The Board Games Women Make
December 16, 2012 7:32 PM   Subscribe

Ever played Monopoly? Then you've played a board game that was designed by a woman (it was, under its original title, "The Landlord's Game," the creation of Elizabeth Magie). Want to play more board games designed by women? Let's go!

Hat tip to subject_verb_remainder's post on video games made by women for making me think to compile this list. Like that post, this is not a comprehensive list. I am relying heavily on Board Game Geek for my information (I drew from several GeekLists there, though as I wasn't able to come up with more information for every designer on those lists, not all are included here). For each designer, games are listed according to rank on Board Game Geek (a rough indicator of popularity). (The one exception is Maureen Hiron. I wanted to give a sense of how long she's been designing games, so some of her early games are included although they're not her highest ranked games.)



Lisa Bowman-Steenson and Lori Dieda together comprise Gut Bustin' Games, which grew out of their game Redneck Life, which drew on Bowman-Steenson's childhood, as she puts it, as "the redheaded stepchild of an auto body guy (yes, the body shop had a keg-er-ator)." Video interview at Origins 2007 with both designers about their games Redneck Life and Trailer Park Wars. Joint games: Trailer Park Wars (2007): You must place quality Tenants in your trailers, create a fun and friendly atmosphere by adding some sweet Amenities, and go about destroying the other trailer parks…no matter what it takes. Surface to Trailer Missile? Molotov Beer Can? A Tornado? You Bet. Redneck Life (2003): A variation on The Game of Life. A roll of 2 dice determines the grade you complete in school, which sets you up for one of 11 fabulous careers such as Mullet Salon Operator or Monster Truck Announcer. Journey through Blue Collar Americana by going into debt to purchase a vehicle, get married, divorced, re-married, purchase a home, and raise a passel of young'ens. Bowman-Steenson's solo game: Oh Gnome You Don't! (2011): A racing game in which gnomes try to reach the finish with the most gems and without having lost gems in brawls with other gnomes.



Monika "Dilli" Dillingerová: A professor of Mathematics at Bratislava's Comenius University. Crash by Crash with Ivan Dostál (2008): Under the supervision of a grumpy operator, these bumper cars are only for the courageous. With your band of young punks, prove that you can drive better than your opponents and claim the best part of the floor for yourself. But be careful; the operator can change the floor, and you might get bumped off.

Brigitte Ditt is a game designer from Rheda-Wiedenbrück, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. In 1987, she married fellow game designer Wolfgang Ditt. They have written for the Spielbox, Germany's biggest game magazine, and maintain their own board game website, Die Poeppelkiste ("The Meeple Box" or "The Pawn Box" in English). Essay: the Ditts discuss German board games. Nautilus (2002): players are building a research station at the bottom of the sea, trying to find Atlantis, recover sunken treasures, and extract raw materials. The board shows the sea floor as a grid with shades indicating the levels of depth. The three game phases include: (1) expanding the station, (2) deploying scientists, and (3) exploration (via miniature submarine). Big Points (2008): A short game with simple rules but a lot of depth. 5 differently colored playing pieces, that may be used by all players, race along a path of colored wooden disks towards their goal, racing to achieve good placement on the "scoring podium" which will enhance the points earned by collecting the disks.


Ellen Maria Ernst. Photo of Ernst and co-designer Kira Verena Samol in costume while playing Liebe & Intrige at Essen Spiel 2007. Her games: Liebe & Intrige with Kira Verena Samol (2007): You get the idea from the title of this review of the game: "Pimp My Daughters." Each player represents a family trying to marry off their three daughters. The daughters have varying levels of three characteristics: reputation, beauty, and education, all of which may increase and decrease in value during the course of the game, and which help or hinder them in their pursuit of the 14 "gentlemen" who are their potential husbands. This is basically Jane Austen: The Board Game, which means, of course, restrained courtliness in public and major backstabbing behind the scenes as you try to advance your daughters and keep the girls from other families from making a match. Spuk im Schloss (2008, "Spooky Castle" in English): The game is played in darkness using glow-in-the-dark cards. Every round, each player passes a card to his or her left, aiming to collect a set of identical glowing cards. Once someone has a set of four, the round ends and the ghosts are revealed, along with the points they confer: did you have good ghosts? Or just some ghastly ghouls?

Miranda Evarts is probably the youngest entrant to this list: she was only 6 when she came up with the idea for Sleeping Queens. Though no other games have yet appeared under her name, in a 2005 article, she mentions an idea in development: '"I'm working on another card game," she said. "It's about a time portal. You have to go back in history and collect things."' Sleeping Queens (2005): The Pancake Queen, the Ladybug Queen and ten of their closest friends have fallen under a sleeping spell and it's your job to wake them up. Use strategy, quick thinking and a little luck to rouse these napping nobles from their royal slumbers. Play a knight to steal a queen or take a chance on a juggling jester. But watch out for wicked potions and dastardly dragons! The player who wakes the most queens wins.


Marsha Jean Falco of Fountain Hills, Arizona, is primarily known for inventing the game Set in 1974 while working as a population geneticist studying German Shepherd epilepsy genetic patterns. Her games: Set (1988): Each card contains 1-3 matching objects, in one of three colors, shapes, and shadings. Twelve cards are laid out, and the first person to spot a set of three collects those cards. The cards are replaced from the deck and play continues. Quiddler (1998): Obtain the highest number of points by combining two or more cards from your hand into words. The game consists of a 118 card deck containing letters from A to Z and special double-letter cards: QU, IN, ER, TH and CL. Five Crowns (1996): Rummy, with a twist. The set collection aspect of rummy is basically the same; with groups of 3 cards in either runs or denominations making a valid meld. The difference is that in each hand the number of cards increases, from 3 cards in the first hand to 13 in the last. Xactica (2002): A trick-taking card game, which challenges players' ability to estimate the outcome of playing 8 cards. You must predict the chances of being able to take the other players' cards that are laid down during each round. There is no drawing or discarding. You must predict exactly (hence the name Xactika) the number of rounds in which you will be able to take the cards played. Triology (1994): A melding of Set and rummy. Each turn players look for sets in their hand of nine cards, drawing if they cannot lay down a set. Players may also poach off of other players sets if they contribute at least two new cards. Play ends when one player runs out of cards, and the player who has the most sets at that point wins the game.

Angelika Fassauer: Flowerpower with Peter Haluszka (2001): A beautiful tile-laying game where players strive to build large plots of single variety flowers. The larger the plot, the higher the score. Players plant their own gardens but also compete in a central connecting strip. Players also get the chance to plant weeds into the opponent's garden, spoiling their best laid plans. Part of the Kosmos two-player series. Trick Track Troll with Peter Haluszka (2002): A simple dice-rolling game. Roll dice to race against other trolls as you rush through an ever changing forest to collect a crystal and return home.



Claudia Hely is a German mathematician and game designer. Interview with Hely and her co-designer Roman Pelek (in German). Their game: Santiago (2003): This game is about cultivating and watering fields. Plantation tiles are auctioned off each round, and the tiles are then placed onto the game board along with a marker that indicating how plentiful the tile’s yield will be. At game’s end, naturally only the cultivated land counts. Each plantation is counted according to type – the bigger the better. But since the ownership markers play a role as well, the same plantation can give drastically different points for different players.

Maureen Hiron, "the world's foremost female games inventor" according to the Independent, and inarguably one of the most prolific, has been designing games since her 1982 abstract, Continuo. Video interview by Board Game Geek at Essen Spiel 2009. Article from The Independent about that same convention, with a brief profile of Hiron, who is herself the former bridge correspondent for that paper. A few of Hiron's many, many games: Duo (1986): card game in the Crazy Eights vein. Continuo (1982): After the initial setup of four tiles, players take turns adding tiles onto the edges of previously laid tiles, scoring points for creating aligned paths of colors. Quadwrangle (1983): a dice game played with a board with 9 columns. Each column has a counter that starts in the middle and which you attempt to move by rolling certain dice combinations. (It is a bit like playing 9 games of tug of war simultaneously.) The winner is the first to get 3 counters in their scoring area. (Reconfigured in 2001 as Cosmic Cows). 7 Ate 9 (2009): A card is laid to start the central pile, then the rest of the cards are dealt out. Players race to add the next card to the center pile; cards can only be added if they are a number with the correct difference from the most recently played card. MixUp (2006): In this two-player abstract, players try to place tiles in an arrangement of 4-in-a-row or a 2x2 square — one player goes for shapes, the other is using colors.




Christiane Knepel, a German game designer is, among other things, a naturopath. Her games: Muscat (2001, reimplemented as Message to the Czar in 2003): Can quickly be described as "advanced rock-paper-scissors," but is much better than this may make it sound. There are 4 different types of items in this version, which are the different kinds of street performers in the marketplaces of Muscat, trying to make their way to the Sultan's Palace. Polonaise (2001): Every player places pawns on the board. Try to get as many pawns of your opponent in between your own pawns. When a row is completed points are taken. Player with most points wins.


Victoria Lamb has designed sets and costumes for theatre, opera, musicals and film. But in gaming, she's known for her glorious, gorgeous miniatures: she paints and modifies existing miniatures, and designs her own. So it's no surprise that the game she has designed is miniature-based: Labyrintus (2008): A miniature game that combines the spectacle and craft of a miniature game with the fun and ease of play of a board game. Each player takes control of a team of 4 creatures and attempts to be the first to get through the Labyrinth. But beware, things may not always be what they seem; your progress can be thwarted by other creatures, the shifting Labyrinth and even your own tactical choices. The gorgeous prototype is still just that—a one-off prototype—but there is a 2D print and play version available.

Julianne Lepp's primary career isn't designing board games: she's a Unitarian Universalist minister. She and her husband Karl designed their game together: Plunder (2004): Combines many elements of "euro-style" games: cards are laid out to form a different map-board each game. There are multiple paths to victory: you can plunder ships, explore strange coast lands, and trade goods between ports. The game combines history (actual nationalities, ports, and ships) with fantastical elements (from the dreaded kraken to the lure of mermaids).

Kristin Looney is the Business Czar (Owner, CEO, President) of Looney Labs. (If you're playing Scrabble, which she never does,
Kristin is worth 11 points.). A former Electronics Engineer at NASA and an IT Manager in the aerospace industry, her earliest claim to fame was winning a Rubik's Cube solving contest on the TV show "That's Incredible!" in 1981. Many of her games involve Looney Pyramids (often called "Icehouse Pyramids" after the first game in which they appeared). Her games include: Volcano (2000): A puzzle-style game in which players move "caps" around on top of a group of volcanoes, triggering eruptions which cause colored streams of lava to flow out across the playing field. The object of the game is to capture as many pieces as possible, with bonus points awarded for special combinations. Fluxx with Andrew Looney (1997): A card game in which the cards themselves determine the current rules of the game. Blockade (2001): Blockade is a roll-and-move race game played in two dimensions. Each player is assigned 2 colors in a 5x5 board, and are trying to arrange their pieces in formation first. However, as pieces arrive at their destinations, future piece movement by friend or foe is restricted. Caldera (2011): Using the same erupt-and-capture mechanism as Volcano, Caldera changes just about everything else. The players move caps to cause eruptions to capture pieces, but also have the option each turn to execute a Power Play: return a previously captured piece to the board.


Doris Matthäus: Primarily known for her illustration of smash hit euro board games like Carcassonne (2000), El Grande (1995), Tigris and Euphrates (1995), Saint Petersburg (2004), and Bohnanza (1997), she is also a designer in her own right, often working with her husband, designer Frank Nestel. Her titles include: Primordial Soup (1997): Players take charge of a tribe of amoeba as they struggle to survive. In order to help their quest, tribes will take various genetic advantages, which allow them to 'break' the rules of life. Mü & More (1995): While the headline trick-taking game, Mü, is the main attraction, this deck of custom cards comes with rules for five other games. Frank's Zoo (1999): A climbing game like Tichu. Players' scores are based on how early in the hand they get rid of all their cards. Urland (2001): With a theme of biological evolution, Urland challenges its players to compete to see whose primordial creatures will make the jump from the seas to land.

Anye Mercy is both a designer and a publisher. Her company, Dancing Eggplant Games, started out as Diet Evil Games, and intended to make witty games for adults—games which turned out to be popular with children. The name changed so shop owners wouldn't have to explain why they were recommending "Evil" games to kids. Interview with Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower. Her game: Fraud Squad (2002): You're an SEC investigator searching out criminal fraud amongst a handful of possibly corrupt companies. Evidence is gathered by asking other players for information in a go fish style of play. Once you've collected your evidence, state your case, then look at the case file to see if you've correctly deduced the fraud. If correct, reveal the cards from the case file and win. If you're wrong, you're fired!

Andrea Meyer: Not only a designer but also a publisher, Meyer owns and operates BeWitched Spiele and is active in the international board game designer community, having co-chaired the Spiele-Autoren-Zunft (international Game Designers Guild). Videos and text interview of Meyer talking about games: at the 2008 Essen board game convention, Keynote speech for the First Annual Gayme Jam! on May, 12, 2012, and interview by Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower. Her games include: Linq with Erik Nielsen (2004): Linq combines bluffing with associative gaming. Players try to find their ever changing partners by associating freely to their linq-words. An intuitive scoring mechanism shows who was best able to linq with the others in the end. Monstermaler ("Split Personality" in the US and Canada) with Friedemann Friese and Marcel-André Casasola Merkle (2006): Each player tries to draw the left half of a famous person. The first to finish yells "stop!" All players must now fold their papers down the middle and hand them to the left, leaving the right side to be drawn by another. Will your drawing be recognizable? Ad Acta (2002): A day as a civil servant: city hall tries to keep everyone working, the tax office avoids giving money to anybody and the environmental protection office just can't accept the jobs bureau's plans for new factories. Players work as fast as possible, sending messengers running for their lives—and down unofficial back-channels when necessary. Will your dossiers be put to file ("ad acta") at the right time? Be cautious: delayed files might get the shredder... Freeze with Hans-Peter Stoll (2010): four players enter the stage together and improvise a scene in a situation only they know. Each of them knows their personal rank among the actors (1-4), but no actor knows the rank of another. The actors must act out their rank within the scene so obviously that spectators can guess it. Hossa! (2000): What is a song title containing the word "Love"? Simple, isn't it? Sing it out loud. Well, okay ... A song about a relative? Well ... what about "Papa Don't Preach"? But do you know the lyrics? And what was the melody again? Perhaps the other players will help you ... Get one point for naming the song, earn more for actually being able to sing it.






Susan McKinley Ross of IdeaDuck is a game and toy designer best known for designing the award-winning popular game Qwirkle. "I hardly play abstracts ... but my brain thinks in abstracts, and my brain thinks in color ... when game ideas come to me they almost always come abstract." Video: Ross explains her game Cirplexed! in a video from Board Game Geek. Interview: "The Art of Making and Playing Games." Qwirkle (2006): Score the most points by building lines of tiles that share a common attribute – either color or shape. Its simple rules can spawn complicated strategy. Skippity (2010): If Qwirkle can be described as a simplified Scrabble – with colors and shapes replacing letters – then Skippity might be dubbed "checkers for the Timothy Leary set". Cirplexed! (2012): Each tile features quarter circles of different colors. Each player creates her own game board by drawing and placing tiles, trying to create the most single-color circles. Color Stix (2011): a new take on pick-up sticks, one that might be called "pick up the sticks, then put them down again in a pleasing arrangement" but is thankfully better titled.


Karen Seyfarth: Thurn and Taxis, with Andreas Seyfarth (2006): build post office routes across Bavaria and surrounding regions. Plan carefully; you must add to your route on every turn. Max and Moritz, with Andreas Seyfarth (1991): "It was a (very) little card game, but it was the first box we had been the most proud of."

Jennifer Schlickbernd got into designing because she's a dedicated strategy gamer: "I find more innovation in the heavier, multi-faceted strategy games that have come out lately.... they seem to hold up a lot better for me over time than the lighter family oriented games. Yes they take more time to play but I'd rather spend that time with a game that I really enjoy versus spending the same amount of time with several games where I've seen the mechanics a hundred times before (or at least it feels that way)." She is one of the ten designers of Advanced Civilization (2010): a reworking of the original Civilization. Some rules simplify and make thegame easier, while other rules like the expanded technology tree are more complex.

Jodi Soares. Яussian Яails (2004): Part of Mayfair Games' series of crayon rail system games. Using erasable crayons, players design their own rail-networks across a geographically accurate map. Russian Rails' time line is orchestrated by event cards and a distance warp to accommodate the vast distances of the Soviet Union. The game begins post WWII, and players try to expand their railways before the USSR collapses. Rotundo (2005): From a review: "[T]his game could be retitled Balls! rather than the pseudo-Latin Rotundo. Indeed, I thought the game was about marble collecting, but it is about round objects of all kinds, even the most improbable: leather, cloth, fur, and platinum wire." A rummy-type game with challenging hurdles to set collection.




Susan Van Camp: A prolific illustrator known for her iconic red suits, Van Camp's work will be familiar to players of Magic the Gathering. Audio interview by All Games Considered at BashCon 2007 (interview starts at 8m45s). Her game is Dragon Storm (1996, revised 2011), a tabletop card based role-playing game based on Van Camp's fantasy world of Grandilar. There are two types of cards: Gamemaster cards for adventure generation and Player cards for character generation.


Joan Lerner Wendland is a game designer with a wicked sense of humor, and a game publisher through her company Blood and Cardstock Games. Interview by Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower. Her games: X-Machina (2003): a party game where youmake impossible inventions out of improbable components for unreasonable customers. Showbiz Shuffle (2002): Players collect cards for actors, directors, stunts and special effects to create movies for points. Action cards (like "drug problems" and "the big break") allow players to boost their own movies or ruin the other players'. Counting Zzzzs (2003): Who knows what dreams may come? Try to assemble a pleasant dream while your opponents try to give you nightmares or wake you up. Dim Sum Derby (2010): each player is hungry for a particular combination of dim sum. As dim sum becomes available, players try to eat the dim sum they crave. Players can rotate the dim sum spread before them, add more dim sum to the table, and perform other manipulations to achieve their culinary goals. Evil Vendetta Pie Fight (2008): In EVPF you're all evil magic-wielding nightmares from the human psyche and you hate each other's guts. Your union won't let you actually hurt each other, so the only way to settle this is to have an…Evil Vendetta Pie Fight.



posted by ocherdraco (24 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite
Comprehensive post is comprehensive.
I know about Monopoly, but so few of these others.
posted by Mezentian at 7:33 PM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Comprehensive post is comprehensive.

And yet it isn't! I felt like I was just stopping where I had to because, well, it's finals week, and chemistry isn't going to study itself. There are many, many more.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:35 PM on December 16, 2012

Aww, damn! I keep landing on Park Place with that fucking hotel on it! I HATE the bastard prick who invented this game!

Wait... say what?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:44 PM on December 16, 2012

Celeb bonus: Daryl Hannah, co-designer of Liebary.
posted by mobunited at 7:44 PM on December 16, 2012

Under the S for Schlickbernd: Advanced Civilization is 1991, not 2010.

And I am pleased to note that two of the games above are Spiel des Jahres winners (Thurn and Taxis, Qwirkle).
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 8:09 PM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

And the first error rears its head! Sorry about that.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:13 PM on December 16, 2012

A woman?!
posted by Damienmce at 8:19 PM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll be making board games... just you wait.
posted by Enki at 9:01 PM on December 16, 2012

Don't forget somewhere in here to also give some props to Lorien Green, responsible for "the board game documentary that a woman made" which, itself, features some women in gaming. It's a really fun flick, and if you haven't seen it you should check it out (the DVD even includes a game, though that one's designed by a dude).
posted by trackofalljades at 9:21 PM on December 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've played a few of these. Nautilus, Big Points, Set, Santiago, Message to the Czar (somehow I thought Leo Colovini designed that one), Fluxx, Mü & More, Frank's Zoo, (a million that Doris has illustrated, but this is about designers, not illustrators, right?), Ad Acta, Thurn & Taxis, Russian Rails. These are all fun games, with the exception of Fluxx, which may well be my least favorite game of all time, even including that card game I played in elementary school where the cards were just an excuse to inflict bodily harm on one another.

The rest of them though? Good-to-Excellent. Santiago, Nautilus, and Big Points stand out as some of the strongest ones, IMO. I Played Nautilus just last week. The tragic part of this story: I lost.
posted by aubilenon at 9:37 PM on December 16, 2012

Can't wait to tell my friend's young Daughter that Sleeping Queens is designed by a woman! (She looooooves that game. She's in Grade 2 if anyone is looking for a good gift, btw). I have fund playing it too, and great card art.
posted by chapps at 9:56 PM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Enki: "I'll be making board games... just you wait."

Me, too. Product number 3001 in my games line is reserved for the card game I haven't published yet due to trademark issues. But someday...
posted by jiawen at 10:49 PM on December 16, 2012

Go. I roll the dice—a six and a two. Through the air I move my token, the flatiron, to Vermont Avenue, where dog packs range.
posted by Relay at 11:33 PM on December 16, 2012

Elizabeth Magie is Eve. Charles Darrow is Adam. Euro style games are Pentecost.
posted by michaelh at 11:44 PM on December 16, 2012

These are all fun games, with the exception of Fluxx, which may well be my least favorite game of all time,

I loooooooove Fluxx, even when sober. It did take a couple games for me to realize that you can in fact engineer a win for yourself instead of just hoping to win randomly. But it does seem like a love/hate game. My wife can't stand it.
posted by LionIndex at 12:38 AM on December 17, 2012

even including that card game I played in elementary school where the cards were just an excuse to inflict bodily harm on one another

posted by fleacircus at 1:01 AM on December 17, 2012

Celeb bonus: Daryl Hannah, co-designer of Liebary.

So apparently even on boardgamegeek, the rule is still Never Read The Comments.

Three comments down:
Maybe someone can promote to them the idea of eating a sandwich.

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:24 AM on December 17, 2012

Quiddler for eva.
posted by word_virus at 6:39 AM on December 17, 2012

"...designers of Advanced Civilization (2010): a reworking of the original Civilization."

Aargh!! Don't do that!! I clicked on the link hoping that finally, finally!, someone had managed to re-release this game. I am a sad gamer now...

On the plus side, excellent post!
posted by Vindaloo at 9:45 AM on December 17, 2012

Yeah, sorry about that; I'm not familiar enough with the Civilization games to have noticed that error. I'm not sure where that erroneous year came from.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:50 AM on December 17, 2012

DISCLAIMER: All Games Considered is my podcast; I've been co-host since 2008. Give us a listen!

I've had the extreme pleasure of meeting and talking to Kristen Looney of Looney Labs at Gen Con a couple of years ago.. I count Fluxx and its spinoffs among my favorite games. The most recent releases in the Fluxx line are Oz Fluxx and Cthulhu Fluxx. I wrote a brief review of each here if you're interested.

Also: does Leslie Scott count? She co-founded (with another woman!) Oxford Games Ltd. and designed Jenga when she was 18 years old, and has gone on to design or co-design other games. She's made a whole career of specializing in games for gift stores, book shops and museum stores, and she won the 2010 Wonder Women of Toys Inventor/Designer Award. She's a real star in the field.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:01 AM on December 17, 2012

Of course she counts! As I mentioned above, this list could be much longer—it's just that I had to stop so I could study for my exams!
posted by ocherdraco at 10:57 AM on December 17, 2012

For an interesting read on the economic philosophy behind Ms. Magie's creation of Monopoly, see Monopoly Is Theft.
posted by Bron at 3:15 PM on December 17, 2012

So apparently even on boardgamegeek, the rule is still Never Read The Comments.

There is a sub-forum on there called Women and Gaming, which is a great idea because it can be a male-dominated hobby and I can see how that might put people off initially. However, this forum also contained a thread about people posting pictures of boardgames with 'decorative women'. I clicked through expecting Go Daddy-style bikini shots and I got...women happily , genuinely playing boardgames, some in scoop-necked tops. Sigh.
posted by mippy at 9:12 AM on December 18, 2012

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