Walking in Burano accessibility teardown

Walking in Burano (2018) – Accessibility Teardown

Game Details
NameWalking in Burano (2018)
ReviewMeeple Like Us
ComplexityMedium Light [2.04]
BGG Rank1334 [7.23]
Player Count1-4
Designer(s)Wei-Min Ling
Buy it!Amazon Link

Changelog

13/2/2021 – As per this comment from Greg Darcy, the game actually does have icons that are aimed at assisting in colour blindness but they are so small I missed them. I’ve changed the teardown and the grades accordingly, raising colour blindness to a C+. It might take a little time for the graphs and table in the conclusion to update though.

Version Reviewed

English-only edition

Introduction

I didn’t really get a lot of joy out of Walking in Burano. It’s one of an awkward class of games to review – ‘games that don’t give you a lot to talk about’. Those that do this kind of work professionally – or even just more diligently than I do – have the luxury of choosing only to cover those games that are fodder for easy reviews. Me, I have so much other stuff that needs to be done that I’m stuck with reviewing what I’ve played. On the plus side, it means that this site covers a lot of things that would otherwise go by the wayside. On the negative side, sometimes reviews are a chore to construct – not because the game is bad but because the game doesn’t give a lot of purchase for a reviewer’s probing fingertips.

Walking In Burano isn’t for me, but I definitely think people that enjoy their friends more than they do cardboard boxes might find it more worthwhile. But really, our reviews are only a part of what we do here. Our biggest contribution is the accessibility analysis we do of each. Let’s get walking. In Burano.

Colour Blindness

It is Pretty Bad. There are six different colours of buildings, and that colour is important for placement. Buildings must be all the same colour, and no two adjacent buildings can share a colour. So when you have an offering like this…

Welcome to Burano colour blindness offering of cards

You can see some of the problems. There are lots of identifying details on each card, but those are independent of colour. The presence of a flower pot implies nothing about the colour of the building to which it is attached.

Different colours in Walking in Burano

This is the only area of the game where colour is a problem, but it’s also pretty much the entire game. A side by side comparison of colours will often allow someone to tell when shades differ, but that doesn’t help in identifying at a distance which row of cards, and how many of them, you should be collecting. You can ask, and the risk is minimal. Or you could play a game that doesn’t require that of you.

It’s not even as if it’s a difficult problem to solve. Coloretto is probably the best example of a game based around colour that is still accessible to people with colour blindness. Just add texture so they are identifiable.

Colour blindness in Coloretto

But there’s a twist here, as indicated by Greg Darcy in the comments below. Walking in Burano actually does come with icons in the centre of each card that can be used in place of the colour, so it is in fact colour blindness accessible. The problem is – I didn’t even notice. Usually I’d say ‘Well, that’s on me’ but the symbols used here really aren’t done well at all. They are very small, poorly contrasted against the background, and inconsistently positioned. They are there though. The first published version of this had is category at a ‘don’t recommend’ but I’ve raised it to ‘tentatively recommended, leaning towards recommend’. I don’t think this is a good implementation of accessibility but it’s good enough that it clearly makes the game playable as per the comments. You still shouldn’t be in the position where you have to be straining yourself.

Visual Accessibility

This is another problem area, because the link between scoring and buildings is fluid. You may, or may not, have to worry about cats, or flower pots, or street-lights and it depends on how much value you think a visitor or tourist might provide if you select them. Every time you place a building, you narrow the solution space a little but in the end it’s in constant flux between what you have, what you can get, and what you can score. There are a lot of features that need to be tracked, and they’re often very small when viewed in the context of their card.

It’s not impossible for someone with visual impairments to be querying the table for that information, but the focus of those questions will reveal gameplay intention. And, even if that wasn’t a problem, there will be a lot that needs to be asked because the tableau changes regularly. Everyone takes part of a row during their action – it’s not an optional choice. In a two player game, cards at the end of a row are discarded and refreshed. The churn, in other words, is high. And it’s also complicated by the difficulty in getting exactly the card you want if you need a first floor card – you’ll be getting at least a roof or a street as well.

The coins used in the game have only one form factor, and all the information in the game is presented visually. Tactility, save for knowing who is first player, is not an option. That means that players – even with reasonably good eyesight – might be left in a position where it’s difficult to see what they want to score, difficult to make out what they might be able to pick up for that scoring, and extremely difficult to see what an opponent may be looking to acquire for their next round. If you’re reasonably close together, it’s fine. If not – that’s going to be an issue.

We don’t recommend Walking In Burano in this category either.

Cognitive Accessibility

It’s odd for a game this simple, but there’s a lot to be concerned about here too. First of all, there’s a lot of numeracy as you can see from the fact there’s an included scoring pad.

Aside from a handful of fixed scoring rules, players essentially set the scoring context themselves. Each visitor card they select will give them a parcel of points. Some of that is based on the specific building to which the visitor is attached, but some bonuses work across a subset of cards in the street. Santa for example scores based on every chimney, whereas the gardener gives points for pairs of plants in a contiguous three card row. You pick these when you complete a building, so calculating what points you’d get for each is a key part of playing. But also, the visitor you select will likely influence the cards you want to pick up for your own street. The two relate to each other in an interesting way, and everyone will need backup plans in case their desired cards, or visitors, are snapped up away from them. The required numeracy levels, and the extent to which multiple paths to victory need to be mentally scored, are quite high.

The actual rules of the game are straightforward, and while there are a number of placement constraints they are all largely common sense. The tensions they may place upon decision making is alleviated a great deal by the presence of scaffolds, and there’s an option here to balance for cognitive load by changing the number of those available to each player. It’s not an officially supported variant, but it would be a good way to balance play while also making it more strategically interesting. One thing I do especially like in the rules though are suggestions for simplifying – removing scoring penalties for closed windows, removing certain visitor cards and so on.

In terms of memory burden, there’s none other than being aware of deck composition. A skilled player can leverage their knowledge of what’s come out of each of the desks to modify the odds regarding which visitors would be best to select, or what colours of building can be legally completed. The actual risk of that seems to be minimal. If it’s likely to be an issue, it’s easily solved by removing a few cards at random from each deck.

There’s no need for literacy during play.

The numeracy requirements are high enough that we can only offer a tentative recommendation in our fluid intelligence category, but we can recommend the game more enthusiastically for those with memory impairments.

Physical Accessibility

Cards are arranged out in a tableau in front of players, and the offering likewise is arrayed in a grid. Neatness of this is not important though because each row of cards looks different. The only thing that really matters is that you can tell to which column a card belongs. Everything else can be as loose as you like.

It’s certainly possible to play the game through verbal instructions and the assistance of a card holder. Cards must be held lengthwise to reveal full information, but you’ll only ever have three of them at most and so even a standard sized card holder is likely to be sufficient. The game says that your hand of cards is hidden information, but I don’t see there being much risk in playing them open in front of you.

We’ll recommend Walking in Burano in this category.

Emotional Accessibility

Players may take the cards you need, but that’s the only area where emotional impact is likely to be an issue. Even in that scenario, except for some visitor cards, another card of the right type will likely be along before too much time has passed. The only other point of potential concern is that those with a compulsive need for completion may be frustrated by their ending street. There’s no guarantee that buildings can be legally completed by the time the end round arrives. A street then may be a mishmash of scaffolds and a half constructed skyline. Completing unfinished buildings may require taking a penalty to play a prohibited colour and that can make the street look inconsistent.

Other than that, I don’t see anything about which to be alarmed. We’ll strongly recommend Walking In Burano in this category.

Socioeconomic Accessibility

The box cover shows a blend of men and women, with Burano itself being the dominant presence in the artwork.

Welcome to Burano box

If I was going to be very picky – and yeah, why not – I’d say that there are more men than women represented in the visitors for the buildings and there’s a notable power differential in the roles they represent. The tourists are man, woman, girl, and boy. That’s fine. But for the inhabitants we have a male mayor, policeman, Santa, shop owner and gardener. The women are the tailor and the florist. I mean – yeah, I’ve seen a lot worse, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it.

Reference cards

It’s a reasonably affordable title, being available for around £20, and the copy I got came with a mini-expansion in the box. Although I guess in that case you have to question whether that’s actually just ‘the base game’. It plays between one and four players with reasonable competence. The learning curve is shallow enough – and the art pleasing enough – that it is likely going to be successful when playing with those that don’t identify as ‘gamers’.

We’ll recommend Walking In Burano in this category.

Communication

There’s no requirement for literacy, and no formal need to communicate during the game.

We’ll strongly recommend Walking in Burano in this category.

Intersectional Accessibility

A lot of the evaluation of your options is going to depend on being able to look over the game and evaluate the scoring possibilities. That’s either going to involve a good memory or being able to easily lean over the table and consider the options. And similarly with evaluating score – it’s going to occasionally involve looking to see what opponents have and what they’ll need. In any individual category it’s not enough of an issue to be a problem. If one has a cognitive impairment and a physical impairment that makes it more difficult to survey the game state I think though it’s likely to impact on how playable the game will be. Similarly if someone has a physical impairment that prohibits close inspection of cards – the tiny icons will be especially hard to work with if you also have a form of colour blindness.

Walking in Burano is a very quick game – maybe twenty or so minutes for a reasonably full session. It supports people dropping out if necessary since there are few rules that are explicitly linked to player count. You’d need to reduce the number of drawn cards, and if dropping to two players you’d need to remember to get rid of the last row at the end of each round. Both of those changes slot easily into play.

Conclusion

The colour issue is a massive blunder, and its impact is considerable. If textures as well as colours (and mini icons) had been used, I’d have probably raised this to at least a recommendation and maybe a strong one depending on how well it was implemented. The cognitive costs are difficult to shift much, but in 2018 there’s just no reason why >99.5% of the games I see couldn’t be colour blind accessible. Sagrada remains the only game where I’d say a case could be made for it to be impossible to be colour blind accessible but even then I had suggestions worth exploring. Walking in Burano has no such obstacles – the effort was made, to be fair, but it doesn’t work well enough to raise this into an uncontroversial recommendation.

Walking in Burano, Meeple Like Us, [CC-BY 4.0]
CategoryGrade
Colour BlindnessC+
Visual AccessibilityC
Fluid IntelligenceC-
MemoryB+
Physical AccessibilityB
Emotional AccessibilityA-
Socioeconomic AccessibilityB
CommunicationA

However, it might just be enough to sneak it onto our ‘accessible games library on a budget’ feature when that is next updated. It’s cheap, it’s broadly accessible, and approachable enough. It’s only the snag of its colour blindness accessibility that puts a question mark over it.

The game didn’t elicit strong feelings in us, which I think is reflected in a largely indifferent two and a half star review. I’ve got a lot that’s positive to say here though, so if that’s enough to whet your whistle then perhaps it’s a game worth checking out regardless.


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.