitching accessible accessories was a trail they would need to blaze on their own.
The Kickstarter does include a game designed by Emily called Yoink! The game is intended to be completely accessible for blind gamers from the very beginning, with no extra sleeves or pieces required.
“The other big obstacle we’ve been facing is the lack of knowledge of board games in our target community,” Richard said. “Nobody has made accessible board games since Monopoly so blind people just don’t know what’s out there. It isn’t fair just pointing them to Board Game Geek because most of those titles they can’t play so I’ve started doing a podcast on my website. The games that I picked were usually games that I own and love. We picked titles that we thought we could do successfully. I didn’t do any research on the subject to even see what was in print and what wasn’t. I didn’t know they were reprinting St. Petersburg until a week into the campaign. In retrospect that was a poor choice. Another big gamble was Tiny Epic Kingdoms because I didn’t have the print and play of that at first but I was confident I could do it successfully. I felt it was such a different experience than was ever offered to blind players that I had to try.”
I asked Richard if publishers had expressed genuine interest in their project, potentially as a way to expand their games into an unserviced market.
“The most in-depth conversation about actual game mechanics was regarding The Resistance with Indie Boards and Cards. That wasn’t really much of a back and forth even and it was more ‘I’m doing it like this.’ ‘Oh… I guess that works.’
“Some publishers have wanted me to do more of their titles and we’ll be happy to oblige since we are using a Print on Demand model.”
As of this article, the Kickstarter campaign has already doubled its original funding goal, and additional stretch goals are unlocking as the project enters its final few days. A number of popular games are already scheduled to receive braille-enhanced accessories; notable titles include Colortetto, The Resistance, Love Letter, Hanabi, St. Petersburg, Munchkin, Dominion, and more. Publisher support is not required to create add-ons for titles, meaning the only limitation is size and scale. Games with large boards covered in text might be difficult to accomplish, but the project page mentions the possibility of transparent overlays accompanied with braille. It’s a problem that Richard and Emily plan on tackling in due time, but getting the project off the ground is the first priority.
“Once the dust settles from the Kickstarter we’ll decide what games we will support accessibility kits for,” he said. “We need something for the sighted backers. Microgames are big now… it’d be cool if we could do a tactile microgame with the embosser.”
Board Games for the Blind only has a few more days left in its crowdfunding campaign, so if you’d like to support Richard and Emily’s efforts to extend our wonderful hobby to the handicapped, head over to the project page and donate.
Finally, when asked about the meaning behind the company’s name, 64 Oz. Games?
“I might have a cola addiction. It barely beat out ‘Queso Fueled Games’ as our company title, which is the other liquid I subsist on.”