Remember when you were a kid and everything being in your favorite color was such a big deal? Your cup, your plate, your shoelaces...everything needed to be your favorite color, and you’d love it so much more. Well, in my board game enthusiast days of now, I can tell you not much has changed.
Red is by far my favorite color and basically a given that I must be red in every single game, so long as it is a playable color. I started thinking about this the other day, and said to myself how weird it is that player color could have such an impact on a game for me. Without further ado, let me take you on a little walk through the varying layers of why player color matters, … or maybe doesn’t, for some gamers.
So, I’ll start off by saying that I am obsessed with having “my” color. I am red in every game, and everyone I regularly play with knows that; no matter what we play, they know red is not among their options to choose from because I will choose it. Now, that holds no real value to me other than I like it. It would not hurt me to be a different color … or would it? See, sometimes I like to choose based on what a character board I may get looks like - the cute purple girl in Pie Town, for instance - it doesn’t change what I get to do in the game, I just like it. However, I have tried being different colors, like in that case, and I have ended up moving other people’s pawns and scoring tokens throughout the entire game, not only denying myself points, but ruining the whole point of the game too! Very disappointing. I’ve also played games at my local game stores where the owner of the game, like me, just had to be red, and while I still enjoyed many a game with them, I frequently argued about how I was doing in a game (for better or worse) because I thought my player piece was somewhere completely different...thinking I was red the whole time.
I know in most games [arguably in all games] player color does not matter. (I hear some people hissing about variable player powers, yeah, yeah, I’ll get to that, BUT the actual color of the pieces isn’t what inherently makes that matter, even though I’m sure there are examples where the color is thematic and so it all goes together, I’m just talking vast majority here). But yet, no matter what, some of us just need to have our color.
Now, I know not every color is always offered in games.While red is usually a staple (thank goodness!) there are plenty of games where I can not be red because it doesn’t exist. For instance, my very favorite game, T.I.M.E Stories, has only pink, green, blue, and yellow. I play as pink because - you guessed it - it’s the closest to red. The more limited my color options get (rare, but it still happens where there’s just a bunch of blues/greens/grays or something) the more times during a game I’ll ask “What color am I again?” Pro tip game makers - Red for every game! Thanks!
And finally, yes, we’ve gotten here - variable player powers. Sometimes games only have player boards/characters/powers rather than actual colors, and sometimes the colors are combined with those. Now, it probably goes without saying that in games where players have different abilities, you might want to check them out and choose the best one/the one you think you’d be able to take on the best strategy with (in those games where you get to choose and it’s not random, of course). Sometimes it’s even fun, when you’ve played a game more than once, to try out different characters or abilities.
Not I, however. I will always choose the Red Player. Shadows over Camelot? Yeah, the red character has a cool power but I didn’t even compare to the others, I just picked red. Sultaniya? I didn’t even bother to notice the fact that the player boards had different starting pieces and end scoring goals before picking red. The list goes on.