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Catan and Pandemic creator launches new studio dedicated to making accessible board games for disabled players

Access+’s first releases will be more inclusive versions of existing games.

Asmodee, the mega-publisher behind tabletop giants including Catan, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, Dead of Winter, Pandemic and Arkham Horror, has founded a new board game studio focused on accessibility.

Access+ will be dedicated to adapting board games for players with cognitive disabilities that affect speech, social relation and memory, among other aspects. Asmodee described the newfounded division as “a first-of-its-kind board game studio”.

The studio has been founded in partnership with an external committee of scientific experts and researchers in the field, Asmodee said, who will help ensure the games’ suitability for disabled players, as well as medical practitioners, schools and caregivers. The games will also take into account “clinical data” from Asmodee’s own research department, with Asmodee Research founder Mikaël Le Bourhis heading up the Access+ studio.

The announcement trailer for Access+

“We’ve worked with healthcare professionals every step of the way in order to develop a line of games adapted to people living with cognitive disorders,” an Asmodee representative told Dicebreaker. “To develop this line of products, Access+ studied all the benefits games offer (cognitive, emotional, social, behavioural, etc.), based on scientific research, the input of professionals and player studies.”

Access+ games will be designed from “the ground up” for accessibility, including changes to the physical components of board games, such as larger and thicker cards that are easier to hold. Aside from physical changes, the games will feature rewritten rules, a selection of difficulty options and new solo modes allowing them to be played by a single person. Inside each box will be a booklet explaining the benefits of playing the game according to the studio’s researchers.

Access+’s first three games will be adapted versions of existing family board games. The games will be pattern-spotting hit Spot It! - also known as Dobble - puzzle title Cortex and year-guessing card game Timeline. Access+ editions of the three games will be released in France, Belgium and Canada later this year, ahead of worldwide availability in 2023.

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“The team selected the games with the most relevant benefits, reworking and adapting the materials, rules and levels of difficulty to make each game accessible, enjoyable and beneficial for as wide a range of people as possible,” Asmodee said.

Access+ told Dicebreaker that it would work with other Asmodee studios - which range from Arkham Horror and Twilight Imperium maker Fantasy Flight Games to Catan Studio, Ticket to Ride label Days of Wonder and Pandemic publisher Z-Man Games - on future releases, but did not announce any additional projects or confirm whether the studio would develop original games as well as adaptations of existing Asmodee titles.

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