Women in Games -- Examples of Positive Representation
C&H Schmidt
Germany
Heidelberg
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Like in any other medium, the representation of women in board games is often problematic -- lots of games offer fewer or no female characters to play and those characters that exist are overly sexualised. The latter is particularly (but not only) noticeable in fantasy games, the former is common in all genres of board games.

This list was inspired by recurring discussions about female representation in the Crowd Funding Discussion Thread in the Women and Gaming Forum.
When female gamers and crowd-funding supporters bring up their unease about either too few female playable characters and stereotypical presentation or over-sexualisation of female characters (playable or not) in games, they are often met with derision or their concerns are just dismissed by fellow (male) supporters or creators.
Often, it is even asserted that overly sexualised female characters are part of the fantasy/horror genre and an integral part of the appeal of the games.

So let's prove them wrong! Here, with your help, I want to showcase all the positive examples with diverse female characters which already exist, where women are equally capable and equally well equipped for their job.

What exactly am I looking for?

(IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Not satisfying most of the following properties and thus not belonging on this list does NOT make any game a bad game. It does not necessarily make it sexist or misogynist either. It just simply means that the game shouldn't go on this very specific list.)

This list is for positive examples, not just more or less neutral ones. So games should not just enter the list because they have some female characters or because there are women in the game at all -- that should not be extraordinary or reason for praising a game.
Instead, games on this list should clearly satisfy at least two of the following:

- Players play as a specific character (i.e. players do not just play a more or less ananomous identity like in many more abstract euros) and there are roughly equally many male and female options or more female playable characters.
- If players control a more abstract identity, women are meaningfully represented among the non-playable characters.
- Depictions of women in the game, on the game box and in the rules are not sexualised. Women are not victimised or belittled.
- The roles which characters of all genders fulfill in the game should not just be following stereotypical gender roles. E.g. the nurse, healer, princess, victim or helpless person, fashion model are female, the doctor, manager, warrior, engineer, scientist, detective are male -- you get the idea.
Whether a character is male or female should have nothing to do with the role they play in the game for the game to go on this list.

One last thing: I hope for a lot of participation from fellow BGGeeks and for your comments, but if you are not interested in this topic or think it is stupid, please just leave this geeklist alone and enjoy the rest of BGG -- there is plenty of online space where you are not confronted with this issue.
For me, positive female representation in games is important and I would be really sad if the list was sabotaged or taken over by those that don't.
Thank you!

EDIT: What I haven't said so far about the moderation of this geeklist: Since this is under my name, I feel that is is my responsibility to make sure that the games on this list really are positive examples of female representation as outlined in the criteria above.
Today, I took a lot of time to go through all of the new entries. I try to evaluate games based on their BGG page as well as I can.
Of course, games -- and the women in them -- are nuanced, a lot of games will have positive aspects and negative aspects and it will not always be easy to decide where and whether a particular game should be on the list.
I have not played many of the games suggested by others, so I do rely on you to explain why the game should be on the list, to mention possible points of criticism and to comment if you can add to the discussion.

EDIT 2: I have now decided that instead of keeping the list to its originally narrow scope, I'm going to split the list into two (three) parts:
- The first is games that satisfy three of the criteria (four isn't possible since the first two are mutually exclusive) or clearly satisfy two and have little to no problematic aspects.
- The second part is for games that satisfy two of the criteria, but have problematic aspects worth of discussion. So many of the items have prompted interesting discussions already, so I think it would be a shame to remove them!
- I will still delete games that don't satisfy two criteria.
- New games can still go to the bottom of the list and I'll do some sorting when I have time.

Let me also reiterate this: Not satisfying the above criteria does not make any game a bad game. Neither does it necessarily make a game sexist.

(Example: Somebody entered 'Robinson Crusoe - Adventures on the Cursed Island' to the list. This is one of my absolute favourite games. I love it. But although it has a male and female version of every character, the woman in the box art is very sexualised and the characters are relatively generic, so I would not consider it a particularly positive example of female representation, more of a neutral to 'mmissed opportunity' one.)
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1. Board Game: Legends of Andor [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:390] [Average Rating:7.21 Unranked]
Board Game: Legends of Andor
C&H Schmidt
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This is a great example for positive female representation in a fantasy game, where all player characters exist as a male and a female version with the same skills, but different character art and name. The female characters are all functionally and suitably dressed for an adventure.
In the promotional material for the base game, two characters are chosen to be female/ male respectively and they feature equally prominently in the story telling.

Unfortunate side note: Since the base game, six more characters have been added, again each with male and female version, but only one of them is represented as female in the promotional material. That is a pity and I hope the balance will be restored in future expansions!
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2. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:96]
Board Game: Pandemic
C&H Schmidt
Germany
Heidelberg
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This is representative for all the games in the Pandemic family with human characters: the expansions, Pandemic: The Cure and Pandemic Legacy.

Each role is represented either by a female or male character with a roughly equal split and no stereotypical distribution of roles.
Z-Man has also taken some care to make characters more ethnically diverse than often seen in games, although the majority are still white.

Edit: Typo
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3. Board Game: Vast: The Crystal Caverns [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:576] [Average Rating:7.20 Unranked]
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This game has only one human character: a knight, who is female.
And there is no particular reason for that, nor is she stereotypical or sexualised or made fun of. She just is a woman, because why not?

Edit: As pointed out by RoboThayne in the comments, the successful Kickstarter for Trove added another human character, a male thief. Of course the game still easily satisfies three of the criteria in the header, like before, but it does take away some of the knight's uniqueness and the strong message the game sent.
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4. Board Game: Scythe [Average Rating:8.25 Overall Rank:11] [Average Rating:8.25 Unranked]
Board Game: Scythe
C&H Schmidt
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Heidelberg
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This game has five playable factions, each of which has a unique and charismatic leader.
Three of these leaders are women, who are clearly portrayed as capable and powerful (as befits their position). Their character design is intriguing, non-stereotypical and non-sexualised.
No big deal is made about 3/5 leaders being women and it is not presented as being extraordinary or weird.

Positive representation of women in games -- this is (one example of) how you do it!

Side note: Having both a male and a female version of each character in a game can be great and allows for a lot of variation, but Scythe is an example of how having unique characters, whose gender is one of their traits but doesn't define them, can actually make for much better gender representation: Players choose a character for their aptitude and skills and are 'forced' not to consider their gender in order to get the full gaming experience.
I think that playing characters of varying genders is a good part of the gaming experience -- which is after all a lot about experiencing things that you normally don't in your daily life.
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5. Board Game: Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:77]
Board Game: Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game
C&H Schmidt
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Heidelberg
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DISCLAIMER: I have only played this game once and might not be remembering all details correctly. Please comment if you disagree with my assessment!
This game is definitely a borderline case, but I decided to leave it on the list for now because I had interesting observations about it.

Battlestar Galactica offers a huge number of player characters (in particular if played with all expansions). According to my impression after one play, there are somewhat fewer women, but still a sizeable number -- and they can be found in all roles available in the game.

Aspects which I see critically:
- Each character has a negative character trait and these occasionally seem to be somewhat stereotypical (e.g. a female character being hysterical or quick to anger). On the other hand, there are also female characters with non-stereotypical positive traits like "resolute".
- While there are Hispanic and Asian characters, the cast of Battlestar Galactica is overwhelmingly white. If the remainder of humanity is supposed to be on this ship, where are all the non-white people?
- While there are old men as playable characters, all the female characters very much conform to the western beauty standard and are young. More diversity would be welcome here.

The main reason why this game is still on the list is that women are just as likely to be the human president or pilots or engineers or cylons (evil aliens) or even cylon leaders as men, which is really refreshing. Female characters are also ruthless and power hungry and scheming and not just the usual caring and nice.
As long as players choose to play the female characters, that is.
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6. Board Game: Steampunk Rally [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:530] [Average Rating:7.24 Unranked]
Board Game: Steampunk Rally
Will Martin
United States
Arlington
Virginia
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Hey, nothing says positive female representation like pointing out under-acclaimed female scientists and inventors throughout history. Especially when that is mixed with, from what I can tell, little use of the sexualized female form trope and more of a focus on making sure inventors throughout the ages could be seen in this game.

I'm just waiting for more investors of various colors, shapes and sizes, but for what they've got so far, I have been impressed. They've done a good job so far, and I can't wait to see them keep going. There are only so many limits you can bypass when a lot of history is whitewashed and it's hard to dig through things to find those hidden gems.

But from what I've seen of them, they're trying their best to keep moving forward on that front, being representative while not acting as though their representation in the game is their only contribution.
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7. Board Game: Steam Works [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:2080]
Board Game: Steam Works
Netherlands
Enschede
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4 male 4 female characters, all with different starting tiles, and different actions (on the B-side of the player boards). Diverse ethnicity and body type as well.
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8. Board Game: Ruse [Average Rating:5.55 Overall Rank:17347]
Board Game: Ruse
Actually, I would think crawling around looking for someone's eye would be a pretty fun game in its own right.
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A steampunk-inspired crime-solving and story-telling game. Each player takes on one of six suspect roles (three each male and female), and attempts to pin the crime on one of the other suspects while evading accusations themselves.

The three male roles are:
Big-game hunter;
Airship captain;
Bank president.

The three female roles are:
Duchess who is an "economic prodigy";
Inventor/mechanic;
Professor of Natural Science and museum curator.

So, the female roles are not what I would call "typical", and all the characters -- male and female -- are dressed in standard Victorian/Edwardian clothes.

All the suspects have equal opportunity to be accused and to escape the accusation(s), and equal opportunity to found guilty.

(I can delete this if the OP doesn't think it fully fits the stated criteria.)
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9. Board Game: Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:562]
Board Game: Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn
Charlotte Malone
United States
Floyds Knobs
Indiana
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Six Phoenixborn characters come in the base game, four are woman. The promo character is also a woman. All of the women are feminine and attractive without being sexualized. There is also a lot of diversity among the women in this game. I'm not a LCG/direct conflict gamer, but the female characters in Ashes drew me in and now I'm hooked.
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10. Board Game: Monsoon Market [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:12069]
Board Game: Monsoon Market
Mm C
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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Pretty much anything by Daniel Solis tends to fit this (at least the ones featuring people), but Monsoon Market sticks in my brain particularly for it...

EDIT: Belle of the Ball is also particularly good diversity wise.
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11. Board Game: Android: Netrunner [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:52]
Board Game: Android: Netrunner
L W
United States
San Francisco
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Android Netrunner is an asymmetrical game where the "Runner" is a personality that takes on the "Corps". Half of all the runner personalities are female characters. Even the "Corps" cards are filled with depictions of powerful female character cards. The artwork depicting the characters is super cool and the women looks great. There is little to no stereotyping of gender roles in the games.
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12. Board Game: The Witches: A Discworld Game [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:3521]
Board Game: The Witches: A Discworld Game
Based on the "Tiffany Aching" series of young adult books (which are themselves a subset of the larger "Discworld" series) by Terry Pratchett, this game has players take on the role of one of four young female Trainee Witches (all characters from the novels). Their job is to travel the land solving Problems, from minor ones like sick pigs to major ones like Elves, before the Problems overwhelm the land and the players. Each player is trying to be the best at solving these Problems in order to win. Additionally, players can help each other shed dreaded "Cackle" tokens by meeting on the game board to Have Tea. The Witches can be played cooperatively or competitively.

In the larger context of the story, the Witches' job is to help those who need it, the sick and the injured and the overlooked, as well as deal with difficult magical problems that no one else can. They do so for very little acknowledgement or reward, but because it needs doing and someone has to do it. "Cackling" is what happens when a witch is left alone to deal with the tough problems for too long, and "Having Tea" is the Witches' way of looking out for each other.

(Edit: grammar)
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13. Board Game: Coup [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:491]
Board Game: Coup
Val Teixeira
United States
Dallas
Texas
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I'm not sure if this one fits - but various versions have plenty of woman roles.

Board Game: Coup
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14. Board Game: Monarch [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:3439]
Board Game: Monarch
C&H Schmidt
Germany
Heidelberg
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DISCLAIMER: I have not played this -- if you have, please discuss!

In this game, you play as the (apparently exclusively female) offspring of a royal house all vying to succeed your mother, the queen.
As far as I can see from the BGG page, the queen is in a sense the most prominent character in the game. She is notable, because usually in this type of game it is the king who is trying to find a male successor.

This looks like an interesting gender-swapped version of a familiar game setting.
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15. Board Game: Android [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:1264]
Board Game: Android
Nicola Bocchetta
Italy
Milano
MI
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This fantascientific dystopian game comes with 5 playable characters, 2 of whom are females. All the characters have a contrived background story that is part of the game.
The two female characters are a bounty hunter and a psychic clone.
While the flavour text on some of the event cards (in the game called "light and dark" cards) can put female (but also male) characters in cliché-ed situations from pulp fiction and sci-fi, the game does this to create a universe where it's easy to put the characters in.
The female characters are not weaker than the male ones, and have distinct and interesting traits.
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16. Board Game: Dragon Racer [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:6669]
Board Game: Dragon Racer
Rachael
United States
Williamsburg
Virginia
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Players are each a character with a special ability. Every ability is available as both a man and a woman character. Each character has a unique design, so not the women are the men plus breasts and a ponytail that seems to happen sometimes. The clothing is inspired by a variety of cultures from around the globe (matching the variety of skin tones and likely ethnicities of the characters) plus common fantasy elements, and always seems reasonable for characters focused on dragon racing rather than sex appeal. Basically, the art in this game is gorgeous and absolutely nails inclusivity in character design.

Three guy character cards (left) and three gal character cards (right) are visible in this image.

Board Game: Dragon Racer
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17. Board Game: Norsaga [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:6622]
Board Game: Norsaga
A game about building an epic saga about yourself, including your ancestors, who are equally male and female.
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18. Board Game: Maria [Average Rating:7.97 Overall Rank:315]
Board Game: Maria
H.M. Woggle-Bug, T.E.
Germany
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Obvious choice.
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19. Board Game: Noblemen [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:1941]
Board Game: Noblemen
Aaron Silverman
United States
Halfway between Castro and Mickey Mouse
Florida (FL)
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In this game, each player screen has a depiction of that player's character's body on it. A head panel sits atop the screen, and as you advance in rank, you replace your head panel with the next higher rank. The screens and head panels are male on one side and female on the other. IIRC, there's no effect on gameplay; the choice is entirely up to player preference.
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20. Board Game: Bora Bora [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:197]
Board Game: Bora Bora
Jake Blomquist
United States
Vestal
New York
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I'm not completely sure about this one, but I'm curious to see what people think. As far as I can tell in the game who or what you're playing as is pretty unclear, but you do accumulate characters in your various villages. These characters can be male or female, and in fact there are male and female versions of each power (things like travelling to expand your village, recruiting more people, gathering resources, building temples, and various worship powers). But this is not just superficial, you really need some men and some women, because you get a bonus men action and a bonus women action every turn, so you're missing out if you only ever have one or the other. The tiles also come with a one time ability, with all of the women giving shells and all of the men giving tattoos, but there are women who can generate tattoos every turn and likewise men who can generate shells. Also it's true that all of the characters are dressed somewhat revealingly, but I think that's because they're on a tropical island, and personally I don't see the art as being particularly provocative, but maybe others will. It seems like the men and women are generally in similarly functional poses and are generally just depicted at competently doing whatever it is they're doing (whether it's rowing, or construction, or talking to other people, or praying). For reference I've added a picture of the player board, if you go to the image page and enlarge it to as big as possible, you can see all of the people tiles in a column slightly to the left of center.

Board Game: Bora Bora


I feel like this should be at least 2/3, but I don't know, what do people think?
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21. Board Game: Fast Flowing Forest Fellers [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:2264]
Board Game: Fast Flowing Forest Fellers
JessA
United States
Southwestern
Michigan
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This game has both male and female lumberjacks
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22. Board Game: Above and Below [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:234] [Average Rating:7.44 Unranked]
Board Game: Above and Below
C&H Schmidt
Germany
Heidelberg
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Another example for the slightly more abstracted euro game category:
Above and Below has 35 human villagers (Kickstarter edition), out of which 15 are female and a number could be either gender (thinking about the game, I actually thought the distribution would be completely equal, but well... close enough).
There are also a couple of non-human villagers who seem to be mostly male according to how they are referred to in the rule book and other resources for the game.
What is notable about this game is that not only are the female characters not sexualised at all, but they also exhibit a quite a bit of diversity in terms of skin colour and hair. Sadly, an older woman is again missing, even though older men are present.
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23. Board Game: Mistfall [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:2050] [Average Rating:6.73 Unranked]
Board Game: Mistfall
Brian M
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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From what I saw, Mistfall had an even gender mix and great portrayals of female PCs. That was from only one play though, so I may have missed things.
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24. Board Game: Bottom of the 9th [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1621]
Board Game: Bottom of the 9th
Stephanie Tennison
United States
San Pedro
California
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This is a new release, and I love the depiction of the female characters. There could be more of them, but they are all playable characters in both pitcher and batter roles, with unique powers and characteristics. The art is lovely and not sexualized at all.

thumbsup from me
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25. Board Game: Candamir: The First Settlers [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:3231]
Board Game: Candamir: The First Settlers
Brian M
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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All of the character cards in Candamir are double sided with a woman on one side and a man on the other. Same stats/abilities. Are look quite appropriate for adventurers and settlers.

(A really underrated game, IMHO).
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