"Language neutral" is term used to describe a game which has no language specific text required to play the game (excluding the rules themselves). Often, language neutral games will represent various information iconographically, numerically or in a manner natural to the theme.
Additionally, games may have textual content, but if it is, for example, only city names or other arbitrary proper names, it is considered language independent.
Indicating language dependence with tags
Grimwold has recently organized a Language Independence Project to add tags to games indicating their degree of language neutrality, using the following typology:
- Language Level 0: These games have NO text on the game components, so anyone familiar with the rules can play the game regardless of which language edition it is. This category can also include games where only numerals are used on game components. Represented by the tag language-level:0 (This is effectively "language neutral")
- Language Level 1: These games have some text on in-game components, such as a few action cards. Anyone familiar with the rules can play the game, though may require a small cheat-sheet to decode such action cards etc. This will also include games with little or no in-game text, but that require each player to use a summary sheet. At this level, if there is a version of the game in your own language, it still might be worth saving a few $ by getting a foreign copy. Represented by the tag language-level:1
- Language Level 2: These would be games that have a moderate amount of in-game text, such as a complete deck of cards with actions or abilities on. Any crib sheet would have to be quite extensive to allow play in a foreign language, although it could still be played with such a crib sheet, and would become easier as players become more familiar with the cards etc. At this level, if there is a version of the game in your own language, it would almost certainly be worth spending extra $ to get, rather than consider a foreign copy. Represented by the tag language-level:2
- Language Level 3: These games are "The Daddy". In my opinion, there is just too much in-game text for the game to be playable in a foreign language. Arkham Horror is a prime example of this, as are many of the BIG Fantasy Flight games. At this level, any thought of cribsheets goes out of the window, as chances are the cribsheets would be bigger than the games rulebook. The game would no longer be interesting as it becomes an exercise in looking stuff up rather than thinking about your turn! Represented by the tag language-level:3
- Language Level 4: These games are fundamentally unplayable using a foreign version. This could be because the games components are language specific, so a foreign copy would be missing key components. Also category for games that are unplayable if you're not very fluent in language game is printed on. Cheatsheet can't help you anymore. Represented by the tag language-level:4