Targi accessibility teardown

Targi (2012) – Accessibility Teardown

Game Details
NameTargi (2012)
ReviewMeeple Like Us
ComplexityMedium Light [2.34]
BGG Rank128 [7.64]
Player Count2
Designer(s)Andreas Steiger
Buy it!Amazon Link

Version Reviewed

English second edition

Introduction

Targi is a genuinely excellent game that, if we’re honest with ourselves, would have been a much better and more positive choice with which to break our hiatus. What’s done is done though and there’s no use crying about it now. We gave Targi four and a half stars in our review and if you find a copy it would definitely be worth giving it a go. It might not look like the most exciting thing with which to adorn your table but its clever mechanisms are far more enchanting than its aesthetic.

But you know, that’s only half of the story.

If you want to play it, and hopefully our review did whet your appetite somewhat, the question becomes can you play it? Well, let’s answer that now as we head into our accessibility teardown.

Colour Blindness

Colour blindness isn’t a significant issue. Colour is only used as the primary channel of information for one thing – player ownership of meeples. These come in white and blue varieties and such they’ll be fine for the vast majority of cases where colour blindness is an issue. For those with monochromacy or a more nuanced kind of colour blindness where these colours aren’t suitable you could use literally any five things you possess to play the game. Similarly with the robber, which is a grey meeple – if it’s an issue it’s very easily replaced because it’s only a location marker.

Colour Blindness and Targi

Resources are indicated by prominent icons which are very large and easily read on the cards and amendable to close inspection in the tokens.

Colour blindness and Targi cards

We’ll strongly recommend Targi in this category.

Visual Accessibility

Unfortunately we have a number of issues here. Let’s begin with the simple ones and work our way up to the most substantive one.

First of all, the resources you collect cannot be easily differentiated by touch, but that’s true only within categories. You can tell dates from victory points because they have a different form factor, and you can tell money from pepper because, again, they have completely different profiles. You can’t tell three victory points from five though, or salt from dates.

Targi components

Similarly with meeple placement, you can tell where meeples are but you can’t tell to whom they belong. That would require either memorisation, which given the speed and pace of play may be an issue, or inquiring of your opponent which may leak gameplay intention.

Targi placement

But that’s not the real issue – the issue is that since the game works on intersection of meeple ‘sightlines’ it has a hugely complicated accessibility profile for those looking to play. The sixteen cards that form the border are always in the same order and those could feasibly be committed to memory. There are nine cards in the central area and a maximum of four of them will change every turn. That means an almost 45% churn of central cards and that is repeated twelve times over the course of the game. That’s a lot of changing of cards and it will require a fair amount of verbal confirmation of state, perhaps as many as three times per round since each player makes three meeple placements.

That’s only the context though of the problem which is that identifying which card you might want to take is a very subtle business. You never simply select a card – it has to be captured as an intersection of two meeples, and as such if you ask something like ‘Where do I need to put this meeple to get this card’ you’ve basically just told your opponent what they need to block. Asking ‘What might I get if I put a meeple on this card’ does the same thing, although with a bit more plausible deniability.

But even that’s not the major problem, which is knowing what your options are takes a backseat to knowing the value of your options. That requires cross-referencing a highly febrile board state with two player card tableaus, and then evaluating that against existing and past meeple placement.

It’s not going to be an impossible game to play for people with severe visual impairments, but it’s also not going to be one we’d instantly leap to recommend.

For those with more moderate visual impairments, there’s more about which we can be positive. The border cards can be swapped between a heavy text version and an iconographic version which permits for a cleaner design. Most of the icons on the cards are very clearly contrasted and are pleasingly large. There’s good use of colouring although the visual silhouettes for the resources are a little close for comfort in some cases. The font chosen is unnecessarily problematic though which may make it difficult to read for some.

The main gameplay loop and its nuance requires a lot of visual processing to assess and that’s a massive problem in this category but the graphical design of the game is broadly accessible. We still can’t recommend it here, but it’s a case where your mileage will vary depending on the severity of visual impairment to be considered.

Cognitive Accessibility

The rules in Targi are actually very straightforward. The game is simple. The gameplay on the other hand is anything but. The game requires some numeracy but that’s minor compared to what it requires in the form of an implicit understanding of value. For example, a discount on a card that requires a resource in abundance is a lot less valuable than one on a resource you can’t get. The momentum of value is important too – some cards are much more valuable early in the game (when you can build your strategy around them) than later (when you can’t take advantage of what they offer). Others have immediately situational importance, and others still only have a value in terms of what they deny to your opponent.

You spend a lot of time in Targi weighing up these factors, and while the arithmetic needed is rarely complex there is a lot of it and it varies heavily from round to round for the same reasons we discussed in our section on visual accessibility. There is a lot of churn here and every time a card is taken by another player it radically alters the economic value of everything that remains. The placement of a single meeple might act like a shuffler on the state of everything to follow.

Border cards come with text but they can also be flipped so they are presenting everything iconographically if preferred. However, I’d be hard pressed to say that iconography is particularly likely to reduce the cognitive load on players. Some of it looks like the instruction manual you’d find in the glove compartment of a crashed UFO. Tribe cards, where most of the reading requirement is to be found, have no such equivalent so it’s something of an odd feature.

Targi iconography

The game state, while not being comprised of many moving parts, is extremely intricate with lines of sight acting both as limitations on your options and as signposts to opponent intentions. Reading the desert before you is an important skill, because everything in Targi is a web. Tug on one part and everything changes. The game flow which alternates (usually) between players is consistent in this respect. It’s also so tightly woven into an action and reaction framework that the cognitive load to execute upon it is considerable.

Finally, a lot of the implications of your actions in Targi are only really felt later on. You might pick a tribe card on the basis of its easy availability only to find that it causes you problems later on when it doesn’t actually support your future plans. For example, perhaps you pick the card that gives you two points for each camp in your tableau. And you start off two rows with camps so as to take advantage. But your opponent notices this and they therefore prioritise camps of their own later, meaning you’re much less likely to complete either of your rows or benefit enough from your bonus to counteract that. The cards in your tableau are part benefit to you, part strategy guide for your opponent.

As to memory requirements, the tableau construction puts a big emphasis on deck composition – you need to know how many symbols are in the deck and how likely they are to come out in the remaining rounds available. However, the visible discard deck along with the tableaus constructed by each player help limit the impact of that. The larger issue of executing upon immediate tactical goals and longer term strategy though is likely to stress memory capacity.

We can tentatively recommend Targi for those with memory impairments, but we don’t at all recommend it for those with fluid intelligence impairments.

Emotional Accessibility

There’s an interesting blend of features in Targi where your opponent is explicitly incentivised to block you from getting what you want, but you’re also aware of that and trying to block them too. It doesn’t feel good to be denied the card you really needed, but it does feel pretty great to deny someone else what they were going for. The interleaving nature of the turns means that while skill will likely prevail over luck, it’s the kind of skill that works best in adaptation. ‘Okay, I can’t get X but I can get Y and I can work with that’. It’s a kind of opportunity denial as an encouragement for creativity. It’s a risky game for those with issues that are relevant to this category but it’s also not one I’d necessarily rule out in the way I would for other games. You know, round to round, you probably won’t get what you want and neither will your opponent.

There are a few cards that help mitigate it too – for example, the Fata Morgana card that lets a player claim any unclaimed card in the centre. That helps ensure that, at least every other turn, the first player can heavily influence the chances they get what might be critical to them. However, there are also cards that add an explicit penalty to other players. There’s one for example that penalises your opponent, for the next round only, by permitting them to place only two of their figures. That round they’ll go from getting five cards to getting three, which is a serious drawback. But more importantly it almost eliminates their ability to seriously prevent you from getting something you want. It’s a standard tribe card in the game, which comes wth point potential, so players are even rewarded for building it.

We’ll tentatively recommend Targi in this category – its whole design is about as collegiate and friendly as it can be when weaponizing denial, but that’s still a gameplay system likely to cause problems for some.

Physical Accessibility

You’ll spend a lot of your time with Targi readjusting the board. When collecting cards after they have been captured, you need to remove them from the grid and replace them with another, facedown. Then, once all the actions have been done you turn them over to reveal their actual contents. Technically you don’t absolutely have to do this but it massively reduces the cognitive burden of play. You’d otherwise have to remember what card was there and what its opposite would be. You can’t just replace them as you take them because you wouldn’t be able to tell, other than with memory, what cards were valid choices for Fata Morgana and which weren’t. The result is that the whole thing begins to look very ragged as time goes by. The amount of card churn, and relative dexterity required to enable it, is considerable.

One possible solution to that is to space the cards out more generously, and that would alleviate some of the issues. However, what it would also do is add in a sprawl to the game state that may make far parts of the board difficult to reach.

Otherwise, physical interaction with the game is limited to placing meeples and tribal markers at their intersection, and curating your own 3×4 tableau of cards. Neither of those are onerous. The card dimensions are generous enough that precise placement doesn’t matter when it comes to making choices, and the tableau you have only ever gets cards added to the end. It is though something that will be arduous for someone else to do on a player’s behalf unless they are seated right by them.

Targi lends itself well to verbalisation. Meeple placement is only possible on border cards and those can be described clearly by face and position, or even by number since they are in a fixed order that is clearly indicated on each card. ‘Place my meeple on card fourteen’ works, as does ‘Place my meeple on the caravan card’. Intersections of meeples are handled through application of the rules so the cards you receive for that are always dependant on an algorithm and not judgement or articulation.

However, since Targi is a two-player game only it does distort the statistics. The extent to which support at the table is available depends in part on number of players. Targi isn’t really possible to play if neither involved can place the meeples or deal with the cards in the centre.

With that in mind we can only tentatively recommend Targi in this category, but if an abled player is available it will present few serious barriers to play.

Socioeconomic Accessibility

The cover of Targi is quite striking for having only a pair of eyes staring out at you, and given the theme of the game (focused as it is around the Tuareg people) it’s likely a man wearing the veil as opposed to a woman. Rider cards in the game likewise show men whereas the Targi cards show women. The manual makes use of ‘his or her’ throughout rather than default to masculinity. I prefer gender neutral language, but the approach in targi is better than the alternative. Your mileage will vary of course but I appreciate that it is both prominently focused on an African tribe and one that is an active counter-example in terms of facial covering. Others will likely consider the game appropriative, and the documentation of the game gives no compelling counter-argument to such claims in terms of research annotations. That means I can’t really

enthusiastically endorse it.

As usual, I leave it up to the reader to decide what this all means for them. And then discount those opinions when I inevitably end up flattening all nuance into a category grade.

Targi box

Targi has an RRP in the £20 region. It’s expensive in terms of a cost per player ratio, but it’s a game that retains considerable value. It’s not a ‘one and done’, this is a game that will likely be brought down from your shelves on a regular basis. It’s simple enough that you can introduce it to almost everyone but rich enough in its systems that it benefits from repeated play. It’s not the best two player game I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering, but it wouldn’t look out of place on a shortlist.

We’ll recommend Targi in this category.

Communication

Targi does require a fair degree of literacy to play – the tribe cards all come with written instructions and their effects are not easily summarised. However, their effects are also mostly something that can be explained and internalised as they come up, provided someone at the table speaks a common language or can otherwise make the meaning plain. The written text border on cards can be flipped to an iconographic version, but other cards have no equivalent. There’s no need for communication during the game.

We’ll tentatively recommend Targi in this category.

Intersectional Accessibility

A communication impairment impacting with a physical impairment will make verbalisation a little more complex, but not significantly so. It would be entirely possible to play Targi with nothing more than taps on a table – one player indicating all possible choices and another indicating physically when to stop. Physical impairments that coincide with memory impairments may be an impactful scenario though, since one of the compensations for the card churn is to sprawl the board so that alterations are easier to carry out. That will also move cards further out of visibility. If a physical impairment prevents leaning over a table to inspect the far edges I would expect that to have a notable impact on the game flow.

Targi takes about sixty minutes to play through to completion and I’d say the last five or ten minutes are something of a drag due to the way the momentum of play shifts. It’s not an excessively long game but it is long enough to potentially be a contributory factor in issues of discomfort and distress given that it has no real meaningful downtime. It also doesn’t easily permit its state to be saved other than leaving it set up on a table. Given it’s a two player game too, dropping out isn’t really an option.

Conclusion

Targi got a lot of love in our review, and justifiably so because it’s a little masterpiece in elegant design.  It got four and a half stars, which puts into what is (almost) the top ten percent of games on the site. We are famously miserable and don’t give away the Good Stuff without good reasons. Targi gave us those in abundance.

Targi, Meeple Like Us, [CC-BY 4.0]
CategoryGrade
Colour BlindnessA-
Visual AccessibilityD
Fluid IntelligenceE
MemoryC
Physical AccessibilityC+
Emotional AccessibilityC+
Socioeconomic AccessibilityB
CommunicationC

So it’s a bit of a shame really to see that it’s a hard game to recommend in terms of accessibility. It does manage a strong pass for colour blindness, and given how it’s from 2012 that’s more significant than it might seem. There are plenty of games released in 2020 that are still failing that simplest of criteria. We were supportive of it in its socioeconomic sense, but it would be easier to defend it were it more obviously respectful of its cultural inspirations. Other than that… it’s complicated.

This is a pattern we see often on the site. The games we like the most are the ones that are most problematic in an accessibility analysis. Targi isn’t a lost cause or anything but it has so many issues that are so finely threaded into its design that we need to be very careful in recommending it to those with accessibility needs. Targi is a very worthwhile game, but whether it’s going to be playable for you is something we cannot say so definitively.

 


A Disclaimer About Teardowns

Meeple Like Us is engaged in mapping out the accessibility landscape of tabletop games. Teardowns like this are data points. Games are not necessarily bad if they are scored poorly in any given section. They are not necessarily good if they score highly. The rating of a game in terms of its accessibility is not an indication as to its quality as a recreational product. These teardowns though however allow those with physical, cognitive and visual accessibility impairments to make an informed decision as to their ability to play.

Not all sections of this document will be relevant to every person. We consider matters of diversity, representation and inclusion to be important accessibility issues. If this offends you, then this will not be the blog for you. We will not debate with anyone whether these issues are worthy of discussion. You can check out our common response to common objections.

Teardowns are provided under a CC-BY 4.0 license. However, recommendation grades in teardowns are usually subjective and based primarily on heuristic analysis rather than embodied experience. No guarantee is made as to their correctness. Bear that in mind if adopting them.

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