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Celebrating Women in the Board Game Industry

celebrating women in the board game industry
celebrating women in the board game industry

“This is a man’s world, but it would be nothing, nothing, without a woman or a girl”.

Nice try, James. But even the Godfather of Soul missed the mark.

Despite living in the 21st century and ongoing progress made in the name of feminism, we are not there yet. True gender equality is the aspiration. A state where people receive the same treatment, the same opportunities. The need to break down systemic patriarchy has never been greater.

FavouriteFoe Celebrates Emily Shaw

With that in mind, being able to champion women in the board gaming community is not only a privilege but a duty. And one person who came onto my own radar recently is the publisher and co-founder of Braincrack Games, Emily Shaw.

Founded in 2016, Braincrack has brought us a variety of fantastic games. From family fun titles like Mined Out to tabletop war game Farsight. More recently, the beautiful euro-game trilogy of Ragusa. And it shows no sign of stopping, with many more exciting and diverse titles planned for the future (all of which I can’t wait to play!).

Juggling motherhood and a stressful corporate career, Emily has recently made the exciting decision to focus on publishing. And the impact of her increased day-to-day involvement with all aspects of Braincrack has been immediate. Emily made a public stand against a fulfilment partner. The CEO had made inappropriate comments against a woman on social media. A positive decision which the backers of Venice and fellow publishers rightly commended.

Emily has experiences of being marginalised at board game trade events. She knows what it is like being a woman in what is still a predominantly man’s world. Having a woman who champions diversity and representation can only mean that there are better days to come.

Photo Credit - Braincrack Games & Capstone Games on Kickstarter

Jim Cohen Celebrates Gemma Newton

“An eco-conscious board game company with good intentions.” This is how Moonstone Games label themselves. After speaking with the owner and founder Gemma Newton, I was left with the feeling that these good intentions go far beyond a simple brand slogan. Gemma really means this. She wants to encourage other women within the industry to have confidence. She urges women to “put a piece of themselves out there in a male-dominated industry.” Much like she did, with the brilliant Plotalot.

I think we all hope that more women start designing, promoting, publishing, and playing board games. As Gemma says, “Women have a different take on gaming.” A take that could be lost if more isn’t done to drive for more equality within the industry.

It seems strange to me, as a man with my limited understanding, that anyone would feel like they couldn’t be accepted into this hobby on level ground. But sadly, this isn’t the case, and speaking with Gemma highlighted this to me. It opened my blinkered eyes to an imbalance within the professional side of the industry. “The balance of male to female players is extremely good, as is the balance to young and old. However, what I don’t see as much is female designers or publishers. This is an area where I feel women can add real value in terms of creativity and fun.”

Gemma has proven there is a market for women designing games, like many others before her. I am hopeful that as the software industry changes its tune, where almost half of gamers are now women, the board game industry will follow suit. Gemma echoes this, saying “I think of all the creative communities out there, the gaming community is extremely open to players and designers of any gender, background and age. It’s an exciting place to be, and as popularity soars, I’m sure we’ll see more women showcasing their talents as designers.”

Much in the way that seeing Elizabeth Hargreaves success inspired Gemma. “If she can do it, so can I!” I hope seeing Gemma’s success with Plotalot will add encouragement to other creative women out there who have a passion to get involved too.

Plotalot is a fast, fun family-friendly ‘take-that’ game. It looks as beautiful as it plays, and should be a staple in everyone’s collection. I strongly urge you to check it out!

Louise Grady Celebrates Teeuwynn Woodruff

Next up is the creative genius of all things cool and nerdy! Teeuwynn Woodruff has been influencing numerous game industries since the early ’90s. From classic roleplay games to some of the most popular trade card games, Woodruff has conquered all. Her writing and game developing expertise has helped the success of many well-loved franchises. Dungeons & Dragons, Pokemon TCG, and Betrayal at the House on the Hill are just a few games she has helped develop. We’ve all probably had the pleasure of enjoying the work of Woodruff. For this, she is considered a pioneer for women in the games industries.

A love for games and an interest in writing brought Woodruff’s attention to the game industry. From childhood, Woodruff found herself enthralled by the fantastical table-top classic, Dungeons & Dragons. After attending a game’s convention in 1992, she decided to and submit her work to the D&D publishers, TSR. Her monster designs and adventures soon appeared in D&D books and magazines. This is where her freelance writing career began.

World-building, character creation and fantastical storytelling is not Woodruff’s sole talent. Alongside the creative mind is a master of puzzles and logic. She is an inventor of mysteries to unravel and puzzles to fathom in numerous logic-based games and interactive puzzles. She's won numerous awards for her puzzle creations. Woodruff represents women in all aspects of the gaming industries.

After co-authoring many D&D books, Woodruff’s success only continued from there. 2004 saw the birth of the timeless and much-loved Betrayal at the House on the Hill. As a designer of the game, Woodruff won Origin’s gamer’s choice award. She went on to win various impressive awards for her boardgame developments and publications.

Teeuwynn Woodruff is an inspiration for women in the games industries. As one of the very first and few women during the 90’s to work in a male-dominated sector, Woodruff has helped set a precedent of equality. She currently works as a freelance creative for the games industries. We are excited to see what Woodruff will conjure up next!

Beccy Robinson Celebrates Ellie Dix

Ellie Dix, the owner of The Dark Imp, is on a mission: To reclaim family time!

Away from screens and the constant pull of the online world. Ellie’s aim is to bring families closer through play. All by creating compelling and immersive worlds on the board.

Her background in education forms the foundations of her beliefs. And in her book, The Board Game Family, Ellie focuses on the benefits of playing board games. Examples include improved memory formation and cognitive skills. Also, better critical thinking, problem-solving abilities and refining interpersonal skills. Even learning how to lose graciously and to teach others to do so!

With this knowledge, she has created many of her own games. She offers print and plays that can be downloaded from her website. There are also coaster games that are light and easy to transport for playing anywhere. There are even big box board games and huge bundles designed for use in schools.

In September 2020, Ellie brought her Cracker Games to Kickstarter. Housed inside an ingenious cracker box (reusable and elegantly designed) are the six Cracker Games. The light, family-friendly games are perfect for Christmas Day festivities, and are suitable for 6 players of all ages!

The project was 517% funded and, amazingly for a KS, delivered on time!

With this great success under her belt, Ellie is once again returned to Kickstarter. This time with her more recent game Uranus. This one came in third place in the Board Games Workshop design contest. Uranus goes live on Kickstarter from the 2nd of March until the 30th.

If one international contest wasn’t enough, she’s also just been announced as a finalist for Cardboard Edison 2021. This is with her game Down, Peasant!

When thinking of inspirational women in the Board Game industry, Ellie Dix immediately sprang to my mind. As well as creating her own company, Ellie wants to spread her love of the industry. She wants to empower others to discover the joys of games for the benefit of everyone in the family. She also wants to share her expert advice with us all!

You can listen to her wisdom on her Radio show, The Game School on Teacher Hug Radio or check out her website, The Dark Imp.

Editors note: This blog was originally published on March 8th, 2021. Updated on March 8th, 2022 to improve the information available.