By Zoe Liew
We are well in the renaissance age of tabletop gaming. Though these tabletop games are enjoyed by both men and women, a lament frequently heard revolves around the lack of strong female characters in these games.
Some games such as Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride sidestep the gender representation issue entirely by featuring genderless tokens. But many games feature few playable female characters. Last year, Hasbro only included a Rey figure in its Star Wars: The Force Awakens Monopoly set after fans called out the toy manufacturer on their exclusion of the main character.
And if they are playable, they are dressed ridiculously in cleavage-focused wear whereas the men are suitably attired. Another issue lies with the stereotypical characterisation of women. In Arkham Horror, for example, though seven out of 16 characters are women, some are burdened with strange traits such as “psycho”.
There’s so much we can do to make the gaming community more inclusive to women. So here’s to seven tabletop games which value gender parity and the positive representation of women!
In this cooperative game where all players will either lose or win collectively, you and your partners must work together to find cures to four diseases that are ravaging the world. You can use your turn to discover a cure, treat infected communities, or build a research station. What’s great about Pandemic is that players can choose from just as many female characters as male characters. The characters are well-rounded and wear clothing that’s reflective of their roles whether they’re specialists or scientists. In fact, the most badass role belongs to the quarantine specialist. She can prevent outbreaks in any city she’s in. The new expansion, Pandemic: Legacy goes even further with racial and gender diversity including more women and people of colour.
#2 Legends of Andor
Swords, magic, witches, dragons, quests. You’ll get more than your fill of adventure in this story-driven game. Enemy forces are advancing. It falls to you and your friends to defend King Brandur’s castle against the enemies and save the realm of Andor from peril. In this fantasy adventure cooperative game for two to four players, you’ll embark on quests to find a medicinal herb and compete against an ancient dragon. Each character is playable as either male or female and is appropriately dressed for the adventure. No iron bikinis or titillating corsets here.
#3 Dead of Winter
Set in a post-apocalyptic world beset by zombies, the players must work together to acquire food and supplies, resolve internal and external conflicts and fight off the zombie threat. In order to gain a personal victory, players also have to accomplish their secret objectives. Some secret objectives might be as innocent as stockpiling weapons but they may also task you with sabotaging the group’s main mission. Each woman here has a specific set of abilities. And they aren’t scantily attired either ─ a logical aspect of the design since it’s winter. Bonus points to publisher Plaid Hat Games which made an effort to use both feminine and masculine female pronouns in the rulebook.
#4 Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn
You’re all demi-gods called Phoenixborns in the fictional world of Argaia. You’ve saved humankind from the chimaeras but now you must battle each other. A prophecy states that if a Phoenixborn absorbs enough ashes of others, they will attain full godhood. You’ll use cards and custom dice to call allies, merge spells, and outwit your rivals. Coming from the same publisher, Plaid Hat Games, and designer of Dead of Winter, Isaac Vega, it’s unsurprising that four out of six of the Phoenixborn characters are women. Each character is highly complex with none being overly sexualised.
Players have to restore their fallen factions’ glory and lead them to power in this alternate history of the 1920s in Eastern Europa. Except for their individual secret objectives, this game gives players total control over their fates. You could collect resources, recruit people, and activate steam-powered war mechanisms. Out of six, three of the faction leaders are women. And they’re all intelligent, brave, and powerful. All have unique backstories. Racial diversity is also important to designer Jamey Stegmaier as evident in the inclusion of Zehra, the leader of the Crimean Khanate, and Akiko, the leader of the Togawa Shogunate.
This strategy card game was entirely created by women from lead designer Mary Flanagan to artists Kate Adams and Sarah Ettinger. Each main character is a woman duelling her sisters for the right to succeed their dying queen and mother. You must assemble your allies in court, battle famine and threats, and choose strategies that empower the realm. The women are well-represented right down to the artwork on the court cards as they can be seen in a wide range of garments including armour. None of the women has to use her sexuality in pursuit of her goal. Instead, these female characters do things that are normally associated with high-ranking men during the medieval age which reinforces the notion that women are capable and powerful individuals who exercise agency.
#7 The Witches: A Discworld Game
Fans of the series will meet some familiar characters from the books including Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, but being unfamiliar with the game does not deter one from enjoying it. Players are trainee witches who have to deal with all problems they face on Discworld. From trivial issues such as healing a sick pig to knuckle-biting problems such as the elves’ invasion, the witches will face many crises. Their trajectories don’t cast the witches as damsels in distress or love interests who support the male characters’ journeys, so that’s highly empowering!
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