What's the first board game you remember playing as a kid? Was it Candy Land? This classic game has been a rainy day staple for the pre-K crowd since 1949—and it was invented by a woman. In the years since, men seemed to dominate the board game scene, but that's been changing. Today, over 70 years after Candyland first hit shelves, you'll find more board games by women designers and artists than ever before.
To help recognize and amplify these female voices in the gaming world, we asked our Underdog Games Advisors to share their favorite games by women designers and artists. We used their suggestions as the basis for this list of classic favorites and brand new games from creative female minds.
No matter what type of board game you prefer, chances are women have helped design, illustrate, or produce at least some of them. Just take a look at these top examples to see what we mean.
We use Amazon affiliate links to recommend products we trust and love, so we might earn a small commission if you decide to purchase. However, we believe in giving back as a company, so we'll be donating these profits back to great nonprofits making a difference in the world.
Become a geneticist as you attempt to breed foxes to have the most desirable traits. Round by round, each new generation passes along their traits to the next. Players earn points by pleasing patrons, completing studies, and more. This fascinating game from Pandasaurus is based on real science, giving players a humane way to learn more about animal breeding and genetics. The Fox Experiment is fully funded on Kickstarter, with a projected release date of Summer 2023. (1-4 players, ages 10+)
Woman Behind the Game: Elizabeth Hargrave exploded onto the gaming scene in 2019 with Wingspan, the incredibly popular game about birds. She also created beautiful games like Mariposa, about monarch butterfly migration, and Tussie-Mussie, a card game based on the Victorian language of flowers. She works and lives in and around Washington, D.C.
History is full of fascinating female figures that often don't make their way into schoolbooks. This upcoming game seeks to shine a light on 120 of them. Players are researchers preparing new books, chapter by chapter and card by card. Each turn is a chance to add a fascinating new woman to your book, angling to score the most points along the way. Every card features a gorgeous illustration and brief overview of each of these women's stories. Available on Amazon starting November 1, 2022. (2-5 players, ages 8+)
Women Behind the Game: When Underdog Games set out to make a board game celebrating strong and diverse women throughout history, we knew we wanted women involved in every step of the process. We recruited an advisory team of female teachers and educators to help choose the women to include. Danielle Reynolds and Kristi Bink were part of the design and development team, Stacy Tornio served as Content Director, and the writers and illustrators of the 120 cards were all women as well.
Nearly everyone plays this sweet game growing up, learning to take turns and be a good sport. Draw a card and move your gingerbread character through the Gumdrop Mountains and Peppermint Stick Forest, trying to be the first to finish your delicious journey! (2-4 players, ages 4+)
Woman Behind the Game: In 1949, polio outbreaks often kept kids confined at home, since the dreaded disease still had no vaccine and no cure. San Diego schoolteacher Eleanor Abbot caught the disease as an adult, and recovered along with other polio victims in a children's hospital ward. While there, she invented Candy Land to help the kids around her pass the time. Eventually, Eleanor met up with a Milton Bradley executive, and the rest is gaming history.
Think of this like Clue for beginners! Mrs. Plumpert’s prized pot pie has gone missing. Can you and your friends work together to track it down? We love the cooperative nature of this one, encouraging teamwork among little ones. Gameplay is quick, too, which is nice for short attention spans. (2-4 players, ages 5+)
Women Behind the Game: Shanon Lyon and Marisa Pena were on the design team for this family favorite, and French artist Mélanie Grandgirard did the charming artwork. Marisa originally worked at Cranium, before joining Shanon and fellow designer Colt Tipton to start the game company Department of Recreation. They've since moved on to other endeavors, but this game remains a favorite.
Journey to the gorgeous Pacific Northwest in this tile-laying and token-drafting game. Study the environment and create the best habitats for the local wildlife. The mechanics of this award-winning game are simple to learn, and a game takes 30-45 minutes. (1-4 players, ages 10+)
Woman Behind the Game: If you love nature games, you've probably played at least a few of the titles illustrated by Beth Sobel. Her lovely images grace popular titles like Wingspan, Arboretum, Calico, and dozens more. (See a full list here.) She makes her home in the same Pacific Northwest celebrated in Cascadia's gorgeous artwork.
The game starts in spring, but in Maple Valley, everyone's already preparing for next winter. Play as a family of forest creatures, preparing your den with the comforts you'll need to survive the cold season. Roll the dice, send your workers out on errands, and do your best to harvest treats, gather warm clothes, and collect stories and activities to make the days ahead cozy as can be. Creature Comforts was fully funded on Kickstarter, with a projected release date of October 2023. (1-5 players, ages 8+)
Women Behind the Game: Creature Comforts was designed, illustrated, and published by women. Roberta Taylor, the designer, has created many board games, including Octopus' Garden and its many expansions. Author and artist Shawna J.C. Tenney illustrates children's books and board games, with multiple credits to her name in both fields. Helaina Cappel founded Kids Table Board Gaming (with her husband Josh) to bring innovative family games like Creature Comforts to the market.
Lead an expedition to the famed Lost Ruins of Arnak, using resources and workers to discover artifacts and fight the guardians who protect them. This game combines deck-building with worker placement, encouraging players to make tactical decisions in only one action per turn. This is a game that takes an hour or more to play, perfect for those who love to dig in and turn game night into a full-blown adventure. (1-4 players, ages 12+)
Woman Behind the Game: Michaela “Mín” Štachová is one half of the board game design team Mín & Elwen. (Elwen is her husband, Michal "Elwen" Štach.) They work with Czech Games Edition, a small company focused on publishing works by Czech and Slovak authors.
Described as a cross between poker and trick-taking games, Twin Palms is a new kind of card game that's perfect for families. You can adjust the difficulty by deciding how many suits to use (two or three), so new players will pick up the game in no time. Simply draw your starting cards, bid and bet based on how many tricks you think you'll make, then play two cards at a time to earn points. Ready to make it harder? Add in the third suit! This is a perfect travel game for playing at the beach—or anywhere else. (2-5 players, ages 10+)
Woman Behind the Game: This brand-new game is the brainchild of Kristi B., who has worked with her husband Charlie Bink on many Underdog Games throughout the years. She got her start in games as a kid, playing at least one hand of cards with her mom before school every day. After a career that included teaching math, healthcare reporting, and data analytics, she finally found her way to designing games.
Dog lovers, this one's for you! Dog Park is brand new to the market in 2022 after a highly successful Kickstarter campaign. Give the real leash a rest, and head to an imaginary Dog Park instead. Recruit new dogs by making offers in your first two turns. Then, keep them happy on your walks to earn points and beat your fellow players. You'll find 163 beautifully-illustrated unique dog cards in this game, with add-ons available. (1-4 players, ages 10+)
Woman Behind the Game: Lottie Hazell is a British game designer and co-founder of Birdwood Games with her husband, Jack. Dog Park is her first game, but she and her husband previously hosted the popular podcast Board Games With My Wife, where they shared their reviews, stories, and news from the industry. Learn more about Lottie and the creation of Dog Park in this Behind the Game article.
This cooperative game is incredibly popular (along with the follow-up Zombie Teenz Evolution) with families in the know. It's a legacy game, which means each time you play, your game changes based on your previous games. Kids work together, trying to save their school from attacking zombies. They tackle a series of short progressive missions, kind of like a video game. The game starts out extremely simply, but each round adds new rules and challenges. This is one they'll come back to again and again. (Ages 7+, 2-4 players)
Woman Behind the Game: The clever designer behind these hit games is Annick Lobet, who is French. She's designed over a dozen games, most of which are hard to find in the U.S., but the Zombie series launched her to renown on the international scene.
This fast-paced word game has become a family favorite, especially for traveling or when you’re tight on space. Race against other players to build words and be the first to use all your letters. Everything fits in the colorful little banana, making it an ideal game to take on the go. (1-8 players, ages 7+)
Woman Behind the Game: UK native Rena Nathanson teamed up with her father Abe to design this fun little word game that's become a modern classic. She's now the CEO of Bananagrams, Inc., a company that produces Banagram spin-offs and other fun family games, including their latest, Word-A-Melon.
This "heartless" card game is deceptively simple, with a very basic premise. You start with a handful of artichoke cards, then harvest vegetable cards to help you flip those artichokes into the compost (discard) pile. The first to abandon all their artichokes wins the game! This game goes quickly and is easy to pick up, making it great for families. (2-4 players, ages 10+).
Women Behind the Game: Designer Emma Larkins and artist Bonnie Pang teamed up to create Abandon All Artichokes. Emma has worked on multiple games, including recent release Squabblin Goblins and the upcoming Starry Night Sky. Bonnie is from Hong Kong, and has spent her career working in comics, children's books, animation, and public art.
This game of logic and elimination is a kid-favorite. By asking questions about their features, players narrow down their opponent's mystery character. As they eliminate certain people, they flip them down until just one is left. We love this set, which includes animal cards to swap with the people cards! (2 players, ages 6+)
Woman Behind the Game: Ora Coster was an Israeli game designer who founded Theora Design with her husband Theo. Her company created and licensed dozens of games and toys, including Zingo! and Pop It fidget toys. Ora and her husband passed away in the last few years, but her sons are keeping the family business alive.
Healthy eating meets card drafting in this quick-playing game, which takes its name from a term used to describe games where there are many different way to score points. In Point Salad, there are over 100 ways to earn points, so each player can determine their own strategy, and choose a new one every time. (2-6 players, ages 8+)
Woman Behind the Game: Point Salad was Molly Johnson's first game, as part of the design collaborative Flatout Games. Together with partners Robert Melvin and Shawn Stankewich, she's helped to create games like Dollars to Donuts and the upcoming follow-up to Point Salad, Point City (2023).
More Terrific Games by Women
Once you start to look, you realize there are female game designers and artists everywhere! Here are some more to consider. (Plus if you want even more, check out this list on Elizabeth Hargrave's site.)
- EXIT Games by Inka Brand (with husband Markus)
- Cryptid by Ruth Veevers
- Flourish by Clarissa A. Wilson
- Gift of Tulips by Sara Perry
- Fantasy Ranch by Keshia and Anastasia Swanlund
- Arkham Horror by MJ Newman
- Eldritch Horror by Nikki Valens
- Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition by Sydney Engelstein
- Qwirkle by Susan McKinley Ross
- Five Crowns by Marsha J. Falco
- Jenga by Leslie Scott