Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Board Game Color Psychology

Today I’m going to put my degree in psychology to use as we look at what your pawn color says about you and more importantly, what it says to your opponents.

Color is a powerful force in our lives able to influence our mood and even some bodily systems such as appetite. In many games colors have specific meanings or are based on some historical notion; for instance in Dust Tactics the Allies are green because the US uniforms of the day were a green color, while the Axis are grey, for a similar reason. However, in many games like Risk, Dust TSG, and dozens of others the colors are simply for differentiation, and players are free to choose whichever available color they like. These are the type of games we’ll be focusing on today, games where you can often play your favorite color, and tend to play the same color whenever possible.

We go in depth after the jump…


White is not a common pawn color, outside of Chess. Brides wear white to symbolize innocence and purity. White reflects light and is considered a hot color. White is popular in decorating and in fashion because it is light, neutral (goes with everything). Doctors and nurses wear white to imply sterility, as it is hard to keep clean. In war white is the color of surrender, or cease fires, as it signifies peace. White is the traditional color of good.

What white says about you: If white is your favorite color, you are considered to be a creative individual, but you’re separate from society always keeping the world at arms length.

What white says to your opponents: Other players are not heavily influenced by white because of it’s neutral nature; that means they will neither focus on you nor ignore you. As a white player it may be best to spend early turns “peacefully” to encouraging your opponents to ignore you; giving you time to consolidate your forces and gather resources.


Black is found in many games like Risk. Black is the color of authority and power. It is popular in fashion because it makes people appear thinner. Black implies submission. Priests wear black to signify submission to God. But black is also the color of evil, and death; it’s a color that can instill fear which is why it was chosen as the uniform color for the Nazi SS. Black is also the coldest color, the color of night and deep space.

What black says about you: If you love black, people often consider you morose or perhaps even an evil doer. Black is often associated with mourning, and therefore death, so some find those all in black to be death obsessed.

What black says to your opponents: Black subconsciously instills fear, and may make your opponents avoid conflict early in the game, this is when you should press your enemies, making good on the threat that your color makes them feel.


Red is another common pawn color, as it is both easy to see, and stands out from other colors well. Red is most emotionally intense color, red stimulates a faster heartbeat and breathing. It is also the color of love. Red also stimulates the appetite as it is the color of raw meat and many fruits and vegetables. Red is the color of fire, and is a hot color. Red is also the color of blood.

What red says about you: Red is an excited color the color of adventure, it’s the most popular color for sports cars for a reason. People who love red are likely to be considered adventurous, but also quick to anger, and aggressive.

What red says to your opponents: Red is the color of hunger, just look at a fast food restaurant logo, and you’ll likely find red. This will have the effect of encouraging your opponents to “consume” your army. While this may not be a conscious effort you may find your enemies ganging up on you. This makes red an excellent choice for “neutral armies” as your opponents will focus on them rather then you.


Orange is another hot color, and somewhat less common then red as a pawn color. It focuses our minds on issues of physical comfort - food, warmth, shelter etc. - and sensuality, much like red. Orange is also a color of caution, often used in warning signs, especially when paired with black. It is also associated with prisons.

What orange says about you: Orange is considered a 'fun' color, as such people who like orange are often viewed as happy, fun people. However, too much orange often suggests frivolity and a lack of serious intellectual values.

What orange says to your opponents: Orange may have a similar effect as red moving your opponents to consume your army, but it may also suggest to them that your are not much of a threat, a happy go lucky army of little consequence. Orange like all hot colors is a good choice for the “neutral player”.


Yellow is one of the most common pawn colors, much like red it is easy to see, and contrasts well with most colors even red. Yellow is another happy, hot color; the color of the “happy face” and the Sun. The right yellow will lift our spirits and our self-esteem; it is the color of confidence and optimism. However, the wrong yellow can instill a sense of fear and anxiety. Yellow is also the color of cowardice.

What yellow says about you: Folks who love yellow are viewed equally as confident, as they are irrational. Yellow is a bi-polar color associated with both happiness and suicide.

What yellow says to your opponents: Yellow is first and foremost the color of cowards and will usually lull your enemies into believing you are of little threat, you can encourage this belief, by ceding unimportant territories in the early game, allowing you time to build up forces, to strike when your enemies are weakest.


Green is a common pawn color, and often associated with the US army as their uniforms have often been green in the 20th century. Green is the first of the cool colors. Green is the color of nature, and is the most common color in nature. The human eye can distinguish over 2 million shades of green. Green is also the color of American money, and is considered to be the color of greed.

What green says about you: People who love green are viewed through one of two lenses, the first is the lens of the environmentalist, viewing green as a happy, serene color, bringing a sense of harmony and universal love. The second is the military/industrialist, greedy, and destructive, using massive green tanks to trample nature for profit.

What green says to your opponents: As games are often a test a military power, it’s not very likely that your opponents will view you as a serene hippy. But rather as a massive threat to be dealt with violently and quickly. The green player will benefit from aggressive play, making good on the threat their color represents.


Blue is another common pawn color, and is the most common favorite color in western culture. Blue is the color of the sky and the ocean and it often the only color you’ll see more of then green. Blue is a calming color, and has the odd visual effect of appearing more distant then shades of red. Blue today is the color of masculinity. Blue is considered the one of the coldest colors second only to black. In the past blue was the color of the devil.

What blue says about you: The blue lover is often considered aloof, and cold, devoted to logic, blue lovers are often viewed as more intelligent, and trustworthy.

What blue says to your opponents: Blue is a calming and nonthreatening color, your opponents are not likely to gang up on you like they might do to red. If diplomacy is part of your game your blue color may provide a slight subconscious advantage over your opponents.


Purple is the last color of the rainbow, and is the least common pawn color. Even though color blindness is not common, an inability to distinguish purple from blue is quite common. Purple is really only common in nature in the realm of flowers, as bees and many insects see in ultraviolet, and purple is the nearest of that spectrum we can see. Purple is often associated with royalty, but also with cheap goods, as it was a commonly copied color as poorer folks tried to put on airs.

What purple says about you: The purple lover is often seen as introspective and reserved. While often considered spiritually aware, they are sometimes viewed as decadent, and hedonistic.

What purple says to your opponent: If you happen to be an introverted hedonist, purple will be a good choice, as it usually doesn’t promote any undue hostility. Also if playing with/against blue, and black, you may be able to blend in and avoid attacks from those enemies, as they confuse your troops for their own.


Pink is a pretty rare pawn color, but as women become a larger force in the gaming population it is becoming more common, as pink is the modern color of femininity. Though pink is a shade of red it has the exact opposite effect, calming, and peaceful in nature. Pink is associated with sensuality and motherhood. (Interestingly, red is the only of the 11 central colors that has an entirely separate name for its light tints also in the 11 colors. Tints of blue, green, yellow, for example, are simply called light blue, light green, etc.)

What pink says about you: Though in the past pink was a masculine color, for most of the last 100 years it has been a feminine color, and as such pink automatically makes some assume a bit about your gender and sexuality. While it may not be fair it is quite common. As a male player playing pink, you’ll be assumed to be in touch with your feminine side, or simply effeminate. As a female player, little will be assumed, other then maybe your “girly”.

What pink says to your opponents: Sadly or perhaps to your advantage pink says “hey I’m a girl, please don’t hut me.” This flips certain subconscious switches in the brain, allowing you go relatively unharmed through the early game, and in a game where players may play as a team, your team members will be far more likely to rush to your aid; even when it may be directly dis-vantageous to them.


Grey is the true neutral color, and is a uncommon player controlled pawn color, but is often used for neutral objects or non-player controlled characters/armies. Often grey is associated with WWII Germany’s armies, as their Feldgrau uniforms were seen as grey in film and photos (even though they were a shade of de-saturated green). Grey is most psychologically neutral color neither stimulating nor depressing, it simply exists. However, over a long time grey can overwhelm and lead to a sense that one’s life is bland and boring. Grey has a damping effect on nearby colors making brighter shades feel blander. Grey is considered a cold color often associated with winter and foul weather. Grey is also associated with strength as it is the color of stone, metal, and modern Naval ships.

What gray says about you: Grey is not very likely to be anyone’s favorite color, but if it’s yours; it actually says very little about you, as it is the most neutral of colors. Grey lovers are often perceived as bland, inhibited, and energy-less.

What grey says to your opponents: Well, grey is likely to say you like playing the Germans, as that is the most common color for their pieces in many war games. Otherwise, you’re likely to blend into the background being neither a major target or threat, you can use this, but early aggression may be the better choice as it will throw off your opponents and will be unexpected.


Brown is found as a pawn color in some games but not many, and can often be hard to distinguish from orange, (beige/khakis are common terms for lighter shades of brown) It is a color that suggests supportive strength as opposed to black’s oppressive strength. It is the third most common color in nature; the color of the earth, and natural wood. It is considered a warm color and inviting. Brown’s only real negative is its association with a certain bodily excretion, that most find distasteful to discuss or think about. Brown is often associated with the USSR, while khakis would be a more historically accurate choice.

What brown says about you: If brown if your favorite color you are likely viewed as a serious, down to earth person, warm and reliable, without much of a sense of humor.

What brown says to your opponents: Brown speaks of reliable support, and therefore the brown player may be viewed as the best player with which to form an alliance. If such an alliance is possible, the brown player would benefit most from an aggressive player like red who can hold and expand the front line while brown defends the rear and supports the center.

So which color is your favorite? Or do you have more then one? If you do have multiple favorite colors or a favorite color combination such as red and black, you may have a blending of characteristics from both; i.e. being both aggressive and sullen at the same time.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little detour into the world of color and pop-psychology.