Celebrating Women in Boardgames

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day. (International Men’s Day is on 19th November). ‘A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive’ is what we are aiming for. I am committed to inclusion and I aim to create inclusive events for all boardgamers all year round. This year one of the ways I’m marking the day is by celebrating the achievements of 8 of my favourite female board games designers. Of course, there are many, many more than 8 brilliant female boardgames designers and as soon as I started writing I immediately thought of some more – I have stuck to 8 but please shout me with the ones I missed. You will have seen pictures of all the games mentioned on my socials because they are some of my favourites and more than likely I’ve made you play some of them!

Emma Larkins

Creator of Heartcatchers, …and then we died; Abandon All Artichokes, and most recently Starry Night Sky. You couldn’t have four more different games and I love them all. Heartcatchers is a tiny 2 player game that fits in your pocket. Catch your opponent’s hearts, trick them with hidden secrets. It’s intensely strategic and over very, very quickly. …and then we died is a story telling game where clues to the cause of your deaths is printed on the tarot cards! You must piece together the clues to make words which tell the story of your untimely demise. Abandon All Artichokes is a deck wrecker where you build your hand and get rid of artichokes until you draw a hand with no artichokes in. Starry Night Sky is a game of exploring the cosmos and creating constellations with tiny shining stars. The art in all of the games is adorable. I’m super excited for her next story telling game which is on it’s way soon…

Tarot cards with fragments of words printed on. ...and then we died.
Abandon All Artichokes. Cards with cute pictures of cartoon vegetables with faces on.
Starry Night Sky game - a board with mythical constellations on and small shiny stars on some of them

Ellie Dix

Ellie Dix is an amazingly, creative and prolific game designer. I am in awe of her brain. The strong puzzle element in her games always makes for fun and engaging play. She runs Dark Imp games She has created coaster games which are brilliant for parties, holidays and small gifts. You might have played some of her Cracker Games at my Christmassy events or Doughnut Dash. You can read my reviews of those by clicking the links. The main thing I want to shout about though is Ellie’s blog posts which are always an interesting read and particularly inspiring if you fancy designing your own board game or if you are part way through that process. I love that she is sharing her processes which both supports and inspires others. Head to her website and check it out – there are loads of really valuable insights there.

Doughnut Dash game. Square tiles that form the board with small wooden doughnut pieces on. Cards with directions on (North South East West)
One of the cracker games.  Stands with meeples on and cubes in front of them
playing cards with imps on, some red cubes and a card folded to provide a barrier. One of the christmas cracker games

Bez Shahriari

I can’t mention prolific game designers without talking about Bez. She has designed so many fun card games. Her most well known (and an absolute classic) is Yogi – like twister but with cards! The Ell deck which is a games system rather than a single card game – on Bez Day Bez also developed Bezzy Bargain Bags making her games even more accessible by offering a cheaper, box-less option. Games like
‘A game about WEE WHIMSICAL CREATURES and trying to identify them after someone makes noises’, ‘A game about drawing creatures, complimenting the drawings, then complimenting the compliments’ and ‘A game about quickly grabbing creatures that are totally different and counting your beetroots’ do exactly what they say on the tin (or the title card). It’s hard to choose what to shout about when it comes to Bez – her unique and quirky art style; the fact when she personally packages a game for you it comes with art work on the envelope; the games themselves which are funny at times silly and at times thought provoking; the fabulous tournaments she runs at conventions; on Bez Day (1st August) every year she releases a new game or the fact that I once bought a couple of games from Bez that came packaged in a balloon. Probably this. I should have started with this. If you like your games with a little whimsy on the side go and check out Bez.

People playing the beetroots game. Cards are scattered on the table
The Ell deck. Cards are lined up. Each card has a decorative border and features two large letters.
The drawing and compliments game. There are some cards with requirements on and some colourful creatures that have been drawn alongwith a pencilcase and a facedown phone .

Jessica Metheringham

Jessica runs Dissent Games. Their games often centre around the campaigning sector which I love. Her most recent game Library Labyrinth features only female characters both fictional and historical. It is a co-operative game – a range of terrifying literary baddies have escaped and you work together using a variety of heroes to get the horrors back in their books. I’ve also really enjoyed Disarm the Base – a suitably difficult game of breaking into a military base, disarming war planes and hanging your banner without being spotted by security guards. It’s realistically tricky. Jessica has designed a wide range of games including a Christmas themed dexterity card game and roll and colour games on greetings cards. I always get my Christmas Cards from her – Christmas is the season to spread the good word about games afterall!

Image of Disarm the Base boardgame
Image of completed roll and colour games, dice and crayons.

Angela Dickens

I first met Angela and her company Toon Hammer Games on twitter when she had just designed the disgustingly brilliant Gobblin Goblins. You can read a full review here. She was one of the first people to trust me with a review copy of a game and when it arrived I was delighted because it was such a good, fun game. It was a joy to be able to play and review it. We still play it now. It’s hard to explain how much it meant to me when I was still building the business up to have someone trust me with a review copy of a game. I think especially in the early days when the imposter syndrome was even stronger it made me feel part of the community and that was so important to me. Her most recent game Arkosa is similarly brilliant – I love the characters she creates. Playing it is such a fun and immersive experience. Read more about Arkosa here and make sure you follow Toon Hammer on the socials to keep up with their journey.

Hazel Reynolds

CEO of Gamely Games Hazel describes their mission as ‘to spread joy and put some good out into the world’. She walked away from an offer on Dragon’s Den and has not stopped smashing it ever since! They create mainly small box games and all the games are fun and sociable – you may have played Randomise, Soundiculous, Gullible, The Pretender, Draw My Face, Six Second Scribbles or any of their others at my events. They are perfect for popping in your pocket and getting friends and family laughing. We played Draw My Face pretty much non stop this Christmas. They also designed A Little More Conversation which is a card game consisting of interesting conversation starters. This genre of game is becoming increasingly popular and it is always in my bag – perfect for people who know each other well or for complete strangers. I love watching people play Six Second Scribbles as they transform from intense focus while drawing to raucous when they compare drawings! They give 10% of profits to charity every year in addition to donating loads of games. In common with the rest of the people on this list they are kind and awesome.

You can read my review of three of their games here.

Carla Kopp

Carla Kopp runs Weird Giraffe games have been a household favourite for years and we have a lot of their titles, most of which sit permanently on our favourites shelf. Carla is brilliant and her designs are varied, imaginative and quirky. One of their longer games is Stellar Leap – a game of space exploration, and then depending on what missions you get you can find yourself trying to spread your population across many planets or starting lots of aggro on other planets or hoarding resources! Whenever we get a good amount of time and energy to play games we get Stellar Leap out. Tumbletown is a wild west game of dice manipulation and town planning! It comes with a cute dice tower which also fits in the box once built. I do love a well thought out box. Big Easy Busking is set in New Orleans: learn songs, perform them to the right crowd and earn tips. My current favourite that I think I’ve made everyone play is Gift of Tulips – collect tulips for your bouquet and gift them to others too. Manipulate the market value to make sure yours is the award winning bouquet at the end. The newest one of theirs is Way Too Many Cats – there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye and I have not fully mastered it yet. A good one if you love cats, puzzly games and want to challenge your brain. Make sure you ask me if you want to play any of these at my events and I’ll bring them along.

Lizzie Magie

I could not do a blog about 8 fantastic and influential women in boardgaming without mentioning the original creator of what we now know as Monopoly. Lizzie Magie invented The Landlord’s Game. She was an American games designer and feminist who believed in equality and in particular economic equality. She created the board format which is so familiar with now, including circuiting the board numerous times, the train stations, the poor house and gaol were also featured. She created two game modes – one where you played as a monopolist – seizing the most personal wealth through property ownership and the other where all players benefitted from collected wealth – the prosperity rules. She believed that people would play both and realise that the morally better choice was the Prosperity rules set. She sold copies of the game and while it wasn’t a huge success it was used by colleges as an educational tool. She even pitched it to Parker Bros but was turned down. If you want to find out more about her you there’s a great article on the British Library site.

Magie never became rich from her amazing achievements in the boardgames world but some men did. On International Women’s Day we not only celebrate women’s achievement but remember that women are routinely underpaid, sidelined, ignored and talked over. So let’s celebrate women and help to amplify their voices not just today but everyday.

You can play any of the games I’ve mentioned at my events – check out my events page for more details.

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