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International Women’s Day Board Games

international women's day skull king

“Sisters are doin’ in for themselves!”

Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin sung their feminist anthem wayyyy back in 1985 (in preparation for International Women's Day of course). Fast forward nearly 40 years and we are still in times of change!

Shining the spotlight on our hobby for a moment, progress is being made in terms of female representation. It’s not perfect – nothing is – but the number of women designers, artists, creators, and players is increasing. And because of that, we are starting to see ourselves more positively reflected in the games we all love to play.

So I am here to help us mark International Women’s Day on 8 March 2024 by showcasing several talented female industry professionals who, by their achievements and hard work, champion our gender and our involvement in board gaming!

Apryl Stott

Have you played any games by Grandpa Beck? Skull King, Cover your Kingdom, Gnoming a Round are just a few of their brilliant titles and they have something in common; Apryl Stott is the illustrator for all of them. And her inspiration for strong, respectful, and empowering female representation is real life Grandma Beck!

Take the brilliant card game Skull King, for example. The game play is excellent – one of the most fun trick-taking games we own (and has a brilliant 2 player variant which is unusual in and of itself!). But look closely at the artwork. In most pirate-themed games, women draw the short straw. We are either portrayed as weak maidens or sirens with all our mer-bits on show. But here, Tigress is fierce and not one to be messed with! And that is a direct result of the designer/publisher’s desire to champion women and reflect their own personal experience in their productions!

Elizabeth Hargrave

Elizabeth Hargrave is a household name in many hobby-homes. And for good reason. She has designed the absolute board game belter Wingspan (all of them!), Mariposas, and more. And her newest design, the Fox Experiment, is due out later this year following a hugely successful crowd funding campaign. Now, we could say that the gorgeous tableau building, engine cranking Wingspan would have been popular whether the name on the box was male or female. But how much it would have changed with a man at the helm will always be a mystery. Knowing that there is such a strong female team behind the design and production (including the talented illustrators Beth Sobel, Ana Maria Martinez Jamarillo, and Natalie Rojas), however, makes Wingspan in all its forms extra special for me.

Michaela “Min” Stachova

The design duo behind the phenomenally popular Lost Ruins of Arnak is “Min & Elwin”. But how many of you knew that Min is actually short for Michaela? I didn’t! And just like their names, the game weaves worker placement and hand-management mechanics together in a seamless duo that takes players on an exploration of an unknown Island. With so many possible paths to victory in the game, Min has made sure that no choice is an easy one. Trade-offs at every turn will face you. But the possibility of chaining free actions to those two tight worker spots is a tantalising one that will keep you coming back for more!

Inka Brand

Inka is everywhere! Her list of designs (many with co-designer come husband Mark Brand) runs longer than my wish list. Throw a stick at a shelf of KOSMOS games and I guarantee you’ll hit at least 3! Andor: The Family Fantasy Game, Exit Games, Word Slam ….the list goes on! Plus she has designed the excellent Rajas of the Ganges and (one of my personal favourites) the Dice Charmers, to name but two more. And whilst prolific sometimes suffers the curse of poor quality, this is not the case here. Inka is teasing our brains in the Exit Series in ways I didn’t even know my mind could work. And with more designs coming out all the time – including the new EXIT KIDS range – I guarantee we will need to dedicate a shelf to her at home before long!

So there we go! Some brilliant women in our industry doin’ it for themselves…..and for us! No Y chromosome necessary! Make sure to celebrate International Women's Day the right way!

Although, I also definitely couldn’t finish this feature without a special shout out to all the female board game creators, bloggers, designers, publishers, illustrators, retailers, reviewers, players, and marketeers! Behind the brands of some of our most well-known game related organisations are women working hard every single day to get the games we love onto the tables at which we sit. Not only that, but the army of incredible women who are raising the next generation of gamers coming onto the scene! To all of these women I say thank you and I celebrate you for everything you are and everything you inspire! < 3

Editors note: This post was originally published on March 6 2023. Updated on March 8th 2024 to improve the information available.