Best Female Representation in Board Games
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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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26. Board Game: Last Friday [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:3202]
Board Game: Last Friday
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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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27. Board Game: Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:111] [Average Rating:7.78 Unranked]
Board Game: Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
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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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28. Board Game: Legends of Andor [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:394] [Average Rating:7.21 Unranked]
Board Game: Legends of Andor
Andreas Krüger
Germany
Krefeld
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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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29. Board Game: Long Live the Queen [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:4672]
Board Game: Long Live the Queen
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Ratio: In the original version, 6 of 24 characters are female, with another 2 being probably female, and 2 being possibly male but could be argued either way (clown). In the diesel punk version, 7 of 24 characters are apparently female, and 6 are ambiguous (either because the appear androgynous or because their faces are completely hidden).

Abilities: The premise is that two princesses/crime bosses are vying for control of the kingdom/underworld after the previous ruler died, so already the position of most power is given to women. Otherwise, the roles are mostly varied.

Sexualisation: No objectification, though in both versions the women are all conventionally attractive while the men are varied.
 
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30. Board Game: Mansions of Madness: Second Edition [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:33]
Board Game: Mansions of Madness: Second Edition
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Ratio: The base game and all expansions appear to have a 50/50 split of female and male characters.

Abilities: There are some background details that adhere to traditional gender roles, but the actual in-game abilities of the characters are varied and balanced.

Sexualisation: No objectification. Most of the female characters are young and attractive, but there are exceptions (the elderly Agatha Crane) and the same thing can be said of the male characters.
 
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31. Board Game: Maria [Average Rating:7.97 Overall Rank:326]
Board Game: Maria
Maria Theresa ascended to power at age 23, revitalized and defended Austria during her four-decade reign, raised nationwide educational standards, and stood hard against against the attacks by European kings who viewed her as an impediment to their expansionary desires, all while giving birth to 16 children.

A giant of history.

She's one of three monarchs whose roles you take on during the War of the Austrian Succession, making her 33% of the game characters, and 100% of the game's inspiration.
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32. Board Game: Mission: Red Planet (Second Edition) [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:273]
Board Game: Mission: Red Planet (Second Edition)
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Ratio: 3 of 9 characters appear female.

Abilities: With the exception of the femme fatale, the other female characters have non-stereotyped roles (a travel agent and an explorer).

Sexualisation: The femme fatale is obviously made to look attractive and sensual, the the outfit itself is not particularly objectifying and the character is depicted in a role of power rather than as an object. The explorer and travel agent are unsexualised, and the travel agent is a heavier woman.
 
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33. Board Game: New Angeles [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:1077]
Board Game: New Angeles
A M
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Great list! Here's a game to add to the rolls:

1. Ratio - 3/6 playable characters present as female, 3/6 present as male. The game features no NPCs, but a slight majority of the characters depicted in the "Asset" deck (i.e., human pawns for your corporation) present as female.

2. Depictions - all characters in the game are dressed in appropriate attire for their roles. Each of the playable characters is a ruthless corporate leader, and depicted as an accomplished individual. None of the characters are drawn in a hypersexualized manner (or sexualized at all). Only one "Asset" (Lily Lockwell) is remotely showing skin.

3. Abilities - each playable character has a comparable but varying special ability, of equivalent power.
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34. Board Game: NOIR: Deductive Mystery Game [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:2646]
Board Game: NOIR: Deductive Mystery Game
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Ratio: Close to half the characters are apparently female.

Abilities: Roles are not assigned to specific characters.

Sexualisation: A variety of appearances, levels of attractiveness and ages.
 
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35. Board Game: One Deck Dungeon [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:629] [Average Rating:7.08 Unranked]
Board Game: One Deck Dungeon
Robert Seater
United States
Ashland
Massachusetts
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All women.
All conventional RPG classes; no stereotyping.
All dressed modestly and with realistic body types.

And the game doesn't make a big deal out of it.
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36. Board Game: Onimaru [Average Rating:3.73 Overall Rank:18964]
Board Game: Onimaru
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This game is still in Kickstarter, so the final product could be different I suppose, but I’m very impressed from what I’ve seen so far. 2 of 5 base game playable characters are female, and 1 of 2 expansion playable characters are female. All are warriors, with abilities equal to the male characters and not based on gender. None are sexualised. Additionally, many Oni and hordelings appear to be female as well.
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37. Board Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 [Average Rating:8.61 Overall Rank:2]
Board Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
Jen

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Lack of female representation hugely influences the games I decide to buy. It’s not just about being able to flip the cardboard over and “poof” I’m a girl. It’s the Theme and Branding of games that feel like they are geared toward men. An example is Blood Rage. This is not a game I can get a group of my friends (mostly women), to play so it doesn’t exist in my collection.

As I read more about what is being published, I notice a lot of games lacking a female persecptive in the fabric of their production. Was there a women working on the game “lapdance” by Artipia? Someone who could have said, “hey, this theme needs work.”

Or how about “Ladies and Gentes,” a game where the man literally can control how the female character spends money. It’s cooperative, with a nasty mechanism that takes power from the female character. So while the gender swap element could be an interesting twist, it’s not really.

Games that I have gravitated toward. Due to positive representation.
Off the bat.

“Scythe” has badass female characters. I bought this game and initially it intimated my casual boardgame group of female friends. But seeing, a female faction leader with a giant bear was a bonus and they opted to give it a try.

I love Fog of Love. Because of the gender swap/character creation/storytelling element.

Terraforming Mars. Because their are no prescribed genders. You’re just a big ass corporation, making mars one generation at a time.

Just played Pandemic Legacy with an all girl group of friends the other night. It felt really nice to have such a balance of power in the characters. It was SO REFERESHING.

Now, I need a Viking game in my collection where I can be Boudicca and ransack villages. If anyone knows of one. Let me know.


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38. Board Game: Pandemic: Iberia [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:100]
Board Game: Pandemic: Iberia
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Ratio: 3 of 7 characters are female.

Abilities: Roles aren’t restricted to gender-stereotyped jobs. The Royal Academy Scientist and the Agronomist are both depicted as female.

Sexualisation: All wear non-sexualised clothing that is appropriate to their era and roles.
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39. Board Game: Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:369]
Board Game: Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu
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Ratio: 3 of 7 playable characters are female.

Abilities: Roles and associated abilities are non-stereotyped and as useful as the male characters’.

Sexualisation: None.
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40. Board Game: Raiders of the North Sea [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:90] [Average Rating:7.79 Unranked]
Board Game: Raiders of the North Sea
Jane Thompson
England
Hull
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In the base game there are three women warriors including one hero, a trader and a jeweller (rich women) and the forager. There are more women in Fields of Fame, including a higher percentage (6/15) that are Jarls. There are two more women heroes and women guardians, outriders, artists and traitors in FoF as well. It's a start.

The women are all shapes and sizes and ages, as are the male characters, and there are a couple that you couldn't really distinguish their gender.
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41. Board Game: Salvation Road [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:5180]
Board Game: Salvation Road
Xander Fulton
United States
Astoria
Oregon
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This one also brings a good balance. Each person playing draws two characters - a 'hero' and a 'survivor'. Both can be used to try to find supplies and advance your goals, although the 'hero' characters are GOOD and have useful abilities, while the 'survivors'...uhhh...not so much.

Of the 8 'hero' characters, 4 are men and 4 are women. Of the 'survivors', there are 4 men and 4 are women.

Dress is appropriate for the setting (nobody sexualized, here).

Board Game: Salvation Road


Abilities are relevant to the background story of the character and their age, and there aren't any particular gender caricatures in play.

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42. Board Game: Scythe [Average Rating:8.24 Overall Rank:14] [Average Rating:8.24 Unranked]
Board Game: Scythe
4 of 7 characters available in base + expansion. Equal in power to male characters (the arguably best characters are female). All are wearing culturally appropriate clothing and are not overtly sexualized.
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43. Board Game: Sentinels of the Multiverse [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:391] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
Board Game: Sentinels of the Multiverse
N Jones
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Richardson
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Ratio: (Base Game)
- Heros: 4 female, 5 male, 1 male-like alien
- Villans: 1 female, 2 male, 1 robot

Abilities: Awsome fun.

Sexualisation: Clothing way, way, way more appropriate than Marvel or DC character design and actually appropriate for the skill of the hero. Poses are all action (vs. pin-up).

Ratios for the expansions

Ratio: (Rook City/Infernal Relics Expansion)
- Heros: 2 female, 2 male
- Villans: 2 female, 5 male, 1 team (4 female, 4 male, 1 energy thing)

Ratio: (Shattered Timelines Expansion)
- Heros: 1 male, 1 robot
- Villans: 3 females, 1 male

Ratio: (Vengeance Expansion)
Heroes: 2 male, 2 female, and 1 hero team consisting of 3 male, 1 female
Villains: 3 male, 2 female

Ratio: (Wrath of the Cosmos Expansion)
Heroes: 1 male, 1 female
Villains: 2 male, 1 female, 1 silver-oozish thing

Ratio: (Villains of the Multiverse Expansion)
Heroes: None
Villains: 6 male, 3 female, 1 rat-thing

Ratio: (OblivAeon Expansion (what we know only))
Heroes: 2 male, 2 female, 1 living tree
Villains: 2 male, 1 female AI, 1 female energy being

Ratio: (Mini-Expansions)
Heroes: 7 male, 2 female
Villains: 2 male, 2 female

Bonus Fact: There are variant versions for all the heroes, and of those, 2 (America's Newest Legacy and Ivana Ramonat) switch the main character from male to female

Thanks to Erik Miller for filling in most of the expansion data!
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44. Board Game: Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:368] [Average Rating:7.98 Unranked]
Board Game: Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients
Matt Price
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San Francisco
California
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All characters have a male and a female option. Flying Frog Productions is good about this.
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45. Board Game: Small World: Grand Dames of Small World [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked]
Board Game: Small World: Grand Dames of Small World
Julius Andrikonis
Lithuania
Vilnius
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Ratio: 100% races (3/3) are female.
Abilities: I especially like Gipsies. Others are more situational. But I would say that the abilities are pretty balanced and not stereotyped.
Sexualisation: 2/3 are quite sexualised. White ladies IMHO aren't.
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46. Board Game: Star Wars: Imperial Assault [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:42]
Board Game: Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Xander Fulton
United States
Astoria
Oregon
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Basically 50/50 mix of male and female characters, here, on the "Hero" side. Representation of either gender is as seen on Star Wars - dressed appropriately for their role (Wookies run around naked!). Characters have different stats and abilities, although this is far more reflective of their species and role (Jedi vs smuggler) than gender.
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47. Board Game: Summoner Wars [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:506] [Average Rating:7.26 Unranked]
Board Game: Summoner Wars: Master Set
Heather ?
Australia
New South Wales
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Ratio: 9 of 40 summoners are female (31 male), 36 of 176 champions are female (110 male, 30 other), 30 of 179 commons are female (89 male, 60 other)

Abilities: All non-stereotyped. Attack strength and health vary, but seems equal to male counterparts.

Sexualisation: Some female characters have sexy poses, and some have sexy dresses, but for the most part the female characters are non-sexualised. Only one female character has a small amount of breast showing, covered by a veil - however, the way this is done does not appear to be sexual, but rather as though the designer wanted the culture of that faction to not consider female chests to be sexual and have them exposed just like the males, but couldn’t show breasts for rating reasons, so hid them. Overall, though the raw stats make females look rare, there is a decent amount of positive, non-sexualised female representation in this game.
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48. Board Game: This War of Mine: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:148]
Board Game: This War of Mine: The Board Game
Keith Lewis
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I don't really think you can get more real than the female characters in this game. Their physical abilities, their ability to handle stress; it's all in their. 5 CHARACTERS OUT OF 12.
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49. Board Game: Vikingar: The Conquest of Worlds [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:5465]
Board Game: Vikingar: The Conquest of Worlds
Jill Hauck
United States
Wheat Ridge
Colorado
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*Note I received this in a kickstarter and haven't played it yet, but I opened it and looked at components and skimmed rulebook*
All character boards are double sided with female characters on one side and male on the other, and all character boards also have french on one side and english on the other (this is a Canadian designed and produced game) which is really cool, and the french/female combo is 50/50 as well. I don't think there are really any different powers to speak of, and the women all look strong and interesting and non-sexualized. There is only one photo of a character board posted, so I may have to go get some photos of my copy and post them.
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50. Board Game: Village Pillage [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:2571]
Board Game: Village Pillage
Ratio: 13 out of the 27 characters are female (This includes the expansion, and honestly there are a couple of cards that could be either male or female)
Abilities: Each character card has a unique & balanced ability
Sexualisation - Perhaps one card, Innkeeper.

picture by chansen2794
Board Game: Village Pillage


Also worth noting: the characters are a great representation of everything. Race, age, gender, religion, body types, and occipations.
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