A short rant today. Many 18xx games fail to deliver when it comes to easily distinguish companies. Because of that, I even consider some of the unplayable (in their official form that is). As a preliminary, I must emphasize that I tend (and want) to call companies by their colours.
Firstly, the obvious thing: when certificates don’t harmonize with logos and their presumed colours. A classic example is Mayfair’s 1830:
Is CPR red, black or yellow? Last time I played that version of the game I honestly had troubles with whether “black” wasn’t Erie, despite me knowing the game. Since then, I’ve only played on P’n’P copies of 1830. Lookout’s edition is slightly better in this regard, but still not good enough.
1828‘s graphic design is thoroughly thought through, but one thing boggles my mind: why on Earth NKP, whose logo is two different blues (so it’s even more blue than just plain blue), is associated with pink? When I call a company in 1828 by colour, I go with the strip’s colour, but in this case it just doesn’t work. Bizarrely, I don’t have the same problem with MC and MP, maybe because their logos don’t incorporate two shades of the same colour (that is different than the strip)?
The main reason I’m writing this is to vent my frustration from playing an official version of 1817. This game has like only red and yellow companies! That’s just insane. (Okay, now as I look at photos it’s more like green and yellow.) So calling companies by their colours often won’t work and the same holds true for using their names or abbreviations since the historical heralds are difficult to read. I genuinely think that this additional, unnecessary cognitive load of determining which company is which in this game adds several dozens of minutes to the playtime.
Joshua Starr of Grand Trunk Games writes some interesting posts posts about the graphic design in 1861/1867, so he clearly cares. However, I think that new logos in 1861 are significantly worse. They used to be fine:
And now many are pretty much the same (yellow with blueish/reddish spots). A crazy decision, if you ask me. To be clear, I’m not sure if this is the final version though:
If a game has a single digit number of companies, I’m fine with historical logos as long as each company has its individual, distinct colour (that’s why I prefer brown BM to light green in 1830). If there is more companies, you can’t help with overlapping colours, so make sure that at least their are spread evenly. And that the abbreviations can be easily read, like in 1828, which has many fancy heralds but they are all legible. Contrarily to 1817.
Also, if you use generic heralds that are just filled differently (like in old 1861), think about improving the readability between those who are similar, like brown and dark purple. For example add a thin, vertical white stripe to one of them.
(posted on my miniblog as well)