I’m not going to lie: I love seeing people who look like me in the games that I play. Hell, I have a collection of super hipster miniature wargames that I’ve purchased and love because they include women and people of colour (and women of colour) within the game.
It’s one thing to have an inclusive universe in small, indie-published games. Diversity isn’t the point of these games, but choosing to have it is something I support with my dollars as a consumer. That said, it’s even better when a bestselling game unapologetically and deliberately chooses to embrace diversity within their game. The fact of the matter is these games don’t need to be diverse to sell thousands of copies, as they’re excellent on their own. They’re not pandering to sell more. I like to think that these publishers are instead embracing the fact that our society should be reflected in their games, even when those games are set in a universe far from this one.
So let’s talk about some games released in 2016 that have made deliberate efforts to depict the diversity of our gaming community.
Warmachine/Hordes Mk III
While Warmachine has been around since 2003, 2016 marked the release of the third edition of the game, bringing sweeping changes in terms of rules that affected all factions. Warmachine itself is particularly remarkable; it’s one of the bestselling miniature wargames of the year, sitting in the top 5 and rubbing shoulders with giants the likes of Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game and Warhammer 40,000.
Unlike those games, however, WarmaHordes [Warmachine and its sister game, Hordes] has always had excellent female representation across all ranks. The Iron Kingdoms (the universe in which WarmaHordes is set) is filled with leading and influential women who are playable generals, referred to in game as casters, such as Haley of Cygnar, Makeda of Skorne, Deneghra of Cryx, and Sorcha of Khador. Women are in every rank, featured in powerful special characters, solos, and even rank-and-file infantry. These female sculpts are so often attired and posed so similarly to their male counterparts that their narrower hips and slightly protruding chests are the only giveaways of their female bodies. They aren’t remarkably female–the presence of women soldiers is normalized in this universe. Add to that the 2016 Battlebox releases, which feature 9 new casters to the game, 5 of which are female, and you have a prominent miniature wargame whose gender representation is closest to parity when compared to games of that niche.
Moreover, with the release of the game’s third edition, the company publicly eschewed previously unnecessarily sexist language in the game’s rules and marketing (leveraged over its first two editions), bringing the company in line with the female-empowered universe it champions.
With miniature wargaming being dominated by men (based on my YouTube audience, which is 94% male, and channels like MiniWargaming closer to 98%), Privateer Press doesn’t need to have positive female representation. The fact that they do makes them all the more remarkable, because having a brilliant and strategic game with beautiful and characterful models wasn’t enough for them.
DEAD OF WINTER THE LONG NIGHT
The popularity of the Dead of Winter series is impossible to argue. With that said, zombie survivors come in all walks of life, with George A. Romero’s seminal Night of the Living Dead setting the standard of diversity in the 1960s, when inclusivity and representation were being fought for by the civil rights movement.
When it comes to carrying on that legacy on the tabletop, the Dead of Winter franchise has done an excellent job of representation in the available playable characters, each of which has an important role within the group.
In the 2016 expansion/standalone game, designers Vega and Gilmour include a great number of highly capable women and people of colour, depicting their varied backgrounds, filling out each character beyond a simple caricature (implying their backgrounds and skills through in-game specializations).
Moreover, beyond representing women and people of colour, the game also steps beyond ableism and includes Cole Winters, who does not fit the traditional able-body norms, but whose ability is incredibly important in addressing despair (unlike that of Deanna Troi, who is competing with a holodeck).
I like to describe Scythe as a game that’s akin to Agricola. You start both games by building an agricultural economy through subsistence farming, except at the end of Scythe, you’re a general with territory, controlling an army of mechs, whereas in Agricola, you’re still a subsistence farmer (though you might have some kids and animals in your home).
Despite being set in a Eurasian-esque land, the game has been able to inject people of colour and ethnic heritage, whose presence in the region is often overlooked when setting games in that region of the world. Scythe‘s vision of the world sees one where women are included in all aspects of life, meaning that that women also lead armies. 3 of the 5 generals in the core game are women, powerful military leaders in their own right. Moreover, the expansion Invaders from Afar also includes a female general from the Towagawa (Japan). The inclusion of heritage (beyond simply racial diversity) is also unique. Take for example, the expansion general from Albion, who isn’t simply depicted as a generic Anglo-Saxon (read: white dude), but rather depicted as a Scotsman, wearing the traditional kilt (further bucking today’s societal norms of gender conformity).
There is a veneration for and celebration of heritage beyond skin colour, and that respectful representation in the art and components, when paired with the game’s excellent mechanics, just adds to the uniqueness and quality of experience when playing Scythe.
What beloved games have you discovered this year? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured Image Credit: Stonemaier Games
Image Credits: Plaid Hat Games, Stonemaier Games, Privateer Press
Teri Litorco has spent too much time this holiday season eating sweets, painting minis and playing games, and that’s ok by her. She has also written a book called the Civilized Guide to Tabletop Gaming, a survival book for gamers lauded by The New York Times. She also overshares on social media: : Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.