I wanted to take up a topic which has always been a interesting aspect in a game for me.
The concept of language neutral layout / design in a board game... this may seem strange to some, but for me - who have played with many different people with many different native languages - the concept in itself is a huge selling point!
As a Danish guy living in Germany with a Belarusian wife - it's not hard to see why I like the no-text board games ;)
With this in mind, I would like to go through a series of thoughts and pointers you might want to explore further yourself.
There are some neat advantages in making a board game without any real text on the game board, playing pieces, cards and so on...
- It's possible to translate into several languages at once (you don't need to create different games, just include as many rule books as you have languages), it will positively lower the cost of different game versions.
- The game is more flexible towards some rule changes, which may only appear in the rule book (also to some extent after release).
- It can have a strong thematic feel using visual stimulation instead of just writing a huge amount of text.
Of course this doesn't come without a "cost", or at least some important factors you have to consider carefully...
- No text, requires a big amount of explaining symbols, which can easily be overwhelming or confusing for the players.
- The game is less flexible toward rule changes that demands new symbols to be created, this will take a while.
- The bigger amount of symbols may demand that you change the layout of your cards/sheets considerably.
- For some games - like RPGs - it might work the opposite way when creating theme, because the theme often include a lot of background history etc., which you can't neglect.
I've found some examples in games, where symbol explanations seem well implemented (though some of them still have text, you can argue whether or not that's necessary).
I'm sure you can find many more - and these will be the ones you should refer to - when trying to make your own game.
If you choose to go for a game without text - you have to think about the implementation. How will you do it?
With text you can easily create associations - because you can tell the players to get them ;) But when you don't use text, you have to keep associations and visual explanation in mind all the time.
- What kind of symbols and icons go together?
- Are the illustrations explaining the specific action or just eye candy?
- Is there a rhythm in game which can be explained through a series of symbols (and does it make sense)?
- Can you put any special needed text in a player aid or in the rules, instead of on the player mats or cards?
There's a fairly big chance - that you'll have to do a bit more play testing with the "no-text" solution.. but it will be a sweet achievement when you have a game that can be memorized by symbols and actions instead of long text sequences.
Plus - you might be lucky to have players from all around the world playing your game, without the need of a total reprint of the game!
No matter what solution you come up with - I hope you'll have fun :)