Christmas is coming up, which is very apparent if you’ve stepped into any store with a Halloween section dying like an unwatered plant as Santa Claus annexes the Pumpkin King’s territory. Still, it’s a good idea to start buying presents early, and with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment coming up next year, why not buy some feminist board games?
True, any board game can be feminist if played right. God knows plenty of girls who beat other kids at Operation grew up to be surgeons, but these go above and beyond to make it a point of the way they’re played. Games like…
Board games in the early 20th century were often used to make political points, and Suffragetto did that in spades. It’s a game based on the real life fight between the Women’s Social and Political Union and the police. The WPSU was the militant wing of the suffragette movement, who decided public displays of arson and vandalism were better than politely asking for rights. The police disagreed, and so the WPSU relied on their Amazons, a bodyguard corps trained in jiu jitsu. The purpose of the game is to occupy territory while defending your own. Original copies are impossible to track down, but you can download and print your own set-up for home as a DIY present.
Spirit Island (Greater Than Games)
While not specifically about female themes, Spirit Island has some very powerful social justice messages that intersect nicely with feminism. It’s a cooperative game where you are one of the spirits defending a land being overrun with colonizers. Think of it like Pandemic, but instead of disease the virus is people. Addressing the way that colonialism has affected women is such a big issue it actually has its own school of feminism named after it. Spirit Island is one of those games that shows rather than tells a message of equality, and that makes it definitely worth a buy.
The Witches (Mayfair Games)
Pat Robertson once famously said, “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” Who are we to argue with that?
Based on Terry Pratchett’s witches from his Discworld series, the game puts you in the role of a trainee witch looking to tackle the problems of the mystical land. Played competitively or cooperatively, it highlights the feminists themes of Pratchett’s novels and capitalizes on the unique power that witches wield on the Discworld. It’s a game where you try to outdo the other players, but also must sometimes come together in a crisis.
This one is a light outing you can play in less than an hour. Players take on the role of sisters whose mother, the Queen, has just died. The goal is to assemble the most magnificent court possible in order to be crowned the new queens. There is some basic strategy where you make the most out of the cards you’re dealt to maximize the worth of your court. Essentially, it’s a resource manager game with a female regent frame device.
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Who’s She? (Playeress)
There were headlines early this year about Ms. Monopoly, a version of the classic game where women were paid more than men. It received some mixed response, especially from Mary Pilon at The New Yorker who pointed out the new version didn’t fix Hasbro’s continued refusal to acknowledge the game was invented by a woman in the first place.
That doesn’t mean that gender swapped games are all bad, though. There’s now a version of the classic Guess Who? focused entirely on historical female figures like Frida Kahlo and Harriet Tubman. It’s the same simple game as before, but with a lovingly-done educational twist. Now available for pre-order.
If none of these strike your fancy, you can also check out this wonderful thread on Game Board Geek. It breaks down the gender representation in various games so that you’ll know if you’re getting something where the makers wanted to focus on equality. Gaming has come a long way!