Best Female Representation in Board Games
Heather ?
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Determined by three criteria:
- Ratio (how many female characters are there, compared to male characters, in each category, e.g. playable characters, enemies, non-playable story characters, etc.)
- Abilities (are the female characters' abilities non-stereotyped, and how powerful/useful are they compared to the male characters' abilities).
- Sexualisation (are any of the female characters' roles, demeanor, physical appearance or clothing designed to be sexually appealing. This is NOT the same as them simply being physically attractive, though obviously if all the female characters in a game are attractive while all the males are unattractive this would suggest a gender bias).


Important to note:
- This list and the analysis of a game's female representation is NOT an indicator of how good a game is, or of my own personal enjoyment of it.
- I have not ranked the games - they are listed in alphabetical order
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1. Board Game: Alien Artifacts [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1512]
Akamas Nairb
United States
Colorado
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All player boards are two-sided with a male and female representative of each faction. There are no differences between the two options and clothing for each is basically the same.
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2. Board Game: Android: Netrunner [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:46]
C&H Schmidt
Germany
Heidelberg
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When I made my geeklist on the same topic (see further down for a link), I did not yet know how good the representation of women would be in this brilliant asymmetric card game, because I had only seen the core set, where it is good, but does not stand out massively.
Now I've seen all of it and known for a long time that this is the best game in terms of representation I've seen:
In the Android universe, a deeply flawed future vision of our own world, people of all genders and all ethinicities are represented in all walks of life -- in positions of power both in business and politics, in poverty, in the army, as hackers... The game prominently features a number of LGBTQ characters. All of this is just so refreshing to see, and exactly like it should be!

There are certainly a few illustrations of women that are somewhat sexualised, but those are a minority, and there is no objectification of women.
(There are two cards with advertisements for "companionship" (=sex) robots, but these robots exist in both a male and a female model.)

I cannot count the exact ratio of male/female/gender-diverse characters, because even just the named characters are too many to count quickly, not even to mention all the unnamed people in the card art.
But I am sure that a majority of the most popular, i.e. most played, runner (=hacker) characters over the game's history have been women -- Kate MacCaffrey, Andromeda, Hayley Kaplan, Valencia Estevez, MaxX, Leela Patel, Ele "Smoke" Scovak are all iconic, and the first 3 have all completely dominated the tournament scene at some point in game's life.

I do believe that the way the creators of this game have treated minorities (including women, who are a minority in the competitive card game scene) contributes to a positive and welcoming atmosphere in the game's community as well (of course this well never be perfect; but from my experience it's pretty good).
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3. Board Game: Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:488]
Jeff Lozito
Canada
Toronto
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This one immediately pops into mind for several reasons:

1. Of the 19 Phoenixborn characters (Base Game + Expansions + Promos), 11 are women.

2. Beyond the Phoenixborn characters, there are tons of other cards in the game that feature women allies (or feature women on spell cards).

3. The overwhelming majority of the female characters don't appear overly sexualized. In fact, for many, it's quite the opposite. Maeoni and Namine are the only ones who skirt that line, but it never feels pandering in the way that many other games approach it. This isn't surprising since the main artist is female.
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4. Board Game: BattleCON: Devastation of Indines [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:272] [Average Rating:7.98 Unranked]
Heather ?
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Ratio: 15 of 35 playable characters (counting Karin and Jager as separate characters for the purpose of gender ratio, and counting Runika as 2 separate characters for their Fighter and Boss roles) are female.

Abilities: Non-stereotyped and equal to their male counterparts.

Sexualisation: Adjenna Callista wears a dress revealing most of their legs, stomach and cleavage, and has their hips thrust out in a sexy pose. Other female characters appear unsexualised.
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5. Board Game: BattleCON: War of Indines [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:650] [Average Rating:7.78 Unranked]
Heather ?
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Ratio: 8 of 18 playable characters are female.

Abilities: Non-stereotyped. Equally powerful and varied as the male characters.

Sexualisation: Most are completely unsexualised. Vanaah shows a slight bit of braless “side-boob” (but refreshingly, the breasts are not gravity-defyingly perky as art of women’s braless breasts are usually depicted). Lixis wears a boob-tube and mini-skirt. Tatsuya has a boob window. By comparison, male characters show almost no skin.
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6. Board Game: Betrayal at House on the Hill [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:477]
Heather ?
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Ratio: 6 of 12 playable characters are female.

Abilities: Non-stereotyped, on par with the males’.

Sexualisation: One miniature wears a crop top and short-shorts. Otherwise, no further sexualisation.
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7. Board Game: The Big Book of Madness [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:737]
Mike
United States
New York
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Ratio: There are eight player characters: four female and four male.

Abilities: Non-stereotyped and equal to their male counterparts.

Sexualisation: Yes. The four male characters vary in their appearance. The four female characters are all portrayed as attractive young women. In addition, all of the characters are wearing school uniforms but the female uniforms all feature short skirts and two female characters are wearing cropped tops. One of the other female characters is posed in a way that emphasizes her breasts.
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8. Board Game: Catacombs & Castles [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:2914] [Average Rating:6.97 Unranked]
Heather ?
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Ratio: 4 of 8 playable characters are female (Compared to 2 being male, and 2 being robots).

Abilities: As varied and powerful as the other characters.

Sexualisation: None.
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9. Board Game: The City of Kings [Average Rating:7.95 Overall Rank:691]
Daniel Engle
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Ratio: 3 of 6 playable characters are female.

Abilities: Most abilities are fairly generic, and the ones that aren't, are tied to race, not sex/gender.

Sexualisation: None really. All clothed/armored normally, no exposed or excessively large parts, and not feminized either.
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10. Board Game: Clue [Average Rating:5.66 Overall Rank:8611]
James Clarke
United Kingdom
Caithness
Scotland
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- Ratio, 50% female

- Abilities, equally capable of murder as males

- Sexualisation, 0%



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11. Board Game: Dead Man's Doubloons [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:3170]
Brad103
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Skaneateles
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Ratio: 3 of 6 playable characters are female. 1 of the 3 is a bird.

Abilities: Non stereotyped. Balanced well with the male counterparts. Pollyanna has arguably one of the best abilities in the game.

Sexualisation: Widow Cheng is fully covered in dress, clothing and design is attractive but not overly sexualized. Valparisa is wearing a low cut top, but appropriate for the times. She's also holding a shrunken head, which is considering non-sexy. Pollyanna is dressed as a male in both clothing and feathers. Pollyanna is also a bird.

-Calico Jack is probably the most sexualized one. With his shirt open, fancy jewelry, and sly smile!
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12. Board Game: Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:88] [Average Rating:7.64 Unranked]
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Sort of surprised this one wasn't added.

This game along with the Long Night (And Warring Colonies) has a lot of female characters from different ages, races and even a few different body shapes.

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13. Board Game: Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:92]
Jonas Emmett
Canada
Surrey
BC
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Fantasy Flight has done a commendable job with representation in their games in the last few years. The second edition of Descent is head and shoulders above the first edition, with an even split of male and female heroes for all classes (archetypes) in the base game, and more believable and much less sexualized adventuring outfits. Every hero is equally capable in their abilities. All the villager tokens have a male profile on one side and female on the other.

The five expansions to date have done just about as well with the gender split in heroes, and between the base game and expansions there are 12 male (55%) and 10 female (45%) heroes. While there are in total four male warrior heroes and only two female warriors, most of the women are scouts (ranged class) and mages (three each), rather than healers (two total).

The Hero and Monster Collections skew the total ratio of heroes to 60% male and 40% since they update many of the heroes from first edition, which was overwhelmingly male. They also update everyone's artwork to match the style of second edition, although many of those original heroes are still going into dungeons with unprotected legs. Red Scorpion has yet to be converted.

The villains (lieutenants) are much more male-focused (14 vs 6), with one of the female villains including a cliché spider queen. Another of the female villains is a giant dragon, and whether that's a positive or a negative I'll leave up to the reader.
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14. Board Game: Diceborn Heroes [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:10936]
Brian M
United States
Thornton
Colorado
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Two copies of each character card, one with male art and one with female art. Aside from the art, the characters are otherwise identical.







Some sexualization, but the male/female versions are virtually identical; ie, the female Sword-mage is wearing a bikini type top; the male sword-sage is shirtless.
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15. Board Game: Eldritch Horror [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:61]
Heather ?
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Ratio: Half the playable characters in the base game and half in each expansion are female.

Abilities: Male and female characters all have a variety of non-gendered roles, as well as ones that do fit gender roles, but given the amount of stereotype-breaking roles this appears to be happenstance rather than stereotype perpetuation. Female characters' abilities are equally useful to males, and their stats are just as powerful and varied.

Sexualisation: None apparent.
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16. Board Game: Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:956]
Heather ?
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Ratio: 2 of 4 characters in the base game are female. An expansion adds another male character.

Abilities: Characters don’t have pre-assigned abilities. Character powers can be introduced with an expansion, but these aren’t linked to particular characters and are all interchangeable.

Sexualisation: No sexualisation of the women (compared to one shirtless muscular man), but both female characters are conventionally attractive, whereas one of the male characters is intended to be unattractive.
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17. Board Game: Flash Point: Fire Rescue [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:290]
Steve G
United States
West Grove
Pennsylvania
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Ratio: 2 characters in base game are clearly female (Paramedic and Rescue Specialist). 2 characters in base game are clearly male (Fire Captain and Driver/Operator). 4 Characters in base game are in heavy gear and face masks that could be either male or female (Imaging Technician, Generalist, Hazmat Technician, CAFS Firefighter).

Abilities: All abilities are strong and non-stereotyped.

Sexualisation: All characters wear non-sexualized task appropriate clothing. Rulebook is consistent in always using term Firefighters instead of Firemen.
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18. Board Game: Forgotten Depths [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Ori Avtalion
Israel
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Forgotten Depths is a cooperative dungeon crawler for 1–3 players set in a fantasy world, illustrated by Marian Churchland (who I know from the 8house: Arclight comic book)

Here are the 3 playable characters:



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19. Board Game: Ghost Stories [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:230]
Heather ?
Australia
New South Wales
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Ratio: All character miniatures are androgynous .The original box art had the playable characters as all male, but the updated art has male and female characters depicted, allowing players to imagine their characters' genders as they please. 2 of 7 base game villagers are female. 0 out of 1 promo villagers are female. 16 out of 55 regular ghosts from the base game are female (14 male, 25 other). 2 out of 10 Wu Fang ghosts from the base game are female. 1 out of 4 regular promo ghosts are female. 0 out of 1 Wu Fang promo ghosts are female.

Abilities: As the player characters have no defined gender, their abilities are non-stereotyped. The villager’s abilities are based on roles themed to pre-modern China, but they are still as powerful and useful as the male villagers’ abilities. The female ghosts are just as powerful as the male and other ghosts.

Sexualisation: Some of the female ghosts are depicted to be sexy, but their clothing is non-revealing.
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20. Board Game: Gloom [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:1600] [Average Rating:6.35 Unranked]
Heather ?
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New South Wales
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Ratio: 9 of 21 characters are female (10 male, 2 other) including 2 of 4 head-of-family characters (2 male).

Abilities: N/A

Sexualisation: None apparent.
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21. Board Game: Gloomhaven [Average Rating:8.87 Overall Rank:1] [Average Rating:8.87 Unranked]
Ben Kyo
Japan
Osaka
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Can't be sure of ratios, or whether all the classes are as good as the starting six, but so far 50/50, no real stereotyping, and no silly revealing outfits. In fact, we only realised the vermling was female after a game or two.

The designer also posted publicly about "realistic depictions of women in fantasy", in which he wrote "the portraits of the female classes show strong women in positions of power, just like the male classes", so I think the odds are good that the rest of the sealed content is equally fair.
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22. Board Game: Healthy Heart Hospital [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:2460]
3 Minute Boardgames
New Zealand
Wellington
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Medical themed game about running a hospital. Noteworthy because it has quite a diverse cast even with only 15 characters

8 female characters, 7 male.

All doctors and administrators.

Also, has wide range of ethnicity on the medical team as well.

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23. Board Game: Last Friday [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:2929]
Heather ?
Australia
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Ratio: 7 of 15 base game characters are female (plus one apparently male murderer), 3 of 5 expansion characters are female (plus one possibly male dream-demon).

Abilities: Susan’s ability is “heart-rending cry”, that when they are murdered their scream allows other characters to immediately move 1 space. Otherwise, all other female characters have non-stereotypical and useful abilities, involving athleticism and bear traps.

Sexualisation: None apparent.
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24. Board Game: Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:98] [Average Rating:7.78 Unranked]
Heather ?
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Ratio: 1 of 10 avatars are apparently female in the base game, and 4 of 10 avatars in the expansion are female. As for the Barracks, more than half the characters are male, as all the characters are those from the Alien series, but all the scenarios except the third have at least one female character (the third having just Ellen Ripley).

Abilities: Just like the movies, the female characters’ roles and capabilities are non-stereotyped and equivalent to the males’.

Sexualisation: None that I can see. As a bonus, this game lacks the Ripley underwear scene that the movie had.

EDIT: Completely forgot about the avatars.
 
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25. Board Game: Legends of Andor [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:351] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
Andreas Krüger
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It can be so simple: All characters can be male or female, with the same stats. Just exchange the standee and turn over the player board. Double amount of artwork required, though, so maybe not viable for small publishers (or small print runs).
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